Negligence and 18-Wheeler Accidents
You cannot file a lawsuit in an 18-wheeler accident – at least not if you want to have a chance to win – unless you can identify how the wreck occurred and who caused it. There are several parties that have some involvement in any sort of trip involving the transportation of goods on a truck; it is very likely more than one of them either caused or contributed to the accident you experienced through their negligence. A seasoned truck accident attorney knows how to use that experience to accurately identify both the cause of your wreck and those whose negligence played a role.
There are several different parties they may eventually be held at least partially responsible for your accident through their negligence. They include the truck driver, the company that owns the truck, the manufacturer of the truck or trailer, the company in charge of planning the route the truck took, the company responsible for the loading of the truck, and other drivers or other third parties.
The truck driver – Truck drivers spend long hours driving and are normally liable, in part or in whole, for injuries that result from a truck accident. In some instances, truck drivers cause accidents due to intentional acts of negligence such as erratic driving, running stop signs, speeding, or even worse, operating their vehicle under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. A trucker’s chances of getting into an accident double when being behind the wheel for eight consecutive hours, studies show. Also, one in five truck drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at least once in the month before they were surveyed. If the negligence of a truck driver – whether on purpose or by accident – caused the accident that injured you, then you can file a personal injury lawsuit against him or her.
The trucking company – Texas law operates under a legal doctrine called “respondeat superior,” which means that employers are responsible for the actions – or inactions, in some cases – of their employees. If a truck driver was negligent and the accident that injured you occurred as a result, the trucking company that hired that driver is liable as well. If a driver causes an accident while driving drunk, not only is he or she liable, but also the company that hired the driver is liable as well for your injury.
The company itself need not perform any sort of negligent act in order to be held liable for the negligent actions of its employee. As long as the truck driver exhibited negligence, that company can also be sued for damages. Most of the time, it is much more desirable for a plaintiff to pursue damages against a trucking company because it has a much greater amount of resources than will one of its truckers.
The truck manufacturer – There are thousands of interlinked parts found in a truck and the trailer attached to it. Should any one of them fail while the truck is in motion, a devastating accident may occur. If a design defect or manufacturing error leads to the malfunction and resulting accident, then an injury victim can pursue litigation from the manufacturer.
The company that planned the route the truck took – Many times, a truck will travel on a road not zoned for trucking, or in a neighborhood where trucks are not allowed. And there are a lot of bridges that have both weight restrictions and height constraints those trucks oftentimes violate. Trucking companies often hire independent companies to plan safe routes for those trucks to take. However, if a planning company falls short in this department, and plots an unsafe route, then that company could be held liable for any accident that results.
The company in charge of loading the cargo – Sometimes, one company that owns cargo loads it in the truck, other times that company will contract cargo loading to another company. Regardless of which company is in charge of the loading, if that job is improperly done, and an injury-causing accident occurs as a result, the company that loaded the cargo can be held liable. There is an 80,000-pound cargo limit for 18-wheelers, but a lot of times, companies try to overload a truck in order to transport more goods in a cheaper fashion. The reason weight limits are in place is that trucks that are overloaded have more of a chance to fall over and cause a much worse accident than a properly loaded truck.
Should a company charged with loading the cargo secure it in an unsafe manner, and that cargo comes loose while the truck is in motion, this could cause a shift in the load that will cause the trailer to topple and result in an accident with other vehicles. Cargo improperly loaded onto a flatbed truck can fall directly onto the road and into surrounding cars, causing a great deal of damage. Should an injury occur as a result, again, the company in charge of loading the cargo can be held liable.
Other drivers – Truck drivers aren’t the cause of every accident involving a truck. There are times where fellow motorists drive irresponsibly and cause an accident with the truck, and in turn, still more drivers are hurt and more property damage ensues. If this happens, an injury victim can initiate litigation against that irresponsible driver.
Either one of those parties or a combination of several of those parties could have, in part or in whole, been responsible for the accident that resulted in your injury. If you have been injured in an accident that resulted from someone else’s negligence, you need to enlist the services of a seasoned and effective truck accident attorney who can determine the cause of the accident and identify all potentially responsible parties. That way, you can obtain the restitution coming to you from all of those involved. Call us today for a free consultation.
