A collision between a large truck and a regular motor vehicle can result in devastating loss and damages, including lingering economic, physical, and emotional consequences for both the victims and their families. In the aftermath of a truck accident, people often have numerous but similar questions, such as, what caused the accident? Who is liable? Can I get compensation? And so on. Here you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions on truck accidents in Texas and related issues.
According to statistics provided by the Texas Department of Transportation, 134 Texas truck accidents were caused by faulty headlamps in urban areas in 2020. Similarly, faulty stop lamps led to 53 crashes, defective or no trailer brakes caused 57 crashes, and defective steering mechanisms caused 785 crashes within the same period.
This depends on the circumstance of the case. In truck accidents, there is usually more than one liable party. Where there are multiple parties liable for an accident, each of the parties is liable to the victim based on how much they contributed to the crash. Several parties that can be responsible for a truck accident include:
Texas statute of limitations for truck accident cases is two years. This means that such cases should be brought before a court within this period, otherwise the court may no longer hear the case. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule. Notably, if the victim is a minor, the statute of limitation is extended until the person legally becomes an adult. Such persons have two years from the date they become adults to institute their claim.
A no-truck zone refers to the part of a road or highway where trucks are not allowed. It is a road restriction that exclusively affects trucks. In some cases, a no-truck zone may prohibit any kind of truck from passing through certain roadways. In other cases, it may affect specific kinds of trucks. For example, county governing bodies in Texas have the authority to prohibit trucks with a gross weight of above 60,000 pounds from passing certain roadways within the counties. There are several reasons for this road restriction, and they include the structural strength of the restricted roadways, concerns from residents, and traffic considerations. However, when a roadway is designated a no-truck zone, there is usually an alternative route to ensure truck drivers reach their destinations. In such situations, if unsure of the alternative route, a trucker can ask locals for directions or contact the city police.
Generally, any vehicle used or designed for the transportation of property in Texas is a truck, per §541.201 of the Texas Transportation Code. However, trucks are further classified as light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty trucks, depending on the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Furthermore, most heavy-duty or large trucks are classified as commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) if they satisfy certain requirements. These requirements include:
Due to the large nature of trucks and CMVs, these vehicles are more prone to accidents than the average car. Besides the brake lag time, Texas truck drivers can easily lose control of the vehicle, leading to several kinds of accidents. Some of the accidents peculiar to trucks and CMVs include:
Other types of truck accidents include head-on collisions, wide turn accidents, and T-bone accidents.
Finding a truck driver's information after an accident depends on whether the driver sticks around after the accident or flees the scene of the crash. If the truck driver sticks around, other victims of the accident can exchange essential information with the driver. Essential information to request include the truck driver’s name, license number, insurance provider, insurance policy number, and the truck’s plate number. These are usually helpful with filing an insurance claim as well as for tracking the truck driver for settlement discussions or service of lawsuit processes.
However, if the truck driver flees the crash scene, the first thing to do is to contact the police. In Texas, it is mandatory to report to the police if a party to a traffic accident flees the scene. In any case, one way to find information about a fleeing truck driver is to, if possible, note down the plate number of the truck. With the truck’s plate number, it is easy to search through the Texas Department of Transportation database and find the owner of the truck. In such circumstances, the owner of the truck was either the person driving the truck or should know the driver at the time of the accident. In getting the truck’s number plate or other important information regarding the fleeing truck driver, eyewitness accounts and descriptions, as well as private and street cameras, may be helpful, especially when the fleeing driver speeds away with the truck.
A truck driver is said to be negligent when they engage in distracting activities while driving, fail to follow driving regulations, or drive recklessly. Examples of distracting activities include fiddling with the radio or changing the truck’s climate conditions, texting or making phone calls, and eating while driving. Likewise, examples of failure to follow driving regulations include driving above speed limits, driving while drunk, not adhering to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours of service requirements, and failure to maintain or inspect the truck before driving. Negligent actions on the part of truck drivers are not uncommon, as they account for almost 30% of truck accidents annually.
