Interstate commerce is the lifeblood of the American consumer society, and a large portion of that commerce depends on the flow of merchandise by truck, through the arterial structure that comprises our nation’s highways. We rely on the trucking industry to transport goods from border to border and coast to coast—and sometimes even across borders. Large commercial trucks, especially semi trucks or 18-wheelers, are ubiquitous. Other types of commercial trucks are much in evidence as well—delivery trucks, construction trucks, tankers, and others. With these huge vehicles crowding our roads, it is no surprise that they often cause accidents, and very serious ones at that.
Large trucks pose a danger to others on the highway, and their safe operation requires a driver with specialized training and who pays meticulous attention to the rules of the road. But in trucking, time equals money, and drivers are often made to adhere to tight schedules and drive long hours.
U.S. Truck Accident Statistics
These are some of the dire statistics that illustrate the severity of the problem of truck accidents in the United States as a whole, and also in Texas, which has a disproportionately high number of truck accident fatalities:
- There are about half a million large truck accidents in the United States every year.
- In 2013, 3,602 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks.
- Sixty-seven percent of the fatalities were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles.
- Fifteen percent of the fatalities caused by trucks were motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
- In Texas in 2012, 543 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes.
- Texas large truck fatalities made up 14.3 percent of the nationwide total.
Texas Truck Accident Statistics
In 2015, 584 people were killed in commercial motor vehicle accidents and another 1,101 suffered life changing incapacitating injuries. 32 fatalities occurred on Dallas County roads, the most in the entire state of Texas, followed closely by Harris County (32) and Bexar County (26).
Of course, counties with large populations like Dallas and Harris county are more likely to have high crash and fatality occurrences. However, Smith County is the biggest outlier. Despite a population of just under 219,000 (compared with over 2.5 million in Dallas County), 16 commercial vehicle fatalities occurred on Smith County Roads.
Types of Truck Accidents
These are some types of accidents that commonly occur involving large commercial trucks:
- Crashes with cars, motorcycles, or other trucks while turning or changing lanes.
- Jackknife accidents, usually caused by a semi truck driver abruptly applying the axel brake. The trailer keeps going forward, causing the rig to buckle at a sharp angle with the cab.
- Rollovers, which can occur when a truck driver runs the wheels off the pavement or up against a curb, causing the truck to flip onto its side. A jackknifed truck is also likely to roll over.
- Tires blowing out or de-treading, causing the driver to lose control of the truck and leaving debris on the pavement, which may cause an additional accident. The usual cause of blowouts is failure to maintain and inspect the tires properly.
- Oil spills, causing the pavement to become slippery and dangerous, as well as polluting the environment and creating a danger of fire.
- Hazmat releases: the spilling of toxic gases or chemicals which may cause illness or respiratory problems when breathed in, or may catch on fire causing burn injuries and/or harm to the environment.
- Underride accidents, often caused by sudden braking of the truck when a car is behind it, causing the car to go under the truck, which often takes the entire top off of the car. Underrides are often fatal to the car’s driver and passengers and can be prevented by equipping the truck with an underride guard.
Types of Commercial Trucks that Cause Accidents
Semi trucks, also known as tractor-trailers, big rigs, or 18-wheelers, consist of a cab that pulls a trailer, which carries the truck’s cargo. Weighing as much as 80,000 when fully loaded, trucks are awkward to handle, slow to stop, difficult to turn, prone to jackknifing and rolling over, and have large blind spots. Their weight can do catastrophic damage to an ordinary passenger vehicle and its passengers—not to mention motorcycle riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists—if an accident occurs.
These are the type of truck most likely to be engaged in interstate commerce and thus subject to federal regulations. The federal government and the State of Texas regulate the trucking business with an eye to protecting the lives and health of the rest of us when we must share the road with these giants, including:
- Limiting the number of hours a trucker can legally remain on the road without a rest break or a night’s sleep
- Establishing schedules for maintenance and inspection, setting requirements for driver training
- Limiting the weight of a truck’s load
- Mandating that trucking companies carry a large amount of liability insurance
Similar to semi trucks, tankers consist of two parts—a cab and a tank holding liquid cargo—and consequently have the same accident risk factors as a regular semi, but with some additional dangers. Tankers must be loaded properly to avoid the liquid sloshing inside the tank, which causes the weight to shift, creating instability, which could cause the driver to lose control or the truck to roll over. Tanker trucks often carry hazardous and sometimes flammable liquids, so an accident could cause a hazmat spill or a fire, which could cause people over a wide area to become ill, in addition to any damage it might do by colliding with or rolling over onto another vehicle. Transporting hazardous materials requires that the driver have additional training and pass an examination to obtain a Hazmat Endorsement.
