Why do you need a Houston commercial vehicle accident lawyer?
Approximately 5 lakh truck accidents occurred in the United States in 2020. With Houston being the 4th most populous city in the United States, commercial vehicle accidents continue to rise. In 2021, the city had 38,149 commercial motor vehicle accidents, compared to 37,000 in 2018.
Like any other vehicle, commercial vehicles owe a duty of care while performing their work. If that duty of care is breached, resulting in the worst disasters, people affected can sustain severe injuries and even death.
If you or your loved ones have been in a commercial vehicle accident, this quick guide will provide you with a first step toward filing a claim for compensation for the accident.
What are the types of commercial vehicle accidents?
Different types of accidents caused by commercial vehicles in Houston include the following:
Head-on Collisions: In this type of accident, a truck runs into another vehicle from the front. It mainly occurs when truck drivers are worn off due to their hectic schedule and turn into heavy traffic areas.
Tire blowouts: While traveling through highways, we can find bits and pieces of truck tires and sometimes the truck itself on the sides of the road or in the middle of the lane. When a tire blows out, the driver may lose control of the vehicle and hit other vehicles on the road.
Jackknife Collisions: When a truck puts on the brake quickly, and the trailer attached to it moves out at 90 degrees, it is likely to roll over and overturns. Such accidents cause serious highway situations, leading to multiple vehicles colliding with each other and rear-ending each other.
Rollover Crashes: Truck’s trailer can roll over due to sudden brakes as the driver might be driving at high speed and could not control the vehicle. Rolling over can crush other passenger vehicles leading to serious injuries or loss of life.
Blind Spot Collisions: Large vehicles like trucks have many blind spots compared to smaller passenger vehicles. It is vital for other small vehicles to not drive near heavy vehicles, especially in their blind spots, and try to be visible in their rearview mirrors to avoid accidents.
Lost Loads: If a truck is not loaded securely, it can fall off and cause an accident. It can lead to a sudden stop of the truck and vehicles behind, causing terrible accidents.
What are the causes of commercial vehicle crashes in Houston?
The common causes of commercial vehicle crashes are mentioned as follows:
Distracted driver: Inattention of the drivers is one of the major factors playing a role in accidents. Any activity that can distract a driver from the charge of driving can lead to distracted driving, e.g., talking on the phone, texting, daydreaming, eating, etc.
Failed brakes: There are several reasons for brake failure, like losing control due to high speed, aggressive driving, mechanical failure, the sudden approach of the vehicle from the wrong side, etc.
Fatigue: Commercial truck drivers face extreme scheduling challenges due to the nature of their work. Federal and state hours of service regulations place strict parameters on repeated driving hours, rest breaks, the maximum driving sessions within particular timeframes, etc. Fatigued commercial drivers are likelier to experience decreased alertness, longer response times, diminished concentration, and the likelihood of making unsafe decisions.
Tailgating: Truck drivers have a habit of driving very closely, which can lead to rear-end collision due to failure to apply brakes on time.
Lane change or Taking turns: Commercial vehicle drivers fail to take notice of other vehicles in a blind spot or while changing lanes or taking turns.
Unhealthy lifestyle: Commercial drivers, due to their tight work schedule, go through stress, unhealthy food choice, no exercise, and boredom leading to alcohol and other addictions. All this can increase the risk of road accidents.
What Steps should be taken following the commercial vehicle Accident?
Following are the steps you should take after a commercial vehicle accident:
- Seek Medical Assistance- You must get your injuries assessed at the foremost. Following this, undergo medical treatment as per the recommendation of the doctor.
- Collect the relevant evidence- Ensure to gather the whereabouts of the accident location and capture the images of involved vehicles, fatalities caused, and damages. As a result, you will have the upper hand during the settlement claim.
- Dialogue with the witnesses- Make sure to strengthen your claim by interviewing the eyewitnesses found within the proximity of the accident area and keep a note of their personal information for future use.
- Informational discourse with the commercial driver- Accident victims must keep a record of accurate information concerning the details of the commercial driver, his employer, insurance policies, etc.
Who is liable in a commercial vehicle causes an accident?
The prime question of who is liable if the commercial vehicle meets with an accident and pays the damages. Whether it be the commercial vehicle driver or the other party, these are the parties that can be held accountable:
- The driver: They are responsible since they are primarily involved in the accident, but sometimes the employer might be held vicariously liable for the damage. It will depend if the driver worked as an employee or independent contractor and if the driver was engaged in work-related activities at the time of the accident.
- The cargo company: In the event of an overloading or imbalance accident of a commercial vehicle, the cargo company may be liable. This often includes overloading, improper securement, and not sticking to the loading standards.
- The contractor: In case of any mechanical parts of the truck malfunction and performs substandard work that results in an accident, then the maintenance contractor will be held liable.
- The municipality: Lastly, either the county, federal, or state can be held liable in case they fail to maintain the roads as per reasonable standards.
Why are commercial vehicle accident cases more complex?
