Semi-Truck Accidents: How Can a Lawyer Help You Afterward?
A semi-truck and its trailer can make for a very dangerous combination for other drivers and their passengers. These can become behemoths that can weigh more than 25 times the heavier cars on the road when these trucks are carrying a full load. They take up more than their share of room on the road and make highways a very dangerous place.
Nevertheless, these trucks are imperative to our economy, so they continue to drive alongside the rest of us every day. This means that drivers should always know what to do in the event of a semi-truck accident.
Too Many Trucks and Not Enough Experienced Drivers
The reality of the booming trucking industry is that there are many more of them on the road. Not only that, but companies are struggling to find enough experienced drivers to operate them. Like any industry, trucking is having trouble competing for skilled people in this time of worker shortage. The result is that companies may stretch and strain to put people on the road who have no business being there. Even though drivers must be qualified and pass tests, companies could cut back on training.
There are over three million truck drivers in the United States. Not all of them are experienced and veteran drivers. Even those with some time behind the wheel may take chances that they should not and other shortcuts. The trucking industry puts a lot of pressure on its drivers. They have hard time constraints and only a limited amount of time that they can drive. Because of increasing traffic, many truckers will do their driving at night. This is when conditions can be the most challenging.
The Trucking Industry Grows Every Year
Trucking companies are growing by leaps and bounds. After all, someone needs to get all the packages ordered online to the doors and keep the warehouses stocked. Truck traffic has increased exponentially, and the trend promises to continue well into the future. The road infrastructure has not kept up with the trucking demand, so more vehicles are competing for space on deteriorating roads.
The problem is even worse in the growing parts of the country. The population in Texas and the rest of the Sun Belt is growing by leaps and bounds as people leave states like California and New York. It means more trucks and traffic, and Texas has some of the worst truck bottlenecks in the country.
Why San Antonio Has More than its Share of Truck Traffic
While many of these problem thoroughfares are in Houston, the I-10 and I-410 intersection in San Antonio is known to be one of the more dangerous stretches for truck traffic in the country. I-35 is used to carry freight to and from the Mexican border, which causes its share of truck traffic on city highways. Trucking transports over 60 percent of the freight between the U.S. and Mexico, and San Antonio is one of the closest large cities to the border. In addition, San Antonio is also close to the Texas oil patch, which is another factor increasing truck traffic, as large vehicles head to and from these areas.
Texas Has the Most Truck Accidents in the Nation
Between its high population and endless stretches of roads, Texas routinely has the most traffic fatalities in the country. An average of 500 people lose their lives in Texas truck accidents each year. Roughly 12 percent of truck accident fatalities in the U.S. occur in Texas. While many people fixate on fatalities when talking about truck accident statistics, these crashes leave behind changed lives, even when the accident victim survives. Trucks are so much bigger than cars that they could cause serious injuries. Drivers have a lower likelihood of walking away unharmed from a truck accident than they would from a car accident. These accidents often injure people.
The truck veered out of its travel lane and either hit another car or forced it off the road
The truck driver was traveling too fast for the conditions. This does not just mean speeding. It could also mean that they were not traveling slowly enough in the rain.
The driver was inexperienced or inadequately trained
Under time delivery pressure and wanting to drive as much as possible, the driver could break federal rules and drive an illegally long shift. Even if they are following the rules, they may drive fatigued.
The driver is not able to stop the truck in time and collides into the rear of another vehicle. Trucks are incredibly large and require extra braking time, and a driver has split seconds to make a braking decision.
Truck drivers may be distracted when they are driving long hauls. They may eat behind the wheel to keep moving or check their texts on their mobile device.
How to Prove Negligence in a Truck Accident Case
Injured accident victims can file a lawsuit against the responsible trucker. Like any other personal injury action, this claim requires proof of negligence. All of the above-mentioned actions could be considered negligence. The requirement is that you prove that the driver acted unreasonably under the circumstances.
Proving negligence requires evidence to show what happened. Semi-truck accidents involve different types of evidence than car accident cases. Of course, you must prove what the driver did that caused the accident. In addition, other types of proof could come into play in your accident. You should have as much evidence as you can get your hands on because it is better to be on the safe side.
How Federal Trucking Regulations Come Into Play
In semi-truck accidents, one very helpful thing is if you can prove that the truck driver violated a federal regulation that governed the operation of the truck. The industry is subject to strict regulation by the government, and with good reason. Trucks can put everyone else on the road in danger, so their operators need rules that control practically everything that the truck does.
