San Antonio Truck Accident Attorneys
The roadways of west Texas are filled with 18-wheelers and commercial vehicles. These trucks are responsible for numerous accidents throughout the region. When a semitruck hits another vehicle, it strikes with devastating force. Serious injury or death can happen.
But tragically, many truck accident victims do not receive the medical care and compensation they deserve. Trucking and insurance companies see to that by fighting each and every step of the way. If you or a loved one has been harmed in a truck accident, you need a team of aggressive San Antonio truck accident attorneys on your side.
We Are Determined To Win
At Wyatt Law Firm, we are relentless in our quest for justice. Our lawyers have years of trial experience, a record of success and the resources to take on powerful corporate interests. We will work tenaciously to uncover the truth and obtain maximum compensation for you.
Our firm obtained $3,113,963 in net compensation for the family of a person who died in an 18-wheeler accident.
We aggressively seek results for people throughout Texas and the nation, including the cities of San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Austin and Laredo.
The Facts Behind Trucking Accidents
Drivers And Companies Don’t Always Follow The Rules – There are extremely strong regulations in place for truck drivers and trucking companies. Despite these requirements, not every driver or company complies with the directives in place. Those drivers who operate in excess of service hours or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol increase the chances that an accident could happen.
Trucks Are Almost Always On The Roads – There’s no offseason for truckers or trucking companies. Even during the nationwide Covid-19 pandemic, big rigs are still all over the roads. It is an easy way to transport goods throughout the country or state. You can’t avoid sharing the road with trucks. You just have to be prepared and extra cautious when around them on highways or other roadways in your neighborhood.
The Injuries Are More Serious – The size and weight of the trucks makes them impossible to maneuver or stop. Cars can hit trucks in spots that offer little to no protection for the passenger vehicle’s occupants, such as collisions with a truck’s underride guards or side skirts. Accidents that involve sudden lane changes or abrupt stops are very difficult for motorists to avoid. If an accident happens, those in the car can suffer traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries, and in some cases, there may even be the loss of life. These are not just inconvenient fender-benders. These are life-changing crashes.
TEXAS’ “DEATH HIGHWAY”
While it is true that a trucking accident can happen at almost any place at any time, there are some roadways in Texas where an alarming number of serious wrecks have occurred over the years. One of the more dangerous roadways in the state is Route 285. This roadway runs through the Permian Basin in Pecos County and Reeves County, and is frequently traveled by trucks traveling to and from oil drilling sites in the area. In the past decade, over 100 people have been killed in accidents on this road. This number is substantially higher than other roads in the state.
Truckers in this region are often new to the job, and face significant demands on-the-job. They often find themselves working 14 hours a day or longer, which makes it difficult for them to get the rest they need between trips. Due to their inexperience and heavy workloads, the chance that they will make a tragic mistake is incredibly high. Companies push the drivers to do more in a shorter amount of time to make more money, and these behaviors place all motorists in the region at risk.
Don’t Let An Insurance Company Take Advantage Of You
After being injured in an accident, you might not know what to expect. When the insurance company calls, expressing seemingly genuine concern about your condition, know that they might not be all that concerned about your condition. They are looking for any information they can use to lessen the amount of compensation they will be responsible for in your case. This is true even of your own insurance company, who is more concerned about their bottom line than your health, even after you have paid your premiums on time over the years.
When a big rig accident happens, trucking companies and their insurers take fast action to protect their interests. They have a team of investigators at the accident scene collecting evidence they can use against you. You need to know how they act, because if you make a mistake, you could end up costing yourself significant compensation that you will need to make ends meet while you are recovering.
Insurance companies are highly experienced in lowballing settlements and shifting liability onto anyone but themselves. Don’t let this happen to you. Before you speak with any insurance company, we strongly recommend that you seek legal counsel in order to protect yourself.
Commercial Vehicle Accidents
Every day, thousands of trucks, delivery vans and other commercial vehicles travel on streets and highways in Texas. While some commercial vehicle drivers are paid by the hour, others are subject to strict performance standards. In the rush to complete their work duties, some drivers may engage in risky driving behavior, such as speeding, sudden lane changes, operating hand-held devices, and sailing through red lights. The result? Serious and deadly accidents.
Wyatt Law Firm represents people in personal injury cases involving all types of commercial vehicles, including:
- Local delivery vehicles
- UPS and FedEx vehicles
- Construction vehicles
- Buses operated by private and public transit companies
- Other types of commercial vehicles
Driver Fatigue Accidents
Though Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued regulations specifying the maximum time commercial drivers can operate their vehicles, some drivers ignore these rules. As everyone knows, a tired driver is a potentially dangerous driver. This is one of the leading causes of accidents in Texas.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are 3,341 fatal traffic accidents and 60,000 injury-causing traffic accidents involving large commercial trucks every year. Texas leads the nation when it comes to large-truck involvement in fatal crashes. Many factors contribute to these types of accidents, but in every crash, there are at least three factors at play:
- The driver
- The truck
- Road conditions
Even when road conditions are great and the driver is doing everything right, accidents can still occur if the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is not properly maintained. The maintenance of a commercial vehicle lies on the trucking company’s shoulders.
Ongoing Maintenance of 18-Wheelers
Trucking companies are responsible for the ongoing maintenance of their vehicles. This can include things like:
- Brake replacement
- Tire rotation, maintaining appropriate air pressure, and tire replacement
- Headlight and taillight replacement
Trucking companies operate on strict deadlines to move cargo in as little time possible. Unfortunately, this professional haste can lead to waiving proper safety and maintenance. When this happens, people get hurt. If you were involved in a truck accident caused by maintenance failure (brake failure, for example), you may have a claim against the driver or their trucking company.
