Truck accidents or 18-wheeler accidents – no matter what you call them, these particular auto incidents are often catastrophic in nature and very stressful for all involved. Truck accidents in Dallas are frighteningly common, which is why it is so important to know what to do if you are involved in one. In this article, we break down everything you need to know about seeking legal help after a truck accident in Dallas, including what you can claim and how to find the best lawyer for your circumstances.
Understanding the legal definition of a truck accident
It is crucial to understand the definition of a truck accident and recognize the seriousness of one. A truck accident is not usually an accident between two trucks, though this does happen – it is most often when large trucks collide with other vehicles of much smaller proportions, or pedestrians. These large trucks, such as commercial box trucks and tractor-trailer combinations, are typically known as 18-wheelers, and can be classified as vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds.
Facts and statistics about 18-wheeler truck accidents in Texas
Every year in the US there are approximately 400,000 trucking accidents, which comprise about 8% of all motor accidents – 4,500 of which are fatal. Although that may seem like a small number, when you consider that there are far fewer 18-wheelers than any other vehicles on the road, this figure is astounding.
I-35 in Texas is ranked as #5 in the top deadliest highways across America. With all the 18-wheelers zooming across the state, there’s good reason for concern. In Texas alone, there were over 16,401 crashes involving semi-trucks in a 2020 report, 299 of which resulted in death.
It is estimated that 18-wheeler accidents cause as much as 5% of all accident-related injuries and 14% of deaths. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics has released some concerning statistics about large truck accidents:
- In 2018, there were 109,067 large truck accidents nationwide
- In 2019, that figure increased to 110,531 crashes involving a large truck
The Texas Department of Transportation took a more local perspective and examined truck accidents in Texas in 2020. It found that there were 513 fatal crashes involving large trucks, 1,245 suspected serious injury accidents involving large trucks, 3,966 non-incapacitating injury crashes involving large trucks, and 6,781 possible injury accidents involving large trucks. In 2020, 32,562 large truck accidents occurred in Texas.
Under certain circumstances, huge commercial trucks are dangerous vehicles and can become unstoppable. When it hits a passenger vehicle or pedestrian, the chances of serious injury and fatality are very high.
What to do if you are involved in a truck accident
If you get into an 18-wheeler accident in Dallas, after calling the police and seeking medical attention for your injuries, your best choice is to call our truck crash lawyers at Reyes Browne Reilley. We specialize in filing personal injury lawsuits against trucking companies and their insurance if you are injured in a trucking wreck.
It is a common misconception that you should liaise with a trucking company’s insurance provider after an accident, when this is in fact the last thing you should do. Unfortunately, these insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart. It is their job to protect their clients and pay as little as possible in compensation to victims, so they will do everything in their power to minimize the impact an accident has had on you. If you want to receive adequate and fair compensation to pay for your mounting injuries, a Dallas truck accident lawyer can help.
Insurance companies are not easy to deal with. After your accident you may be stranded and looking for help while they slow-walk the entire process. Their goal is to force you to either wait to get treatment, pay for the treatment up-front, or deny your ability to recover your claim. The worst part is, it was their client’s fault you are in pain.
You deserve to treat your injuries as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our Dallas truck accident attorneys will not only help you with the legal side of your case, but we will also help you with the personal side of things you need following your injury-riddled accident. Our team can help you receive the best possible care from top medical professionals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
What happens during a truck accident investigation?
Investigating a truck accident can be quite a complex process for a number of reasons, not to mention that various parties can be held liable. This is why engaging a lawyer to procedurally investigate your accident is the best course of action. It is the lawyer’s aim to prove someone else was responsible for the crash and to fight for your right to maximum compensation.
Evidence is the most important factor in a truck accident investigation. If police were present at the scene of the accident, it is their legal obligation to prepare a crash report and submit it to the Texas Department of Transportation. The first step for gathering evidence is for our skilled lawyers to obtain and review this report, in order to determine who they believe was at fault.
