Whether you’re an Austin native or just visiting our beautiful city, there’s always something fun happening here. Along with all that fun, however, comes plenty of traffic, and traffic invariably leads to accidents, including 18-wheeler accidents. If you’ve been injured in a semi-truck accident, it can be terrifying. You don’t have to face the consequences alone, however. An experienced Austin 18-wheeler accident lawyer from The Law Offices of George Salinas can help protect your rights and recover just compensation while you continue on your path toward recovery.
Trucking: Rules and Regulations
Trucks cause some of the deadliest accidents on our roads, and as such, the trucking industry is governed by a wide variety of strict rules and regulations. Truckers are professional drivers held to more stringent standards than those of us who don’t drive for a living. Because consumer demand for goods shows no signs of slackening, the trucking industry is booming – and more and more big-rigs crowd our roadways. With the increased demand, the trucking industry and truck drivers are under considerable pressure to work outside of safety standards, resulting in more trucking accidents.
Because of the massive size and weight of commercial trucks, trucking accidents are among the most dangerous on our roads. If you’ve been injured in a semi-truck accident, you need experienced legal counsel. The dedicated legal team at The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin has the experience, knowledge, and compassion to aggressively advocate for the compensation to which you are entitled. Your claim matters, and our skilled personal injury attorneys are here to help.
Truck drivers are faced with extreme schedules that they must meet, despite restrictive regulations on maximum hours of driving. Truckers sometimes make the dangerous choice of eschewing safety restrictions in favor of hitting their deadlines. Truckers who don’t carefully adhere to the rules and regulations in place to help keep our roadways safer endanger everyone with whom they share the road.
When drivers are fatigued, they face several functional impairments:
- They are less alert and may even fall asleep
- Reaction times are longer
- Attention spans are shorter
- Impaired judgment means drivers are more likely to make unsafe decisions
As a result, fatigued truckers are much more likely to cause dangerous accidents.
Because of the extreme dangers associated with distracted driving, it has recently become a hot issue. The meteoric rise of smartphone usage has made distracted driving much more prevalent and dangerous. In fact, the danger is so immense, that the federal government has dedicated a website to the issue, distraction.gov. Distracted driving is defined as any driving in which the driver isn’t focused fully on the primary task at hand, driving safely. Distracted driving is broken down into three classifications:
- Visual Distractions
Visual distractions engage the driver’s vision, such as reading a text.
- Manual Distraction
Manual distractions engage the driver’s hands, such as typing a text.
- Cognitive Distractions
Cognitive distractions engage the driver’s thoughts, such as thinking about what you are texting instead of driving.
Interfacing with a smartphone is the loftiest distraction of all because it manages to meld all these distractions into one simple activity. Texting behind the wheel is exceedingly dangerous, but when truckers engage in the activity, it’s that much more dangerous. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration strictly prohibits truck drivers from texting while behind the wheel.
Smartphone usage, however, is far from the only distraction that truckers face while driving. Other distractions include:
- Calculating distances and times for the trip
- Completing complex tasks, like cleaning the safety mirrors in the cab
- Working on the trucking logbook
- Interacting with a dispatch device
- Reading a map, paperwork, or anything else
- Making work-related or personal phone calls
Even though each of these tasks is elemental to a trucker’s job, they should never be carried out while the trucker is driving. But the trucking industry is so increasingly schedule-driven that many truck drivers cut safety corners and try to get these tasks done while driving, making our roads more dangerous in the process.
Your Truck Accident Claim
Truck accident claims are a bit different than car accident claims because it’s more likely that a truck accident will have multiple defendants. The trucking company, the truck driver, the truck manufacturer, and the truck mechanics may all share responsibility for trucking accidents. Those potentially liable for truck accidents include:
The Truck Driver
As mentioned, truckers are professional drivers held to much stricter regulations than other drivers. They take on the immense responsibility of driving massive vehicles safely over our roadways. Further, the trucking company is responsible for hiring truckers with the skill, knowledge, and experience necessary to safely and responsibly operate 18-wheelers. Truckers are often directly responsible for the accidents they’re involved in.
The Trucking Company
The trucking company itself is responsible for maintaining a safe fleet of rigs, for coordinating schedules that allow its truckers to remain within the safety rules and regulations, and to ensure that its drivers have what it takes to do the job safely, including adequate training. When a trucking company fails to keep up with these responsibilities, it shoulders some or all of the liability if an accident ensues.
The Truck Manufacturer
Sometimes trucks are poorly manufactured, have unsafe parts incorporated, or simply don’t perform as they should due to some malfunction, such as brake system failure. The trucking manufacturer can be found liable if faulty design or assembly contributes to a truck accident.
The Truck Mechanics
While the trucking company is responsible for keeping its semi-trucks in safe working order and hiring well-qualified and experienced mechanics, the mechanics themselves also shoulder responsibility for the work they do. If failure to adequately maintain a truck or not performing proper repairs causes an accident, the mechanics can be held responsible for the accident.
Truck Accident FAQs
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) estimates almost 25,000 truck crashes occurred on Texas highways and roads in 2017. This includes more than 400 fatal accidents and more than 3,000 crashes resulting in moderate to severe injuries. Five of those deadly crashes and 137 of those injury-producing accidents took place in the Austin area of Travis County.