Elaborated below are the following reasons-
- Severe Damages: Most commercial vehicles are larger in size and weight, which results in grievous injuries. The injured person may need future medical assistance depending on the invisible internal injuries. Hence, the claim of the compensation must include predictable expenditures.
- Increased documentation: The state and federal laws govern the functioning of commercial vehicles. Examination of evidence and other substantial proof aids in ascertaining the accident fault caused due to non-compliance with the laws and rules.
- Involvement of various parties at fault: Unlike other accidents, commercial vehicle crashes include various responsible parties, such as the vehicle’s manufacturer, owner, or driver’s employer. To determine the contribution of liable parties in the accident, involved parties are examined minutely.
- Complicated insurance and business framework: Commercial vehicles are regulated by complex corporate structures and commercial liability policies and subjected to stratified insurance procedures. It requires an experienced lawyer to facilitate the calculation of compensation claims for casualty victims.
What are the top myths about commercial vehicle accidents?
Mentioned below are common misconceptions-
- Many commercial carriers follow stringent rules such as lower speed limits or curtailment of weight. FMCSA also sanctions certain regulations like governed working hours and quality maintenance checks.
- Despite a devastating accident, insurance companies bargain with commercial accident victims and do not provide them with rightful compensation. They put the responsibility back on the victims by being unfair during the settlement.
- Commercial vehicle drivers and commercial operators can be held liable for negligent acts of drivers such as inattentive driving, violation of law, or overspeeding and reckless hiring practices.
- Commercial carriers pose an imminent danger to accident victims compared to smaller vehicles, causing catastrophic accidents like internal brain damage, broken bones, etc. Conclusively, commercial drivers face less severe injuries in accidents.
How can I prove negligence in a Commercial Vehicle Accident?
Proving the negligence and liability of other at-fault parties is a prerequisite to an injured person being eligible for compensation. A negligence claim must be substantiated by the following elements:
- Existence of duty of care- The driver must follow standards of reasonable care after the accident.
- Defendant’s breach of duty: The driver’s actions or the other party’s fault caused the breach of duty.
- Causation: There must be a first-hand connection between the at-fault person’s contribution to breach of duty and the damage sustained.
- Damages: For this element to be fulfilled, the damage must have occurred to the party seeking compensation in the form of property damage, medical expenses, etc.
What kind of damages is available to a commercial vehicle accident in Houston?
Accident victims are qualified to seek damages for the grievous injuries from the parties that have contributed to the commercial vehicle accident. Based on the impact and force of the collision, there are two types of damages- economic and non-economic.
- Disabled future earnings: If a Houston Commercial vehicle accident rendered you unable to do work due to fatalities and needed you to recover, you are entitled to receive damages arising from it.
- Recovery of medical bills: Expenses incurred on necessary medical assistance concerning sustained damages by the victims are recoverable. Under Texas law, reimbursement can be either the paid amount or a reasonable amount of expenses.
- Pain and suffering caused: The jury assesses an accident victim’s physical and emotional suffering. The compensation claim amount depends on the magnitude and intensity of the damage caused.
- Wrongful death: Family members are also entitled to compensation for the loss of life of their beloved ones, and it is determined by the extent of loss caused to family members.
- Disfigurement: This takes into account disfiguring injuries that affect the appearance of the person.
Now comes the question why does someone need a Houston commercial lawyer?
Let’s come straight to the point; you have all the rights to fight your Houston commercial vehicle accident lawyer. But hiring a lawyer comes with an assurance that your case will be properly looked at by an expert, all legal options are put in front of you along with the pros and cons of each one, and a strong case is a build-up against the party at fault. Some of the most important benefits of hiring a Houston commercial vehicle accident lawyer are
Filing claim on your behalf: While you might be recuperating from your injuries, you might miss the deadline for filing your claim with the at-fault party and its insurers.
Assisting you with deciding whether to accept an insurance settlement:
You might not know how much compensation you can receive from a commercial vehicle accident for damages sustained. However, an experienced attorney can assist you in claiming your right compensation amount based on the damages you have suffered, missed opportunities, etc.
Preparing to file a lawsuit: If the compensation proposed by the insurer is unsatisfactory, then the lawyer can prepare for the trial to ensure that you receive fair compensation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who governs the standards of commercial truckers?
Commercial motor carriers’ quality assurance and commercial transportation are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration(FMCSA) and the US Department of Transportation(Title 49 CFR). They impose safety regulations for commercial truck drivers and vehicles to thwart commercial truck-related fatalities.
What is the statute of limitations for commercial vehicle accidents in Houston?
As per Texas civil practice and remedies code section 16.003, the statute of limitations duration is two years from the date of the commercial vehicle wreck, and the legal right to file a lawsuit against a negligible party expires after the prescribed period.
How long does a commercial vehicle accident case take to settle in Houston?
Usually, fair settlement of a carrier vehicle accident takes around three months to two years or longer than that. The timeline to obtain financial compensation depends on multiple factors, such as the severity of the fatalities, necessary medical assistance, etc.