Most of the freight in the United States moves over the nation's roads using trucks. In recent years, nearly three-quarters of the nation's freight moves from place to place using trucks. This equates to almost 12 billion tons on American roads annually. While this benefits the Houston consumer, it endangers the Houston driver.
Many people suffer injuries in truck crashes each year, and a number of these accidents take place in the greater Houston area. If you would like to learn about your rights following a truck accident and injuries, do not wait to contact our Houston truck accident lawyers at Dolman Law Group for a free discussion and case evaluation today. We will talk about your rights, opportunities for seeking compensation, and the answers to any questions you may have about filing a claim.
The Causes of Truck Accidents in Houston
It is a fact of life that motorists must share the road with truckers. For drivers and their passengers, this adds some danger to each car trip, even if the truck driver is highly-trained and skilled. This is not to say that every truck driver is a danger, but under the best of circumstances, trucks can pose problems to other cars on the road due to their sheer size.
Here are some factors about trucks and their drivers that add to the hazards that drivers face:
- As mentioned above, the size and weight of a truck will result in greater damage to a car if there is a collision.
- Truck drivers may speed on the roads due to pressure to make deliveries within a certain time window.
- Drivers might be driving when they are tired or beyond their allowed shift to make up time, despite hours of service laws meant to prevent this.
- Long stretches of driving could mean bored and distracted operators who are doing things like texting behind the wheel.
- Because of their size, trucks have many blind spots that keep the trucker from seeing other drivers on the road.
This is before considering that some commercial drivers lack training and experience, drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or take other risks that significantly increase the chance of a collision or other injury incident.
Houston Roads Teem With Large Trucks
More than 1,200 miles of state highways cross the Houston area, and drivers need to share all of them with trucks. In fact, Houston is the home of the worst truck congestion in the entire country. Nine of the worst 100 truck bottlenecks in the country are right here in the greater Houston area. The growing population in the Houston area makes things even worse.
This means that, even under the best of circumstances, Houston roadways are dangerous. When you add in untrained truck drivers who may not be following federal rules and local traffic laws, it makes things even worse for drivers.
Other factors can increase the risks even further, including:
- Rain or other bad weather
- Other accidents slowing traffic
- Delays that cause truckers to run behind on their routes
Truck Accident Fatalities Are Increasing
The entire trucking industry is almost an $800 billion industry. With the rise of online shopping, one can expect it to become a $1 trillion industry sooner rather than later. More and more trucks are taking to the road—and causing more accidents as they do.
The Texas Department of Transportation publishes its annual statistics about truck crashes in the state. Recently, the Houston area—the most populated metro area in the state—had the most crashes involving commercial vehicles in the state, with 6,369. This is a sharp increase from the 5,807 crashes involving commercial vehicles recorded the prior year.
Truck accidents across Texas cause numerous fatalities. In fact, Texas by far leads the country in the number of fatal truck crashes each year. Fatal vehicle crashes involving large trucks in Texas are on the rise. Over a three-year span, the number of fatal crashes with trucks rose from 602 to 664.
Why Are There So Many Truck Accidents in Houston?
Here are some of the factors besides population that may result in more truck crashes in the Houston area:
- The large amount of refineries in the Baytown area means that there are numerous trucks on the road transporting products.
- E-commerce in the Houston area has led to a sharp increase in the number of trucks on the road.
- Since it is an urban area, Houston sees many road construction projects, and road work makes life more dangerous for drivers who need to share the road with trucks.
While any type of motor vehicle crash is dangerous, truck accidents are even more hazardous than most. This includes many types of vehicles that may not come to mind when you first think of a “truck accident.” Examples include:
- Garbage and recycling trucks
- Dump trucks
- Delivery vans
- Tanker trucks
- Large work vans
- Box trucks
- 18-wheel flatbeds
- Other types of tractor-trailers
Suing the Houston Trucking Company for the Accident
One of the most important considerations in a truck accident case is whether you can file a lawsuit against the trucking company. Ideally, you would want to sue the company as opposed to the truck driver because this is who has the deepest pockets that will lead to the largest settlement or jury award. An individual truck driver does not have the money on hand that it would take to compensate you for your injuries. Corporate defendants maintain larger insurance policies because they have more to protect.