The Vital Need for a Thorough and Quickly Launched Investigation
One critical element to a successful personal injury lawsuit is fast action in launching an investigation into the accident that caused your injury. It is the only way to gather all the evidence a plaintiff needs to meet his or her burden of proof to identify the cause of the accident and determine the responsible parties involved. Because there are a large number of potentially responsible parties in this kind of case, an investigation is necessary to assign relative degrees of liability to those responsible. Evidence is needed to sway a judge or jury in a case, and that evidence can often disappear quickly. Witnesses’ memories get cloudy, or witnesses disappear completely. The accident scene undergoes physical changes due to weather. Any potential video footage of the accident can be quickly taped over. So it is imperative that you act quickly to get that investigation launched. The longer you wait, the higher the probability that the proof you need will evaporate. The longer you wait, the less of a chance you have of winning your case. The damage that is done by waiting too long can wind up being irreparable.
The truck accident lawyers at our Law Office have two decades of experience in launching thorough investigations of accident cases. Upon being hired, we immediately spring into action and get to the accident scene – with no charge to our client – so we can begin to gather the evidence that will satisfy the plaintiff’s burden of proof. We will take photographs, sequester and examine all vehicles involved, search for any existing video evidence (such as security video footage from a nearby business or any potential traffic control video, for example), pore through police reports, take measurements of the distance between skid marks and impact points, conduct forensic tests, find and interview witnesses, and catalog that evidence in a way that it is admissible in court.
Unfortunately, if you’re reading this, that probably means you haven’t yet hired a lawyer. And if that’s the case, you’re already falling behind in your case, because you can bet the defense has already started its own investigation. Usually, the company that owns the truck or its insurance company will immediately dispatch a team of investigators to the scene once the trucker reports an accident. Investigators working on behalf of the defense have no interest in determining how the accident took place. All they want to do is collect evidence that will help them prove your own negligence caused your injury. If you don’t have legal representation working on your side and conducting an investigation on your behalf, there will be no way you could possibly know if the defense might have tampered with evidence or conducted an honest investigation. Some defendants are not above altering evidence, especially when they know there is no investigation happening for the plaintiff. If the defendant gathers enough evidence to prove your negligence, your case can be easily defeated and your claim denied. Even if they can prove you were partially responsible because of your negligence, the amount you are rewarded could be significantly lessened.
In one recent case, our clients were the families of two men who were in a car that suffered a devastating accident with an 18-wheeler. The driver died and his passenger was critically injured when their car hit the truck while the truck was trying to make an awkward turn. The trailer of the truck stretched across the road and was difficult to pass. This kind of mistake happens more than you may think, even though you may assume all truck drivers are experts. It was dark when the accident occurred, and only the truck’s taillights on the side of the road were visible to oncoming traffic. Most of that trailer could not be seen.
Our clients’ car rounded a bend in the road and hit the trailer at full speed. The resulting impact tore the car’s roof off. The driver instantly died and the passenger went to an intensive care unit with massive injuries. Their families hired us within 24 hours and we immediately began an investigation, sending our investigators to the accident scene. The car was nearly obliterated, so it was sent to a nearby salvage yard. When our investigators inspected the car, they found that the car had no headlights. They weren’t just broken, they were completely missing. That obviously alarmed our investigators, and we began to worry about whether the case might have been irreparably damaged. Thankfully, however, there was a security camera in the salvage yard and we were able to obtain a copy of the video. Incredibly, that video showed a trucking company employee removing the headlights. When that company claimed the headlights of our clients’ car had been turned off, we were able to expose their blatant and malicious lie. They should have made a fair settlement offer before the trial. Because they didn’t we made them pay very dearly.
The point here is to underscore the vital importance of hiring a lawyer just as quickly as you possibly can after an accident occurs. The security system of that salvage yard we mentioned tapes over camera footage every 48 hours. If our clients had hesitated at all before hiring us, that critical bit of evidence would have been deleted, and the trucking company would have gotten away with their deception.
