Truck Accident Lawyers

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Experienced Semi Truck Accident Attorneys Serving Clients in Houston, Texas, and Nationwide

As one of the country’s commercial trucking hubs, semi trucks are a common sight throughout the Houston area. Although extensive regulations govern the trucking industry, the companies responsible for moving cargo have one major concern: the bottom line.

To protect their bottom line, it is all too easy for trucking companies and the people who work for them to cut corners. When this happens, innocent people get injured or killed.

At Patrick Daniel Law, our attorneys have extensive experience in the complex realm of commercial truck accidents. If you were seriously injured or lost a loved one in a collision with an 18-wheeler, our law firm can help you pursue the compensation you deserve.

Please contact Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 today for a free consultation. Our truck accident lawyers serve clients in Houston, all of Texas, and throughout the United States.

Do I Need a Lawyer in a Truck Accident Case?

Yes. Although it is not required that you hire a lawyer before taking legal action against a trucking company, the odds are stacked against you if you don’t have qualified representation.

Truck accident claims aren’t like car accident cases. Although both types of claims center on collisions involving one or more vehicles, truck accident litigation is much more complicated.

There are a few reasons trucking crashes are complex, and why hiring an experienced lawyer is crucial to a successful outcome in your case:

  • Your case may involve more than one defendant, including the trucker, his/her employer, the maker of a part on the rig, and possibly others
  • Multiple defendants means multiple insurance companies will be involved, all of them trying to pass the buck and pay you as little as possible
  • Truck drivers are subject to federal regulations as well as state and local laws; multiple agencies are likely to be involved in the accident investigation, each of them governed by their own rules, legislation, and procedures
  • Injuries in truck accidents tend to be much more extensive than they are in “average” car crashes
  • Accordingly, the damages sought in truck accident lawsuits tend to be much higher

All of these factors combine to make trucking accident claims complicated and often hotly contested. To get the compensation you need and deserve after being hurt in a crash with a semi truck, it is certainly in your best interest to hire a lawyer who understands both the complexities of the litigation and the stakes to you personally.

Driver Error in Houston Trucking Accidents

When Should I Get a Truck Accident Lawyer?

It’s a fairly safe bet that the insurance adjuster will contact you before you even have time to consider calling an attorney. The adjuster wants to head you off at the pass, and hopefully get you to sign off on a settlement before the dust settles.

That should tell you something right there. So, if you get an early call or a way-too-friendly in-person visit from the insurance adjuster representing the trucking company, “there’s your sign,” as comedian Bill Engvall would say.

Only it’s not funny. Clearly, this is the time to act, if you have any notion of contacting a truck accident lawyer. 

While calling an attorney early in the process is ultimately best, you do have some time to reflect on your situation. These conditions merit a closer look if you’re wondering whether you should call an attorney:

  • A fatal truck accident.
  • An accident in which you were severely injured. This includes, but is not limited to, broken bones, paralysis, amputation, burns, blindness, or long-term or permanent physical impairment.
  • There’s even a slight chance that you could be found at fault.
  • The crash involved other vehicles.
  • The crash occurred in a construction zone or school zone.
  • The official accident report is incomplete or does not accurately describe what happened.

An 18-wheeler accident attorney can also help you get to the bottom of what caused the truck accident in the first place. There are many causes of trucking accidents, and being able to sort through all of them and pinpoint the exact cause or causes often takes an expert. The better the expert, the better they’ll be able to find all the causes. Many people can speculate as to the causes, but only an experienced truck accident attorney will be able to provide hard evidence.

Recent Trucking Accidents in Harris County, Texas

Experienced lawyers Patrick Daniel and Randy Canche discuss the recent case of a fatal truck accident involving an Amazon tractor-trailer on Houston’s North Freeway, as well as common causes of semi-truck accidents, what to do after an accident, and common truck accident questions.

What Kinds of Truck Driver Errors Cause Accidents?

The imposing size of big rigs doesn’t necessarily make them dangerous, but when they’re driven irresponsibly, maintained improperly, or thrust into a chaotic situation on a busy interstate, they pose a risk to us all. Vigilance, whether driving, maintaining, or troubleshooting, is crucial. 

The margin of error for an 18-wheeler is much smaller than for your Toyota Camry. A moment’s inattention by the driver, and the truck has drifted into another lane and sideswiped a car. A panic stop by a big rig going 65 miles requires 525 feet (that’s roughly a tenth of a mile) from the time of driver awareness to a full stop. By comparison, a car traveling that same speed would need 316 feet.