In many cases, you can sue the trucking company. However, it is not always automatic. One possible legal theory at work here is called respondeat superior. It means that the employer is legally responsible for the actions of their negligent employee.
In a Texas civil case, an employer will be legally responsible for the acts of its employee as long as the employee was acting in the course of their employment. Unless the truck driver was doing something like running a personal errand, the employer must pay for any damage that they cause. When they are doing company things on company time, they are a legal representative of the company. This should cover most of the time when a trucker is behind the steering wheel of an 18-wheeler or other large vehicle.
Some companies will resort to legal fictions to shield themselves from liability for truck drivers' actions. These businesses will not hire the truckers as employees but as independent contractors. They usually intend to keep the company from being held responsible for the truck driver's actions.
Often, this would be enough to keep you from suing the company. However, it is not the end of the story. Your Houston trucking accident attorney would help you look beyond the relationship that is listed on paper to see if the actual relationship between the trucking company and the trucker is one of employer/employee. There are many factors that a court would look at to see if a trucker is an employee or an independent contractor. One of the major things is whether the company can control the actions of the trucker.
Do not decide on your own that you do not have a case or cannot sue the trucking company or otherwise recover compensation in some way. You can speak to one of our lawyers and let our team assess your options. We identify the best possible routes to pursue money damages for our clients injured in Houston truck accidents.
How to Receive Compensation for Your Houston Truck Accident Injuries
After you or a loved one suffered injuries in a truck accident, you are likely wondering about the procedure that you need to follow to receive compensation for your injuries. The first thing to know is that you will need to act relatively quickly. You should quickly file the claim with the insurance company so you can begin trying to negotiate a possible settlement.
In Texas, any truck accident lawsuit would need to be filed within two years since that is the relevant statute of limitations. The following are some things you might expect in a truck accident case. If we work together to pursue damages in your case, our attorneys will handle each of these tasks for you.
Dealing With the Insurance Company After a Houston Truck Accident
The first thing that would happen after you leave the accident scene and get medical care for your injuries is that you or another party reports the accident to a relevant insurance company. Your insurance company and the truck driver's company will determine who is at fault for the accident.
Assuming that the truck driver was at fault, the trucking company's insurer will likely make you a settlement offer. In our experience, initial settlement offers are rarely enough to pay for your injuries, and there are many months of back-and-forth with the insurance company.
When representing you, our attorneys would advise you to hold out for a better deal if the insurance company is lowballing you. We take the time to review all your damages and assign accurate values to them. Then, we approach the appropriate insurance companies or legal teams and demand a fair and just agreement based on this estimated value. This process usually leads to negotiations, in which we work toward a mutually agreed-on settlement.
Filing a Houston Truck Accident Lawsuit
If you cannot settle the case with the insurance company—or there is another reason why this is a better idea than an insurance settlement, based on the circumstances of your accident—you can file a civil lawsuit in court.
Here, it is important to be conscious of the dates. In Texas, the law gives you two years from the time that you were injured to file your lawsuit. This is called the statute of limitations, and waiting even a day after the statute has expired to file your lawsuit will cost you your right to sue for compensation.
While settling your case quickly for fair compensation is the best result, that is not always possible. Sometimes, you have to sue to get what you deserve for your truck accident injuries. In many cases, lawsuits do not go to a jury trial—instead, settling before the trial date. If you do go to trial, our lawyers will represent you and present the strongest evidence available to support your case.
Your lawsuit will begin when your attorney files your complaint with the court and serves it on the defendant. After the initial motions in the case, your lawsuit will move to the discovery process, where you can request documents and information from the defendant. At some point, you may end up in a deposition where you will need to answer questions under oath. After discovery, the case will move to a hearing in front of a jury with witnesses.
