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.