Texas has an extremely high rate of fatalities in large truck accidents. Even though the rate of deadly truck accidents in the United States keeps increasing, Texas has ranked first in truck accident fatalities since 2017. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recorded 4,134 fatal truck collisions in the United States in 2020. The Texas Department of Transportation also reported 581 deaths in 513 fatal commercial truck accidents in 2020.
Many trucks travel Texas roadways. The continuous growth of the US economy has generated demand for these enormous trucks. According to the Federal Highway Administration's 2015 vehicle registration data, Texas has about 12 million registered trucks. As a result, Texas motorists share the highways with large tractor-trailers. While these massive vehicles contribute significantly to the federal and state economy, their enormity poses a significant risk to all road users.
Truck accident victims often sustain catastrophic injuries or lose loved ones. Affected parties may be eligible for compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, psychological trauma, and other related expenses. They may file truck accident claims to receive compensation. These lawsuits are generally challenging because they include significant injuries, several liable parties, and large sums. As a result, claimants are advised to hire qualified personal injury attorneys to improve their chances of winning their claims. By hiring a personal injury attorney, victims and their families may concentrate on medical care and rehabilitation for those injured and funeral arrangements for those who died in truck crashes.
Every year, Texas' roadways get more dangerous. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of fatal truck accidents increased by around 19% and has continued to rise. Additionally, the number of fatalities on Texas highways in 2020 was estimated to be the highest since 1984.
Truck accidents are as diverse as car accidents, but some specific types of truck accidents occur more often than others. Some of the most common truck accidents include:
A jackknife accident occurs when a truck and its trailer (the part of the vehicle that carries the cargo) slip to the side and form a V or L shape. It often occurs when a truck driver loses control of the vehicle, forcing the trailer to swing out and establish a 90-degree angle with the rest of the truck. These crashes can happen when a truck driver tries to stop the vehicle abruptly or loses control on a slick or icy road. Truck driver errors caused by reckless driving, tiredness, driver drunkenness, and failing to exercise caution when approaching a curve can also result in jackknife accidents.
A rear-end accident happens when a vehicle collides with the one in front of it. Most rear-end incidents involving smaller vehicles result in minor injuries, such as whiplash or wrist injuries. On the other hand, rear-end crashes involving trucks are more severe. Because of the impact of a truck crashing into a car, these crashes commonly end in severe injury or death.
Underride collisions often happen when a smaller vehicle collides with the back or side of a truck, trapping the smaller vehicle beneath the trailer. Underride accident victims typically die, and those that survive may have life-changing injuries like paralysis or limb amputation.
Truck drivers who exceed the speed limit risk causing a runaway trailer collision. In these crashes, the trailer's speed significantly outpaces the truck's speed. When this happens, the truck driver may lose control of the truck, putting everyone else on the road in danger. For instance, suppose a truck brake fails and results in a high-speed accident. In that case, the trailer may get disconnected from the cab, which can have disastrous consequences.
Improperly loaded or unsecured cargo can tumble out of a truck, causing catastrophic accidents and placing other vehicles at risk. The severity of such events is dependent on the kind of cargo and its characteristics. To reduce cargo accidents involving dangerous loads, the federal government maintains that goods must be safely secured on or within a vehicle utilizing sturdy structures such as dunnage, tie-downs, and shoring bars.
The most significant and immediately obvious distinction between a truck accident and other vehicle accidents is that the impact may be significantly more severe due to the trucks' size and weight. Trucks are massive vehicles with lengths of more than 70 feet and heights of more than 13 feet. They may also weigh up to 80,000 pounds. In contrast, most passenger vehicles weigh less than 4,000 pounds. Because of their size, trucks must travel greater distances in traffic to accelerate, halt, and navigate. Furthermore, their outward visibility is far lower than that of passenger cars.
Due to the weight disparity, a truck will crash with a passenger car with greater force than most passenger vehicles can withstand, resulting in catastrophic injuries. Truck accidents also cause significant property damage. Even at low speeds, a collision between an 80,000-pound truck and a passenger car can cause devastating damage to the vehicle's structure, safety systems, and occupants.