The only way to guarantee that evidence will be preserved, and that is to launch an investigation immediately following an accident. The only way that can happen is by hiring a lawyer as quickly as you possibly can.
The truck accident lawyers at our Law Offices routinely run into deception on the part of truck accident case defendants and know how to expose it. In order to have the best chance possible at doing so, however, you must act quickly so a thorough investigation can take place. There are some rare occurrences where our investigators have been able to gather evidence well after an accident happened, but, as we have said repeatedly, the quicker you begin an investigation, the better your chances at successful litigation. If you have not hired an attorney, please do not wait any longer.
The Hurdles Faced by People who Choose to Represent Themselves
Pursuing a claim against those responsible for your truck accident injury isn’t like filing an insurance claim after a typical car wreck. This isn’t something you can do by yourself; it’s impossible for a layman, and tough for the novice attorney. The typical trucking company insurance policy is 50 times more than that of a regular car insurance policy. Because these policies are so large, the litigation surrounding them can be extremely intricate and complex. If you choose to go it alone, you could be making the biggest mistake of your life. That might seem like an exaggeration, but it’s not. If you do not have legal help, you can just about guarantee you will lose your case. Once that happens, you will be on the hook for any medical expenses you’ve accumulated and all those lost wages. You’ll never get that back unless you have an incredibly generous employer. What if you can’t ever work again because of the accident? You get one chance at litigating this kind of case. If you lose, you’ll never again have the chance to get compensated for lost potential future earnings. Think about that long and hard before setting off on this course by yourself.
There are several reasons you simply cannot try this by yourself. Some of them are: satisfying the burden of proof, dealing with insurance company operatives, self-insured trucking companies, and truck drivers who choose to lie.
Satisfying the Burden of Proof
In the State of Texas, the law does not require a defendant to pay a victim anything after he or she has been injured in a truck accident. The victim, or plaintiff, has to prove the defendant owes him or her compensation. In order to get that compensation, the victim has to produce compelling evidence to sway a judge or jury. Evidence still needs to be produced even when negotiating an out-of-court settlement. The defendant or the defendant’s insurance provider must be compelled to negotiate in good faith; that won’t happen if you don’t have evidence on your side. In order to meet the burden of proof, you need to establish duty, breach, causation, and damages. These are detailed below.
-Duty – The State of Texas has established that everyone owes everyone else a duty of care. In your case, you have to prove the defendant owed you the duty of providing for your safety by behaving in a responsible manner. There are different levels of duty of care that apply in different ways. In the case of motorists, all drivers owe all other drivers a duty of care to drive in a manner that is safe for everyone else on the road. In the case of a truck accident, this is a fairly easy element to establish.
-Breach – You must next prove that the defendant (or defendants) breached that duty of care that you were owed. This breach typically occurs when a defendant places others in danger, either through an action that a reasonable person would not be expected to do or through inaction where a reasonable person would be expected to do something. You have to produce evidence that proves the defendant in your case ignored that duty of care either through action or inaction. You will need a seasoned truck accident attorney who is adept at using evidence to convince a judge or jury that the defendant or defendants acted in an unreasonable fashion.
-Causation – To establish causation, you must prove that the injury you incurred happened as a direct result of the defendants’ breach of duty. There are many potentially liable parties in a case involving a truck accident. Because of this, it takes extremely compelling evidence to make the judge or jury believe that defendant’s breach and the subsequent harm that befell you have a causal relationship. That’s an important distinction to make because if you can’t the defendant can defeat your case by shifting blame for your injury to another party. Most of the time, a defendant’s best chance at winning a case is to shift the blame to the plaintiff for causing his or her own injuries through his or her own negligence.
-Damages – Successfully establishing the three components mentioned above is not enough to win your case. You must also prove the damages owed to you by the defendant for the injury you have suffered. “Damages,” from a legal standpoint, do not refer to destroyed property or injuries. The term instead means the monetary value assigned to those injuries or property damage. A plaintiff can seek damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, lost potential earning capacity, property damage, and other losses that were incurred by the plaintiff due to the accident.
