Car accidents can be a frightening and dangerous event, and when they involve 18-wheelers, they can be much worse. Consider this: a fully-loaded semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds (or 40 tons) and can require over 100 yards to come to a complete stop. Compound that with the fact that there are over 15,000 trucking accidents in Texas alone and you come to realize not only how dangerous semis can be, but also how likely an accident involving one of them is to occur.
When such an accident does happen and you find yourself pursuing a legal claim, the two most important questions are who is at fault and how can you be compensated? While it is vital to engage a qualified lawyer early in the process, this article helps to shed some additional light on common causes of semi-truck accidents, and what you may expect if you find yourself in a similar unfortunate situation.
Common Causes of Semi-Truck Accidents
In the United States, there are an estimated 2 million 18-wheeler trucks on the road, and each year there are approximately 500,000 automobile collisions involving one these semi-trucks. Collisions involving 18-wheelers result in 5,000 deaths annually. Unfortunately, these statistics show that accidents involving semis are much more common that most people think. Given the nature of the profession of truck driving, it’s easy to see why one of the more common causes of semi-truck accidents is falling asleep at the wheel. Too often truck drivers are required to drive long distances in a short amount of time. And in an effort to make up time, a lot of drivers will drive past the point of exhaustion.
Mechanical issues and breakdowns are another frequent cause of semi-truck accidents. These trucks undergo significant driving distances which puts a lot of wear on truck parts which can lead to mechanical failures of important components such as brakes. If a collision is caused by such a mechanical breakdown, the fault may not be with the driver alone, but also with the company which owns and maintains the truck or the company which manufactured the truck, depending on the circumstances.
Distracted driving is also a cause of semi-truck accidents. Truck drivers are prone to many of the same distractions as most drivers. The difference is that semi-truck drivers are often packing over 40 tons of weight behind them.
Assigning Appropriate Liability
As touched on above, there may be various parties responsible for a semi-truck accident. First and probably the most obvious is the driver themselves. A qualified lawyer who has dealt with semi-truck accidents can provide a lot of help to investigate a collision to determine the at-fault parties on your behalf. Additionally, after some investigation, your attorney may also find that the driver’s employer or the manufacturer of the truck may also be liable. Although the individual driver was the one driving when the accident occurred, employers are often held accountable for the actions of their employees. This is especially true when the employee is acting under the control of the employer.
Negligence Laws and Limited Damages
Fault for a collision involving semi-trucks is usually determined under state law. In Texas, when it comes to automobile and semi-truck collision, the ultimate liability falls on the negligent party or parties. Texas law states that a party is negligent if they breached a duty of care in a way that caused the collision. This duty of care is laid out not only in Texas law regarding the “rules of the road” but also in Texas and Federal statutes which govern large commercial vehicles such as semi-trucks. There are many elements that go into proving negligence in one of these cases and having an experienced Texas lawyer familiar with the trucking industry is essential to proving your case.
It is also important to be aware that Texas follows a negligence model that will often limit damages to the percentage of each party’s fault. For example, if the total amount of damages is $100,000, but you, the driver hit by a semi-truck, were found to be 30% responsible, then the most you could recover is $70,000.
When pursuing an injury claim following any kind of automotive accident, the question of fault is one of the most important matters to address. Your attorney must be able to prove that some other party was negligent in a way that resulted in your injuries. Due to the many nuances of Texas law in this area, consult with an experienced Texas lawyer at The Callahan Law Firm as early in the process as possible.