Usually, after a truck wreck, the police or first responders make sure the victims of the truck accident are given emergency treatment if necessary. However, after any emergency treatments, it is still crucial to schedule appointments with a medical professional for checkups. This is to ensure the discovery of any delayed effect of the crash. In some cases, effects from a truck accident do not surface until days or weeks after this crash, and they do cause severe pain. The bills for such checkups may be covered by insurance, included in settlement claims, or requested during a personal injury lawsuit.
However, victims of a truck crash who do not have the financial means to pay for medical treatment before initiating an insurance or settlement claim can rely on government-funded medical assistance or private arrangements with their health provider. An example of government-funded medical assistance is Texas Medicaid, which renders financial assistance to low-income earners who need to pay medical bills. The Medicaid program may fully or partly pay off a truck wreck victim’s medical bills, depending on their eligibility, their medical condition, and the fees. Regarding private arrangements, such victims with low financial means may agree with their health provider that the medical bills will be paid from insurance or settlement claim payouts. This agreement is usually reduced in writing and involves the health provider being the first to receive payment after a payout. Nevertheless, before making such a private arrangement, it is advisable to first contact a personal injury attorney for assistance, if possible. In most cases, the health provider will first confirm if the truck accident victim has a credible case for initiating an insurance or settlement claim before agreeing to such an arrangement. This confirmation is sometimes done by contacting the victim’s attorney, indicating the need for one.
After a truck accident, the best person to talk to about the accident is a personal injury attorney. Talking to the trucking company, the insurance company of the trucker, or that of the trucking company may be detrimental, as both the trucking and insurance companies will try to avoid or reduce their liability. They can do this by offering low settlement offers or asking targeted questions to induce responses that seem to downplay the severity of the truck accident. Any discussion with the trucking company or their insurance company can be used to their favor during settlement claims or compensation lawsuits, especially when information from the discussion was voluntarily given. Essentially, it is best to avoid communicating with a trucking company or their insurance company without first engaging the services of a truck accident lawyer for assistance. Truck accident attorneys have their clients’ interests in mind and will work to ensure their clients are given deserving compensation. Also, they can better negotiate with trucking companies and their insurance companies, as they have the necessary experience with handling settlements and know how to avoid liability-mitigating tricks by these companies.
In sum, simply contact the trucking company or their insurance company and report the accident so they are aware. However, try to avoid any further discussion.
The worth of a Texas trucking accident typically depends on several factors, especially the possible damages or claims resulting from the accident. To get an idea of the worth of a trucking accident case, it is ideal to calculate:
This calculation will depend on the circumstances of each case and the effect of the accident on each victim. While the above-listed factors mostly occur in trucking accidents, there may be situations whereby there are more or lesser factors to consider. Essentially, in finding the worth of a trucking accident, it is essential to consult a qualified personal injury lawyer. Such qualified attorneys typically have a calculation formula to assist their clients in reaching a more accurate and reasonable figure and can further use this with settlement discussions with the relevant party.
The damages recoverable as a victim of a trucking accident are mainly categorized into economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic damages are damages that are ascertainable or can be calculated. These include compensation for:
Non-economic damages are compensation for losses that cannot be easily ascertained monetarily. These include compensation for:
Punitive damages are monetary punishments ordered against the at-fault party by the court. They are to serve as a deterrent, and the ordered cost is determined primarily by the court. Punitive damages are usually ordered against at-fault parties who were grossly negligent or caused an entirely avoidable crash. They are also usually ordered against at-fault parties who failed to comply with regulatory requirements, especially where this non-compliance was a significant contributor to the truck accident.
When contacted by the trucking company after experiencing a truck accident, ensure to avoid any discussions about the accident. Rather, engage the services of a qualified truck accident attorney and refer the company to the attorney in such situations. Alternatively, request the details of the caller and forward them to the attorney.
Most importantly, do not:
After a Texas trucking accident whereby the trucker is at fault, the trucking company or the trucker’s insurance company typically attempts to contact the victims of the crash. When this happens, it is best not to have any discussion with the insurance company. Insurance companies typically attempt to also bring down their liabilities and may offer a low settlement or induce the victims of the crash to make liability-mitigating statements. Therefore, unless with the guidance of a qualified personal injury lawyer, it is best to avoid any discussion regarding the truck accident or future claims with the insurance company. Rather, an accident victim can engage an attorney, request the contact details of the insurance company’s representative, and forward these details to the attorney.