Truck Scales and Police Stops
Truck scales (also called “weigh stations”) are designed to regulate CMVs and big rigs on our nation’s highways and interstates. If a truck does not pass a maintenance inspection, police may hold the vehicle there or issue a “fix-it” ticket. If a driver continues to drive for longer than the permitted time after a warning or fix-it ticket, and a maintenance-related accident occurs, the driver could also be held responsible for that accident.
A fully loaded commercial truck or big rig can weigh up to 80,000 pounds – and even more when improperly loaded. Accidents involving vehicles like these can have disastrous consequences for all involved.
FedEx Ground Accidents
Driver fatigue is a rampant problem in the trucking industry. According to a survey of commercial truck drivers, approximately 25% of them admitted to falling asleep at the wheel just within the month prior to taking the survey. In recent years, there have been multiple fatigue-related accidents specifically involving FedEx Ground drivers.
About FedEx Ground Drivers
FedEx Ground drivers are different than most delivery truck drivers. This is because FedEx uses independent contractors for their Ground program, rather than FedEx employees. Because the drivers are independent contractors, FedEx Ground says that certain factors that could disqualify truckers slip through the cracks.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) compiled data that indicated contracted FedEx Ground drivers drive more annual miles than any other drivers with FedEx – more than 1.5 billion.
Hours of Service Regulations
In response to the burgeoning fatigue-related accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) instituted Hours of Service regulations for drivers of commercial motor vehicles, also called “CMVs.” The final draft was published in December 2011.
Hours of Service regulations accomplish the following:
- Limit truck drivers to 11 hours maximum driving time, and only after 10 consecutive hours off the job. The ratio for passenger-carrying truckers is a 10-hour limit after 8 hours off of work.
- Prevents truckers from driving if 8 hours have not passed since the end of their last 30-minute resting period.
- Drivers are not allowed to drive more than 60 hours in 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days.
These and other HOS regulations were instituted to prevent serious collisions; however, fatigue can also be caused by the time of day/night the trucker is driving. For example, a trucker may have gotten enough sleep, but driving at 3am may still result in fatigue. Statistics also indicate that fatigue might have something to do with distance, as 65% of fatal crashes occur on trips where the driver traveled more than 51 miles.
Improper Loading Accidents
Were you involved in an accident with a commercial truck such as a semi-truck, tractor-trailer or big rig? One potential cause of these types of accidents is improper loading. The federal government carefully regulates the loading of commercial vehicles because overloaded, heavy vehicles are more prone to becoming involved in fatal and injury crashes. A fully loaded commercial vehicle can already weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Overloading these vehicles can have serious implications.
Not only that, but improperly securing a load also makes a commercial truck more prone to jackknife accidents. Jackknife trucking accidents often occur when a load shifts, throwing the trailer off-balance. Rather than following behind the truck, a simple tap on the brakes can cause the truck’s trailer to slide perpendicular to the truck’s cab.
If improperly loading a big rig is so dangerous, why do it? Truckers do this because of pressure from their employers. Their goal is to get as much cargo to the destination as fast as possible. When profit comes before safety, serious accidents can occur.
Federal Cargo Securement Requirements
As of January 2004, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted new, stricter requirements for cargo securing. To learn about those new requirements in more detail, view a brief overview of FMCSA cargo securement regulations.
Texas Weight Limits for Commercial Trucks
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), commercial trucks can weigh no more than 80,000 pounds. The weight limit decreases for single-axle and other, smaller types of trucks.
- Gross weight of a commercial truck – 80,000 lbs
- Single axle truck – 20,000 lbs
- Two (Tandem) axle trucks – 34,000 lbs
- Triple axle trucks – 42,000 lbs
- Quad axle trucks – 50,000 lbs
Most Common Causes of 18-Wheeler and Commercial Vehicle Accidents
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 3,341 fatal traffic accidents and 60,000 injury-causing traffic accidents involve large commercial trucks every year. Texas leads the nation when it comes to large-truck involvement in fatal crashes. Its rich oil industry and vast network of highways connecting the east and west coasts frequently draw new and inexperienced truck drivers to the state.
Detailed FMCSA regulations govern tractor-trailer to reduce the frequency of fatal and disabling truck accidents. However, driver fatigue, distraction, and negligent truck maintenance continue to injure innocent Texans each year.
Identifying the cause of your big rig crash can determine your available financial recovery options. Multiple parties often share liability following Texas truck accidents, and the experienced 18-wheeler accident injury attorneys at the Wyatt Law Firm may hold each accountable. Discuss your case with our experienced semi-truck crash lawyers for free by calling (210) 340-5550or connecting with us online. We discuss the most common causes of big truck accidents below.
I. Driver Fatigue
How Driver Fatigue Causes Big Rig Accidents
Everyone has a wake/sleep cycle (“circadian rhythm”) that affects a person’s level of alertness and cognitive abilities. When a person gets inadequate sleep or works unusual hours, natural drowsiness intensifies and adversely affects one’s driving abilities. Studies indicate that drowsy driving slows reaction times, affects decision-making abilities, and reduces driver attention. Trucking accidents caused when drivers fall asleep at the wheel are inexcusable and often fatal. Victims of fatigued driving accidents can potentially hold the truck driver, his trucking company, and the vehicle owner liable for damages.
FMCSA Hours of Service Regulations
To reduce the rate of fatigued truck driving, the FMCSA adopted hourly service limits for commercial drivers.
The regulations vary by industry, i.e., passenger transportation limitations versus property transportation limitations, but generally apply to long-haul truck drivers.
In the United States and Texas, these regulations include:
- The 14-hour driving window: Trucks drivers can only operate their vehicles during the 14-hour window following a 10-hour rest break. Drivers may extend this window by two hours in cases of bad weather, extreme traffic, or other adverse roadway conditions.