If you were injured in a truck accident in the Austin area, you may have the right to recover significant compensation under Texas law. Contact the skilled attorneys at The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin at (512) 851-1004 as soon as possible to discuss your case.
In the meantime, here are some answers to frequently asked questions about Austin truck accidents:
What Makes a Truck Accident Different From a Car Accident?
Heavy trucks generally weigh at least 20 to 30 times more than the average car. In fact, a fully-loaded semi truck can weigh-in at more than 80,000 pounds. Then a vehicle with such massive size and weight crashes at highway speed, it tends to cause far greater damage, disruption, and injury than other types of accidents. The destruction a heavy truck can inflict on an ordinary car far exceeds that of a typical two-car collision. Truck accidents also frequently involve spilled cargo, further escalating potential harm to other drivers or clean-up crews.
What Are Common Types of Truck Accidents?
Multiple types of crashes might occur when trucks lose control. They include:
- Head on collisions
- Rear end collisions
- Broadside or T-bone collisions
- Underride collisions
- Multi-car pileups due to a jack-knifed truck
- Rollover collisions
- Blind spot collisions
- Lost loads
What Are Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) creates and enforces regulations for the trucking industry. They include measures to prevent some of the common causes of truck accidents, which include:
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol
- Failure to yield
- Driver fatigue
- Inexperienced drivers that haven’t had proper training
- Improperly loaded trucks
- Mechanical failure due to poor maintenance or a defect
Who Might Be Liable for a Truck Accident?
Because of the greater toll of destruction they cause, truck accidents tend to involve multiple parties. That means that when truck accident victims take legal action for damages, they often name multiple defendants, including:
- Truck drivers. As in any motor vehicle accident, the driver of the truck may bear some responsibility, particularly if he broke traffic laws by using a cell phone, driving under the influence, or driving while excessively fatigued.
- Trucking companies. Many, if not most, trucks on the road are owned by commercial enterprises. Those companies may share liability for an accident if, for example, they failed to maintain the truck, forced a driver to break hours of service regulations, required the use of a cell phone while driving, and or loaded the truck’s cargo negligently.
- Other motorists. Other motorists who drive recklessly might cause a truck accident.
- Truck manufacturers and/or truck part manufacturers. Makers of trucks and truck parts can have liability for an accident caused by a defective truck or truck part.
- State of Texas, Travis County, or city of Austin. If poorly maintained roads lead to a truck accident, government entities might be liable.
The Insurance Company Offered a Settlement for My Truck Accident Injuries. Should I Accept?
Insurance companies do not stay in business by paying every claim that comes their way and they certainly don’t like to pay court-awarded damages. When fault is clear, an insurance company might make a settlement offer to a victim. These initial offers are often attractive but they rarely provide full and fair compensation to victims. Instead, they are a tool for insurance companies to avoid large payouts later on. It’s best to let a qualified attorney handle all communications with the insurance company and discuss any offers with them. An attorney can advise you on the best course of action and can often negotiate a better settlement than the insurance company’s initial offer.
What Types of Damages Can I Recover After a Truck Accident?
If you were injured in a truck accident, you might recoup the following damages from the parties responsible for harming you:
- Medical costs including ambulance and emergency services, surgery, hospitalization, radiology, and medication;
- Future medical expenses such as corrective surgeries, aftercare, long-term health care, and physical therapy;
- Lost wages for missing work as a result of injury and hospitalization;
- Future lost wages when an injury prevents a victim from returning to work; and
- Non-economic losses including pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other losses that apply to a particular case.
If I Contributed to Causing the Accident, Can I Still Recover Damages?
It depends. Under Texas law, you can recover damages for an accident you partially caused so long as a court doesn’t find you 51 percent or more at fault. Up to that point, you can recover damages even if your actions contributed to the accident. In that case, your damage award will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. So, for example, if you suffered $1,000,000 in damages in an accident for which a court finds you 25 percent at-fault, your maximum damage award will be reduced to $750,000.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Truck Accident Attorney?
Personal injury law firms typically offer free consultations for you to share information about your case with a qualified attorney. In the event that you and the attorney agree to have the attorney represent you, there is generally no up-front payment required. Instead, firms typically handle personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that your lawyer only recovers fees out of any settlement or court-awarded damages you receive.
Do I Need an Attorney After A Truck Accident? Yes!
A truck accident might permanently alter your life. An experienced personal injury attorney can protect your legal rights and seek the damages you deserve, giving you the time and energy to focus on healing.
If you were injured in a truck accident, contact the experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin at (512) 851-1004 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case.
If You’ve Been Injured in a Truck Accident, Consult With a Skilled Austin Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you’ve been injured in an Austin truck accident, you’ve got important legal rights. Truck accidents can be extremely serious and complex, and require experienced legal counsel. The dedicated legal team at The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin has the dedication, skill, and compassion to help effectively and efficiently protect your rights and ensure you recover just compensation for your injuries. We’re here to help, so please contact or call us at (512) 851-1004 to schedule an appointment today.
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