Unfortunately, commercial vehicles such as big rigs, tractor-trailers, and other commercial trucks cause serious accidents and injuries in Houston each year. In fact, in 2020 across Harris County there were a total of 4,915 crashes involving commercial motor vehicles, and at least 41 of these were fatal.
If you have been in this type of traffic collision, you’re not alone. It is normal to have questions about your crash and what will happen after the collision. Since the decisions you make after your crash can impact your financial future, however, it is important for you to understand truck accident liability and how it can affect your case. It may also be important to speak to an attorney if you would like to learn more about possible financial recovery in your case.
Who Is Legally Responsible for a Trucking Accident?
After a trucking accident, you will want to determine who is liable because you need this information to file a claim. In a typical two-car collision, there may be one defendant who is held largely responsible for causing the crash. Commercial truck accidents are more complicated, and there may be multiple responsible parties, including:
- The driver of the truck
- The company that hired the truck driver
- The owner of the truck
- The manufacturer of the truck or any faulty truck parts
- The owner of the cargo owner
- The truck maintenance company
- The party who loaded the truck
Not all of these possible liable parties may apply to every collision. For example, some truck drivers are owner-operators who own their own trucks and work as independent contractors. An experienced attorney can help you determine who might have caused your accident.
What Kinds of Situations May Impact Truck Accident Liability in Texas?
There are many possible causes for trucking accidents in Houston, and the cause of the accident can impact who may be liable. For example, if a driver was negligent in making a turn and this caused a crash that led to your injuries, there may be a basis to file a lawsuit against the driver. If, on the other hand, you learn that the truck company that hired the driver made unreasonable work demands and placed undue time pressures on the driver, the truck company may be partly responsible as well.
Since the cause of the accident plays a significant role in truck accident liability, experienced attorneys will carefully investigate the causes of a crash. They may work with accident reconstruction experts, investigators, and other professionals to get a better understanding of the accident. They also might subpoena a truck company’s records, the truck “black box,” recordings from security cameras near the crash, and other evidence to determine who is responsible and who may pay compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering, lost income, and other losses.
How Does Truck Accident Liability in Texas Work When the Trucker Is a Contractor Vs. an Employee?
If a truck company hires a driver and that driver causes a collision and injuries as part of his or her job duties, the truck company may be held liable. However, it is common for truck companies to try to avoid liability. One way they may do this is by claiming a truck driver is an “independent contractor” and therefore the company is not responsible for the driver’s actions.
In this situation, how the relationship between the truck company and driver is structured may matter more than whether the driver is called an employee or contractor. Courts may consider whether the company controls the driver’s route and schedule, secures permits, and who owns the truck. If the driver is treated as an employee, with the truck company controlling the way he or she works, courts may decide the truck company can be liable for the driver’s collision, even if the company officially names the driver as a contractor.
Another way truck companies may try to claim they are not liable is by alleging the truck driver, even if he or she is an employee, was not working during the time of the collision. They may claim the driver was on a break or otherwise not engaged in work duties at the time of the crash. An experienced attorney will need to provide evidence of what the driver was doing at the exact time of the collision to prove liability.
How Do Federal and State Trucking Regulations Potentially Impact Liability and Payouts on Trucking Accidents?
Regulations at the federal and state level may also regulate the total weight a truck can haul, how much rest a truck driver needs, the type of cargo that can be transported, what kind of documentation is needed, how cargo needs to be secured, and more.
If a company or driver violated one of these regulations, the plaintiff in a case may be able to show this amounts to negligence and may be able to establish liability. Since state and federal regulations also require commercial truck drivers and companies to carry higher insurance policy limits than non-commercial vehicles, these regulations may allow seriously injured parties to seek larger financial recovery than may be possible in a car accident involving a passenger vehicle where insurance may be more limited.
Why Is Retaining a Lawyer a Good Idea If You’ve Been Hit by a Truck?
Truck collisions tend to be complex. There may be multiple liable parties and truck companies and their insurers tend to be larger organizations with deep pockets and the resources to attempt to shift responsibility. It is not uncommon for defendants in these cases to attempt to delay cases or to try to offer low settlements. An experienced attorney is familiar with these practices and knows how to build a strong case.
Truck collisions are also more likely to cause serious injuries to the passenger car driver. According to the National Safety Council, 71 percent of deaths in truck collisions affected passenger car drivers and 88 percent of those injured in such crashes were the occupants of cars. With the large size of trucks in comparison to non-commercial vehicles, you may be at risk of serious and even permanent injuries, including spinal cord injuries and head trauma.
Such injuries can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in medical bills, lost income, and other losses over the course of an injured person’s lifetime. Securing financial recovery can help truck accident survivors pay for the care and resources they need and working with an experienced attorney means working with someone who has successfully secured recovery in these types of cases.
Why Choose Johnson Garcia?
The legal team at Johnson Garcia has over 30 years of combined experience. Before our founding partners created our law firm, they successfully worked at one of the most prestigious law firms in the nation, where they helped resolve corporate disputes involving billions of dollars. However, Daniel Johnson and Juan Garcia wanted to help those in need, and it is on this principle that Johnson Garcia was founded.
Johnson Garcia only represents those who are injured, and when we represent you, our goal is simple: to secure the best financial recovery for you. We put our years of experience and our significant resources into your case. If you would like to learn more about what we can do for you or if you would like to know whether you have a claim, contact Johnson Garcia for a free consultation.