The hours that a driver can operate a truck (they must take mandatory breaks, and there are limits on their shifts)
How truck cargo is loaded and how much weight a truck can carry
How trucks must be inspected and maintained
Drivers’ qualification and licensing
There is a category of negligence called “negligence per se.” This means that when a trucking company breaks a law or rule, it is evidence of negligence in itself. This could be enough to help you win your case. This is why your semi-truck accident lawyer needs to get their hands on this key evidence quickly. While trucking companies are required to keep records for a certain time, you never quite know what will happen to them when they are facing a large possible verdict. Essentially, you need legal help quickly when you have suffered injuries in a truck accident.
Your Lawyer Works to Gather Evidence Right After Your Accident
In addition, the semi-truck accident attorney could quickly gather the evidence that you need to prove your case. Let’s face it - when you are at the scene of a truck accident, there is little that you can do no matter what advice others give you. Accident victims usually cannot jot down notes, nor can they take pictures from different angles. If they are reading this blog post, chances are that they suffered injuries and cannot investigate their own accident. This is why they need a lawyer.
What Evidence Helps Your Case?
Semi-truck accident evidence could include:
Pictures of the scene of the accident
Witness statements and testimony
The police report (this is not admissible as evidence, but some of the observations could help bolster a claim)
The wreckage of the car and truck
Dash cam or other types of video from the vehicles involved
Surveillance video from nearby estalishments
How the Black Box Helps You
In addition, trucks have another valuable source of evidence for your case. The black box could be a veritable gold mine of information for your attorney to use.
This tracks information such as:
The hours of service of the truck that the operator was driving
The speed at which the truck was traveling at the time of the accident
Whether and when the truck driver applied the brakes
The course and path on which the truck was driving
Whether the operator was driving recklessly
You must move quickly to obtain the truck’s black box. Trucking companies only have to keep this data for so long before they can write over it and erase it. They could even conveniently “lose” the data if they know that it contains damning evidence.
Suing a Trucking Company Helps Your Case
Another way that semi-truck accidents are different from car accidents is that you may be able to sue a trucking company in your case. Every driver carries insurance, but many drivers have lower policy limits. Even though it makes them personally liable for the difference, it is often difficult to collect this money. Trucking companies will usually have larger policies. They know that a big accident could put them out of business, and they want to avoid this.
How Respondeat Superior Works in Your Case
When the truck driver works for a company, there is a legal theory called respondeat superior that “makes the master liable for the actions of a servant.” The truck driver is the agent of the trucking company. The legal theory is that it is only fair to hold the company that benefits from the driver’s actions and controls them legally responsible. So long as the semi-truck driver was performing work time and not personal errands with the company truck, the company may be responsible. There are numerous reports of “nuclear verdicts” that have awarded semi-truck accident plaintiffs very high damages when cases have gone to the jury.
Chances are that your semi-truck accident case will settle at some point. Insurance companies are rational business actors. The fact that they almost always act in their own financial self-interest will cut both ways. It also means that they are afraid of their case going in front of the jury. They know that a badly injured truck accident victim could make for a very sympathetic plaintiff. This gives them an interest in settling your case.
The Insurance Company Works Against You
However, they will not make it easy for you to get your settlement check. Insurance companies have adjusters, actuaries, and lawyers who are all there to look out for the insurance company’s interests. This means that they know the value of your claim practically to the dollar shortly after you file it. However, it does not mean that they will offer you this amount right away. They know that every dollar below that number that they save is money that goes to their profits.
This is why they will make you fight for that money. It may not mean going to trial, but it may require you to have a protracted negotiation with the insurance company. Trucking accident settlements are generally higher, and it would be unrealistic to expect the insurance company to part with a large amount of money easily. That is just not how they operate. What you have going in your favor is a semi-truck accident lawyer who also knows the value of your claim and who can advise you to say no to a settlement offer that does not fairly compensate you.
Your Choice of Attorney Sends a Message to the Insurance Company
Insurance companies know who they are up against, and seeing a tough attorney on the other side will make them think twice before they try to take advantage of you. A strong attorney could help keep them honest, and insurance companies know the reputation of each attorney across the table from them. This is why you need an aggressive attorney for your semi accident case. Your lawyer could get to work right away fighting for your legal rights and working to secure your rightful compensation.