That explains why so many 18-wheeler accidents are rear-end collisions. But these are not minor fender benders with relatively minor property damage and maybe some spilled coffee. These can be devastating and deadly.

The responsibilities of operating and owning an 18-wheeler are significant and should never be taken lightly. When they are, catastrophe can ensue.

Like any vehicle accident, a variety of factors can cause a semi truck collision. Negligence on the part of the trucker can take different forms, including:

1. Truck Driver Drowsiness

Drowsiness affects reaction time, threat awareness, and cognitive reasoning. For these reasons, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the number of hours a truck driver may drive per day (11) and per seven-day week (60).

Drivers are often pressured by their employers to meet delivery schedules that are virtually impossible to meet without going over the stated hourly limitations. This leads to illegal overtime driving, falsified driver’s logs, and, all too often, accidents. Drowsiness may also be attributed to the age of the driver, his general health, medications taken (prescribed and otherwise), and the amount and/or quality of sleep during downtime.

This is a salient point in many lawsuits. Being able to prove that a driver operated a tractor-trailer rig knowing he had not logged the legally required downtime is advantageous to winning a case. A second factor in the equation is whether the driver felt compelled to break the rules of the road because of pressure from his employer to deliver the goods on a tight schedule.

2. Impaired Truck Driving

It’s a frightening thought that operators of 80,000-pound monsters on our highways could be buzzed on anything from alcohol to opiates, but it happens. In the most recent Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts Report, data collected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revealed that 4,600 truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01 or higher – 2.5 percent of truck drivers in these accidents were legally intoxicated.

Truck drivers have aches and pains, as we all do, and many suffer from chronic conditions for which they have been prescribed powerful painkillers. These painkillers often have side effects and can lead to impaired driving. Lack of regard for these side effects becomes a distinct liability in court cases. Over-the-counter medications are also noted in a number of big rig accidents.

3. Trucks Speeding & Driving Too Fast for Conditions

Just about every motorist can relate to the sight of a big rig zooming past slower moving traffic in situations that should have called for a lighter touch on the accelerator. Technically, it’s not speeding, unless the truck exceeds the posted speed limit, but it is dangerous and unlawful. It’s a ticketable offense known as driving too fast for conditions.

According to the FMCSA, conditions that warrant driving significantly below the posted speed limit include:

  • Wet or icy roads
  • Fog
  • Uneven roads
  • Construction zones
  • Curves
  • Intersections
  • Pavement breaks
  • Gravel roads
  • Heavy traffic

In the FMCSA report cited, “Speeding of Any Kind” is the leading factor in truck accidents, accounting for 6.5% of fatal collisions.

4. Reckless, Vindictive Truck Driving

Iconic movie producer Steven Spielberg’s first feature-length film was a movie titled Duel, about a deranged truck driver trying to force a hapless motorist off a dangerous mountain road. It capitalized on a common fear among people that big rig drivers are out to “get them.”

Fortunately, that is hardly the case. But there have been a number of incidents where a truck driver was possibly triggered by a driver and reacted inappropriately. According to the FMCSA, aggressive driving / road rage was a factor in less than one percent of fatal truck accidents.

Proving that the trucker drove aggressively, or was under the influence of road rage, is a tricky task in the courtroom – one that often needs corroboration from third-party witnesses.

18-Wheeler Distracted Driving Accidents

5. Distracted Truck Driving

Truck drivers text while driving, talk on the phone while driving, and surf the internet while driving. According to the FMCSA, nearly 6% of fatal truck accidents involved some form of driver distraction. These include:

  • Distraction by a person, object, or event outside the vehicle
  • Reaching for objects inside the cab
  • Talking on the phone
  • Dialing a phone number
  • Using a mobile device (texting, using apps, etc.)
  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting the audio and climate controls
  • Daydreaming
  • Smoking

Big rig accidents that occur because the truck driver was distracted can be the worst of the worst in terms of death, injuries, and property damage. Drivers have been convicted of murder because of their behavior behind the wheel. Penalties for commercial drivers who text while operating a moving vehicle are getting stricter, but there are variances by state.

6. Other Types of 18-Wheeler Truck Driver Error

Causes for accidents are numerous, but the most prevalent ones not already mentioned are:

  • Distracted driving, including texting, eating, using the radio, and other activities behind the wheel
  • Lane departure
  • Failure to yield
  • Overcorrecting
  • Obscured vision
  • Failure to obey traffic signs and signals
  • Following too closely (tailgating)
  • Improper passing
  • Failure to execute turns and lane changes properly

In many cases, a combination of bad decisions and unsafe behaviors lead to truck accidents. If the driver is fatigued or under the influence, it is more likely that he or she will drive too fast or make reckless decisions that cause an accident.

