Tractor-Trailer combination vehicles are a fact of life for anyone traveling along the nation’s roadways and those injured by 18-Wheeler semi-trucks need experienced Texas 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyers on their side. Tractor-Trailers serve the function of moving goods across the country. Tractor-trailers are an important part of America’s economy. However, these trucks are also one of the largest hazards on the roadway in San Antonio, Houston, and across the nation.
The San Antonio Truck Wreck Injury Attorney at Hill Law Firm has handled truck wreck cases all over the nation and have seen the seriousness of these accidents and the injuries they can cause. There are a number of reasons why large trucks, often referred to as 18-wheelers or tractor-trailers, pose such a danger on Texas and United States roadways. Obviously, the size of these huge vehicles limits their visibility and extends their necessary braking distance. Also, the size difference between large trucks and passenger vehicles often results in accidents that are catastrophic in nature, making death or serious injuries much more likely. In many cases, the 18-wheelers on the road are improperly maintained by the companies that own them, their drivers are often not properly trained or supervised, and they are often encouraged to drive faster and longer so as to move their load from one place to another in a shorter amount of time and increase their profit.
All of those factors combined, make large trucks a major danger on the road. A number of state and federal government agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), have been formed to regulate the trucking industry and make it safer for normal drivers on the road. These rules and regulations place limits on what trucking companies and driver can and cannot do. For example, how long and far truck drivers are allowed to drive. These rules and regulations go a long way to make the roads safer for drivers and they can also be helpful in court to demonstrate to the jury how a trucking company or driver failed to adhere by them..
Despite the regulations that are in place to improve drivers’ safety and reduce truck accidents, a surprisingly large number of accidents continue to take place every year. The FMCSA keeps detailed statistics of large truck and bus accidents that have occurred nationally and in each state. According to FMSCA statistics for 2013, these are the numbers for accidents involving 18-wheelers:
- 3, 341 fatal accidents in 2011;
- 60,000 injury accidents in 2011;
- 3, 757 killed traffic crash victims in 2011;
- 88,000 injured traffic crash victims in 2011;
Texas experiences a large number of these dangerous and potentially deadly trucking accidents. Many of these crashes can be attributed to poor drivers, improperly maintained equipment, a lack of oversight by trucking companies and many other reasons that had nothing to do with the individual who was struck and injured by the 18-wheeler. Some of the more common causes of trucking accidents in Texas include:
- Driver Fatigue;
- Overweight or Improperly Secured Loads;
- Driver distraction, including Texting, Cellphone and Internet usage;
- Incompetent, and Poorly-Trained Drivers;
- Equipment Problems;
- Drug and Alcohol Use.
Considering the number of entities involved, the number and types of equipment issues possible, and the variety of loads hauled, there can be many causes attributed to large truck accidents. Our San Antonio 18-wheeler injury attorney is highly experienced when it comes to handling trucking accidents and dealing with the intricacies of a case involving large, heavily-regulated companies such as those in the trucking industry. Our personal injury lawyers will work quickly to preserve and protect the integrity of all evidence available, because those who are representing the trucking company and their insurance carrier will do exactly that.
For example the vehicles themselves may be critical pieces of evidence, and must be carefully examined as soon as possible. Our Texas 18-wheeler accident lawyers will investigate the scene of the accident and the vehicles involved. Our 18-wheeler accident lawyers will also take witness statements as soon as possible following the accident to record important memories of the incident.
After the initial investigation and a lawsuit is filed, all the documents regarding the driver, truck and facts surrounding the accident should be gathered with the help of a Texas 18-wheeler accident lawyer. Certain documents often make or break a case against a trucking company, such as:
The driver must complete the logbookdaily.In the logbook, the driver will record information such as the number of miles traveled, the number of hours of service, their on- or off-duty status, and any other relevant information about their trip during the previous 24 hours. This is one of the most important records for any truck accident case, because there are many other documents that can be checked and compared to the logbook to ensure the veracity of each document. Logbooks and other documents can provide evidence of exceeding posted speed limits, exceeding the number of hours of service, or other negligent activity or violations of state or federal laws.