- The 11-hour active driving limit: Commercial vehicle operators may only drive for a maximum of 11 hours within the above 14-hour window. Taking breaks does not extend the window, i.e., truck drivers may not drive for six hours, rest for two, and then drive for eight more. Drivers may also extend this limit by a maximum of two hours in case of bad weather, traffic, or other unexpected roadway conditions.
- The weekly 60/70 hour driving limit: Large truck drivers cannot remain on active duty for more than 60 hours in a seven-day workweek or 70 hours in an eight-day workweek. To reset this clock, drivers must remain off-duty for at least 36 consecutive hours.
- The mandatory 30-minute rest period: Truck drivers must take a 30-minute break from driving every eight hours. This break may include any non-driving time, such as off-duty dinners or on-duty paperwork requirements.
- The sleeper berth provision: Big rig drivers on overnight trips may split their 10-hour rest period if they spend at least seven hours in the sleeper berth (hopefully resting). This allows them to sleep for seven hours, work for five hours, and then rest for another three hours without violating the 14-hour driving window.
All long-haul drivers must maintain an hourly service and rest log indicating their compliance with the above regulations. However, this is an honor system. Drivers may forge this log after facing delivery pressures from employers. Experienced attorneys should request the driver log for hours of service violations, potentially indicating fatigued driving and supporting negligence per se claims. Injured clients with viable negligence per se claims, i.e., strict negligence findings based on clear legal violations, might receive accelerated judgments and insurance settlements.
Truckers Who Drive At Night
The FMCSA conducted a study and drew an important conclusion: the time of day affects driver alertness more than the number of hours driven. Most people who have a “normal” schedule (that is, those who are awake during daylight hours and sleep at night) become drowsy at night, especially after midnight.
According to FMCSA, this drowsiness may be worse when drivers have been on the road for an extended period. Regardless of how many hours of sleep or off-duty time they have, nighttime drivers are statistically more likely to fall asleep at the wheel and become involved in fatigue-related accidents than truckers who drive during the day. Other studies have found that driving during nighttime and early morning hours has more to do with crash rates than hours of sleep or hours off-duty.
Drowsy Driving versus Drunk Driving: Which Is More Dangerous?
A recent study found that the effects of driving while sleep-deprived or tired are more severe than the effects of driving while intoxicated. The CDC reports that driving without sleeping for 18 hours is equivalent to driving with a 0.05 percent blood alcohol content (a few drinks), and driving without sleeping for at least 24 hours doubles this number to 0.1 percent (above the legal limit). The hyper-awareness required by large truck drivers likely increases the rate of mental and physical deterioration.
Another study conducted by the AAA Foundation found that drowsy driving is responsible for approximately one out of every six fatal car accidents. Stated another way: drowsy driving is a factor in 17 percent of all fatal car crashes. Due to the size and mass of commercial trucks, the outcome of drowsy driving crashes can be disastrous.
II. Improperly Loaded Vehicles
Regulation of Commercial Vehicles and Overloading
The federal government tightly regulates the loading of commercial vehicles because overloaded, heavy vehicles are more prone to becoming involved in fatal injuries and crashes. A fully loaded commercial vehicle can already weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Overloading these vehicles can have serious implications.
For example, improperly securing a load also makes a commercial truck more prone to jackknife accidents. Jackknife trucking accidents often occur when a load shifts, throwing the trailer off balance. Rather than following behind the truck, a simple tap on the brakes can cause the truck’s trailer to slide perpendicular to the truck’s cab. This often results in fatal undercarriage and crushing accidents.
According to the North American Cargo Securement Standard (Section 2.3), someone must secure these components of a commercial motor vehicle’s structure and equipment before driving:
- Spare tire
- Other equipment used in the vehicle’s operation
- Cargo securing equipment
No truck component, object, or cargo can:
- Obscure the view of the driver ahead or to the right or left sides (drivers of self-steer dollies excepted)
- Prevent the free movement of the driver’s legs or arms
- Obstruct the driver’s access to emergency equipment of accessories
- Prevent the ready exit of any person from the vehicle’s cab or driver’s compartment
Claimants injured by unsecured cargo, generally involving flatbed trucks, often suffer from devastating traumatic brain injuries and substantial vehicle damage. If possible, take photographs or samples of any loose cargo not part of police investigations.
How Well Must Cargo Be Secured?
The cargo must not:
- Blow off the vehicle
- Fall from the vehicle
- Fall through the vehicle
- Otherwise dislodge from the vehicle
- Shift upon or within the vehicle to such an extent that the vehicle’s stability or maneuverability is adversely affected
If improperly loading a big rig is so dangerous, why do it? Truckers do this because of pressure from their employers. Their goal is to get as much cargo to the destination as fast as possible. When profit comes before safety, serious accidents can occur.
III. Failed Vehicle Maintenance
Truck Accidents Involving Improper Maintenance
According to FMCSA:
“Vehicle maintenance (e.g., brakes, lights, other mechanical defects and load securement) is one of the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) for motor carrier safety measurement. In January 2014, FMCSA published the Carrier Safety Measurement System (CSMS) Effectiveness Test by BASICs study. This published study showed that motor carriers targeted for interventions due to vehicle maintenance have a 65 percent greater future crash rate than the national average.”
Ongoing Maintenance Of 18-Wheelers
Trucking companies are responsible for the ongoing maintenance of their vehicles, but this gets expensive.
Maintenance should generally include things like:
- Brake replacement
- Tire rotation, maintaining appropriate air pressure, and tire replacement
- Headlight and taillight replacement
- Oil changes and fuel tank flushing
- Axel and tractor-trailer connection checks
Many commercial fleet owners take an as-needed approach to large truck maintenance. If something breaks, they make repairs. However, they won’t aggressively correct potential mechanical failures. Claimants injured by poorly maintained vehicles might hold trucking companies directly liable for damages. Injured claimants might even obtain accelerated judgments or insurance settlements if maintenance records indicate clear FMCSA violations.