Courier or Delivery Trucks
Courier services, such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, and others deliver packages to homes and businesses. Their fleets often include semi-trucks moving across state lines as well as large and small local area delivery vans. They are generally subject to government regulations. Trucks making local deliveries make frequent stops and turns, often in areas frequented by smaller vehicles and pedestrians, who are placed in danger, due to the trucks’ large blind spots, large size, and lack of easy maneuverability.
Sanitation trucks (garbage trucks) also operate in residential areas. Not only are they large, heavy vehicles that back up and turn around often, but they are usually equipped with noisy and dangerous robotics, requiring the close attention of the operator, who may be less likely to see a pedestrian or child in the vicinity and may cause a serious accident.
Dump Trucks and Cement Mixers
These large powerful trucks are typically used in construction. They are heavy and unwieldy, with large blind spots. Used to deposit materials at a worksite, they back up frequently and drop their load behind them. They can back up and strike a person in back of the truck, or cause an injury to a bystander in the dumping process.
Flatbed trucks carry their cargo on a flat, open platform behind the cab. They are often used for transporting materials and heavy equipment to a construction site. Aside from the typical dangers of all large trucks, flatbeds pose an additional danger if the cargo is not fastened down properly, allowing it to fall from the truck onto another vehicle, pedestrian, or worker.
What to Do after an Accident with a Large Commercial Truck
If you are involved in an accident with a truck, you may be so seriously injured that you are unable to do anything but wait for an ambulance. But if you are physically able to do so, it is helpful to know what to do in the minutes, hours, and days immediately following the accident:
- Check others involved to determine if first aid or an ambulance is required.
- Call the police and have an officer dispatched to the accident scene. Tell the dispatcher if an ambulance is required.
- Provide the police with a basic description of the accident and make a note of the officer’s name and the report number, so you can later obtain a copy.
- Get the name of the truck driver, owner, insurer, and any witnesses, along with the plate number, driver’s license number, and other identifying features of the truck.
- If you can, take photos of the scene, including all vehicles and body damage. Include street signs or geographic markers to identify the location. If you are too badly injured to take pictures, ask someone else to do it.
- Get medical attention as soon as you can. If you asked the 911 operator to call an ambulance when you requested law enforcement, you will be taken to the nearest hospital emergency room. If not, have someone drive you to the ER, Urgent Care, or your regular physician. Make sure the doctor knows you were in a traffic accident.
- Contact a Board Certified Texas Personal Injury Attorney. Never try to negotiate a settlement directly with the trucking company or their insurance carrier. These are complicated legal matters that should only be handled by an experienced and highly qualified attorney.
- Don’t engage in any discussion of the accident or the extent of your injuries with the trucking company or their insurance company’s representative. Don’t allow the insurance company to record a statement, and don’t sign any papers. Refer the adjuster to your lawyer. Keep in mind that insurance adjuster’s goal is to avoid paying damages, or at least to keep your recovery to a bare minimum.
Causes of Truck Crashes Attributable to Negligence
These are some common causes of truck accidents that can often be attributed to the negligence of a driver, owner, or some other party:
- Truck driver lacking proper qualifications, experience, and training
- Driving at excessive speed to meet unreasonable delivery schedules
- Driving when impaired by alcohol, or by illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs
- Driving while drowsy or fatigued
- Becoming distracted while driving
- Unbalanced loading of cargo
- Loading cargo over the legal weight limit
- Improper securing of cargo
- Failing to properly secure the trailer
- Failing to maintain legally mandated inspection schedule
- Failing to perform routine maintenance tasks
- Changing lanes or turning without checking blind spots
- Under-filling tanks carrying liquids
- Equipment failure
- Failing to equip a truck with an under-ride guard
- Unsafe road conditions due to poor road maintenance or hazards left by workers in the roadway.