The question of liability is another crucial distinction between truck accidents and other forms of traffic incidents. Because truck drivers are not solely responsible for the truck and its contents, determining liability in a truck accident is more complicated than determining fault in a car accident. Depending on the circumstances, liability is usually split among several parties. The following persons may be held accountable in the case of a truck accident:
Liability in truck accidents may transfer depending on the circumstances of the crash. For instance, if a truck accident happens due to the vehicle's brakes failing to function correctly, the company that does vehicle maintenance may be held accountable. Suppose the crash occurs due to a design fault. In that case, a manufacturer may be liable. Overall, determining who is at fault in a truck accident is more elaborate and complicated than other traffic accidents.
Texas truck drivers operating vehicles involved in accidents are usually significant contributors to the crashes. Hence, passenger vehicle drivers and commercial truck drivers are the common causes of truck accidents. Because state and federal regulations mandate specific training before licensing, commercial truck drivers are often skilled and patient drivers. Yet, they remain significant contributors to truck accidents across the country. General driver characteristics that can contribute to truck accidents include:
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) provides a safety section with tips and resources for commercial truck drivers and other motorists to avoid truck accidents. Still, it is important to note that determining the exact cause of a truck accident may be complicated. Other than the drivers, poor road and weather conditions and mechanical failures also remain significant contributors to truck accidents in Texas.
Yes, trucks in Texas flip over easily. Under specific conditions, every vehicle is capable of flipping over. However, larger, narrower vehicles like trucks have a higher center of gravity than smaller vehicles, making them more prone to tipping over. According to
Trucks are likely to flip over because of their higher center of gravity. The position of an entity's center of gravity influences its stability. The lower the entity's center of gravity, the more stable it is. Also, as height increases, the risk of an object tumbling over when pushed increases. As a result, smaller cars have a lower center of gravity than bigger vehicles. This increases their stability and minimizes their probability of flipping over when compared to trucks.
Flip-over accidents are sometimes referred to as rollover accidents. Rollover crashes involving trucks may be divided into "tripped" and "untripped." Tripped truck accidents are those that occur due to external forces. Usually, these rollovers happen when the vehicle collides with an obstacle that causes it to roll. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tripping contributes to 95 percent of single-vehicle rollover incidents.
In an untripped rollover, the interplay of the vehicle's own movements with the forces of gravity causes the vehicle to tip over. An untripped rollover accident happens when a big commercial truck with an uneven cargo load drives into a curve too quickly, causing it to topple. When a truck moves along a curved path, it leans away from the direction of the curve. This has a significant impact on the vehicle's balance and might result in a loss of control. If the truckload is not correctly balanced, or if the truck is traveling at an excessive speed, the vehicle becomes even more vulnerable to rollovers and accidents.
When there is a mechanical problem, the risk of a truck being involved in an accident increases. Many trucks involved in accidents have at least one mechanical error, while some of them have issues that should have precluded them from being used in the first place.
Examples of typical mechanical problems in commercial trucks include:
The brake systems in vehicles are used to slow and stop the vehicle. Trucks' braking systems are the most vulnerable to catastrophic failure. Poorly designed, manufactured, or maintained truck braking systems fail frequently and cause truck accidents. Consequently, the federal government enacted legislation to oversee braking systems and testing. Many trucks involved in accidents caused by failed braking systems often do not have federally mandated brake equipment. As such, their braking systems could not generate adequate braking force or decelerate at the required rate.
A truck tire blowout occurs when a tire abruptly ruptures, common at high speeds. A blowout can force a truck driver to lose control of the vehicle, resulting in severe and fatal casualties. Tire blowouts can occur due to several circumstances, including inattention to tire quality and pressure, incorrectly installed tires, and overloaded trucks.
Heavy trucks have many tires. Hence, if one tire fails, the other tires will keep the vehicle moving until the problem is fixed. However, Texas truck drivers and trucking companies routinely fail to ensure that their tires satisfy federal safety standards and are properly maintained. Truck accidents may also occur when there is a flaw in the tire's design.
Steering systems enable the driver to keep control of the truck. Hence, when a truck’s steering and suspension systems fail, the driver's control of the truck is compromised, leading to a catastrophic accident. Steering systems can fail due to design and manufacturing defects and a failure to maintain the vehicle properly.
Like most other parts of the truck, steerings require regular maintenance to guarantee optimum operation. If the steering fails, the vehicle cannot be moved or managed effectively, putting it at risk of an accident. It is worth noting that, unlike certain technical difficulties, steering failures may present as looseness and vibrations in the steering wheel before complete failure. The driver can avoid costly and risky outcomes by detecting and correcting such issues beforehand. When steering fails due to a lack of maintenance, design defects, or manufacturing errors, the truck driver and the trucking company may be liable for the resulting damages. However, if the driver recently had the truck repaired, the auto repair specialists may also be liable for the damages.