Trucking companies are on strict deadlines to get their cargo to the desired destination in as little time as possible. Unfortunately, this desire is often directly opposed to safety and maintenance. Experienced truck drivers can often tell when their big rigs need repairs, but they frequently do not have the time needed to obtain emergency maintenance. When profit comes before safety, people often get hurt. If you were involved in a truck accident caused by something like brake failure, you may have a claim against the driver and the trucking company.
IV. Off-Tracking and Driver Inexperience
Even in the best driving conditions with the clearest visibility, driving large trucks in traffic is challenging due to the vehicle’s sheer size and weight. FMCSA hours of service regulations even give drivers two additional hours to encourage safe driving during heavy traffic conditions. Inexperienced drivers must learn how tractor-trailers operate in hot conditions, around curves, and with varying loads.
Understanding Off-Tracking Accidents
One of the most difficult skills for drivers to master is the avoidance of “off-tracking.” When a tractor-trailer or commercial vehicle enters a curve, the centerline of the trailer axle begins to trace a path that is different from the centerline of the tractor front axle. This difference in paths, which also coincides with the difference in paths between the inside front tractor wheel and the inside trailer wheel, is called the off-tracking of the vehicle. This typically occurs when a driver attempts to make a wide turn when there isn’t enough space to properly do so safely.
Off-tracking regularly results in fatal large truck accidents. Truck drivers frequently swerve between lanes, impact passenger vehicles, run off the road and into cyclists, or crash into highway barriers. Many off-tracking accidents also cause chain-reaction crashes as other drivers react to swerving trucks. Most vehicle operators cannot guess where the truck will eventually stop, leading to driver confusion and multi-vehicle collisions.
Truck Crashes Resulting from Driver Inexperience
While all truck drivers require CDLs, each semi-truck model functions differently. Drivers unfamiliar with sharp exits, overpasses, and highway systems may accidentally roll over. This occurs when the truck takes certain exits too quickly, which alters the center of gravity and sends the trailer on its side. Rollover accidents frequently block multiple lanes, crush passenger vehicles, and trigger chain-reaction accidents.
V. Air Brakes and Driver Reaction Time
A semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Most passenger vehicles weigh between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds. Because every action needs an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s third law of physics), this means it takes substantial power to stop a moving tractor-trailer.
Let’s compare the stopping distance of a typical passenger vehicle to that of a semi. In ideal conditions, a car weighing 4,000 pounds, traveling at a speed of 65 miles per hour will take 316 feet to stop. On the other hand, a fully loaded semi weighing 80,000 pounds traveling at the same speed and in the same conditions will take 525 feet to stop with functioning air brake systems.
Determining Stopping Distance
Total stopping distance is how long a vehicle will travel from the instant a driver sees a hazard, presses the brake pedal, and the vehicle comes to a complete stop.
The three components to total stopping distance are:
- Perception distance – This is the distance a vehicle will travel during the time the driver perceives a hazard and decides to slow down or stop.
- Reaction distance – This is the distance a vehicle will travel between the time the driver decides to brake and presses the brake pedal.
- Braking distance – This is the distance a vehicle will travel from the moment the driver presses the brake pedal until the vehicle comes to a complete stop.
Poor reaction times, often due to speeding, fatigue, or intoxication, frequently result in rear-end crashes or emergency lane changes. However, the FMCSA reports that mechanical brake failures also account for many large truck accidents. Experienced Texas truck crash lawyers might hold negligent truck owners and brake manufactures liable for damages resulting from system defects.
When it comes to braking, there is another critical factor: brake lag. Tractor-trailer trucks use air brakes rather than the hydraulic brakes used on regular passenger vehicles. Anyone who’s heard the squeal of decelerating semi-trucks knows that hydraulic brakes work much faster than air brakes. With air brakes, the air pressure must build until it is sufficient to begin the braking process. If a driver miscalculates the distance at which he or she should begin braking, serious accidents can occur. Such accidents typically include rear-end collisions, a common type of passenger vehicle and truck crash.
Getting rear-ended by a 40-ton 18-wheeler, even at slower speeds, sends forceful shock waves through the leading vehicle. The sheer weight differential between the vehicles often results in crushed rear ends, airbag deployment, and damaged fuel tanks. Rear seat passengers may find themselves pinned into burning vehicles and often suffer from severe spinal damage or head trauma.
Common injuries associated with air brake failures include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) & brain stem trauma – Motor vehicle accidents are among the leading causes of TBI among adults. The sudden forward momentum and snapback force associated with being rear-ended by semi-trucks might sever the brain stem, resulting in brain death. Truck accident claimants frequently suffer from serious concussions and frontal lobe damage, resulting in personality changes, memory loss, depression, and trouble focusing.
- Paralysis – Forceful damage to the brain stem and lower neck may result in quadriplegia, while damage to the lower back could cause paraplegia. These life-altering injuries often result in millions in lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering damages. Paralysis frequently occurs after tractor-trailer crushing accidents.
- Full-thickness burns – When rear-end truck crashes resulting from brake failures crush fuel tanks, passengers may find themselves trapped in deadly car fires. Even a few minutes of exposure could result in lung damage and third-degree burns. Many claimants require months of inpatient treatment, amputations, and multiple surgeries to survive this trauma. Texas burn victims may demand, in addition to pain and suffering and impairment damages, non-economic compensation for the emotional suffering associated with scarring and the experience of the accident.