Types of Injuries Common in Truck Accidents
Truck accidents often result in catastrophic injuries and death. Some of the more common injuries suffered by truck accident victims include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Paraplegia and quadriplegia (tetraplegia)
- Internal bleeding
- Organ damage
- Serious fractures
- Burn Injuries
- Amputation injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Herniated discs
- Facial injuries
- Scarring and disfiguration
- Chronic pain
- Psychological trauma
What Damages Can You Potentially Recover?
Your attorney will assist you in making a claim to recover compensation for both your economic damages and your non-economic damages, also called “general damages,” that relate to your quality of life.
Economic damages, which can be quantified by producing bills, receipts, and employment records may include:
- Cost of current and future medical expenses
- Cost of transportation to medical appointments
- Cost of personal and household assistance with tasks you are unable to do because of the injury
- Lost earnings and future earning potential
- Cost of rehabilitation
- Cost of psychological counseling
- Cost of medical and assistive devices
- Cost of refitting home and vehicle to accommodate your disability
- Any other out-of-pocket expenses necessitated by the accident
Potential non-economic damages your attorney may demand include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Who Is Liable?
The number one cause of truck accidents is driver negligence, which is often due to driver distraction or impairment, but which sometimes occurs as a result of the trucking company failing to properly train its drivers or pushing drivers to drive faster or work longer hours than the law allows in order meeting a deadline.
Truck owners may also be responsible for a truck being overloaded or improperly loaded, with cargo inadequately secured. Owners or maintenance companies who fail to inspect, maintain, and repair their trucks may be held liable for your damages, as may a manufacturer of a truck or one of its parts that contained a defect that caused the crash. If the accident was caused by an unsafe road condition, the government agency or contractor that caused the problem could be found liable.
Why You Need a Truck Accident Lawyer
Because truck accidents are often difficult and complex relative to other highway accidents, they should be handled only by an experienced Texas truck accident lawyer. In addition to the factors that come into play in any motor vehicle accident—driver impairment, speed, and so forth—there are particular matters specific to trucks, including:
- Whether the driver received the legally required specialized training
- Whether the loading or securing of the cargo was involved and if so, who was responsible for loading
- Relationships between owners, maintenance technicians, shippers, drivers, lessees, and other parties involved with the truck and its load that must be sorted out
- The regulation of commercial trucking by state and federal government agencies
- The potentially catastrophic nature of injuries due to the disparity in size and weight between a truck and passenger vehicle.
If you’ve been injured by a truck, it may not be immediately apparent who the liable party is. A Texas Board Certified Personal Injury Attorney will be able to call upon experts such as accident reconstruction specialists, automotive and civil engineers, and traffic safety experts to assist in the investigation of the accident, to identify liable parties, and to provide evidence in support of your case.
Specialized Legal Advocacy That Gets Results in Dallas-Fort Worth
When you have been seriously injured in an accident or have lost a family member in a fatal crash involving a large commercial truck, bringing a Board Certified Personal Injury Attorney on board at the earliest stage can make an enormous difference in the outcome of your case. Trucking companies often have mitigation teams in place, ready to respond a moment’s notice to protect the company’s financial interests by looking for any reason to avoid taking responsibility for an accident, which may mean obscuring evidence or attempting to place the blame on the injured party, so it is important to get your attorney’s investigative started working for you while the evidence is still available.
Having a team of experts protecting your rights from the very beginning will make it more likely that you will receive full and adequate compensation for all of your economic and non-economic damages. Especially in catastrophic injury cases, your future life and that of your family will depend on your being able to receive enough money to pick up the pieces of your life and move forward with the least amount of hardship.
For the expert legal counsel that can make this happen, call the Dallas, Texas, law offices of attorney Aaron Herbert to arrange a free consultation. Aaron is a Texas Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Attorney who has personally filed more than a thousand personal injury lawsuits and has achieved fifty courtroom verdicts in favor of his clients. Insurance companies know he is willing to take a case to court if an appropriate settlement offer is not forthcoming, and are therefore often more willing to offer a fair settlement outside of court. Aaron is a member of the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates Forum and has the highest possible AVVO rating—10 /10.
We are a client-focused, results-oriented law firm, where your interests always come first. Protect your legal right to monetary compensation by calling Aaron Herbert Law today