Houston Truck Accident Attorney
The oil and gas industry has boomed in the Houston area, leading to rapid growth and development throughout the city. However, the growth has created an increased amount of large commercial trucks on the interstates and city roadways.
A 2014 series by the Houston Chronicle and Houston Public Media shows the state has become one of the deadliest in the nation for traffic fatalities, including in the Houston area. Deaths from commercial vehicle accidents in Texas climbed from 2009 to 2014 after decades of decline.
These types of accidents can be catastrophic and often result in death or very serious bodily injury. Most 18-wheeler and commercial semi-trucks are large enough to easily crush a smaller vehicle, so the accidents often are more dangerous. You should not have to pay for the negligence of others. If you have been injured in an 18-wheeler accident, contact a Houston truck accident lawyer.
Truck Accident Statistics – National vs. Texas
Despite safety regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), trucking accidents occur regularly throughout the U.S. and Texas. Truck drivers make mistakes and errors in judgment, trucking companies fail to service their fleet vehicles, and loaders fail to properly secure cargo. These acts of negligence result in thousands of trucking accidents annually, along with deaths and serious personal injuries. Here’s a look at the latest truck accident stats for the U.S., Texas, and Houston:
- United States. In 2015, 4,050 fatal accidents around the country involved large trucks. There were 87,000 large trucks involved in injury accidents the same year.
- In 2016, 556 fatal accidents involved large trucks in the State of Texas. This was a slight decrease from 567 such crashes in 2015.
- In 2016, 35 accidents in Houston County involved commercial vehicles. Five people died, and 12 people suffered incapacitating injuries.
A Look at Fatal Truck Wrecks by Texas Counties in 2016
If you’re one of many people in Texas who have been in a truck accident, you need a lawyer’s help. Truck wrecks involve federal law and trucking companies, and they differ from typical car accident claims. Before you agree to an insurance settlement, talk to an attorney about your legal opportunities.
Texas Trucking Laws
On top of following the FMCSA’s rules, truckers in Texas must also obey state-specific laws. Texas has limitations regarding commercial vehicle size and weight. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the maximum dimensions for large trucks are as follows:
- Gross weight of 80,000 pounds maximum (81,400 with a permit).
- Maximum height of 14 feet.
- Maximum width of eight feet six inches.
- With a permit, large trucks can extend to widths of 16 feet.
- Truck-tractor combination vehicles can have unlimited length.
There are limitations on big rig weights and sizes for the protection of others on the road. Operating a commercial truck that goes outside of these parameters is against the law and puts other drivers at risk. If a trucking accident involves a truck that breaks federal or state laws, the company could be guilty of negligence and liable for the crash.
What to Do After a Truck Accident
After a collision with a large truck, you’re probably scared and confused. You might have serious injuries, and you don’t know where to turn to protect your rights. Insurance companies want you to settle for as little as possible. The trucking company may be denying liability. The actions you take in the first moments, hours, and days after a truck accident can make a difference in the success of a future personal injury claim. Our Houston truck accident attorneys recommend that you follow these general steps after an 18-wheeler hits you in Texas:
- Go to the hospital. Getting prompt medical treatment is crucial to your personal health. A collision with a large truck will almost always result in some kind of injury to passengers of the smaller vehicle. You might not feel injured at the scene, but you could experience symptoms later. Protect yourself by heading to the hospital immediately after a crash.
- Preserve key evidence. After an accident with a large truck, you should start thinking in terms of your insurance claim. Regardless of fault, you will have to talk to the trucking company’s insurer about paying for damages. The more evidence you gather, the better your chances of proving another party’s fault. Contact our lawyers, and we’ll send a quick response team out to preserve and gather important evidence.
- Take photos. Photographs are excellent forms of evidence, as the defense cannot argue against what the judge and jury can plainly see. Take pictures of the scene if you can, including all property damage and personal injuries. Take a few wide-angle shots of the entire scene, including the roadway.
- Talk to police. In Texas, the law requires you to file an accident report if the crash causes injuries, death, or more than $1,000 in property damage. In major truck crashes, this is almost always the case. Call 911, and report the crash. When police arrive, give them your side of the story. Write down the police report number for future reference.
- Contact a truck accident attorney. Before you record a statement with an insurance company, accept a settlement offer, or even total your vehicle or get repairs, call Ben Bronston & Associates – especially if you have injuries. We will immediately get to work preserving evidence, talking to eyewitnesses, and building a case to maximize your compensation after a bad accident.