- Herniated discs – Your spine bears your body weight and weakens with age. As such, the rear-end crash force of 18-wheelers frequently dislodges the delicate spinal discs between vertebrae. These herniations or bulges often press on delicate nerves causing alternating pain and numbness. Many claimants require substantial rehabilitation and fusion surgery for these conditions and often suffer from lifetime disabilities.
Seeking medical attention is your first priority after devastating truck crashes. Experienced local truck accident lawyers can generally gather evidence and request amended police reports if the claimant was medically disabled.
VI. Tire Blowouts
There’s a reason 18-wheelers require 18 wheels. Not only do these wheels help carry heavy loads, but they also account for anticipated tire blowout and tread damage. Large trucks cannot operate with punctured or damaged tires. Commercial vehicles also cannot utilize retreaded or refurbished tires; although, fleet owners often cut corners by rotating damaged tires and purchasing tires with refurbished treads.
Drivers must periodically check tires during long-haul trips and replace damaged equipment. The FMCSA also regulates the speed trucks can travel depending on weight to reduce overall tire wear and tear. Semi-truck accidents caused by tire blowouts often send damaged treads flying into passenger vehicles and result in loss of control accidents.
VII. Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Long-haul truck drivers have stressful jobs. They’re responsible for operating potentially deadly motor vehicles over long distances, which requires constant focus. Time away from family also causes stress, and most drivers do not have access to healthy foods. All these factors lead to increased instances of illegal drug and alcohol addiction among truck drivers. Trucking companies must conduct mandatory drug and alcohol checks when drivers receive their CDLs and begin working, but it’s difficult to test for alcohol addiction thereafter.
Studies also indicate that most long-haul semi-truck drivers do not obtain sufficient sleep. As such, many turn to prescription medications to help with fatigue. Driving while under the influence of prescription drugs, such as when the drugs impact your focus and reaction times, is illegal and often leads to devastating accidents.
If you suspect a truck driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs based on symptoms including:
- Dilated pupils
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty walking
- Erratic driving and behaviors
- Strong odors, including from alcohol or marijuana
Contact an attorney immediately and tell first responders about what you noticed. Police officers often arrive after claimants witnessed these behaviors, and officers can conduct field sobriety tests. Lawyers may also subsequently request the driver’s drug use history, including records of mandatory drug and alcohol testing.
What Should Be Done Immediately After an Accident With an 18-Wheeler or Commercial Vehicle?
Truck accidents are traumatic for both victims and drivers. One serious accident can cost operators their jobs. As such, it’s normal for truck drivers to downplay the seriousness of the crash, overreact, or try to convince claimants not to call the police. Always contact law enforcement following Texas truck accidents, even if you’re not in pain.
Insurers may try to automatically deny claims unless police verify the crash scene. Most Texas officers and state troopers are also familiar with basic commercial vehicle regulations. They may immediately request the driver’s hours of service log, inspect tires, and identify the type and likely cause of the accident.
Immediately after a truck accident:
- Do not move your vehicle unless you’re in a dangerous location
- Contact local authorities and seek medical attention for yourself and others
- Do not minimize your pain for first responders, as they will report your statements, and you may be experiencing adrenaline-fueled pain reduction
- If possible, gather the contact information of any available witnesses and begin taking photos and gathering evidence.
- Request a police report and seek professional legal consultation
- Follow attorney instructions regarding insurance company reports and commutations, i.e., do not speak with adjusters without an attorney present
Cell phone videos and photos should include images of the crash scene, including highway and exit signs, license plates, vehicle damage, and debris. Once vehicles move, it’s often difficult to determine the accident’s cause without driver cooperation. Experienced truck accident lawyers can walk claimants through this process, generally without any upfront costs or obligations.
When You Are in an Accident With a Commercial Vehicle, Time Is of the Essence
There are significant differences in accidents involving a regular vehicle versus one that involves a commercial vehicle. First, the most noticeable difference is the sheer damage that can result from a truck that can weigh 40 tons or more. In addition to the damage caused to your vehicle by the weight and size of the truck, there is also a team of individuals that will come to the defense of truck drivers and the company responsible.
Following an accident, some commercial truck drivers call their company’s risk management team before alerting authorities or seeking medical attention for injured victims. There have been instances where the trucking company’s defense team makes it to the accident site while law enforcement authorities are still conducting their investigations. This can substantially hinder the claims process.
Unfortunately, this type of response gives the defense team a huge advantage and can affect witness statements and the alteration or outright disappearance of critical evidence. Today’s commercial vehicles have multiple electronic sensors connected to computer systems for data collection and transmission. You must have a legal team and expert witnesses with the knowledge, tools, and software to identify, gather, and preserve as much information as possible to maximize your ability to recover.
Such systems include:
- Electronic control module (ECM)
- Dashcam or digital video recording system
- Wingman or similar onboard radar system (VORAD)
- Electronic log systems
- Global Positioning System (GPS)
- Cell phone data
Contacting local 18-wheeler accident lawyers quickly can prevent spoliation of evidence. Generally, your attorney can send certified letters to the truck driver, owner, and defense attorneys demanding the preservation of all critical evidence. Do not follow the instructions of or speak to trucking company representatives. Despite what they imply, they are not on your side.
Physical and Emotional Effects After an Accident
Delayed Response to the Accident
Following a car accident, it is wise to seek immediate medical attention. However, post-accident swelling frequently prevents emergency physicians from identifying all physical or psychological injuries. When someone is involved in a traumatic experience, their internal “fight or flight” protective mechanism takes over and releases adrenaline into the body. While this reaction is natural and helpful at the moment, it is also temporary and can mask the pain resulting from significant injuries incurred during the accident.
