Enormous, very powerful vehicles, such as 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, big rigs, and other large commercial vehicles deserve and demand respect and extra caution out there on the roads. These vehicles require exceptional drivers and extensive training to insure the safety of themselves and those around them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. And these big truck accidents can be devastating.
You don’t always need a lawyer for every legal issue, but when the accident is serious enough and the injuries sustained are substantial enough and possibly long-term, that is when you want an experienced lawyer on your side.
If you have been hurt or injured in a trucking accident, you are probably up against a large, profit-oriented corporation in your battle to secure the compensation you deserve for your medical bills and other damages. A majority of these large trucks are owned by powerful corporations that have substantial investments to protect themselves after a truck accident.
At Steven Booker Law, our experienced lawyer has been receiving compensation for accident victims for more than 25 years.
How Can We Be of Help?
Here at Steven Booker Law, we have a team approach to our truck accidents, so that we can ensure we are analyzing the incident and the claims from every angle. With this approach, clients have a diverse and talented group of legal professionals working on their behalf to deal with the tactics and tricks these large corporations use to defend themselves.
Trucking companies are notorious for taking quick, almost immediate action to deflect the blame off them and to avoid any potential litigation. Sometimes they will do this by offering low-end settlements to individuals who don’t know any better. If you are seeking to obtain compensation for serious injuries, you shouldn’t try to negotiate with these large corporations by yourself. Instead, let someone who knows what they are doing take the wheel. Allow someone who knows the tips and tricks of the trade to fight on your behalf.
How Will We Investigate?
Trucking accidents that involve other vehicles are often times complex because there are multiple potentially liable parties. Additionally, there are various regulations that govern the trucking industry. And finally, but most obviously, large commercial trucks are very complex machines, so determining what actually caused the crash can be a bit complicated.
It’s important that the team you have working for you acts quickly after the wreck. It is extremely important that they secure physical evidence before it disappears or is affected in any way. Also, it is important to interview witnesses soon after so that the incident is still fresh and untainted in their mind. Our experienced lawyer and his team can do these things for you. We know what needs to be done and we take action to accomplish it. Here are a few of the steps we will take in order to investigate your truck accident claim:
- Requesting a court order that will compel the trucking company and corporation to preserve any records they may have and make them available. Things such as:
- Truck Driver’s Hours of Service Logs. Drivers of large trucks are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to keep logs of their driving time as well as their rest time. This requirement is because often times, fatigued and drowsy driving are major factors in trucking accidents.
- Work Personnel Records. We obtain these to confirm the driver’s employment, work, performance, licensing, and training records.
- Dispatch Records. We obtain the dispatch records of the truck’s route, including departure times, arrival times, and all communications, etc…
- Bill of Lading is issued by a carrier to acknowledge receipt of cargo for a shipment. This document will contain a variety of information including the type, quantity, and destination of the products being carried, along with who handled the truck’s cargo. It has been proven that in some cases, third-party service providers actually own and/or load the trucks, meaning they may be held liable as well.
- Maintenance Records. Getting the truck’s maintenance records is important because it may show neglected care to properly maintain the truck or certain mechanical issues that could have potentially contributed to the wreck.
- Cab Video. Many trucking companies have video systems installed in the cabs in order to monitor the driver’s activity. This footage has the ability to show negligence on the driver’s part, such as nodding off or being distracted with the radio or being on their phone and yes, even watching videos or working on their computer.
- Requesting immediate access to the wrecked truck and the Event Data Records (EDR), otherwise known as “black boxes”. These devices begin recording data whenever they sense problems in the engine or when there is a sudden change in wheel speed. There are many things the EDR download from a wrecked truck could reveal, including:
- Speed of the vehicle
- Speed of the engine
- Throttle (gas pedal) location and positioning
- Brake condition
- Clutch condition
- Cruise control setting
- Steering position and angle
- Forward-collision and lane-departure warnings
- Abrupt deceleration and acceleration
- Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) warnings of data outside the range of normal values
- GPS data
- Investigating and documenting accident scene photos and evidence such as skid marks.
- Examining your vehicle to determine the speed and angle at which the vehicles collided, as well as the damage done to your vehicle.
- Searching the surrounding areas for surveillance footage from any public or private sources such as stoplight cameras or security cameras from a store. Depending on where the accident happened, there may be captured footage of the crash or of the truck prior to the crash.
- Obtaining statements from the truck driver other employees, and third-party employees such as those who loaded the cargo.
- Obtaining the cell phone records of the truck drive to see if he/she was distracted by his/her phone at the time of the accident, thus proving negligence.
- Searching and sifting through truck and truck component databases to see if we can find any indication that the trucking company put an unsafe vehicle on the road.
- Searching social media or other sites to collect comments the driver or company made about the crash.
Why Truck Accidents are More Complicated
There are a multitude of factors that must be taken into account when considering a truck accident case. These factors include the truck driver, the actual truck itself, the company, and the cargo being transported. Within these factors, there are some elements that may make the accident claim a bit more complicated.
- In general, trucking companies are legally responsible for the trucks and the truck drivers it puts on the roads and highways. However, some trucking companies may claim that their drivers are independent contractors and the company is not responsible for the negligence of the independent contractor.
- Another way motor carriers try to deny liability is to force their employees to enter into “least-to-own” contracts. Although these deals typically are structured so the trucker never actually assumes ownership, they are set up in this way so that the company may disavow ownership of the trucks, and therefore, deny liability.
- There are certain legal parameters that differentiate between employees and independent contractors. The trucking company personnel and dispatch records can shine some light as to whether the driver has been treated as an employee or not. (This is why it’s very important to secure the trucking records asap after the accident occurs.)