You can’t just show up to court, stick out your hand, ask for a bagful of money, and get it. Again, you must bring forth rock-solid evidence that not only proves the losses you have incurred but how you calculated the value of the damages. Usually, a defendant will fight that amount and will provide their own estimated value of damages, and that will obviously be a lesser amount – at least that’s the case the vast majority of the time. However, to prove that the defendant is attempting to shortchange that amount of damages, you must present unassailable evidence to establish those calculations are legitimate.
Determining the value of those damages can be extremely perplexing for novice lawyers and basically impossible for the layman. Damages such as loss of future earning potential and pain and suffering are basically a matter of opinion, and very much open to interpretation. It’s very, very hard to, basically, put a price tag on pain and suffering, and extremely difficult to estimate lost potential earnings – especially when you try to take into account potential raises in future years and inflation. Again, you get one shot in court to calculate this amount, just as you have but one chance to win the case as a whole. The truck accident lawyers with our Law Office have been accurately determining the value of damages for 20 years. We have dealt with enough cases that are similar to yours to be able to make an accurate estimate of damages, thereby helping you get the compensation you have coming to you.
If you fail to meet any of the standards associated with any of the four above-mentioned elements, you will lose your case. And with it, any chance you’ll ever have at getting fair restitution for all the physical and emotional trauma you have experienced. There is no alternative – you simply must obtain legal representation. Our attorneys have years of experience pursuing legal action regarding truck accidents, and over those years have learned how to formulate a strong plan to meet all the necessary standards and compel any judge or jury to decide in your favor.
Large Insurance Policies
Trucking companies are required by federal law to buy insurance policies to protect themselves from accidents involving their rigs that result in injuries and deaths. And these insurance policies are very expensive. For whatever reason, a lot of people think that, since these companies are so rich, they’ll fork over money really easily. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. As we noted previously, the average truck insurance policy is worth 50 times a typical car policy. So it only follows logically that an insurance provider will put at least 50 times more effort – and devote 50 times the resources – into defending a trucking insurance policy.
Hopefully, we’ve gotten across the point that there is a huge amount of money at stake in this kind of case. So the insurance company will send its best adjustors to deal with settlement negotiations. These professionals are highly trained and highly paid. They are the best of the best in their field. They deal with people like you all the time. They are experts at preying on the confusion and shock victims go through after an accident and will use that to their benefit. Basically, they’re sharks. If you don’t have experienced legal representation by your side during negotiations, they’ll eat you for lunch. You may view one of these adjusters much in the same way you’d look at your neighborhood insurance agent, a friendly type who really doesn’t apply a lot of pressure. They’ll use that picture you may have in your mind against you.
At first, they’ll act very nice and cordial. They’ll say they want to help you get compensated for all you’re going through. But first – and this could kill your case if you comply – they’ll say they just want you to answer a few basic questions. If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this – these people don’t want to help you in the least. All they want you to do is increase their company’s bottom line. And the way they do that is by denying claims. They’ll say they only want you to answer a few simple questions, and when you agree, they’ll then unleash a torrent of questions aimed at getting you to admit responsibility for the accident. They’ll basically re-word the same question over and over and over again in an attempt to get you to make a mistake. And they’ll be recording your answers so that when you do slip up, they’ve got you. They’ll use that against you in court and your case will be thrown out. You’ll leave that courtroom with no more than which you entered it.
Aggressive insurance adjustors will sometimes try and get accident injury victims to forfeit their rights by making an insulting settlement offer. They might be waving what you think is a big check in front of you, but don’t fall for it. It will be a mere pittance compared to what you actually have coming to you in terms of fair compensation. You may not want to go through the uncertainty and headaches associated with a trial, and that check might be a fast way out. If you accept it, that check won’t come close to covering your medical bills, lost wages and all the other financial impacts of your accident. Do not accept any kind of monetary settlement from an insurance adjuster unless you have an experienced lawyer by your side.