Trucks regularly travel at night, necessitating rigorous adherence to all applicable rules and regulations controlling lighting, reflectors, and reflective tape. When trucks are equipped with reflectors and reflective tape, they are more visible to other vehicles on the road, especially at night. Depending on the location, the color of the truck, and the light available in the surrounding area, a truck and its trailer might be difficult to see in the dark-failure to ensure that all lights and reflectors are completely operational increases the probability of a truck accident.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) requires reflective tape on all commercial vehicles to help minimize accidents and increase driver safety. Any truck that weighs more than 4,536 kg must have the tape installed along the bottom and sides. Truck maintenance professionals must also examine the lighting systems and reflectors. Failing to perform routine maintenance and allowing a truck's lighting system to deteriorate may result in the trucking company being held responsible for any resulting injuries or damages.
Truck drivers are deemed negligent when they fail to exercise the necessary amount of care for the safety of other vehicle occupants. Texas truck drivers have a higher responsibility of care for others' safety than drivers of automobiles and other smaller vehicles. They have extensive training and Commercial Driver's Licenses (CDL). They must follow the same road rules and traffic laws as regular drivers, but they must also yield to smaller vehicles to avoid potentially fatal truck accidents.
Financial incentives and time constraints are the most prominent causes of truck driver negligence. Texas truck drivers are paid by the mile, which creates a financial motivation to violate speed limits and other traffic regulations. Furthermore, drivers may refuse to take the essential breaks and rest required to operate their vehicles safely due to time constraints. Other typical causes of a truck driver's negligence are:
Because of the extensive use of mobile devices, the number of distracted persons while driving has increased in recent years. Truck drivers are just as prone as other drivers to engage in this conduct, but the repercussions are significantly more severe due to the sheer size of these large vehicles. Distractions are activities that take a driver's attention away from the road. Some of the most common kinds of distractions while driving include using a cell phone, eating, and drinking. If a truck driver does any of these things, they could be held responsible for an accident.
Driving while intoxicated is unsafe conduct that poses risks to motorists and other road users. However, the risks are significantly higher when the intoxicated driver is behind the wheel of a truck. Yet, drug and alcohol use is frequent among truck drivers.
The most commonly abused substances among Texas truck drivers include amphetamines and other stimulants. While these drugs provide a momentary boost in energy, the impairment that the truck driver experiences, as a result, surpasses the benefits. Truck drivers must be held accountable for their drug and alcohol use on the job. Still, a trucking company may be considered negligent if it fails to do regular drug testing on its drivers. Furthermore, the company may be liable if it continues to employ truck drivers who have been sanctioned for driving while intoxicated.
Long road trips may be physically and mentally exhausting for many truck drivers. Furthermore, trucking companies regularly impose unrealistic deadlines on their drivers, escalating the problem. Texas truck drivers are often required to stay on the road for prolonged periods after being tired and no longer completely awake. They are unable to operate the commercial vehicle properly and, as a result, cause significant accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created hours of service restrictions that limit the amount of time a truck driver is authorized to spend behind the wheel. These restrictions were created to address the hazards of truck driver fatigue. Although all truck drivers are supposed to follow these guidelines, they are regularly disregarded to meet trucking companies' rigorous delivery deadlines.
According to the FMCSA, driver-related factors account for a significant portion of heavy truck accidents in Texas and across the US. Still, a trucking company's negligence may contribute to the cause of an accident. Examples of such negligent actions include:
Commercial trucks have blind spots, also known as ‘no-truck zones.’ Blind spots are areas around a vehicle that are not visible to the driver, even with the side mirrors. Blind spots are significant contributors to truck accidents because drivers may be unaware of automobiles around them when changing lanes or turning.
Owing to their size and length, trucks have much larger blind spots than smaller vehicles in these zones:
Overall, if the oncoming driver cannot see the truck's side mirrors or the driver’s reflection in the mirrors, they are in the blind spot. Truck drivers in Texas must also examine blind spots carefully while changing lanes. They must take reasonable precautions to ensure no vehicle or obstacle is in their blind spot. However, certain conditions may make it difficult for the truck driver to detect another vehicle car. As a result, drivers in smaller vehicles must also avoid driving in a truck's blind zones.
