Personal Injury Attorney, Samuel Lee

Houston’s drivers and pedestrians share the roads with all sorts of trucks – those carrying out deliveries, transporting cargo or hazardous materials, or performing construction jobs. Though these trucks are essential for a healthy economy and support various industries, their ever-growing presence on Houston’s roads has prompted a higher number of accidents and truck accident victims. While a “typical” car accident can cause serious injuries or fatalities, truck accident victims almost always sustain life-changing or life-ending outcomes.

Truck accident victims, as well as those injured in a car accident, need strong legal representation from an experienced truck accident attorney. Houston truck accident lawyer Steve Lee can provide that representation, helping victims secure the financial compensation they need to recover and the justice they deserve.

Personal Injuries from Big Truck Wrecks

Large truck accident data collected by the National Safety Council over a recent full year reveals sobering facts:

  • 5,700 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents, showing an 18% increase from the previous year
  • 5,788 people were killed in these fatal accidents
  • Though large trucks only comprise 5% of registered vehicles, they were involved in 9% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents
  • 117,300 big trucks were involved in injury-causing accidents, showing a 12% increase from the previous year
  • 155,000 people were injured in these truck accidents

For fatal truck accidents, 72% of victims were occupants of a passenger car or other motor vehicle, 17% were truck occupants, and 11% were non-vehicle occupants. Of all 50 states, Texas ranked highest for the number of truck accident fatalities with 806.

The percentages of victims experiencing truck accident injuries follow a similar pattern, with passenger car or other vehicle occupants representing 71%, truck occupants representing 27%, and non-vehicle occupants representing 2%.

Most victims hurt in an accident with a large truck do not escape with “mild” injuries. On average, trucks are about 20 – 30 times heavier than passenger vehicles, whose occupants are the clear underdog in a collision. Large-truck accident victims typically sustain severe or catastrophic injuries.

Severe Injuries

Severe injuries can include broken or crushed bones, moderate traumatic brain injuries (TBI) such as a concussion, damage to soft tissue or nerves that do not cause permanent paralysis, or lacerations, among others.

Though victims can recover, either partially or completely, from these injuries, they will likely undergo extensive medical treatment, including surgeries and rehabilitative therapies. In some cases, victims cannot experience a full recovery and are left with diminished function in related parts of their bodies.

Catastrophic Injuries

Catastrophic injuries are immediately and permanently life-changing. For example, severe TBIs can cause brain damage from which victims cannot recover, reducing or destroying their cognitive function and/or bodily functions.

Spinal cord injuries are not uncommon and can lead to partial or total paralysis. Some large truck accidents are so violent as to cause limb amputations. Other catastrophic injuries include burns and permanent organ damage.

A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

Whatever the degree and nature of your injuries after a truck accident, you will likely be in pain and out of work for a long time. If you can recover from your serious injuries, you will still have medical bills as well as your usual bills and any other accident-related expenses to pay, all while losing income from missed time at work. If your injuries are catastrophic, it is likely you will be out of work permanently and require extensive and ongoing medical care.

To recover your financial and other losses, partner with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Your attorney will file your injury claim, collect evidence to prove your case and support your settlement demand, and work to secure substantial maximum financial compensation.

If your loved one is killed in a fatal truck accident, your personal injury lawyer can file a wrongful death claim instead of an injury claim, which covers death expenses and income loss, and acknowledges the surviving family’s loss of a relationship.

Texas Truck Accident Cases: What Injury Victims Should Expect

Though it may seem abundantly clear to you that you deserve compensation for your injuries, you should not attempt to handle personal injury claims on your own or with inferior representation. An experienced Harris County truck accident legal team understands Texas personal injury law and how to collect and present evidence to prove the at-fault party’s negligence and we will fight to ensure your fair treatment.

In the state of Texas, victims can only collect a settlement or win a verdict by proving their personal injury claims. To do this, they must prove the at-fault party:

  • Owed them a duty of care: The at-fault party had a legal obligation to act in ways to preserve the victim’s safety and avoid behavior compromising that safety.
  • Breached the duty: The at-fault party failed to uphold their duty of care to the victims. Since all drivers owe others on the road a duty of care, a truck driver who speeds, drives while intoxicated, or drives on a suspended driver’s license, for example, breaches their duty of care.
  • Caused the accident: The breach of duty caused the accident.
  • Caused damages: The accident caused quantifiable damages to the victim.

Your legal team will investigate the accident, consulting with accident reconstructionists, and review the police report and other information relevant to your accident report, to determine what party is at fault and owes you compensation.