In fact, the best rule of thumb is simply to NEVER talk to an insurance adjuster without an attorney present. The less talking you do in regard to your case with anyone on the other side, the better. That goes for your employer as well as the insurance company. Hire an experienced truck accident attorney and let him or her handle the insurance adjuster. That way you can rest easy knowing your rights will be protected.
The insurer will also try to avoid paying you for your injury through the use of a highly skilled team of lawyers that will look for any loopholes they can find, and present all kinds of procedural obstacles in your way. An experienced attorney knows how to deal with the tricks insurance companies like to play. We’ve won cases against every insurer in the United States, so we know what to expect, and how to deal with it.
The Dangers of Self-Insured Trucking Companies
As formidable a foe as an insurance company can be, a trucking company that chooses to insure itself can be even tougher to deal with. Some companies set aside a certain amount of revenue in order to protect themselves from lawsuits. Many times, an officer of the company will be dispatched to deny your claim. These people differ from insurance adjustors in many ways, the most significant being that adjusters are licensed. As aggressive as they might be, at least adjusters are expected to conform to a certain standard of ethics. An officer with a self-insured trucking company, however, has no such constraints, and as a result, many of them have gained a reputation for acting dishonestly and being exceedingly difficult to negotiate with. A self-insured trucking company officer more than likely gets paid in part through a profit-sharing program. When such a company loses a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, those profits are lessened. It follows, then, that the officer loses money when that happens, so he or she will do whatever it takes to make sure you lose your case. Self-insurers have often resorted to underhanded tactics in an effort to kill cases, such as tampering with or altering evidence, threatening victims, and bullying witnesses.
If you feel that a self-insurer has threatened you in any way, a truck accident lawyer will put a stop to it. The attorneys at our Law Office know how to use litigation to convince self-insured companies to negotiate in good faith.
Never Trust a Truck Driver
While we all would like to think that all people are honest, the fact is that a lot of people aren’t, obviously. This can be especially true in the case of a truck driver who is responsible for an injury-causing accident. The driver basically has a very strong incentive to lie and claim that the wreck was your fault. Truck drivers who are found negligent in causing an accident are often fired from their jobs, and with that kind of black mark on their record, it can be extremely difficult for them to find other, similar employment. So in order to protect their livelihood, they may see no other choice but to lie, especially when you consider the state of both the economy and job market. These people may otherwise be trustworthy and honorable people, but when it comes to protecting their ability to provide for their families, it’s not surprising that some of them will resort to lying. But in order to obtain the compensation you deserve for the injury you’ve suffered due to a truck driver’s negligence, you’ll need help to prove he or she is not telling the truth.
The attorneys with our Law Offices are extremely adept at investigating accidents and collecting the necessary evidence to expose the lies of a truck driver. Our attorneys have interviewed thousands of witnesses in the last two decades, so we have learned how to ask the right questions and uncover the truth.
How We Can Help You
If someone’s negligence has led to a truck accident that has resulted in either an injury to you or the death of a loved one, you need the help of an experienced truck accident lawyer in order to get the compensation you deserve for everything you’ve had to go through. Our attorneys will take care of every single component of your case and keep you informed of developments so you can focus on what’s most important – healing from the accident, whether it be physically, emotionally, or both. Following is just a few of the services we provide our clients:
Launching an investigation into the cause of the accident.
Determining the parties responsible and pursuing the appropriate litigation against all of them.
Gathering the evidence necessary to fulfill your burden of proof requirement.
Putting our reputation to use in pressuring defendants to offer a fair settlement, or, if the case goes to trial, plotting an effective strategy to sway a judge or jury in our clients’ favor.
Shielding our clients from the aggressive and harassing tactics of insurance adjustors or officers affiliated with self-insured trucking companies.
Forcing self-insured trucking companies to negotiate honestly and behave in an ethical manner.
Ensuring that our clients get the medical assistance they need.
If you’re reading this, that probably means you have not yet hired a lawyer. You can guarantee the opposition has already put their game plan to defeat your case in motion. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you are doing harm to your case, and lessening the chances that you’ll get just restitution. Call us as soon as you possibly can for a confidential and free consultation. Find out how we can help you in the same way we’ve helped thousands of other Texans.