For instance, when cutting in front of a truck, motorists must ensure enough space between their car and the truck so that the truck driver can see their vehicle. It is vital to note that commercial vehicles have limited maneuverability and require a lot of space to stop and turn. Motorists in smaller vehicles must provide enough distance between their vehicles and trucks for the vehicle to slow down if required.
Commercial truck drivers are not always responsible for truck accidents. According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS), 56% of passenger vehicles and 44% of trucks were at fault in accidents involving trucks and passenger vehicles.
Furthermore, the study found that truck drivers are more likely to cause accidents owing to inattentive driving or mechanical failures. On the other hand, passenger vehicle drivers are more likely to cause accidents due to bad road conditions or driving errors.
Passengers in automobiles are the most vulnerable in a truck accident. In Texas truck accidents, most substantial bodily injuries and fatalities are sustained by passenger car occupants. Truck drivers have a far lower risk of being injured than other drivers. Trucks may weigh up to 20-30 times more than passenger cars and have higher ground clearance, which can cause smaller vehicles to be underridden by trucks or crushed under the truck's weight. Ground clearance is the shortest distance between the bottom end of the vehicle body and the road.
Among the various forms of personal injuries reported in truck accidents are:
Traumatic brain injury (TBI): TBI constitutes any harm to the brain induced by an external force (such as a truck collision). The injury is a disturbance to the brain that can result in permanent or temporary cognitive, physical, and psychosocial impairment. It can also lead to a reduced or altered state of consciousness. TBI patients may experience various short and long-term repercussions that impede their ability to conduct daily tasks. Long-term issues may also eventually lead to death.
Spinal cord injuries: The spinal cord is a network of nerves that connects the brainstem to the rest of the body. It extends from the base of the skull to the rear of the hips. Spinal cord damage in a truck collision can cause paralysis that spreads from the location of the injury to the rest of the body. Paralysis happens when there is a loss of motor control or sensation in certain body parts. While paralysis injuries are mostly permanent, depending on the severity of the damage, a paralyzed accident victim may be able to regain some mobility or movement through intense therapy.
Burn injuries: This type of injury often occurs because commercial trucks and private cars carry combustible gasoline. In a truck accident, the gasoline might ignite and catch fire, causing the vehicles to burn. The burns or injuries sustained by victims in such situations might cover a substantial percentage of their bodies. This might necessitate medical therapy for the remainder of one's life. Burn injuries are frequently linked with scarring and deformity, necessitating a series of reconstructive surgery. Furthermore, nerve damage is typical after a severe burn, necessitating the usage of pain medicines for the remainder of one's life.
Internal organ damage: Sharp or penetrating trauma from a truck accident can cause harm to sensitive internal organs such as the heart, kidneys, and liver. Internal injuries frequently necessitate surgery. It is vital to highlight that internal organ injury may not be noticeable immediately. Internal injuries are not often detectable immediately, and postponing treatment may result in serious medical complications or death.
Bone fractures: The impact of a truck accident can fracture almost all of the bones in the body. Some of the bones that are typically injured in automobile accidents are the legs, feet, ankles, arms, and hands, and the collarbone, pelvis, sternum, neck, spine, ribs, and skull. While a simple broken arm or leg may require several weeks in a cast, complicated and severe fractures may require surgery and extended hospitalizations, and permanent disability or deformity.
Limb loss and amputation: In a truck crash, body parts such as arms, legs, fingers, toes, feet, and hands may be severed or crushed beyond repair, needing surgical amputation to remove the body part. Despite advances in prostheses, amputation leads to lifelong and irreversible disability.
Wrongful death: Unfortunately, many truck accidents end in fatalities. Wrongful death is commonly defined as any death caused by the trucker's or the trucking company's carelessness or negligent behavior. Depending on the facts, the surviving family may be able to sue the negligent truck driver and their employer. This type of truck accident claim is known as a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you are looking for "the best truck accident attorney near me", it may be difficult to know which attorney is best suited to handle your case. It is advisable to hire an accident attorney who has an in-depth understanding of Texas truck laws, coupled with years of experience in truck accident litigation and settlement. To find the best truck accident lawyers in Texas, you may use the state bar association directory which provides the contact information and license status of qualified attorneys in Texas. You may also use the lawyer referral services of local bar associations within your county.