Next, your attorneys will gather comprehensive evidence from the accident reconstruction, the accident scene itself, photos or video of the accident and surrounding areas, witnesses, medical and other relevant experts, and any other necessary sources.

Truck accident law in Texas follows a modified comparative fault system. This means victims may file a claim against the at-fault party as long as they (the victims) are less than 50% responsible for the accident. If the victim holds less than 50% fault and secures a settlement, the amount they collect is reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault they hold.

The Role of Trucking Companies and Truck Drivers in 18-Wheeler Accidents and Commercial Truck Wrecks

A variety of parties may hold full or partial culpability for your accident, but those most commonly at fault are trucking companies and truck drivers. Trucks are massive and, therefore, dangerous vehicles. To preserve the safety of truck drivers and all who share the roads with them, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) holds both companies and drivers to many specific regulations.

Commercial Truck Drivers

Among other laws, truck drivers must comply with regulations governing:

  • Hours of service and mandatory rest periods, and keep logbooks recording these hours
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol for four hours before driving, avoid using alcohol or any mind-altering substance while on duty or that will impair them once on duty
  • Daily pre- and post-ride truck inspections
  • Operational adjustments during bad weather

As commercial drivers, truck drivers must complete proper training and abide by stricter driving under the influence (DUI) laws. Texas drivers 21 years and older can be charged with DUI when driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08%, while a commercial truck driver can be charged at .04%.

Trucking Companies

The trucking industry is competitive, and trucking companies want their drivers to provide the fastest service. Even so, trucking companies cannot force or “encourage” drivers to exceed the maximum hours of operation, speed, or overload cargo. Unfortunately, truck companies may cut corners or ask their drivers to do the same, and in doing so, put everyone on the road in danger.

Trucking companies must follow a schedule for truck maintenance to prevent malfunctions and subsequent accidents. They must also vet their drivers, train them properly, and take them off the roads for certain violations.

Black Box

Logbooks are not the only resource available to personal injury lawyers investigating truck drivers’ or trucking companies’ compliance with regulations. Most trucks are outfitted with a “black box,” recording a truck’s speed, hours of operation, maintenance, and other information that may reveal the cause of an accident and what happened in the moments before the accident occurred. When you connect with a truck accident lawyer promptly after your accident, your attorney can send a preservation of evidence letter to ensure the information in the black box is not erased, lost, or otherwise destroyed.

Causes of Truck Accidents

As with any motor vehicle accident, there are a variety of causes of truck accidents. Some of the most common include driver fatigue, improperly loaded cargo, driver distraction, vehicle malfunction, and speeding.

Obviously, drivers who are fatigued or distracted can fail to stop in time to avoid a collision, nod off at the wheel, or lose control. Cargo overloads can overtax a truck’s systems, leading to brake failure, and improperly loaded cargo can cause imbalance, causing a truck to jackknife or tip over altogether. Trucks take more time and need more space to stop, and a speeding truck needs even more time and space, making it easy for speeding drivers to hit stopping vehicles from behind.

If a defective component part or vehicle malfunction causes a truck accident, manufacturers may be held responsible. When the truck involved in the accident is a government-owned truck, such as a United States Postal Service truck, or if broken traffic lights or signals or poorly maintained roads cause the event, the government entities overseeing those areas may be culpable.

No matter the cause, a truck collision is a terrifying and often fatal event. Your attorneys’ investigation will reveal if truck drivers or trucking companies failed to comply with the many regulations established by the FMCSA and hold those parties accountable for their devastating failures.

Truck Accident Lawsuits and Insurance Companies

An experienced truck accident lawyer is not just well-versed in truck accident laws and filing and building a truck accident claim, but they are also experienced at successfully negotiating with insurance adjusters. An insurance company’s goal is to make money by selling policies. They lose money when they have to honor those policies and make payouts. As a result, they typically employ unsavory tactics to avoid those payouts.

When victims speak to an at-fault party’s adjuster, they are often pressured into accepting a lowball offer even though it does not represent fair compensation. Other times, adjusters twist victims’ words into admissions of fault or claim that their injuries are not that serious. These strategies often work in the insurance company’s favor as victims suffer more.

And remember, Texas operates under a modified comparative fault system. The more fault the insurance company can pile on you, even through unethical means, the less they pay. A Houston truck accident lawyer will protect your settlement from unfair reductions.

Trust your truck accident lawyer to handle all communication with insurance adjusters. Your attorney will calculate your medical care costs and consult with experts to determine the amount of your future medical treatment. Your lawyer will also factor in your lost income and other expenses and put a dollar amount on your emotional losses and suffering so your settlement demand provides fair compensation covering every loss.