Commonly delayed onset (latent) truck accident injuries include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Lower back pain
- Shoulder pain
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Irritability, sleep disturbances, or fatigue
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Changes in personality or physical function
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Persons in truck accidents not only need immediate treatment but must also see a doctor to document any lingering injuries that EMS didn’t initially identify. Victims of traumatic big rig accidents, especially those resulting in injuries to loved ones, should also seek psychological assistance when needed. Treat mental pain and anguish with the same urgency as physical injuries, especially because claimants can recover substantial damages for the physical pain and emotional trauma associated with large truck crashes.
Consider taking detailed notes about your injuries and keeping a daily journal regarding your daily frustrations, pain, and overall emotional health. Attorneys may use this evidence to maximize your financial settlements.
Most Frequent Truck Driver Violations
Dedicated truck accident lawyers frequently review accident evidence for common operator violations that the FMCSA reported in a recent year:
- Operating vehicle not having the required operable lamps, 488,895 violations of code §393.9
- Log violation (general/form and manner), 170,721 violations of code §395.8
- Driver’s record of duty status not current, 71,004 violations of code §395.8F1
- Speeding six to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, 66,930 violations of code §392.2SLLS2
- Driving beyond the eight-hour limit, 51,149 violations of code §395.3A3II
- Operating a property-carrying vehicle without a valid medical certificate, 45,749 violations of code §391.41AF
- Speeding 11 to 14 miles per hour over the speed limit, 30,743 violations of code §392.2SLLS3
- Lane restriction violation, 28,770 violations of code §392.2LV
- Driving beyond the 11-hour limit in 14 hours, 19,190 violations of code §395.3A3PROP,
- Speeding 15 or more miles per hour over the speed limit, 16,299 violations of code §392.2SLLS4
If one or more of these violations caused the accident, injured claimants might receive accelerated insurance settlements from high-value commercial motor vehicle insurers.
Negligent Trucking Company Hiring Practices
The U.S. relies heavily on the trucking industry for our growing economy. Due to the regular shortage of applications for trucking positions, even responsible trucking companies are forced to lower their hiring standards or overlook red flags on applicants’ driving records. In addition, many truck drivers are under-supervised and lack the training and experience to safely perform the duties of the job.
Examples Of Negligent Hiring Practices
The problem of too few applicants is certainly a challenge, but there has to be a better solution than putting dangerous drivers behind the wheel of large commercial trucks and hoping for the best. Across the U.S., we have seen cases where injuries or deaths occurred because trucking companies ignored these red flags in the driving records of job applicants:
- History of DWIs
- History of accidents
- One or more license revocations
- Mishandling of hazardous materials
- History of road rage
Oilfield Trucking Accident Statistics
From 2009 to 2013, traffic deaths involving commercial trucks increased by 51% in Texas. Since the fracking and drilling boom, accident rates continue to climb in our state at a terrifying rate. Long hours, shoddy mechanics, and negligent hiring, among other factors, have all contributed to oilfield trucking accidents in Texas.
Accidents In The Permian Basin
The Permian Basin is an area in Texas and part of New Mexico that spans 59 counties and 75,000 square miles. The area is rich in rock deposits that oil companies flock to for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and drilling for oil extraction. In counties in the Eagle Ford Shale and Barnett Shale regions, death from traffic accidents rose by 11 percent from 2009-2013.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there was a 15% increase in accidents in the Permian Basin between 2012 and 2013. This is due in large part to the oil boom and the increased oilfield trucking traffic. Some statistics even suggest that there is an average of one fatality per day in this area.
Consider some of these accident statistics (2009-2013) coming from other major shale-producing counties:
- Midland County – fatalities increased by 47%
- Bexar County – fatalities increased by 24%
- Harris County – fatalities increased by 8%
Long Hours = Increased Accidents
Many of these accidents have likely been caused by the exorbitantly long shifts oil field employees work. Because the business is lucrative, oil field employees will often voluntarily choose to work as much as possible for as long as possible. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict Hours of Service standards that truckers must abide by, but many drivers exceed driving limits and skip mandatory resting breaks because they are under immense pressure from their employers to speed up delivery.
The oil boom has also led to many cut corners. Many trucking companies have a huge need for oilfield truck drivers, so they hire people who do not have the proper licensing, proper experience, or adequate insurance. Texas’ Department of Public Safety conducted a road check recently and found that as many as 30% of Texas commercial truckers shouldn’t even be on the road due to factors like:
- Driver intoxication
- Low tread / overworn tires
- Bad brakes
Accident rates in the Permian Basin and other oil-heavy areas of Texas have continued to increase despite increased efforts by the Department of Public Safety, which has doubled its audits and truck inspections since the fracking boom started.
Accident Trends Continue To Rise In Texas
While accident trends have largely been on the decline in the U.S., they have experienced a steady increase in Texas due to the oil drilling and fracking boom initiated in 2008. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, trucking accident fatalities are higher in Texas than in any other state.
Truck Insurance Companies
Getting into an accident with a big rig is a completely different experience than it is with another passenger vehicle. Because of the discrepancy in size and make of the two vehicles, a collision with a truck can be highly dangerous, if not fatal. Big rigs also carry potentially hazardous material that can lead to more extensive damage. Because of these liabilities, truck companies are required to be able to pay for any potential damages or injuries an accident would cause.
Driving big rigs is dangerous with the potential for major damage. The insurance companies understand that, which is why they need specific policies to ensure proper coverage. The truck drivers have strict insurance policies protecting them. The companies fight for them. Who is fighting for you?
The Minimum Requirements For Trucking Insurance
Because trucks and big rigs are so large and carry dangerous material, they have the potential to cause a lot of harm. This means they need more coverage to ensure they are financially responsible in the case of an accident.