Proving Negligence in Your Houston Truck Accident Case
When the jury finally has your truck accident case in their hands, they will decide whether the defendant was negligent. If the answer to that question is yes, then the defendant will need to compensate you for what the jury says that you deserve.
Here is how the jury will decide whether the defendant was negligent:
- The jury will first look at whether the defendant owed you a duty of care. Truck drivers would ordinarily have a duty to other drivers on the road to act with attention and prudence.
- If there is a duty of care, the jury will then decide if there was a breach of duty. This is one of the most factually intensive parts of any truck accident case. Usually, your attorney will call experts and present witnesses to recreate the accident. The goal is to show that the defendant acted in a way that a reasonable truck driver would not by driving carelessly or illegally.
- You will need to show that you have suffered an injury.
- Finally, your lawyer will need to show causation. Here, you need to prove that you would not have suffered injuries if not for the defendant's actions or inaction that led to the accident.
Usually, in any truck accident injury case, the things that will take up the most amount of your attorney's time will be proving a breach of duty and causation. This will require them to show that the accused party—usually the truck driver—was at fault in the crash because of their actions behind the wheel. This may require evidence that includes:
- Accident reconstruction
- Eyewitness testimony
- Physical evidence
- A survey of the accident scene
- The accident report filed by the police
- Photos or video of the crash
Damages in Your Houston Truck Accident Lawsuit
Once you prove that you deserve damages, your recovery should pay you for all the harm that you suffered. In a trucking accident settlement or jury verdict, you would generally receive two different categories of damages. They are economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include:
- The cost of all of your medical bills in the past and future
- Lost wages both in the past and future (this is often a large part of your truck accident damages)
- Damage to your property
- The cost of any home care that you needed or will need
As you can see, economic damages compensate you for money that you lost or that otherwise came out of your pocket because of the accident.
Non-economic damages in a truck accident case compensate you for trauma and feelings. They include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Damage to your reputation
- Loss of consortium for a partner
Punitive damages are another type of damage in a truck accident case. These are very rare, but they can greatly increase the size of your award. When the driver or the trucking company was extremely reckless, or the trucking company acted in an especially harmful way, the jury may award punitive damages. However, only a jury will assess punitive damages, and these would not be a part of any settlement agreement.
How a Houston Truck Accident Attorney Will Help You
Your lawyer will start working on the process of obtaining compensation as soon as you hire them. They will immediately begin to learn the facts of your case and help you deal with the insurance company. From the very beginning, your lawyer will be your counselor as you seek to navigate the legal system.
The aftermath of a truck accident is a very difficult time for accident victims and their families. Your legal claim should be one thing that you do not need to worry about as you seek to recover from your injuries.
Our attorneys will fight for you as they guide you through the legal process. You can feel confident focusing on your treatment, rehabilitation, and physical healing while we take care of your claim or legal case.
Houston Truck Accident Claim FAQs
The following are common questions we receive from truck accident clients:
Can I Sue on Behalf of a Family Member?
It is a sad fact that truck accidents often result in serious injuries. This means that your loved one may not be in a condition to sue on their own in the days after the accident. If your loved one is incapacitated, then their family can sue on their behalf. The injured victim and their family will not miss out on compensation just because the person didn't live to file a suit.
Given the severity of truck accidents, many cases are brought as wrongful death actions because one or more people may have died as a result of the collision. In this case, the estate would be filing the lawsuit. Sometimes, the case is on behalf of the minor children of the deceased victim. If someone has died in a truck accident, their family can receive payment for the accident.
In this case, the damage award could be high because it includes the wages that the deceased would have earned and the pain and suffering that they felt before their death.
Do Houston Truck Accident Cases Settle or Go to Trial?
Most truck accident cases will end up settling before they go to trial. Even if truck accident cases go to court, they may even settle before the jury hands down a verdict. There is a good reason for that.