Wrongful Death Claims

If you lose a loved one in a Houston truck accident, you may still face medical bills for any aid rendered before their death, along with end-of-life costs. When there are truck accident fatalities, your attorney will file a wrongful death claim against the liable parties to bring family members justice and financial recovery in the face of their terrible loss.

In Texas, the statute of limitations for wrongful death or personal injury claims is two years from the date of death or the accident. However, if your claim is against a government entity, the statute of limitations is shorter and the process for filing is different.

To put yourself in the best position to collect a fair settlement or achieve a trial verdict, connect with a Houston truck accident as soon as possible after your accident.

Truck Accident FAQs

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions involving truck accidents in Houston. Click on each question to learn more:

Do I need to see a doctor after being involved in a truck crash?

If you were involved in a large truck accident caused by a negligent driver, you probably know to seek immediate medical care if you suffered apparent injuries. But what happens if you don’t believe you were hurt?

You may not believe there’s a reason to see a doctor in this situation. However, if you later discover you need to file a claim for compensation, a delay in medical care may impact any possibility of reimbursement for expenses.

When to Seek Medical Treatment After a Truck Accident

Truck accident victims can make inadvertent mistakes when filing a claim that can hurt their right to compensation. One error is to not have a doctor examination immediately after the crash, even if you don’t think you’re injured.

Here’s why you want to obtain medical care within a day or two of your accident:

  • Discover hidden injuries. Your health can be jeopardized if you don’t seek prompt medical care. The symptoms of traumatic brain injury; neck, spinal, and back injuries; and internal bleeding and organ damage may not become apparent for days or longer after your crash. If a doctor examines you shortly after the incident, he or she might diagnose a condition sooner and provide treatment before the problem becomes a life-threatening emergency.
  • Document your injuries. Immediate medical care after the crash assigns evidence that your injuries were caused by the truck accident and not another incident, and that you were concerned about being hurt in the wreck.
  • Avoid disputes. The insurance company representatives for the trucker and trucking company will look for reasons to reduce or deny your claim. When you don’t seek prompt medical care, this can raise disputes about whether another incident caused your injuries and how serious they are. An adjuster could argue that you must not have been seriously injured, or you would have seen a doctor sooner.

What happens if you delayed seeking medical care because you honestly thought you weren’t hurt? This doesn’t mean that you ruined your claim for compensation. An experienced truck accident attorney will have strategies to deal with this and many other potential problems in your claim.

How can I claim damages in my truck accident case?

When you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you must demonstrate that one or more parties were negligent, such as the truck driver and the company he works for. They will be considered negligent if it can be proven that you were harmed by their careless actions.

Elements of a Negligence Claim

To establish negligence, these four conditions must be proven:

  1. Duty. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. Truck drivers are expected to operate their vehicles safely and responsibly.
  2. Breach. A defendant will only be considered negligent if he breached his duty of care by behaving in a manner contrary to what a reasonably prudent person would do under the same circumstances. If a truck driver speeds during a rainstorm, he’s guilty of breaching his duty of care.
  3. Causation. Even when there’s no question the defendant breached his duty of care, that fact is irrelevant unless the breach actually caused the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, if a truck driver loses control and collides with another vehicle because he was speeding on wet pavement, the element of causation will be satisfied.
  4. Damages. The final element of a negligence claim involves proving the plaintiff suffered harm that can be addressed by the court. This may be documented by providing copies of medical bills, and by obtaining expert testimony regarding the impact of a plaintiff’s injuries on his ability to work. When a motorist is hospitalized due to a truck collision, he’s entitled to receive financial recovery.

Truck Accident Injuries

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you deserve compensation for your medical bills, loss of income, and pain and suffering. However, truck accident cases are complicated, and establishing negligence requires the assistance of a personal injury attorney skilled in gathering evidence and documenting damages. To learn more, contact the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

Log Books

A truck driver keeps a paper record, known as a log book. It details duty hours, driving hours, and time spent in a sleeper berth.

Effective December 18, 2017, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule became mandatory for most commercial vehicle drivers. This means that paper records are no longer sufficient, and ELDs must be installed in commercial trucks. These small electronic devices connect to the vehicle’s engine, and track how long the truck has been in motion. Drivers caught operating trucks without ELDs will be cited and fined, and safety inspectors may remove these vehicles from service.

Receiving Compensation

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, the driver’s logs may be a key piece of evidence in support of your claim. You need an experienced truck accident attorney to help you receive the compensation you deserve.

How much time do I have to file a truck accident case?

When you’ve been hurt in a vehicle collision, you only have a brief window of time to pursue compensation. The Texas statute of limitations puts strict time limits on personal injury claims.