Trucks carrying non-hazardous materials need a minimum of $750,000 in liability to cover the cost of potential damages. This is for trucks that weigh more than 10,001 pounds and that travel between interstates and countries.
Generally, trucks carrying hazardous materials must have liability insurance that covers at least $5,000,000. For-hire or private trucks that are carrying hazardous materials should have $1,000,000 in liability insurance.
Trucking insurance companies fight aggressively on behalf of their clients. The moment you collide into a big rig, their insurance company begins putting a case together to make sure they do not have to pay the money owed to you.
UPS Truck Accidents
There are approximately 120,000 trucks in the UPS fleet. With high demand for package delivery and large profits to be made, companies like UPS have been known to push safety to the back burner.
UPS Drivers Are Frequently Involved In Accidents
With UPS delivery trucks driving across the entire U.S., many people learn firsthand just how life-altering it can be to get into an accident with one. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that from December 2015 to December 2017, UPS drivers were involved in 2,003 crashes, resulting in 689 injuries and 49 deaths. That is a 38 percent increase in deaths since 2012 when package delivery wasn’t as widely used.
UPS Accident Causes
UPS drivers are as prone to operator error as any other driver, but the unyielding delivery demands can put them on the road for longer and also put additional pressure on them. The key difference between UPS drivers and everyday motorists is how much more dangerous their large delivery vehicles are.
Some of the most common causes of accidents involving UPS trucks are:
- Left turns into oncoming traffic
- Poor training
- Failure to merge properly
- Parking brake failure
- Frequent reversing
San Antonio Truck Accident FAQ
The hours, days, and weeks following a traumatic truck accident can be chaotic. You are dealing with injuries, watching medical bills start to come in, and you might not be able to work. You likely have numerous questions about your legal rights and how to seek the compensation you deserve.t
Below are some of the common questions that our San Antonio truck accident lawyers hear from injured victims. To discuss specific questions applying to your situation, contact our office directly for a consultation.
What tools help with truck accident investigations?
Commercial trucks are complicated machines, and there are many potential causes of truck accidents. For these reasons, it often requires an extensive investigation to determine the cause of a crash for liability purposes. Our San Antonio truck accident attorneys have many resources to help with such investigations, and we know which tools help to determine who should be responsible for your injuries and losses.
Some things that can help with truck accident investigations include:
- The truck’s event data recorder (the “black box”), which can show the truck’s speed, braking, and other driving aspects just before the crash.
- In-truck cameras, which might face the driver to show what they were doing when they crashed, or that might face the road so we can see the conditions ahead of the driver before the accident.
- Trucking company records, which can show the driver’s history and employment records, delivery times, and more.
- Truck maintenance records to determine truck inspections and repairs (or lack thereof).
- Accident reconstruction experts who can review the scene and help put together what happened.
- Trucking industry experts who can advise whether a company or driver violated industry standards.
While you are dealing with your medical treatment, we can handle this complex investigation process, so you know which insurance claims you need to file.
Do I need to file multiple insurance claims?
Many truck accidents result in multiple insurance claims since multiple parties might share liability. The most common claims are against the truck driver and the trucking company. It is important to file both because the trucking company likely has a much more substantial insurance policy than the drivers themselves. Other claims might be against third-party cargo loaders, other drivers, mechanics, truck manufacturers, and more.
Preparing and filing multiple insurance claims at once can seem daunting, which is why you can leave the entire process to us. Our team files all of the necessary paperwork and handles all communications with all of the insurance companies involved. This is one of the major benefits of working with an experienced San Antonio truck accident law firm – you can focus on your health and rest assured that we are handling every aspect of your case.
How do I know how much my San Antonio truck accident claim is worth?
As an accident victim facing economic and non-economic losses, including pain and suffering and impairment, it’s understandable to wonder how much your claim is worth. Unfortunately, every truck crash is different, and it’s impossible to generalize about how much claims are worth. To determine the value of your claims, an attorney will need to evaluate a variety of issues.
Some of the factors that can influence the value of your claim include:
- Your age
- Your occupation
- Your income
- The severity of your injuries
- Whether your injuries will lead to disabilities or other long-term medical problems
- The way your accident occurred
A lawyer familiar with truck accident litigation will be able to review your case and give you an idea of what your case is worth. That said, the insurance company will do its own evaluation of your losses, which will likely be lower than what your case is actually worth.
Not only will the insurance company undervalue your claim, but they will also likely engage in tactics aimed to get you to settle for less or undercut the strength of your case. For example, they may start with an unreasonably low first offer to make subsequent offers look better. They may also pressure you to provide a recorded statement, hoping they can get you to say things that indicate that you were at fault for your accident.
As a victim, you should keep in mind that the insurance company deals with claims every day. They know how to get claimants to settle for less and do everything they can to deny claims when possible. The best way to protect your legal rights is to retain an attorney early on in the process.
What if the trucking company offers me money directly?
In some cases, you might receive a call from a trucking company employee or representative shortly after the crash. You might still be in the hospital and have not had a chance to start the insurance process yet, and the company calls to offer you money. They might offer a check in exchange for an agreement not to pursue an official insurance claim.
What do you do in this situation? First off, never accept any payment from any party – even an insurance company – without first consulting with a truck accident lawyer. These companies are trying to placate you with some money right away, though it is almost certainly much less than your claim is worth. If you accept this offer, you are missing out on significant funds that you need and deserve to cover your losses.
Second, it is not even wise to speak with the trucking company. You might say something that the company and its insurer will later twist around to use against your claim. Instead, politely decline to discuss anything, and contact a San Antonio truck accident attorney as soon as you can.
When should I call a San Antonio truck accident lawyer?
If you could call a truck accident lawyer from the scene of the crash, that would be ideal, as you want your attorney to begin gathering information and evidence as soon as possible. However, due to the nature of truck crashes and the resulting injuries, this generally does not happen.
