WHO IS AT FAULT IN A SEMI-TRUCK ACCIDENT?
July 21, 2021
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 414 fatalities involving semi-trucks or tractor-trailers — commonly referred to as big rigs or 18-wheelers — statewide in 2020. Nationwide, the insurance tracking company PolicyAdvice reports a 52% increase in truck accidents since 2009, with the startling statistic that 74% of all passenger vehicle deaths involve collisions with trucks.
These statewide fatalities represent the more devastating and obvious impact of trucking accidents in Texas. Thousands of more people are injured each year and are left wondering where to turn for recovery and compensation.
If you’re in or around Houston, throughout the state of Texas, or Southeast New Mexico, and suffered an injury in a semi-truck collision, turn to me at The Fostel Law Firm to help you recover compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and other losses.
I am a native Texan dedicated to helping those who suffer personal injuries. Don’t let injuries, losses, and expenses overwhelm you. Let me handle everything while you recover.
Assessing Liability in a Truck Accident
Unlike an accident with another car, it’s not always the driver alone who is responsible for a truck accident on the road. Many others can be held accountable under the legal concept of “vicarious liability.”
To establish liability beyond the driver, you must first determine the category of the driver, of which there are three:
Owner-operators own their trucks and either operate them as independent contractors or lease them to a trucking company.
Company drivers are employees and drive for a trucking company that owns the vehicle.
Independent owner-operators drive their own trucks for their own company.
Knowing the status of the driver allows you to determine who is responsible for the maintenance of the vehicle. If the accident is caused by a mechanical defect ( due to bad tires or brakes in need of repair or replacement, for example), the maintenance person can be sued under the principle of vicarious liability.
The same holds true for the manufacturer of the vehicle. If a defect arising from the manufacture of the truck is to blame, the manufacturer can be sued. Since truck parts are not all made by the manufacturer whose brand name appears on the truck, suppliers of individual parts may potentially be held liable as well if they malfunction and contribute to an accident.
Those who load the cargo can also be responsible. If the load is not balanced, it can cause the truck to be off its center of gravity, making it harder for the driver to control the vehicle. The cargo load can also be left unsecured, or not secured properly, and come loose during the vehicle’s operation, spilling out and presenting hazards on the highway or even slamming into other vehicles.
An accident with a big rig is often far more complicated, with more avenues of fault to pursue, than a simple rear-ender or T-bone crash with another car. If you try to pursue all of these angles of liability by yourself, you will quickly get lost. You need the help of an experienced truck accident attorney who can track down all of the responsible parties.
To Truck Accidents
The driver, needless to say, is always involved. In fact, most accidents with trucks are caused by driver inattention or other related factors. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, truck driver fatigue is behind 31% of all accidents. Right behind that at 30% is tire failure.
Other driver factors include distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding, lack of experience, poor judgment, and failure to obey traffic rules and signs. In addition, I’ve already mentioned manufacturing, maintenance, and cargo-loading issues as contributing factors.
Weather and road conditions can also be factors, but suing a government for poor road maintenance is a challenge of an altogether different nature, as government agencies usually try to hide behind the shield of immunity from lawsuits. As always, there are exceptions.
Steps You Should Take
If you’re the victim of a trucking accident that leaves you injured, you must – if physically able – call the police from the scene to get them involved. When they file their report, try to obtain a copy. You also need to document everything down to the smallest detail. Take cell phone pictures from as many angles as possible, including shots of any relevant road signs or highway obstacles.
If there are witnesses, try to get their statements and contact information. Obtain the driver’s name, license number, insurance information, as well as ownership information about the vehicle. Most importantly, seek immediate medical attention and retain all medical records.
The most crucial next step you can take, besides initially reporting the accident to your insurance company, is to hire an experienced truck accident injury attorney to determine liability. Once liability is finally determined, personal injury lawsuits can be initiated. Your attorney can also handle questions from — and negotiations with — the claims adjusters representing both your insurance company and those of the other involved parties.
Trust The Fostel Law Firm to Help You
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident anywhere in Texas or Southeast New Mexico, call me immediately at The Fostel Law Firm in Houston and let me handle the claims adjusters and pursue all avenues of liability. We may be able to pursue multiple personal injury claims. If you have a loved one who has lost their life in a big rig accident, we may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit. I will handle all of your issues with the utmost care and compassion.
At The Fostel Law Firm, I have a nationwide practice and am willing to review cases from any state for no charge.