Before accepting any settlement for a trucking accident, it is crucial to first discuss it with a competent personal injury attorney. Attorneys have the experience and expertise to help ascertain the necessary factors to consider before accepting a settlement and can help determine a reasonable offer, depending on the situation. For example, a settlement should be able to reasonably cover the medical expenses for necessary treatments, property repair costs, and other apparent economic and non-economic damages. It is the case that medical issues resulting from trucking accidents sometimes take a long time before they surface. This is also the case for some non-economic losses. For example, it may take a few weeks for victims of a truck accident to realize how it has negatively affected their mental health or ability to perform certain tasks they could previously perform. Additionally, accepting a settlement offer forecloses a victim’s right to request more compensation if the settlement turns out too low to cover necessary costs. Considering the consequences of such a decision, it is best that victims of a truck accident receive advice and guidance from a competent truck accident attorney before accepting a settlement.
Generally, victims of a truck accident can receive compensation for any expenses incurred due to the accident. This includes compensation for all medical expenses, from checkups to prescription fees and surgeries; lost wages; property repairs and fixes, from vehicle tow expenses to overall repairs; and pain and suffering. Essentially, a victim can request compensation for any expenses directly related to the trucking accident. The range of compensation will depend on the circumstances of each case and the severity of the accident. For a clearer range, it is best for victims of a truck accident to engage the services of a truck accident attorney.
Texas is considered an at-fault state, indicating that at-fault parties in a vehicle accident have the financial burden of handling the situation. Therefore, victims of a truck accident can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party and request compensation in the form of damages. Damages may be economic, non-economic, punitive, or a mix of all three. However, considering how long accident lawsuits may take, victims usually attempt to settle with the at-fault party. Truck accident lawsuits typically occur when the at-fault party refuses to offer adequate compensation, denies liability, or outrightly refuses to consider an out-of-court settlement.
There are situations whereby a Texas truck accident may result in the death of another road user. In such situations, the partner, parent, or children of the deceased can sue the at-fault trucker for compensation under a wrongful death claim. Here, concerned persons may enlist the services of a qualified wrongful death attorney who would assist in filing a claim and recovering compensation on behalf of the family of the deceased.
There is no certain benchmark to determine how hard or easy it is to win a Texas truck accident case. Each case is typically decided on its merits. Essentially, the probability of success for each case depends on the evidence available and the degree of fault proved against the at-fault party. Once there is sufficient evidence and the accident can be linked to the actions or omissions of the at-fault party, the victims of the crash can easily win the case.
A Texas truck accident lawyer can help victims of a truck accident in many different ways, particularly with securing adequate compensation. First, they can help identify the at-fault party in a crash, especially if it involves multiple drivers or multiple vehicles. They can also help ascertain who bears liability for the crash. In some cases, the truck driver is not only liable, but the trucking company or truck manufacturer may share some liability. Furthermore, truck accident lawyers help in gathering evidence. Without sufficient evidence, trucking companies or their insurance companies are emboldened to offer a low settlement, as an accident lawsuit will likely fail. On the other hand, with sufficient evidence, an accident lawyer can further pin liability on the liable parties and increase the range of compensation their client can request. Most importantly, truck accident lawyers help with negotiations. Trucking accident settlement negotiations can become complex, especially when all the factors necessary for reaching a reasonable compensation are considered. Without a lawyer, trucking companies or their insurance companies can easily slip in liability-mitigating terms in terms of settlement or even use complex negotiation techniques to short-change victims of the accident. With a truck accident lawyer, this becomes less likely.
In Texas, there is a two-year statute of limitation within which victims of a truck accident can sue for compensation. This timeframe is provided under Texas law and a victim who fails to commence a suit within the timeframe foregoes the right to do so. The statute of limitation starts running from the date of the accident. Therefore, if a victim fails to file an action for compensation within two years of the accident, they are barred from bringing the action before the court subsequently.
