In recent years, Texas has had the nation’s largest number of fatal accidents involving large trucks. Road safety data shows that hundreds of such accidents occur in our state every year. How should you go about pursuing compensation if you were injured by a negligent truck driver? A truck accident attorney in Houston or San Antonio can help you formulate a winning strategy.
I Was in an Accident With a Commercial Truck: Is the Truck’s Company Liable?
Texas personal injury law recognizes a legal doctrine called respondeat superior, or “let the superior make answer.” In the context of an accident with a commercial vehicle, respondeat superior indicates that the driver’s employer must pay for any damages caused during the normal course of employment. So, while there are always exceptions, most individuals who are injured in a crash with a commercial truck will seek compensation from the truck’s company.
Other Parties Who Could Be Liable
Which other parties might be responsible for the damages? If a part in the truck malfunctions, the manufacturer could be liable. A problem with the truck’s trailer could result in the trailer owner being accountable. In a commercial context, parties such as the shipper or the broker could be other sources of compensation. You may even be able to pursue multiple claims.
Will Insurance Cover the Cost of the Accident?
Having auto insurance is a requirement for both private and commercial vehicles. While an injured person has the right to sue a negligent driver directly, collecting compensation is extremely difficult if he or she does not have the means to pay. Requiring all drivers to carry insurance is a way of increasing the chances that people who are injured in accidents will actually receive a payout.
Given the insurance requirements, it is highly likely that the truck company’s insurance provider will pay for your damages. The good news is that while accidents with a commercial vehicle take longer for most lawyers to sort out than crashes between two personal-use vehicles, payouts from commercial policies tend to be higher. In Texas, trucks are required to carry between $75,000 and $1 million in coverage, depending on the type of truck being insured.
How to Hold the Truck Driver’s Company Responsible
Commercial trucking is a highly regulated activity, which offers ample opportunity for an attorney to find ways to show that the driver violated standards set by the federal government, the state of Texas, or the truck company. Some accidents are caused because the truck company encouraged the driver to act contrary to industry regulations in order to increase their profits. Other accidents are caused because the driver acted negligently of his or her own accord.
In either case, the truck driver’s company will be responsible for the damages, per respondeat superior. The grounds for holding the company responsible can include:
Immediate Negligent Actions
Immediate negligent actions are committed in the moments that lead up to a crash. They could include speeding, failing to use a turn signal, or violating other traffic laws. The rules pertaining to trucks are more numerous than those governing smaller vehicles. For example, trucks are forbidden to use certain lanes on the highway and are generally not allowed to take U-turns.
Other Negligent Actions
Non-immediate negligent actions could include not wearing prescription eyeglasses while driving, failing to ensure proper maintenance of the rig, or working beyond the maximum number of hours allowed for truck drivers. Unfortunately, some truck companies have been known to instruct their employees to deliberately falsify their work logs in order to spend more time on the road than the law allows.
Most truck drivers operate according to rules set by a commercial manual. Your truck accident attorney might compare the rules set by the manual to the driver’s actions in order to determine if there were any violations.
Particularly egregious behavior falls into the category of gross negligence. While not specific to truck drivers, these actions can play a part in commercial collisions. Gross negligence can include:
- Road rage
- Drunk driving
- Driving while under the influence of drugs
Preparing for the Insurance Company’s Counterarguments
When trucks collide with smaller vehicles, there is a strong chance that severe injuries will result. If you are claiming permanent disability, you will likely want to pursue future medical expenses and future lost wages. These types of compensation are intended to provide you with money to cover a lifetime of treatments and reduced earning potential.
As you can imagine, providing compensation for severe injuries is extremely costly to the insurance company. Our firm has brought in millions for clients who suffered permanent disability as a result of collisions with a truck. Given the amount of money they could be liable for, you can expect the insurance company to fight harder against a truck accident claim than a minor fender-bender. A strong truck accident attorney can help you prepare to fight against their counter-arguments by:
Handling Communications With the Other Side
The less you communicate directly with the truck company’s insurance company, the less opportunity you give them to use your words against you. You are under no legal obligation to answer their questions or send them any documentation yourself. If they ask you to give a recorded statement, you may politely refuse.
Collecting Ample Evidence
The more evidence you have in your favor, the stronger your case will be. Your truck accident attorney might subpoena records from the truck company, review surveillance footage of the crash, and ask for witness testimonies. The police report and any footage you were able to take are also good sources of viable evidence.
Coaching You Through Challenging Situations
Some cases turn out to be relatively easy to win, however, others pose more of a challenge. Through no fault of your own, you could run into arguments that a preexisting condition caused your injuries or that something you posted on social media reveals that you were partially to blame for the accident. Your attorney can help you work to overcome the weaknesses in your case, increasing your chances of getting a fair settlement.
Presenting Your Case With Strength and Professionalism
There is an art to representing a client in an accident case. Your responses to the other side’s counter-arguments will have the most weight when delivered by a highly professional truck accident attorney who can use evidence persuasively.
How to Find a Truck Accident Attorney in Houston or San Antonio
Finding the right attorney for your truck accident case can have a big impact on the outcome. Accidents involving commercial vehicles and severe injuries demand an experienced truck accident attorney who has a strong track record of handling challenging cases. Our law firm offers free consultations as an opportunity for you to get to know us and ask us any questions that are relevant to your accident.
If you are dealing with the aftermath of a truck accident, getting compensated can ease your financial burden and facilitate your recovery. Whether the truck driver made an irresponsible decision in the moment or was intentionally pushed to violate safety standards, you have the right to seek damages from his or her employer. To speak with a truck accident attorney in Houston or San Antonio, contact Joe A. Gamez Law Firm, PLC.