These decisions, however, don’t happen in a vacuum. The truck driver may be following the instructions of his or her employer, which in turn widens your case to include additional defendants.

Who Is Liable for Trucking Accidents?

How Does Negligent Truck Maintenance Contribute to Accidents?

A sobering reminder that things don’t always work right on big rigs is the “runaway truck ramp” sign on highways with steep grades. This is a common sight in mountain country, where brake failure on steep hills is a frequent reality.

An 80,000-pound runaway truck is a frightening thought and a dangerous thing, but brake failure is an unfortunate condition that truck drivers and their employers must contend with. Brake failure can be due to overheating, loss of hydraulics, or several other mechanical afflictions. Brake failure due to poor maintenance should never happen, however. If a truck’s brakes or trailer brakes are not maintained, the consequences – usually to other drivers on the road – can be catastrophic.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the safety and maintenance requirements for equipment and components on 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles. Individual states may have special regulations as well.

1. Brakes on Semi Trucks

A truck must be equipped with a signal that warns drivers of brake failure. For vehicles built since 1973, the signal must be visual – generally a dashboard warning light. Air brakes, whether on the truck or the trailer, must have a working pressure gauge that is easily detected by the driver.

Based on federal recommendations, the braking system must have automatic adjustment to compensate for wear of brake linings, drums, or discs. Manual inspection of the braking system is required, and paperwork regarding repairs, replacements, or new installations of brakes must be made available.

2. Safety Devices on Semi Trucks

Safety devices includes coupling devices that ensure that trailers don’t separate from the vehicle that’s towing them and stabilizers to reduce lateral movement of the trailers.

3. Big Rig Load Securement

Shifting cargo has caused a number of 18-wheeler accidents. Accidents in which cargo shifts or falls out of the trailer add a complex layer to the insurance settlement.

In most states, if the cause of an accident can be clearly determined as a shifting load, the company responsible for loading the trailer is liable. However, litigating a case contending that the accident was caused by a shifting load is often a daunting task.

There are standards to point to, such as the requirements set forth by the FMCSA regarding weight distribution, weight support, space management, tie downs, center of gravity, dunnage (material that fills spaces between articles of cargo), and weight limits. The load has to remain stable during all movements of the trailer, whether planned or unplanned. This includes panic stops, sudden lane departures, sharp turns, sloping pavement, uneven pavement, high winds. and anything else that acts upon a trailer on the road.

Different types of cargo need different types of securement. A load of logs will need different types of tie downs than a load of potato chips. The FMCSA document that lays out all these regulations is extensive, and any discrepancy can be a major point in determining liability in an 18-wheeler crash.

Negligent Maintenance in Truck Accident Claims

Who Are the Liable Parties in a Truck Accident Case?

A key part of investigating any semi truck accident is identifying the parties responsible. Typically, this goes well beyond the driver at the scene and encompasses the company that hired the driver, as well as other companies involved in the operations of the rig.

At Patrick Daniel Law, we investigate and take action against all parties whose negligence contributed to your injuries in a truck accident, including:

The Trucking Company

Delivering cargo is a business of tight deadlines. Everyone in the organization, from supervisors to executives, may prioritize the bottom line at the expense of their drivers’ – and the public’s – safety.

Negligence on the part of the trucking company may involve:

  • Requiring drivers to work beyond the mandated hours of service limits
  • Coercing drivers to keep inaccurate service and maintenance logs
  • Hiring unqualified or inexperienced drivers who don’t have proper licensure
  • Failing to screen drivers for alcohol and drug use or medical conditions that may compromise their ability to operate rigs safely
  • Not providing drivers with proper training
  • Failing to hold the proper type and amounts of insurance coverage

These actions may not be obvious at the scene of the crash, and the trucking companies will make every effort to cover their tracks. Patrick Daniel Law will perform a comprehensive investigation to unravel the role corporate negligence may have played in the truck accident.

Trucking Maintenance Crews

The question of who services the semi may play a role in your truck accident claim as well. If the tractor and/or trailer is the property of the trucking company, in-house maintenance workers or a contracted third party may be responsible for the upkeep. If the trucker is an independent contractor who owns the rig, however, he or she is required to keep the truck in safe working order by taking it in for tuneups and repairs.

With 18-wheelers traveling thousands of miles each year, routine maintenance and replacement of worn out parts is crucial to the safe operation of any truck. If the truck accident was the result of a tire blowout or other failure related to negligence in maintenance and repairs, you may be entitled to damages from the individual or company that services the rig.