One reason a truck accident lawyer must work quickly on a case is because some documents, such as logbooks, only have to be maintained by the trucking company for six months. If the victim of a trucking accident waits longer than six months to file suit, it may be too late to obtain the logbooks that are relevant to their case.
In addition to logbooks, some 18-wheelers may be equipped with an on-board computer designed to monitor the vehicle’s and driver’s performance. The inform Tion is then stored, to later be uploaded into a larger system, which is then used to generate reports on the driver, vehicle and trip. Some trucks are also equipped with GPS, which are used to monitor very specific details about the trip at a specific time and location during the trip. It is very important to retain an experienced Texas 18-Wheeler accident lawyer who will know what to look for in the logbook to present in court.
Bills of Lading
Your Texas 18-wheeler accident injury attorneys at Hill Law Firm will also look for a bill of lading. A bill of lading is a document that is required to be issued as a receipt of goods, evidence of title to the property being transported, and as the contract of carriage setting forth the names of the contracting parties and the terms of the carriage. The Bill of Lading allows a party to ascertain the identity of the patients that contracted for the shipment.
The freight bill contains much of the same information as the bill of lading. The freight bill also contains information on all the charges, the trailer number, the origin and destination terminals and special instructions to the driver for handling or delivering the load. Your trucking accident injury attorney will use the information in the freight bill to establish several important facts that will be important for your personal injury case, including whether the driver was on a detour or taking a side trip, or if the driver was given special instructions, which could help prove negligence.
The trip report contains detailed facts about the trip, including truck equipment numbers, odometer readings, which states the truck went through, fuel and other expenses, any number of other details that can be used to strengthen your case. In some cases, this information can be obtained from, and compared to, the onboard computer or compiled from the drivers log and other documents.
Schedule from Motor Carrier
Often, trucking companies provide a driver with the proposed schedule for the haul, thus informing the driver where they are going and when they have to be there. This can demonstrate that the trucking company was encouraging the driver to drive to or exceed the speed limit, both of which violate federal regulations.
By law, certain driving records must be kept by the trucking company to a certain extent. This includes any previous internal accident or investigation reports.
Taking the time to draft an extensive and specific set of discovery on the seven categories set forth above will go a long way in establishing liability against the truck driver and the company. Sometimes, this is the only avenue of recovery in a case. However, it is always prudent to conduct discovery on the issues of whether other potential defendants exist and if they are already in the lawsuit, whether they can held liable for the actions of the primary wrongdoer. One way to extend liability to an entity that did not technically perform the wrongful conduct. drive the truck, hire the driver, or load the cargo, is to break down the technical barriers between the defendant and the wrongdoer to show that the wrongdoer was actually a part of the tortfeasor entity. There are two ways to go about this process. First, one can show the defendant(s) and the wrongdoer(s) are actually one in the same, under the doctrines of piercing the corporate veil known as single business enterprise and alter ego. Second, one can show the defendant(s) and the wrongdoer(s) were in something like a partnership in performing the conduct that caused the damages, under the doctrines of joint enterprise and joint venture.
Do You Really Need a Texas Truck Accident Lawyer?
If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident involving an 18-wheeler or commercial vehicle, the answer is most likely “Yes.” The big companies that own commercial vehicles and their drivers are not your advocates, and they will not look out for your rights. That is why if you have been a victim of a trucking or commercial motor vehicle accident in Texas, you should consult with proven and experienced Texas Trucking Accident Injury Lawyers as soon as is possible, to ensure that evidence is preserved, that your rights are protected.
Schedule your free consultation with one of our Texas 18-Wheeler Injury Lawyers today! Call (210) 960-3939 to speak with an attorney at either our Houston or San Antonio office.