- The FMCSA regulates the entire trucking industry. There are rules and regulations for truck drivers, truck companies, cargo transportation, and mechanics and maintenance. With such a vast array of rules and regulations, it is critical for investigators to have a complete and comprehensive understanding of these FMCSA rules and regulations and be well-versed in the potential violations.
- As discussed before, there are multiple parties involved in these kinds of accidents. These different parties point fingers at each other in hopes of escaping liability, and often times, these different parties have their own insurer and a team of lawyers there to help protect them.
Who Can Be Held Responsible?
In investigating your truck wreck, it’s important to consider all potentially liable parties. Obviously, every case is different, but depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, we may need to make a claim against multiple different individuals and/or companies and their insurers.
- The Driver himself: The truck driver is one of the first people we will consider in naming the potentially liable parties. The driver may have acted negligently or recklessly, therefore, contributing to your crash.
- Driving while impaired
- Illegal maneuvers in traffic
- The Trucking Company: The trucking companies are responsible for the actions of their employees and for the maintenance and safety of the trucks they put on the road. Unfortunately, though, it is not uncommon to find motor carriers who have taken short cuts to save money and violated FMCSA regulations. In order to save time and money and make a profit, some trucking companies may forego maintenance on a truck, push a tired driver to keep on moving to make a deliver on time (in violation of HOS rules), or even employee an unlicensed and untrained driver that will work for less money.
- The Truck and Truck Parts Manufacturers: If the truck has a malfunction or its parts and components fail, which contribute to the accident, and we can prove that they were faulty from the start, we can pursue a claim against the manufacturers through a products liability claim. The manufacturers and distributors of faulty and dangerous equipment like seatbelts, brakes, tires, etc., can be held responsible for the harm that their negligence caused.
- Cargo Handlers: Cargo loaded into large trucks and/or tractor-trailers must be handled and loaded correctly and securely. Otherwise, a sudden shift of the cargo may result in a change of the vehicle’s center of gravity. This shift in the vehicle’s center of gravity may make the driver lose control and result in a rollover. If the cargo spills, it can be a danger for any oncoming motorists. Furthermore, if the cargo spill is of hazardous materials, it can cause environmental damage in addition to personal injury. The motor carrier and the driver are both required to inspect the truck’s cargo per FMCSA rules. But a third-party vendor or the cargo owner may also be held liable if they were negligent in their services and that negligence led to a cargo shift or a spill that caused an injury.
- Governments/Contractors: There are some instances where external factors contribute to large commercial trucking accidents. These external factors can be the failed maintenance of a roadway or its faulty design or construction. If any of these factors contribute to the crash, the governmental entity that oversaw it and/or the contractors that were hired for the job may be held responsible. Furthermore, local governmental entities and contractors are also held liable for highway work zones, where drivers and workers are increasingly vulnerable to accidents and injuries. Proper work zones include things such as barriers, adequate space to keep the traffic separate from the workers, and proper warning signs and space for motorists to slow their speed.
After we’ve investigated the accident itself, we will begin to gather, focus, and analyze your injuries and the medical costs you accumulated. Full compensation and fair recovery mean that you have no unsatisfied debts in the present or in the future because of the injuries you incurred from this accident, and that you are in a position to maintain the standard of living you had before the accident.
Under Texas and Oklahoma personal injury law, you may seek compensation that reimburses you not only for your economic costs and losses, but also for noneconomic losses. This includes things such as:
- Economic Damages
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
- Past medical treatment/bills
- Future medical treatment/bills
- Loss of property
- Non-economic Damages
- Permanent impairment
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium – loss of service of your spouse with things such as companionship, income, child care, household chores, etc.…
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress
- Injury to reputation (such as not being able to meet financial obligations due to loss of income)
In addition to the above, you may be able to pursue punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded in extreme cases as punishment for the defendant’s reckless behavior.
We will take every future scenario, including potential medical care, into consideration. In the case that you are permanently disabled, we will consult with a life care planner who will analyze your medical records and project the treatment and care you will need over the course of your anticipated lifetime. Additionally, economic experts will help us project the costs of your lost earning capacity. The calculation of this depends on a number of things, such as education, experience, and prior occupation, and will also account for the value of unrealized wages, benefits, perks, and even anticipated promotions and/or other career advancements.
Comparative fault principle reduces or precludes damages plaintiffs can recover if they are found to be partly or mostly at fault for an accident. For example, if you were speeding and you were hit by a truck in an intersection, the defense would argue that had you not been speeding and had you been traveling at the proper speed, you would not have been hit. Then it would be up to the jury to place a percentage on how much you contributed to the accident vs. how much the defendant contributed to the accident.
Your final recovery would be reduced according to the percentage that was placed on you. However, if you were found to have 51 percent or more contribution to the accident, you would not receive any compensation.
One of the biggest benefits of having an experienced personal injury lawyer representing you is that those insurance adjusters now have to deal with someone fighting on your side who is experienced and who is invested in the success of your case (this is because we operate on what is called a contingency fee).
Our work will include rebutting any evidence or allegations of your responsibility to the accident, and we will always seek the maximum amount of recovery for you.
Additionally, lawyers like Steven Booker, who have real experience getting claims like these settled, know the tricks used by the trucking companies and the insurance adjusters. We understand what they look for, and we can disrupt the regular strategies they use to minimize your claim.
If you have been in an accident involving these kinds of circumstances and you have suffered any major injuries, you need to seek out an experienced accident and injury attorney who will walk you step by step through the process while handling all of the dirty work for you.
Call us today at (940) 569-4000 for a free, confidential conversation about your case (and to receive a free copy of The Traveler’s Guide to the Universe of Personal Injury)