Who is at Fault After a Semi-Truck Accident?
Semi-truck accidents are some of the worst on Houston roads. Contrary to what many people believe, these crashes are very different from other automobile accidents. The injuries tend to be much more severe. Determining who is at fault is complex because multiple parties, not just the trucker, may be to blame. In addition, both federal and state laws come into play. Figuring out how all those facts come together is a job for an experienced Texas truck accident lawyer.
Contact Fleming Law, P.C. today. Our proven legal team can help you pursue compensation for all of your losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
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What Evidence Needs to be Gathered After a Trucking Accident?
The injuries from truck accidents can be catastrophic. If you’re seriously injured, seek medical attention immediately. But if you’re able, it’s smart to collect as much evidence from the accident scene as you can. This information will be vital if you need to file an injury claim later.
Examples of relevant evidence include:
- Photos: Take pictures of the crash site. Get shots of the vehicles from multiple angles. Look for environmental evidence that can tell the story of the crash, such as skid marks, broken guardrails, shattered glass, and road debris. Always photograph your injuries.
- Insurance information: Truck accident claims will go through the truck company’s insurance carrier(s). Make sure to get the insurance policy information from the truck driver and any others involved in the wreck.
- Witness statements: Eyewitness testimony is incredibly valuable. Get the names and contact information for anyone who saw the crash. Statements from passengers are good, but testimony from outside parties will carry more weight because they won’t have an interest in your legal case.
- Police report: Get a copy of the accident report from the officer who responded to the scene.
- Truck inspection reports: After a truck accident, a truck inspector may come to the scene to examine the vehicle and write a separate report. Ask for this report as well, as it will contain evidence about the condition of the truck and the trailer after the crash.
A truck accident lawyer can assist with collecting other evidence that may not be readily available to you, such as black box data, GPS and onboard computer data, driver records, personnel files, logbooks, and the phone records of the truck driver.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Trucking Accident?
Truck accidents differ from the average car accident in several ways. One of the most significant differences is that there are potentially more defendants in a truck accident case. These include:
- Truck driver: Truckers may be held liable for any negligent behavior on their part. They are subject to strict federal regulations governing their actions before, during, and after trips. For example, they may violate the hours-of-service rules that require mandatory rest periods to prevent drowsy driving accidents. Driving under the influence, distracted driving, speeding, and aggressive driving are other examples of negligence.
- Trucking company: Commercial motor vehicle carriers are required to hire qualified truck drivers with clean driving records. When they fail to do proper background checks, they can be held liable for negligent hiring practices. Truck companies are also required to perform regular inspections and maintenance on their fleets. If a breakdown causes a semi-truck accident, the company may be at fault.
- Cargo or loading companies: Cargo can shift during transport if it is improperly loaded. This can throw the entire truck off balance and cause a crash. Companies that do not ensure that cargo is loaded safely can be held liable for their actions.
- Vehicle and parts manufacturers: Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that trucks and their equipment are free from defects. When a faulty part or poorly designed vehicle causes a crash, the automaker or parts manufacturer can be held accountable through a truck accident claim.
- Other drivers: Motorists who behave negligently behind the wheel may also be responsible for causing a truck wreck. In those cases, you could file a claim against that person’s auto insurance company.
- You: Even if you share some portion of fault in your truck accident case, Texas law will still allow you to collect compensation. An attorney can help make sure that you are not unfairly blamed when fault is divided between all negligent parties. (See below for more information on partial fault).
The tricky part of dealing with multiple defendants is that you will also have to deal with multiple insurance companies. Going up against high-powered corporate lawyers isn’t something you should handle on your own. A knowledgeable truck accident attorney can handle all settlement negotiations so that you aren’t tricked into saying something that jeopardizes your case.
What if I am Partially at Fault for the Truck Accident?
Texas follows a rule called modified comparative negligence. When multiple parties are at fault, each one is assigned a percentage of fault. As long as you are 50 percent or less to blame, you can still receive compensation. However, your total award will be reduced by your portion of fault.
Example: Let’s say you were 20 percent responsible for the truck accident that injured you, and your total damages were $100,0000. The most you would be able to collect is $80,000 (the total award minus your portion of fault).
It’s important to know that your entire claim hinges on remaining below the 50 percent mark. If you are found even one percentage point more to blame for the crash, you will receive no money at all. This is one of the main reasons to work with an experienced truck accident attorney. With so much on the line, it’s guaranteed that the insurance company will try to shift the blame onto you.
Do I Need a Houston Truck Accident Lawyer After a Crash?
Yes. Truck accidents are some of the most complex personal injury claims. At Fleming Law, P.C., our Houston truck accident lawyers will seek full and fair compensation for you. We can investigate your claim, collect evidence, and handle all talks with insurance companies with minimal disruptions to your life. That way, you can focus on recovering from your injuries.
Questions? Find out what we can do for you by scheduling a free consultation. Call or contact us now.
Michael P. Fleming is a highly experienced litigator who has argued and won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a Houston resident who was twice elected to serve as the Harris County Attorney. He is also an avid runner who has completed eight marathons, to date, including two in Ireland. Only a small group of Texas lawyers are Board Certified as specialists in both Personal Injury Trial Law and Real Estate Law. Michael is one of them. He also proudly holds his B.A. degree from the University of Saint Thomas and his J.D. degree from the University of Houston College of Law.