Shipping Companies

Trucks may visit multiple businesses and distribution centers in the course of a haul. As the crews work to load and unload cargo, it is important for them to exercise caution in distributing the weight and securing items so they don’t shift in transit.

Trailers with uneven distribution of weight are at risk of tipping over, potentially onto a vehicle on either side of the rig. Shifting loads may cause the truck to jackknife or cause cargo to fall out into the road.

One of the major factors investigators will assess is the role of unsecured or poorly balanced loads in the truck accident. Our lawyers will review these reports and gather additional evidence to ensure that the party who loaded the truck is held accountable.

Parts Manufacturers

Defective vehicle components can play a major role in truck accidents. The failure of a part on the tractor or trailer (or both) can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, resulting in a wreck.

Product liability lawsuits in general require extensive investigation of the design and manufacturing of the failed part, as well as the actions the company that makes the part takes to warn the public. Sadly, in many cases corporations make every effort to protect their revenues at the expense of public safety.

Like with trucking companies and other parties, many of whom have billions of dollars and teams of lawyers on their side, Patrick Daniel Law aggressively litigates against negligent companies that manufacture and sell defective trucking parts. We partner with teams of experts to analyze what happened, then take action on your behalf.

What Injuries Occur in Truck Accidents?

The potential for catastrophic injuries in a truck accident is very high. After all, commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, creating force in an accident that even a heavy-duty pickup or SUV has no hope of withstanding.

As a result, serious injuries are the rule rather than the exception. Some of the severe injuries we see at Patrick Daniel Law in truck accident cases include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Ruptured discs and other neck and back injuries
  • Loss of a limb
  • Burns
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Internal injuries, including damage to organs and internal bleeding
  • Multiple bone fractures
  • Damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissue

The most tragic outcome in a trucking accident is the death of one or more people. Unfortunately, fatalities happen all too often in collisions with big rigs, with the driver and occupants of passenger vehicles the most likely to be killed.

What Compensation Can I Recover in a Truck Accident Claim?

Serious injuries require extensive treatment. After a truck accident, you may require hospitalization, multiple surgeries, and months of physical therapy. Even with timely intervention and the best medical care, you might experience lifelong physical and cognitive deficits, not to mention the emotional burden of adjusting to your new circumstances. Meanwhile, as the medical bills after a truck accident pile up, many victims are unable to pay because their injuries make it impossible for them to return to work.

If this is the situation you are facing in the wake of a truck accident that wasn’t your fault, Patrick Daniel Law can pursue full compensation on your behalf. You may be eligible for damages such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Diminished future income, if the injuries compromise your ability to make a living
  • Pain and suffering
  • Special damages for home modifications, hired help, and compensation for other costs unique to your situation
  • Impact to relations with your family (broadly known as “loss of consortium”)

Depending on the facts of the truck accident, the jury may also award you punitive damages. This form of compensation is reserved for situations of extreme recklessness, willful disregard for safety, malice, and fraud. Punitive damages are not commonly awarded, but when they are it sends a message to the defendant that their conduct is unacceptable.

If you lost a loved one in a truck accident, Patrick Daniel Law can pursue damages through a wrongful death lawsuit on your family’s behalf. Spouses, children, and parents of the deceased are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas for compensation of economic losses, including lost wages and the expenses of burial, cremation, and funeral services, as well as non-economic damages tied to the emotional toll of the loss.

How Do I Prove My Truck Accident Case?

If possible, taking the following steps at the scene of the semi truck accident can immediately benefit your claim:

  • Taking photos of the accident scene, the damage to the vehicles involved, and your injuries
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Collecting the truck driver’s information (and the information for any other drivers involved)
  • Providing a statement to the police

Unfortunately, the reality is that many truck accident victims need to be taken to the hospital immediately due to the serious injuries they suffer. If this is the case for you or your loved one, it is in your best interest to contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.

Our lawyers will photograph the scene, identify potential witnesses, and collect information on the truck driver, the trucking company, and other parties on your behalf. Our investigation will also include:

  • Expert examination of the vehicles
  • Meticulous review of the trucker’s log books and other documentation
  • Obtaining and reviewing all local, state, and federal accident reports
  • Obtaining electronic evidence, such as cell phone records, GPS coordinates, data from the semi truck’s “black box” (see below)
  • Hiring expert witnesses to review the evidence and provide professional opinions

The “Little Black Box” on Semi Trucks

Officially known as the digital event recorder or electronic logging device (ELD), the “little black box” can be found in commercial aircraft, trains, cruise ships, passenger cars, and semi trucks. Each ELD is customized for the type of vehicle in which it is installed to record data from various sensors.