In some cases, personal injury lawyers and law firms do not request their attorney fees upfront. Rather, they agree to take a percentage of any settlement their client may receive. This is referred to as the contingency fee arrangement. Therefore, victims of truck accidents who do not have the financial means to engage a lawyer can still afford one. If a personal injury lawyer requests attorney fees upfront, the truck accident victim can either make an arrangement to pay the fees from any received compensation or find another competent lawyer who is open to such an arrangement.
However, note that some personal injury lawyers charge a consultation fee before deciding to take up the case. This fee may be charged upfront.
A contingency fee is a payment arrangement whereby an attorney receives payment for their services from the monetary compensation their client receives after winning a case. Essentially, a truck accident attorney only receives payment when they win the case and after compensation is paid to their client. Usually, a contingency fee results in the attorney taking a percentage of the compensation.
Finding out what happened in a Texas truck accident typically has to do with evidence gathering. To prove liability against the at-fault party, it is necessary for victims of a truck accident, and their attorneys, to gather enough evidence indicating the cause of the accident is due to the at-fault party’s actions or omissions. One way to find out what happened in an accident is for the victim of the accident to gather enough information. This includes taking pictures of the accident scene, making available dashcam videos where available, and getting the names and contact details of eyewitnesses.
Besides getting information that can reconstruct the accident scene, it is also important to get background information that can prove the negligent or reckless actions of the truck driver. This background information is particularly important where the truck driver is not the only liable party, such as in situations whereby the trucking company failed to conduct inspections or necessary maintenance. Examples of this background information include the truck driver’s logbook, the truck company trucking records, driver test records, and the contents of the affected truck. The relevant parties may release this information upon request or the victim’s attorney may request the information by subpoena, especially where the relevant parties are not forthcoming.
The CSA program is a preventive measure used by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to reduce Truck accidents and ensure that motor carriers are operated in the safest ways possible. The program involves a series of assessments based on specific indicators, which aim at identifying high-risk commercial motor carriers. High-risk motor carriers refer to vehicles that pose an imminent risk to public safety. Per each motor carrier assessed, the results from these assessments are converted into points that range on a scale of 0 to 100. A higher score signifies a poorer performance by a motor carrier.
To calculate a truck’s CSA points, the FMCSA considers specific indicators, which are the aggregate of seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) of the carrier within the past two years. The BASICs include:
Having a good CSA score has several benefits for a truck business, including a higher likelihood of receiving lower annual insurance premiums and fewer Department of Transportation (DOT) audits and road inspections. The business will also generally have a better safety reputation among customers.
A bad CSA score indicates that the truck features high points for each BASIC category, as such poses a high risk to public safety. Having certain scores or higher for a BASIC category can lead to an intervention by the Department of Transportation (DOT) officials. These scores are known as the BASIC’s intervention threshold.
The intervention threshold for a BASIC category depends on the type of truck. The types of trucks usually assessed are:
General vehicles include vehicles typically used for tasks other than transporting hazardous materials and passengers. The intervention score for unsafe driving, crash indicator, and hour of service compliance is 65% for general vehicles, 60% for trucks carrying hazardous materials, and 50% for passenger carriers vehicles. Meanwhile, the intervention threshold for vehicle maintenance, controlled substances/alcohol, and driver fitness is 80% for general vehicles, 75% for vehicles carrying hazardous materials, and 65% for passenger carriers. The threshold for hazardous material compliance is 80% for all types of vehicles.
To arrive at a BASIC score, the FMCSA calculation considers the number of relevant violations, the severity of the violations, and when the violation was discovered. The more recent and severe a violation is, the higher the score attached to it. Also, note that violating a BASIC up to 30 times will lead to an intervention, whether or not the points allocated for the violation reach the intervention threshold.
A bad CSA generally puts a carrier at risk of frequent DOT intervention, and these investigations are usually time-intensive and stressful. Likewise, in extreme cases, the carrier can lose its license to operate. In addition to FMCSA-related issues, high CSA scores can also result in a bad business reputation and high insurance coverage. Some tips that can help improve a carrier's CSA scores include: making sure the drivers’ logs are accurate, hiring qualified truck drivers, and keeping up with regulatory changes.