There are several other important things that the report can tell us:
- The date, approximate time, and precise location of the accident
- The name, contact information, and auto insurance for all drivers involved
- Vehicle details, such as make and model, VIN, and damage
- The names and phone numbers of witnesses (very important for building a case)
- A description and diagram of the accident
- Determination of fault
- Any issued or existing traffic citations
Even if the crash report backs up your story that you did not cause the accident, that is just one investigating officer’s opinion based on what they saw at the scene after the fact. The insurance company has a right to disagree with their findings, in which case your lawyer needs to gather additional evidence to support your claim. This can include:
- Witness statements
- Visual evidence like crash-scene photos and security footage
- Your medical records
- The truck driver’s qualifications, driving history, and employment history
- The trucking company’s hiring practices
- Estimates of vehicular damage
- Lost wage reports
Major causes of truck accidents
Truck driver fatigue: Drowsy driving is the leading cause of heavy truck collisions, responsible for over a third of these specific accidents. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who had five or six hours of sleep were twice as likely to be involved in a crash as a person with seven or more hours of sleep. Drivers who had four or fewer hours of rest had a crash rate 11 times higher than that of a well-rested driver – the same crash rate as a drunk driver with a BAC of .12 or .15%. Driving while drowsy slows down reaction times, decreases situational awareness, diminishes focus, and impairs judgment.
Speeding: Due to their larger size that directly impacts their stopping and turning times, trucks are usually required to drive at slower speeds than cars. When drivers fail to adhere to this rule, usually in the case of a tight deadline needing to be met, the results can be catastrophic.
Poor road conditions: Once again due to their larger size and excessive weight, trucks are more susceptible to skidding, sliding, and having difficulty stopping under poor road conditions. This could include anything from extreme weather events to poorly maintained roads—anything that puts the driver at risk.
Drunk and impaired driving: This isn’t just a major cause of road accidents involving trucks—drunk and impaired driving affects vehicular operators across the board. Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or anything else that can impair your concentration can have lethal consequences. When you add the fact that many truck drivers are forced to spend long stretches of time behind the wheel, it’s no wonder that stimulant abuse is rife within the trucking industry.
Distracted driving: It’s not just fatigue, drugs, or alcohol that can be considered a lethal element in truck accidents. Like all vehicular operation, a driver who is distracted from the road is extremely dangerous. With the proliferation of smartphones and watches, there have never been more deadly disruptive devices keeping drivers from staying focused.
Equipment failure: State and federal laws indicate strict inspection and maintenance schedules that should be followed by truck companies to ensure the safety of their operators and other motorists. Unfortunately, a common cost-cutting method is skipping out on these maintenance checks, leading to unsafe brakes, tires, and other poorly maintained equipment that can cause catastrophic accidents.
Different types of truck-related accidents
Due to a wide range of vehicles and causes, no two truck accidents are the same. We’ve listed some of the common types of truck accidents that occur in Texas.
Fatal truck accidents: Accidents involving semi-trucks and tractor-trailers caused 513 deaths in 2020, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The size and weight of commercial trucks make catastrophic injuries inevitable in a collision with a passenger vehicle. Fatal semi-truck accidents involve unique aspects of liability, including the truck driver, employer, maintenance personnel, truck manufacturer, contractor, and local government all liable to be sued depending on the circumstances of the accident.
Garbage truck accidents: Garbage trucks make frequent stops and are usually on the roads early when the streets are dark, and visibility is poor. To make matters more dangerous, drivers will sometimes stop their trash trucks—weighing up to 60,000 pounds—in the middle of the road in an attempt to save time. Aging equipment, fatigued and overworked drivers, and lax maintenance are problems commonly cited among Dallas sanitation workers, which can lead to preventable accidents on the road.
Overloaded or unsecured cargo: Every person who shares the road with an 18-wheeler relies on the businesses and the people responsible for securing the vehicle’s load. When these parties load a truck improperly, either by exceeding the recommended weight limits or by improperly or carelessly securing it– they put other drivers and passengers in harm’s way. According to a federal study, this leads to 440 fatalities and 10,000 injuries each year.
Tanker truck accidents: Commercial vehicles always present risks to those sharing the road, but accidents involving tanker trucks can be especially catastrophic. Tanker trucks are designed to carry hazardous materials like potentially explosive gasses and liquids. Add in that the tanks may be pressurized, refrigerated, or designed to hold more than one type of cargo, and accidents involving them can become very dangerous very quickly.
Rear-end truck accidents: Unfortunately, getting rear-ended by a truck is often not a matter of a simple prang—these incidents can often cause significant damage not only to your vehicle, but also to your health. Rear-end truck accidents are surprisingly common due to a number of factors. When you also add in that the larger a vehicle is, the longer its stopping distance is, it becomes apparent why trucks are often involved in rear-end accidents.
Jackknife: A truck jackknifes when its trailer and front cab slide towards each other to form an angle. This usually happens when the driver loses control of their truck due to a heavy load, braking too quickly, or an incorrect maneuver.