The ELD can be a critical tool in analyzing the cause of a truck crash, and its data often becomes evidence in court cases. It records such information as:

  • Driving speed
  • GPS data
  • Position of the steering wheel
  • When brakes were applied and the suddenness with which they were applied
  • Seat belt usage

If you’re injured in an accident with an 18-wheeler, don’t expect the trucking company or its insurance representative to voluntarily share the data from the truck’s black box; you shouldn’t even expect them to even preserve it.

This is one of the reasons why hiring an attorney immediately after an accident is advisable. Your lawyer can obtain a court order to preserve the black box data and arrange for a joint viewing with the other party’s attorney.

Truck Dash Cams: Truck Driver’s Friend or Foe?

A quick glance at YouTube or any video-sharing website will demonstrate the prominence of dash cams on roads worldwide. Many trucking companies and independent drivers employ dash cams to protect themselves against false claims, and some firms use dash cams that face the driver to show his/her reaction to traffic situations.

Dash cams can record action ahead of the truck, behind it, or even to the side. Sometimes they show that the truck driver was at fault. Sometimes they show that the car driver was at fault. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Trucking companies love the dash cam – when it works in their favor, of course. When the footage shows negligence on the part of the truck driver, however, the company will almost certainly try to suppress it.

As with black box data, hiring an attorney early in the process increases the chances that the dash cam footage can be made available for review.

How Long Does It Take to Settle a Truck Accident Claim?

The answer to the often-asked question “How long does it take to settle a car accident with a truck?” is elusive. It can range from a few weeks to well over a year to settle, depending on several factors – most of which are out of the hands of the plaintiff. A truck accident case is not a time for impatience.

It’s in the best interests of the insurance company, whether it’s yours or the trucking firm’s, to settle quickly, before long-term health issues become apparent. Conditions that develop after a truck accident lawsuit is settled generally become the financial responsibility of the plaintiff. While there are situations that would merit a reopening of the case, most of the time the sign-off on the settlement is the last word.

A common tactic of aggressive insurance adjusters is to put an expiration date on the settlement offer, insinuating that if you don’t agree to the terms by that date you won’t get a settlement at all. They can’t do that, and they know it, but if it intimidates the injured party into signing off on a settlement offer, it’s a win for the insurance company.

All U.S. states have a deadline by which to file a lawsuit regarding a trucking accident, but they’re typically very generous and allow plenty of time for the plaintiffs to recover from their injuries, collect medical bills, gather data regarding the accident, determine their options for returning to work, and review the case with their attorney.

Delays in the case can be the result of medical complications, government-based accident investigations (often the cause of long delays), witness depositions, and research into the trucking company’s adherence to safety regulations, vehicle maintenance, and driver policy.

houston trucking accident attorney

How Our Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help

At Patrick Daniel Law, our goal is to hold negligent parties accountable for the harm they cause our clients. In 18-wheeler accident cases, this often means taking on multi-billion dollar trucking companies and their insurance companies.

We know the tactics employed by these corporations to underpay and deny legitimate accident claims. When you hire Patrick Daniel Law, our lawyers will ensure that these companies know they can’t take advantage of you.

Our team includes attorneys, business strategists, and other experts who take a multidisciplinary approach to building your case. We calculate every cent you are owed for the injuries you have suffered, and we aggressively pursue the just compensation you deserve.

Many firms are quick to settle when faced with the legions of lawyers and deep pockets of the companies involved in trucking accident claims. Patrick Daniel Law is not like that.

We are passionate about pursuing results that other law firms can only imagine because we take the time to get to know each of our clients personally. We feel the struggles you and your family are facing, and this motivates us to do the best job possible for you.

Contact Our Truck Accident Lawyers in Houston Today

After a commercial vehicle accident, time is of the essence. The trucking company and its insurer are already circling the wagons in anticipation of an injury claim, which is why it is so important to hire a lawyer who can mount an investigation of how you have been impacted by the truck accident.

The attorneys at Patrick Daniel Law will secure all relevant evidence and calculate the total amount of compensation to which you may be entitled. Then, our team will go on the offensive against all liable parties. Whether we are able to achieve a favorable settlement or have to go to court, we are with you every step of the way.

Get started with a free review of your truck accident case. Call Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 or contact us online today. Our law firm serves clients in trucking accidents throughout the Greater Houston area, all of Texas, and throughout the United States.

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