Just like you as a plaintiff are trying to figure out your chances of winning the case and your possible recovery, the defendant is doing the same thing. Corporate lawyers are legitimately afraid of what a jury may do in their verdict. One factor in punitive damages is the defendant's ability to pay the verdict. Since corporate defendants have deep pockets, they are concerned about what may happen. The last thing that they want is for a jury to hit them with a large verdict because their drivers acted recklessly or dangerously.
Therefore, many truck accident lawsuit defendants will try to make a serious effort to settle their case before it ever gets to a jury. At the same time, as a plaintiff, you might not want to wait years until the end of the trial to find out whether you are receiving an award. The combination of the defendant's risk management and the plaintiff's need for compensation means that most cases will eventually end up with a settlement.
Who Else Can I Sue Besides the Houston Trucking Company?
In many cases, you would sue the trucking company because their driver was at fault, and the truck driver is the representative of the company. However, it is not always the truck driver who is responsible for your accident, even if you are not. Specifically, your case could have alternate or additional defendants to consider.
- The manufacturer of the truck itself if the accident happened due to a defect in the truck
- The maintenance shop that worked on the truck, if it was someone other than the owner
- The state government, if the accident happened due to the poor conditions of the roads
- The maker of a part on the truck, if it was defective and caused an accident (e.g., the tire manufacturer if a tire blowout caused the accident)
- Other drivers on the road if you were hurt, but the truck driver was not the proximate cause of your injuries
Our attorneys will investigate your case to determine what happened and what actions we can take on your behalf. Our investigation will allow us to identify all potentially liable parties so we know who to seek justice and compensation from. Then, we will take the evidence we find to build the strongest case possible and use it to fight for your financial recovery.
What Role do Trucking Regulations Play in Houston Truck Accident Lawsuits?
The federal government has many rules that regulate trucking in this country. Since trucking falls under interstate commerce, it would be up to the federal government instead of the state to be the primary regulator, although the feds do leave some responsibility to the state.
Federal trucking regulations are very extensive and control nearly every aspect of the business. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets out regulations in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. It regulates:
- The hours that a driver may drive and the amount of rest that they must have
- The inspection requirements for each truck
- Licensing standards for drivers
- How truck drivers must secure cargo
- Weight restrictions
These are just a few of the regulated items. In terms of your truck accident injury lawsuit, showing that the truck driver or trucking company failed to follow one of these regulations can help you prove negligence. If the truck driver did not follow a rule, they can be automatically negligent in your claim. Our truck accident attorneys know the federal rulebook and what they are looking for when they are investigating your accident.
How Will My Houston Truck Accident Attorney Investigate the Sccident?
Your lawyer will do a combination of things when trying to find out what happened. Some of it will be obtaining relevant data, while other things may involve recreating the accident scene.
Here is what your attorney will do as they gather facts and evidence:
- Trucks have an electronic onboard recorder that tracks the hours that the truck has been in operation. These replace the driver's logbook. This will show whether the trucker has complied with federal rules that require the driver to rest at certain intervals. The attorney will ask for this at the first possible opportunity.
- Your attorney will also request the driver's history, including any citations and their medical test results. This would help you in a case against the company.
- The attorney will go to the scene of the accident and try to recreate the accident. This could also include consulting with truck accident expert witnesses.
- Your attorney will also interview witnesses who saw the accident and record their recollections.
The Insurance Company Is Calling About My Houston Truck Accident. Should I Talk to Them?
This depends on which insurance company is calling. The truck driver's insurance company may be trying to contact you because they want to trick you into saying things that are against your legal interest. You are never under any obligation to talk to the other insurance company. However, you might not know that when they are engaging in lies and deceptions to hoodwink you into saying something that you should not that you cannot take back. This is a major reason why you need to have a lawyer on your side to keep this from happening.
In addition, you need to be careful with what you say to your own insurance company. This is why it is helpful to have a lawyer on the line when speaking to your own insurance company. Contact our attorneys early in your claims process so you do not approach the insurance company alone. Something that you say could determine whether you receive compensation and how much you get. Our attorney can advise you on what to say and what not to say when the insurance company calls.