Rollover: Due to their top-heavy nature, commercial trucks can easily tip onto their side under certain circumstances. Something as innocuous as a sharp swerve to avoid a hazard can cause the truck to roll over.
No-zone accidents: Also referred to as blind-spot accidents, these crashes occur because trucks have blind spots in the front, back, and on both sides. A lack of care taken when checking these blind spots during changing lanes, turning, or speeding up can cause no-zone accidents.
Head-on collisions: Head-on accidents are one of the most fatal types of truck accidents. You can only imagine the devastation that would result from an 80,000-pound truck colliding with a passenger vehicle.
Tire blowouts: While there are weight and size limits in place that trucking companies must adhere to, this isn’t always the case. Overloaded vehicles can put more pressure on tires, which may cause them to explode and thus make a truck lose control.
Under/override accidents: Underride accidents happen when a small car crashes into the back or side of a large truck and becomes wedged underneath. This typically happens when a truck driver can’t stop in time and runs over the vehicle ahead of it.
Injuries commonly caused by truck accidents
The destruction caused by a large truck accident is far more severe than car accidents. Again, some victims may walk away with only mild injuries, some may be more serious and life-changing, and some are fatal. Here are some common injuries that are typically associated with large truck accidents here in Dallas:
- Lacerations and cuts
- Broken or fractured bones
- Neck or head injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Back and spine injuries
- Internal injuries
- Damage to internal organs
- Amputations or disfigurement
- Partial or even total paralysis
How much is my truck crash claim worth?
Every truck crash is different, so it makes sense that every truck crash settlement is different. While some claims may net the complainant millions of dollars in compensation, others will yield much less. Key factors that help determine the value of your case include the following:
How clear it is that the defendant is liable for the crash: If the driver of the truck was found to be legally intoxicated, or you have video footage of the truck running a red light, then the truck driver will not have much of a chance to dispute their liability for the crash. If that is the case, a fair settlement offer is more likely to be presented to you earlier in the process. On the other hand, many of these accidents involve situations where it is unclear which driver was at fault—neither side has concrete proof of what happened. In those cases, the other party has less incentive to present a fair settlement offer to you early in the process.
Whether or not you were partially at fault: In Texas, we have the 51 Percent Bar Rule, which states that you can still recover financially for your injuries as long as you were not more than 50 percent responsible for the crash. While you can still receive damages even if you were 50 percent (or less) responsible for the accident, the amount you are awarded will be reduced proportionately to your share of responsibility. For example, if you suffered $1 million in damages, but you were 20 percent responsible for the crash, then you would end up with $800,000.
How strong your case is: In general, the more evidence you have pointing to the defendant as the driver responsible for the accident, the more valuable your case will be. Maybe your lawyer has tracked down surveillance footage that shows the other driver causing the accident. Perhaps they have interviewed several credible witnesses to the crash—and they all shared the same view that the defendant caused the accident. The stronger your case is, the more likely the defendant will be to present a fair settlement offer to you long before the case ever gets to trial.
How opposed the defendant is to go to trial: There are several reasons why some defendants—whether they are individuals or companies—want to avoid going to trial. Maybe the prospect of the legal fees associated with a long, drawn-out case is overwhelming; perhaps a company fears taking a serious PR hit if your case becomes public record or receives publicity. It could also be that the defendant is concerned about being required to divulge some valuable proprietary information when testifying under oath. The more averse they are to going to trial, the more likely you will receive a fair settlement offer in advance of trial.
Why do I need a truck accident lawyer?
When it comes to an incident as stressful and high-stakes as a truck accident, having someone on your side who knows their way around the law is crucial. Trying to navigate the intricacies of the legal process without the help of a truck accident lawyer can see you missing out on valuable compensation that you are entitled to. A thorough and results-driven lawyer will do the following to make sure you not only have the best case possible, but that you also feel supported and heard during the legal process.
- Help you to comprehend all aspects of your case from beginning to end
- Thoroughly investigate the cause (or causes) of your crash
- Identify all possible sources of compensation, including any limits or loopholes
- Engage experts like accident reconstruction specialists to build your case
- Managing and organizing important documents for you
- Collecting and preserving vital evidence for your case
- Acting as your advocate and communicating with external parties for you
- Expert, tenacious negotiation to secure the highest possible compensation
- Argue for your best interests in court in the event that a settlement can’t be reached
Finding a good truck accident lawyer in Dallas
Finding the best truck accident lawyer in Dallas is as simple as calling the team at Angel Reyes & Associates. Our team has the winning formula for success in all manner of auto accident cases across Texas. When you hire one of our expert truck accident lawyers, you can rest assured that we approach each case with meticulous attention to detail, not to mention compassion. Our team uses tried-and-tested, best-practice procedures to achieve justice for our clients, including the conducting of a full and thorough investigation as well as development of evidence necessary to prove all liability and damages.
