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How Can a Houston Truck Accident Lawyer Help?

Offered by Baumgartner Law Firm

Injury victims are eligible to receive compensation for their accidents

Accidents caused by tractor-trailers, big rigs, 18-wheelers, oil tanker trucks and other large commercial vehicles often occur in the greater Houston area. In an instant, drivers or passengers in other vehicles can sustain a serious injury that may require surgery or other emergency medical care at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital or another medical facility in Houston.

Whether it’s a jackknife truck accident on I-10, a rollover truck accident on I-45, or a distracted driving truck accident on I-69 or another road in Houston, all it takes is one small mistake by a commercial truck driver to cause a serious collision. That’s why it’s important to understand why truck accidents happen and the legal options available to injury victims and their families.

How common are commercial truck accidents in Houston?

Legally, a commercial truck is any large vehicle that requires a driver to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate it. This is a federal law that applies to all truck drivers nationwide.

Drivers must have a CDL if the truck and trailer have a gross combined weight of more than 26,001 pounds, if the vehicle is designed to transport 16 or more people, or if it’s going to carry any hazardous material.

Accidents involving such large vehicles happen more often than people might realize, especially in cities like Houston. Here, there are often a lot of large trucks on the road due to the oil and gas industry as well as shipping through the Port of Houston.

Nationwide, more than 4,000 people each year on average die in collisions involving large, commercial trucks, according to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). As a result, fatalities involving large commercial trucks account for roughly 11 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities.

As for Texas, there are 35,893 crashes each year on average involving commercial motor vehicles, resulting in 600 fatalities and 8,136 injuries on average each year, according to statistics compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

In Harris County, those figures are 5,740 commercial motor vehicle accidents, causing 38 fatalities and 1,538 injuries on average each year, according to TxDOT statistics.

What are the most dangerous highways and roads in Houston?

While accidents involving tractor-trailers and other large, commercial trucks can happen anywhere, certain roads and highways are more dangerous than others. Statistically, commercial truck accidents most often occur (51 percent of fatalities) on “major roads” nationwide, according to the IIHS study of commercial truck accidents. An additional 34 percent of commercial truck accident fatalities happen on “highways and interstates,” while the remaining 15 percent occur on “minor roads.”

Many Texas highways and interstates are among the deadliest in the country. This includes two highways in Harris County that earned rankings in “the 100 most dangerous roads in the country,” according to a study conducted by Value Penguin. Based on recent accident data, the two highways that made the top 100 most dangerous are:

  • Interstate 45 in Harris County
  • Texas State Highway 6 in Harris County

Commercial truck accidents also occur on many of the other highways and interstates that pass through or around Houston, including:

  • Interstate 10, which runs east to west across the state through Houston.
  • Interstate 45, which runs north to south from Dallas to Houston.
  • Interstate 69, which runs northeast to southwest through Houston and across the state.
  • Interstate 610, a 38-mile-long loop that runs around Houston.

These are just some of the places where commercial truck accidents often occur in Houston and throughout Harris County. And each accident needs to be thoroughly investigated by local police, the Texas Highway Patrol, or the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates serious commercial truck accidents nationwide that involve serious injuries or fatalities. A lawyer representing injury victims and their families should also conduct an in-depth, independent investigation.

Why do truck accidents happen?

Accidents involving large, commercial trucks happen for many different reasons. One of the most common causes is speeding. This is because trucks need more time and space to stop and slow down due to the large size and weight of commercial trucks. A fully loaded tractor-trailer needs 20 to 40 percent more time and space to slow down to avoid a crash as compared to a car, according to the IIHS study.

Truck driver fatigue, including falling asleep at the wheel, is another common cause of commercial truck accidents. This is why there are strict federal rules regulating how many hours commercial truck drivers can legally drive before they must take a mandatory rest break. The limit is 11 hours in a row before a truck driver must take a break, according to federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which can be found in Title 49, Part 395 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Other common reasons why collisions involving large, commercial trucks occur include:

  • Distracted driving, including texting while driving.
  • Poor truck maintenance, including defective brakes, bald tires, or tire blowouts.
  • Inexperienced truck drivers, especially in crashes involving hazardous weather, driving too fast for road conditions (especially around sharp curves) or misjudging the distance between the truck and other vehicles.
  • Overloaded or improperly loaded trucks, causing the truck to rollover or jackknife.
  • Truck drivers under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Who’s responsible for paying for my accident?

Like other motor vehicle accidents in Texas, the at-fault party is generally responsible for compensating injury victims for their accident-related expenses. What makes commercial vehicle accidents different from most other accidents is there can often be more than one at-fault party. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, the at-fault party may include:

  • The commercial truck driver.
  • The trucking company the commercial truck driver works for.
  • The company that loaded the contents of the truck, especially if the contents were not properly secured and shifted in transit, causing the crash.
  • The company that manufactured the truck or parts of the truck, especially if a mechanical defect contributed to the collision.
  • The company that owns the truck’s trailer.
  • The company that maintains the truck, if improper truck maintenance contributed to the crash.

Commercial truck accidents happen for many other reasons. And in each case, the accident must be thoroughly investigated to determine the exact cause of the collision. That way, the correct at-fault party can be held accountable for their actions.

How can a lawyer help me?

It’s important to have an experienced Houston truck accident attorney on your side after your accident. Even if the truck driver, the trucking company, or another business was clearly at fault, that doesn’t mean you will automatically get the financial compensation you rightfully deserve for your accident-related expenses.

Because there’s often so much money at stake, trucking companies and their insurance providers will hire teams of attorneys to defend their actions. They do this because they would rather pay legal fees than pay injury victims the money they deserve for medical expenses, vehicle repair or replacement costs, replacement income, and other accident expenses. This is because such expenses can easily add up to thousands of dollars or significantly more.

An experienced attorney can carefully investigate your truck accident and gather evidence in support of your injury claim. Make sure your lawyer knows how to read and analyze your Texas car accident report, officially known as a “Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report (Form CR-3).”

Your attorney should also have an in-depth understanding of the state and federal laws that apply to commercial truck accidents, including Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. An experienced attorney can navigate the complex laws and regulations that apply to truck accidents and find the path to compensation for your injuries.

Carefully choose your Houston truck accident lawyer. Make sure you ask them questions and find out exactly how much experience they have handling such complex legal cases in Houston and throughout Harris County. Most lawyers who handle injury claims in Texas offer a free case evaluation. Schedule an appointment today.

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Founded in 1989 by attorneys Michael Smith and Al Hassler, Smith & Hassler is a personal injury law firm dedicated to fighting for injured Houstonians. We have decades of experien...

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The Baumgartner Law Firm is a top-rated Houston personal injury law firm that has been protecting the financial future of personal injury victims in Houston, Texas for over 35 yea...