Should I Accept an Insurance Settlement Offer or File a Lawsuit After a Truck Hit Me in Houston?
It depends on what the insurance company offers. Know that insurance companies are limited in what they can offer as a settlement. They cannot pay you for certain costs that you would incur in the future. In addition, you could be running up against a policy limit that would curtail the size of your recovery. Moreover, an insurance company would not pay punitive damages if the truck driver was particularly reckless.
Thus, your decision about whether to settle depends on your particular accident, and the settlement depends on the severity of your accident and the particular offer. If you or a loved one has been in a serious accident, you may be better off opting for a lawsuit to maximize your recovery. However, lawsuits take more time than an insurance settlement.
In the end, you and your truck accident attorney would work together to assess whether a settlement offer would be enough to compensate you for your injuries. Our attorneys have the experience to know whether the insurance company is making a reasonable offer or whether you should turn it down and file a lawsuit. This is never a decision that an injured person and their family should be making on their own.
How Long Will It Take to Receive Payment for my Houston Truck Accident Injuries?
We cannot give you a firm estimate other than setting your expectation that truck accident claims and lawsuits take time to work through. This does not lessen your chance of financial recovery. The insurance company is likely not going to be in a hurry to reach a quick settlement agreement with you. They will likely try to test what you will accept, so it may take several rounds of offers and counteroffers for you to settle. This may take time.
If you file a lawsuit, your case will take even longer. There is much that needs to happen in court before you have your hearing in front of a jury. First, the defendant almost always files a motion to dismiss your case. It takes time for the court to hear and rule on that motion. Second, your case will likely involve a lengthy discovery process. This is when the parties to a lawsuit will request information from each other. This usually involves even more disputes between the two sides and is a time-consuming process. Depositions are also a part of the discovery process.
The court will usually set the schedule for each case early in the process. Judges schedule things very far into the future. As a result, do not be surprised if it takes you time to receive compensation for your truck accident case. Nonetheless, even if time passes, that does not diminish your legal right to compensation as long as you meet all applicable deadlines.
How do I Best work with a Houston Truck Accident Lawyer?
There are several things that you can do to make your attorney's job easier. The first thing to do is to make sure that you give them honest and complete answers to all their questions. Your attorney will be representing you to the insurance company and in court, so they need a complete picture of what happened, so they can be fully prepared.
When you have your initial consultation with the attorney, make sure that you give them a copy of all relevant documentation, including police reports and accident records. This will give your lawyer the ability to get started immediately on the case. When insurance companies are calling, time is of the essence.
Will a Houston Truck Accident Lawyer Cost Me Money Out of My Pocket?
The simple answer to this question is no. This is because, like any personal injury lawyer, a truck accident attorney works on a contingency basis. What this means is that you will not hear a request for an expensive retainer agreement, nor will you see an hourly bill during our representation in your case. In fact, you will not see any bill at all.
Your trucking accident attorney only receives payment if you win your case. In your contingency agreement, “winning” means that you have either settled your case or recovered money from the jury. In that case, your lawyer receives a percentage of your recovery.
Right when you agree to retain us, you will sign an agreement with us to be your lawyer. This agreement will very clearly lay out the percentage of your recovery that will pay your attorney for their services. This number will not change from what it spelled out in our agreement. Usually, the attorney's share will range from 25 to 40 percent.
For you, it means that there is no risk of hiring an attorney. You will not end up with a losing case and a stack of attorney's bills. If you do not get paid, we do not get paid. Do not let worries about cost keep you from hiring a trucking accident attorney for your case.
Consult Our Houston Truck Accident Attorneys Right Away
At Dolman Law Group, we have a commitment to helping injured truck crash victims in and around the Houston area. If you would like to discuss a possible case and financial recovery for your losses, please contact us directly to have a member of our team evaluate your rights for free.
You can easily reach Dolman Law Group by phone, or you can write to us using our online contact page.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
6330 Gulf Fwy Suite 110
Houston, TX 77023
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