ATTORNEY IN ODESSA, TEXAS
According to recent statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, large trucks in Texas were involved in over 16,000 crashes in 2020, resulting in 8,914 injuries and 619 fatalities. In other words, in 52% of these crashes, someone got injured (though more than one person can be injured in one collision), and in 3.6%, someone died.
These behemoths of the highway — often referred to as semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, or big rigs — can weigh up to 80,000 pounds or more. For comparison, your average car weighs somewhere between 3,000 to 4,000 pounds. If you are hit by a big rig, catastrophic things can happen. Some of the resulting injuries can lay you up for weeks or longer, while your medical bills soar and your savings deplete.
How do you get compensated for your losses, and who can be held responsible? In trucking accidents, more than just the driver may be liable, but everyone will try to pin the blame on you to evade liability. That’s why you will need the experience, resources, and help of a qualified Texas personal injury attorney to help you exercise your rights.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck accident — or worse, lost a loved one entirely — and you live in Odessa, Texas, or the surrounding communities of Midland, Big Spring, Pecos, or Andrews, contact our firm, The Law Office of Steve Brannan. We will investigate, properly assess liability, and help you file a claim for compensation or even initiate a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit if necessary.
Federal and State Laws
Governing Truck Operations
The Texas Transportation Code and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations) both impose standards on owners and operators of trucks. The rules cover everything from driver qualifications to truck maintenance and most importantly to standards of operation on the road.
Both Texas and the federal government use those standards to limit the number of hours a driver can operate the truck. The federal standards apply to any vehicle traveling interstate, while the Texas code applies to trucks being operated solely within state borders.
Laws Regulating Hours On The Road
Federal regulations limit drivers to 14 hours of work maximum, with 10 hours of rest, within a 24-hour period. Of those 14 hours, only 11 can be spent behind the wheel. In a 7-day period, work totals cannot exceed 60 hours maximum (or 70 in the truck sits idle for a day).
The Texas standards require 8 hours of rest, followed by 15 hours on duty with only 12 of those behind the wheel. No driver may be on duty for more than 70 hours in a 7-day period.
Needless to say, trucking companies and independent operators have been known to push these regulations to the limit when it comes to operating and rest times.
Texas is considered an at-fault state, which means whoever causes a personal injury — or fatality — on the road can be held liable for damages, which can be done either by filing an insurance claim or filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
The driver would seem to be the logical at-fault candidate, but he or she is not always the only liable party, or maybe even the primary at-fault party. Under the legal principle of vicarious liability, others can be held accountable as well.
If the accident is caused by a maintenance problem — perhaps the brakes weren’t kept up to standards — then the maintenance people or company can be held liable. If a defect in the truck is responsible, in whole or in part, then the manufacturer or parts supplier could be deemed liable as well.
If the cargo is loaded improperly, causing the center of gravity of the truck to shift and make it difficult to operate, the cargo loaders can be at fault. The truck company itself, which employs the operator, can be found liable if the company fails to adequately train the driver or ignores safety standards and hours of operation, leading to driver fatigue.
Road conditions — including potholes, fallen trees, uneven pavement, etc. — can contribute as well. Here, you have to file a claim against the responsible government agency, which tends to set high legal bars for lawsuits.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
As mentioned above, if you’re involved in a collision with a truck, you can file a claim through your insurance company, which will then file a subrogation claim with the driver’s insurance company, or you can file directly with the operator’s insurance company. You can also take the matter to court by filing a personal injury claim, which is probably your main route if more than one party or person is deemed liable.
What Can a Claim Recover?
Insurance companies will sometimes offer to pay medical expenses and lost wages, but they often cap them or honor only a percentage of your damages. A personal injury lawsuit not only allows you to jump those hurdles but also to seek compensation for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.
Texas Statute of Limitations &
Modified Comparative Negligence Rule
You have two years from the date of the accident or injury under Texas law to file a personal injury lawsuit, but insurers will expect to be notified immediately if you’ve been involved in an accident. Also, both the insurance company and a jury, if matters go to trial, will assess comparative blame.
Texas uses what’s called the modified comparative negligence rule when it comes to auto and truck accidents. For example, you may have been struck by a truck that swerved into you and forced you off the road, but you may be found to be partially at fault for speeding or passing too closely.
Using this scenario, say you’re found to be 20% at fault for the accident and are awarded $100,000 in compensation. 20% of that will be withheld to account for your level of fault in the accident. This means that you will only be eligible to receive 80% of the compensation awarded to you, or $80,000. If you are found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, you will not be able to collect anything.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Though the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas is two years, the surviving spouse, child, and parents must file the suit within three months of the date of death. After that, the deceased’s personal representative (named in that person’s will or trust) will have to file on behalf of the family.
A wrongful death lawsuit hinges on the condition that, had the victim survived, he or she would have been eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced personal injury attorney can help walk you through the steps you need to take to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
Get The Legal Support You Need Today
As you can see from the discussion above, an accident with a truck is oftentimes much more complex than a crash with another car. There may be multiple layers of liability, to say nothing of the fact that many of the injuries suffered in big rig collisions are often much more serious than those suffered in car accidents.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, don’t face your legal challenges on your own. Call or reach out to our firm, The Law Office of Steve Brannan, today to schedule your own free case consultation. We will do everything we can to help you pursue the justice you deserve.
TRUCK ACCIDENT ATTORNEY SERVING ODESSA, TEXAS
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking collision or even forced off the road to avoid the collision, contact The Law Office of Steve Brannan immediately. We have dealt with virtually every type of trucking incident and are ready to help you with your claim. Tell us your story, let us investigate, and then we can file the necessary claims to pursue fair compensation. The Law Office of Steve Brannan proudly serves clients in Odessa and the surrounding communities of West Texas, including Midland, Big Spring, Pecos, and Andrews — so call today for help with your case!