In the coming days, however, you might begin to wonder if it is time to call a law firm. Is it too soon? Should you finish your medical treatment first? How much time do you have to file a claim? While you want to focus on getting back on your feet and adjusting to life with your injuries, you also do not want to miss the window of opportunity to seek compensation for your losses.
Texas sets out a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. This means that you have two years from the date of your injuries to file a claim in civil court if needed. This does not mean you have two years to spare and you should wait to call an attorney.
A lot needs to happen before you reach the lawsuit stage, including:
- Investigating the cause of the crash to identify liable parties
- Preparing and filing one or more insurance claims
- Going back and forth in negotiations with insurers to see if you can resolve the case directly through an insurance settlement
- Preparing a personal injury petition if you need to file a lawsuit
All of this takes time, and you want to make sure your legal team has sufficient opportunity to go through the insurance process before the lawsuit deadline approaches.
In addition, the longer you wait, the greater chance there is that evidence will disappear. Surveillance videos can get recorded over, trucking companies might “lose” records, and witness memories can fade. The sooner you call an attorney, the sooner we can begin building your case.
You might think you need to finish all of your treatment before you call a lawyer, though this is not the case. Your lawyer can start working on your claim even if you do not have all of your medical bills in hand. Some people need ongoing medical treatment for years after a truck crash, and they can still pursue a claim. Our legal team knows how to seek damages for future medical expenses as well as the ones you already incurred.
Can I afford a San Antonio truck accident attorney?
A truck accident can be expensive. You may be facing thousands of dollars in medical expenses, repair bills, and losing income every day you are unable to work. In these circumstances, the idea of hiring a personal injury lawyer may seem out of the question. Lawyers are known for charging high hourly rates, and when you’re dealing with unexpected expenses, the last thing you want to do is take on expensive legal bills.
Fortunately, you won’t have to. Our San Antonio personal injury attorneys take all of our cases on a contingency basis. When a lawyer works on contingency, it means that he or she only collects legal fees if the attorney wins your case. In addition, those fees will come directly out of your settlement or award, so you will never need to use the money you already have to pay for legal help. Your contingency fee agreement will clearly spell out the percentage that your lawyer will take, so there will be no surprises when it comes to the end of your case. By using a contingency fee structure, our firm ensures that anyone who needs legal help can get it.
What can I expect from an initial free consultation?
You may be apprehensive about meeting with an injury lawyer for the first time, especially if you have never retained an attorney before. Your initial consultation after a truck accident will be nothing more than a fairly informal conversation about you, your accident, and any other details that may be relevant to your claim.
Some of the questions the attorney you meet with may ask include:
- Can you describe your accident?
- Was anyone cited for a traffic violation or crime in your accident?
- Have you talked to the insurance company?
- Could you tell me about your injuries?
- Can you work?
These and other questions will help the attorney you meet with determine whether you have a claim and, if you have one, what your claim may be worth. If the lawyer you are meeting with determines that you do have a case, he or she may offer to represent you after your initial consultation. Be aware that you are not obligated to retain a particular lawyer simply because you met with him or her, but if the attorney seems like a good fit personally and professionally, you may choose to sign a representation agreement right away. You also may want to meet with a few other lawyers to find the right one for you.
How long will my San Antonio truck accident take?
This is not a question with a definitive answer, as every truck accident claim takes its own path. Some claims are relatively straightforward—the insurance company admits liability, does not challenge your claimed losses, and issues you an adequate settlement check to resolve the matter within months.
Unfortunately, most truck accident cases are not that simple. Trucking companies and their insurers often fight liability or challenge your losses. This can result in rounds and rounds of negotiations that might require additional evidence.
If an insurance company still does not offer enough, your lawyer will need to take the case to court. The litigation process can vary in length. Some cases settle within a few weeks of filing a lawsuit because the insurance company learns that you are not backing down. Other cases almost make it to a trial date before the insurance company will settle. In rare situations, a truck accident lawsuit will require a jury trial.
There is no standard length for a truck crash case, but the important thing is that you have a San Antonio truck accident lawyer who will not skip steps in the interest of a fast resolution. Our team works diligently until we are confident that you have the full compensation that you need to cover your losses.
Contact our San Antonio truck accident law firm for the assistance you need today.
We Will Fight For You
At Wyatt Law Firm, we have the investigative resources needed to uncover the truth. We will thoroughly review every aspect of your case and document the negligence of all liable parties. We will fight for you every step of the way, seeking the best possible settlement or jury award for you.
Get a Free Consultation With a San Antonio Truck Accident Attorney
Paula Wyatt and her team of dedicated Texas truck accident injury lawyers have recovered over half a billion dollars for wrongfully injured and killed clients. We understand the prevalence of large truck accidents in Texas and might protect claimants from lowball settlement offers and underhanded risk management attorneys. Call Wyatt Law Firm at (210) 340-5550 or send us an email to arrange for your case evaluation and protect your essential financial recovery rights. We serve people throughout Texas and the nation, including San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Laredo, and Corpus Christi.
We accept 18-wheeler accident, wrongful death, and other personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. You will not pay any attorney fees unless we win compensation for you.
Paula and her team at Wyatt Law Firm represented me professionally and fought hard for every dollar to the very end! She takes her cases personal and actually gets to know you, building a great relationship! She put me in touch with world class doctors right here in Texas! I could not be more pleased!!! I would definitely recommend Wyatt Law Firm to anyone in need of an attorney! At the end of the day, they offer caring, stress free, professional, hard working, services to hard working and honest American people! Don’t waste your time elsewhere!!!
Wyatt Law Firm, PLLC
21 Lynn Batts Lane, Suite 10
San Antonio, Texas 78218