Texas law does not expressly prohibit adults from riding in the back of a pickup truck. However, Chapter 545.414 of the Texas Transportation Code makes it a crime to operate a pick-up truck when a child below the age of 18 is in the bed of the truck. The offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $200. Nonetheless, letting a child ride behind a pickup truck is permissible in certain circumstances, including if:
For clarity, Section 71.005 of the Texas Family Code defines a household as a unit comprising persons living together in the same dwelling, whether or not they are related to one another.
Per Section 647.017(b) of the Texas Transportation Code, it is illegal to operate a vehicle without putting its tailgate safely in place. This offense is a misdemeanor punishable with a fine between $5 and $50. However, the offense is further punishable under Section 725.021 of the Code if the vehicle operated is transporting loose material. An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable with a fine between $25 and $500. Under the law, loose material includes dirt, sand, gravel, refuse, wood chips as well as other material that can be blown or spilled from a vehicle because of movement or exposure to air, wind currents, or other weather. The term, however, excludes agricultural products in their natural state.
Texas law does not prohibit driving barefoot. However, it is often advised to drive with footwear for several safety reasons. For example, sweating while driving barefoot may cause the feet to slide off the pedals, making the vehicle move erratically. Likewise, driving with footwear generally helps with a better grip on the vehicle pedals.
A check engine light is a signal that typically appears on a vehicle’s dashboard if the vehicle has malfunctions in its emissions, ignition, fuel, or exhaust systems. This indicator is a DOT violation in Texas, and it can contribute negatively to a carrier’s CSA score. Similarly, emission-related issues have further consequences for certain motorists in Texas. Such issues may prevent the Department of Motor Vehicle from registering or renewing the registration of a gasoline vehicle aged between 2 and 24 years, registered or solely operated in designated counties that require emission tests for vehicle registration. The selected counties are Brazoria, Collin, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Ellis, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Johnson, Kaufman, Montgomery, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, Travis, and Williamson counties.
Furthermore, operating an unregistered vehicle can lead to a fine of up to $200 per Chapter 502 of the Texas Transportation Code.
The DOT may order a vehicle out of service for an oil leak as federal regulations require motor carriers to ensure that their vehicles are free of oil leaks. However, whether or not an out-of-service order would be issued for an oil leak depends on the inspecting officer as well as the kind of leak. While some inspectors may allow a simple leak, some may not. In any case, an officer is more likely to issue the order if the leak is excessive and poses an imminent hazard to public safety.
Chapter 545 of the Texas Transportation Code provides for the use of seat belts in a vehicle. The Chapter makes it an offense for the operator of a vehicle as well as passengers aged 15 and above to ride in a vehicle equipped with a safety belt without using the belt. Likewise, children younger than eight years old, unless taller than four feet nine inches, are required to be in a child safety seat system wherever they ride in a passenger vehicle. Contravention of these provisions is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $250.
For the purpose of the law, a passenger vehicle includes a car, light truck, sport utility vehicle, or passenger van designed to transport 15 or fewer passengers, including the driver, truck, or truck tractor.
Generally, a DOT out-of-service order in Texas does not have a specific timeframe. Per federal law, a person cannot operate a vehicle marked out of service until the violation leading to the order is fixed, and the issuing agency revokes the order. As such, the duration of the order depends on how soon the vehicle owner repairs the defects detected by the DOT official that issued the order.
Texas hours of service law specifies the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty. It also specifies a minimum amount of rest time a truck driver must have before resuming duty. The aim of the law is to minimize driver fatigue and ensure that Texas truck drivers stay awake and alert while driving. Texas’ current hours of service rules are contained in Chapter 4 of the Texas Administrative Code, which provides that;
After a truck accident, an injured party is likely to incur heavy financial losses as a result of medical bills and expenses. It is therefore advisable to consult an experienced truck accident lawyer who would not only fight for the interest of their clients, but will also ensure that their clients receive the compensation they deserve. Indeed, a victim of a truck accident who has engaged the services of a lawyer is more likely to receive higher compensation than those without a lawyer. Concerned individuals in need of the services of a truck accident lawyer may simply search online for the term "personal injury lawyer near me" or use the find a lawyer feature on the state bar association website to obtain the contact information of qualified attorneys and law firms in Texas.