If you have been in a motor vehicle accident with a commercial truck driver, you could have grounds for a lawsuit. However, it is often beneficial to start by filing a claim with the liable party’s insurance company. A truck accident lawyer in Houston or San Antonio can help you prepare your claim and ready yourself to go to court if necessary. Your strategy should include identifying which parties are liable, generating crucial evidence, and conveying strong arguments.
Can I File a Lawsuit After an Automobile Accident?
You have the legal right to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver, but there are several benefits to settling outside of court. If you can skip a potentially lengthy trial, you will get compensated faster without running the risk of the jury siding with the defense. Taking the liable parties to court later is always an option if you are unable to secure a settlement by filing a claim.
Truck Accidents vs. Non-Commercial Accidents
When you seek damages against a commercial driver, your approach will be different than if you were filing a claim against a non-commercial driver. In most cases, you will have greater opportunities to identify negligence and find liable parties to hold accountable. That’s because commercial drivers need to abide by a different set of regulations that call for strict safety protocols. Additionally, they are covered by commercial insurance policies, which tend to allow for higher payouts.
Safety Regulations for Trucks
Both large eighteen-wheelers and smaller trucks are usually operated by professional drivers who are obligated to observe a commercial operator driver’s manual. The regulations pertaining to commercial rigs recognize the increased danger they pose on the road. For example, U-turns are generally safe for cars, but are often forbidden for trucks.
When building your case, your truck accident lawyer should check The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which sets special rules for trucks operating interstate. The state of Texas has adopted many of these regulations, meaning that they apply even if the truck that harmed you was working in-state. Special rules pertaining to commercial drivers often include:
- Limitations on the number of hours they are allowed to drive
- Frequent drug tests
- Periodic medical exams
- Requirements for specialized training
Finding Violations of Safety Protocols and Commercial Manuals
In a non-commercial accident, your lawyer is likely to focus on finding immediate negligent actions. An immediate negligent accident could be a failure to signal a turn or running a red light. Some non-immediate causes for the accident include intoxication or a failure to wear prescription glasses while driving. Since commercial vehicles are more highly regulated, accidents involving trucks offer greater opportunities to investigate non-immediate causes.
When we look into the details of your accident, we might find that the company that hired the driver sought to maximize its profits by ignoring the maximum number of hours a driver is allowed to work. Fatigue is a serious issue that leads to many accidents every year. Unfortunately, some drivers even falsify their work logs in order to drive more hours than they are legally permitted. Other common violations include drug use, intoxication, and carrying expired medical exam certificates.
Understanding Who to Sue
When you are seeking damages, it is important to identify the liable parties. The law recognizes a concept called “respondeat superior.” According to this concept, a company that hires a driver is responsible for his or her negligent actions. Therefore, most claims and lawsuits will involve the company and their insurance company.
In commercial accidents, other parties can also be found liable, such as a broker, shipper, or trailer owner. A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can identify all the at-fault parties in order to maximize the value of your case.
Coping With the Severity of the Accident
The large size of trucks make them especially dangerous when operated by negligent drivers. Some of them can weigh more than 80,000 lbs., which can take a devastating toll on other vehicles and their occupants. If you have been injured in an accident with a truck, chances are you are dealing with serious injuries that could potentially cause you to miss work or even result in lifelong disability.
Whether your case is resolved outside of court or in a lawsuit, you have the right to claim compensation for your medical bills and lost wages. If you have suffered reduced earning capacity, meaning that you will never be able to go back to the same job you had before, your claim could be extremely costly to the insurance company. Commercial policies generally allow up to $1,000,000 per incident.
When you are seeking costly damages, you have the potential to secure a large payout. However, the more valuable your claim, the harder the liable parties will fight against it. Your best strategy is to work with an experienced truck accident lawyer who can bring a strong case.
Should You Try to Settle Outside Court or File a Lawsuit?
Given the numerous regulations pertaining to trucks, the potential to hold multiple parties responsible, and the value of commercial auto policies, you stand a strong chance of walking away with a large payout either way. The main difference between a claim and a lawsuit is that a claim is a legal request for damages, while a lawsuit is an action taken against the liable party in court.
Generally, starting with a claim can save everyone time and legal fees if it results in a settlement offer that is proportionate to your injuries. It is your lawyer’s responsibility to back your claim with evidence demonstrating the extent of your injuries and the cost of your losses. Proper documentation gives your claim weight by showing the liable party that if you do not receive a sizeable settlement offer, you have grounds to pursue compensation with a lawsuit.
Preparing to Submit Your Claim
After you have been in an accident, it is important to get medical attention right away. Not only is going to the ER critical for your health, it creates a record of the incident. You should also file a report with the police and collect whatever evidence you can, including photos and videos of the crash.
It is important to get in touch with a truck accident lawyer in Houston or San Antonio right away. If the driver’s insurance company contacts you before you talk with your lawyer, do not give them any recorded statements.
How a Truck Accident Lawyer in Houston or San Antonio Will Build Your Case
As you get ready to submit your claim, your truck accident lawyer will make sure that you are following all protocols correctly, including observing the statute of limitations for truck accidents. When building your case, he or she will focus on the four elements that require proof:
Duty of Care
Duty of care refers to one party’s obligation to another. With respect to truck accidents, the driver’s duty of care is to operate the vehicle in a competent manner that maintains safety.
Breach of Duty of Care
When someone commits a breach of duty of care, they act negligently. A truck driver commits a breach of duty of care if he or she puts other drivers at risk with irresponsible driving.
The other side’s attorney might argue that the accident would have occurred without the other driver’s negligence. Your lawyer must prove that there was a direct causal link between the breach of duty of care and the accident.
Proving damages means demonstrating the cost of the accident. Damages generally include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Exercise Your Right to Fair Compensation
While operating a truck is challenging, it is the driver’s responsibility to consider the safety of others on the road. If you have been in a truck accident that was not your fault, you have every right to collect damages. Contact Joe A. Gamez Law Firm, PLC, today!