Every single investigation is handled by our team of highly skilled lawyers, who have been trained to know everything there is to know about the complex and nuanced world of Texas road laws. Our diligent approach and encyclopedic knowledge means we pick up things our competitors might miss, making us the team you can trust to secure the best possible outcome.
In the unfortunate instance of injury or death, our personal injury lawyers and wrongful death lawyers will compassionately craft a case to ensure that the victim’s beneficiaries receive the absolute maximum compensation that they are entitled to. Our team achieves outstanding results by taking a personal approach, working closely with victims from the moment they make contact so that we have the best shot at creating an airtight case.
FAQs about Dallas truck accidents and the law
What if the driver who caused my truck wreck had a past history of drug or alcohol violations?
If you are hit by a truck driver with previous drug or alcohol related convictions, it could absolutely affect your truck wreck case against the company who employed that driver. It can demonstrate negligence on many levels such as hiring, supervision, retention, training, and more. When a trucking company knowingly (or accidentally) hires drivers with past drug and alcohol problems, they are willingly abandoning a greater responsibility to ensure their trucks are operated safely on public roads.
In short, a truck driver’s history with drugs or alcohol would likely be considered by a jury when they deliberate on your truck wreck case. Many large settlements or jury verdicts result in strong recoveries for truck wreck injury plaintiffs because of the irresponsible conduct of the company employing the driver, and not just the negligence of the intoxicated driver.
Do I sue the driver or the company after a truck accident?
Naturally, you want to hold the person most directly responsible for causing the accident liable for injuries. Thus, suing the truck driver seems like a logical conclusion. While you can certainly sue the driver for damages, focusing solely on this defendant is unlikely to get you the compensation you deserve. While truck drivers must carry commercial insurance in Texas with higher payouts, insurance claims typically do not pay damages in full and do not cover pain and suffering losses.
Since trucking firms are often well-insured, a Dallas truck accident lawyer would typically recommend suing both the driver and the employer. The trucking company enters the suit as a co-defendant and assumes responsibility for screening, hiring, training, supervising, and retaining the driver. Typically, the company can be held liable for anything that occurs while the driver is “on the clock” representing their business.
What should I do if I was partially at fault in my truck accident case?
In some instances, multiple drivers or parties share blame for a truck accident. For example, the truck driver may have been speeding, but you were also using your cell phone. When you share responsibility for an accident, it can directly affect how much compensation you’re entitled to.
To break it down simply, Texas is a modified comparative negligence state, which means your damages are reduced by the percentage of fault you share. These percentages are determined by a judge or jury in the court of law. For example, if a jury rules that you were 20 percent at fault for the truck accident and your damages total $100,000, you would only legally be liable to pursue $80,000 in compensation.
Should I provide a statement to the insurance company following the accident?
It may be your natural instinct to want to talk to the insurance company to get your side of the story down in writing, but this is a bad move. In the heat of the moment, you may say something that they can use against you to reduce the amount of compensation you are entitled to. Even something as simple and reflexive as the word “sorry” can be seen as an admission of guilt. Tell the insurance company that your lawyer will speak on your behalf.
How long do I have to file a claim for my accident?
There are various laws and deadlines that you have to consider when filing a truck accident claim. When you file any lawsuit in Texas, it is subject to the statute of limitations. This means you have two years from the accident date to sue. If you sit on it any longer, you nullify your right to compensation. In the instance that you file your case after two years, it’s likely the court will immediately dismiss it.
There are two major exceptions where you can extend the statute of limitations and have additional time to make your lawsuit official:
- If you were a minor at the time of the crash, the two-year statute would not begin until you turn 18 years old.
- If the defendant left the state before you filed your lawsuit, the statute would start once they return. Any time out of the state would not count towards the two-year deadline.
Contact the expert truck accident lawyers in Texas
If you have been involved in a truck accident in Dallas, no matter how big or small, you want the right people on your side making sure you receive the maximum compensation that you deserve. The team at Angel Reyes & Associates has decades of experience winning cases like yours – and with a 98% success rate and ‘no win, no fee’ model, you can move forward knowing that you are in the best possible hands. Get in touch with Angel Reyes & Associates today for a free, no-obligation consultation and experience the difference that an expert can make.