When in doubt, give us a call before you do anything else. Our attorneys work for you, with your best interests directing our every move. We can walk you through the very first steps of your claim, starting as soon as the day of the crash. The sooner you speak with a lawyer, the sooner you can take action to safeguard your rights as an accident victim.
Safety Tips for Driving Near Large Trucks
Driving around large trucks is unavoidable in Texas – especially in Houston, where major highways serve as important routes for commercial vehicles. It may not always be possible to avoid a collision with a large truck, but there are steps drivers can take to minimize the risk. If you find yourself near an 18-wheeler, use these tips to drive safely around them:
- Give the truck plenty room. The more space you create between your vehicle and the truck, the better. Never crowd a tractor-trailer; this can limit the space both vehicles have to maneuver in the event of an accident. Always give ample room to turning trucks.
- Be wary of common causes of truck accidents. Tire blowouts, blind spots, and lost loads are all common reasons major truck wrecks occur. Be alert to these risks, and get around the truck as quickly as you can.
- Practice defensive driving. Always scan the road ahead of you and watch the large truck as you pass. Never assume the truck driver will do the right thing – always be ready to react if the truck starts to merge on top of you, drift into your lane, or otherwise infringe on your space.
- Properly pass the truck. Do not hover next to, behind, or in front of a large truck. These “no-zones” put you at risk of accidents. Pass on the left side as soon as possible, hugging the outside of your lane. The right side of your lane puts you directly in the trucker’s blind spot.
- Never cut a large truck off. Trucks cannot stop as quickly as smaller, lighter vehicles. Never cut off a large truck, as this comes with a high risk of the truck rear-ending you. These accidents can be fatal due to the immense weight of the truck.
The most important thing is to follow the rules of the road. The more predictable you are to truckers around you, the safer you will be. Weaving in and out of traffic, cutting large trucks off, slamming on your brakes, and speeding all increase your risk of a serious collision. Obey traffic laws, hope the truck next to you does the same, and be ready to react if it seems like a collision is inevitable.
Common Causes of Truck Wreck
Learning the factors that most often play roles in large truck accidents can help you avoid becoming a victim. While there are almost endless ways a truck crash can occur, data from thousands of accidents in the past show several causes that are more common than others. Our Houston truck accident lawyers have found that negligence is primarily to blame for harmful truck collisions. This becomes clear when you look at the common causes of truck wrecks:
- Inadequate roadway surveillance. This is the most common critical reason for lane departure crashes involving large trucks, according to one study. Truck drivers must pay strict attention to the road at all times to prevent accidents.
- Driving too fast for conditions. When truck drivers speed, they put everyone in danger. A truck traveling too fast may not be able to turn sharply enough or brake fast enough to avoid collisions. They may gain too much momentum, making the truck uncontrollable.
- Driver inattention/distraction. Similar to inadequate surveillance, truckers who become distracted by cell phones, food, passengers, GPS devices, and other things behind the wheel become threats to other drivers.
- Falling asleep behind the wheel. The same study found “asleep” to be the second-most critical reason for single-vehicle truck crashes (the first being speeding). Truckers are more prone to drowsy driving because of long hours on the road and pressure to meet drop-off deadlines.
- Vehicle defects. To perform safely and efficiently, every component of a large truck must be in good working order. It is up to the trucking company to maintain its fleet vehicles with regular inspections and repairs, as well as the driver to assess the truck before each drive. Maintenance-related defects may result in company liability, while product defects may be the fault of the manufacturer or distributor.
If any of these factors caused or contributed to your recent truck accident, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Although truck drivers are technically independent contractors, federal law holds trucking companies accountable for the actions of their drivers (as if they were employees). It is worthwhile to talk to one of our Houston lawyers after a collision to find out if you’re eligible for compensation.
What Can a Truck Driver Do to Prevent an Accident?
Too often, negligent truck drivers cause accidents that never should have happened. It is every trucker’s responsibility to take due care while behind the wheel of a big rig. The FMCSA outlines driver safety tips to help prevent truck driver distraction, which is one of the main reasons collisions occur.
Truck drivers should eliminate distractions within the cab such as reading material, food, and hand-held electronic devices. They should also limit external distractions by focusing on the road instead of billboards, other vehicles, or accidents. If more truck drivers took their responsibilities seriously and obeyed the law, fewer victims would end up in hospitals. To discuss your Texas truck accident with one of our lawyers in a free consultation, call Ben Bronston & Associates today!