Texas Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is legislation intended to place time limits on the filing of various types of lawsuits. In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including those for vehicle accidents, is just two years. The same time limit applies to wrongful death and property damage claims.

If you fail to pursue your lawsuit during this time frame, the judge will most likely dismiss your complaint, permanently barring you from receiving compensation.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

While the statute of limitations countdown typically begins the moment a collision occurs, there are some important exceptions:

  • If a family member passes away due to complications from his truck accident injuries, the applicable statute of limitations will be two years from the date of his death.
  • If you weren’t immediately aware of your injuries, the statute of limitations may be calculated from the date your condition was discovered.

Pursue Compensation Right Away

Vehicle accident victims often suffer from serious physical injuries and severe emotional distress. You may hesitate to contact a vehicle accident attorney during this difficult time, but you should do so as soon as possible in order to protect your rights.

Investigating your case, gathering and reviewing vital evidence, and negotiating a settlement takes time. Any delay in the pursuit of compensation will limit your attorney’s ability to help you. The parties responsible for your injuries will likely claim if you were truly hurt, you would have sought help right away. Also, as time passes crucial evidence needed to prove your case may be lost or destroyed.

What are tricks the insurance company uses after a truck accident?

No one likes to feel like they are being tricked or taken advantage of, especially after they have been seriously injured in a truck accident that was definitely not their fault. If you are currently in this situation, here are a few tricks to look out for when the trucker’s insurance company comes calling:

They act like they care. When we are hurt or not feeling well, it’s always nice when someone asks how we are doing and takes a real interest in helping us. When the insurance company first gets in touch with you, they may act like this…but don’t be fooled. They don’t care how you feel. They want you to let your guard down a little so they can get you to say something that will hurt your chances of receiving a fair settlement.

They delay. If an insurance company keeps delaying your settlement, that means they still haven’t had to pay you. They may try to give you a million different excuses for weeks and months as to why things cannot move forward, and it may take a while before you realize you are being strung along on purpose. In delaying your case, insurance companies are hoping you will get so frustrated that you give up or decide to accept their low-ball settlement offer. Speaking of low ball settlement offers…

They will try to offer you less money than you deserve. The insurance company knows that you are in a tough spot right now, and they hope that even if they offer less money than you need that you will just take it out of desperation. Don’t do it! Contact Attorney Steve Lee right away and let him handle the insurance company.

What happens when a truck driver causes a collision while on opioids?

Opioids are highly addictive substances typically prescribed to a patient by a physician for pain relief. Unfortunately, the nature of their job makes large truck operators susceptible to opioid addiction, creating a deadly hazard when they drive under the influence.

Truck Driver Opioid Use

Commercial driving jobs often require long shifts that include heavy lifting, repetitive motions, and remaining seated for extended periods of time. Truckers are often injured in the process of loading, unloading, or repairing their vehicles.

Opioids can help these drivers continue to make long hauls despite the pain, but this help often comes at a steep price. Frequently prescribed for severe chronic pain, opiates use can lead to addiction in a matter of weeks. Repeated usage stalls the body’s natural production of endorphins, causing the same dosage to quickly lose its effectiveness. Truckers must then increase the dosage to get the pain relief they need, leading to a dangerous cycle of addiction.

This addiction can turn deadly when drivers climb behind the wheel of their trucks. Opioids may cause extreme drowsiness and fatigue, making truckers who drive under the influence a huge threat to everyone on the road.

Determining Truck Driver Drug Impairment

The United States Department of Transportation requires drug testing of any trucker involved in a collision that results in a fatality or disabling damage to any motor vehicle. Prior to the year 2018, truck drivers were only tested for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. However, they’re now also tested for opioids, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone.

What should I do if I believe the truck driver who caused my accident was under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

Each and every motorist is expected to drive safely in order to avoid injuring themselves or others on the road. Safe driving practices are especially important for truck drivers, who pilot monstrously large and heavy vehicles that are capable of causing catastrophic devastation when involved in collisions with smaller cars and trucks.

Driving while under the influence or drugs or alcohol is one of the most serious—and potentially deadly—ways that a motorist can breach the duty of care owed to their fellow drivers. And, when it comes to truck accidents, intoxicants make dangerous situations even worse. Unfortunately, long hours on the road, high expectations from their employers, and tight schedules may encourage some truck drivers to drink or use drugs while behind the wheel.

Fortunately, those who were injured in truck accidents caused by intoxicated truck drivers may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for medical bills, vehicle repairs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

In truck accident personal injury cases, compensation usually comes from the trucking company—or the company that insures them. Because these companies are for-profit businesses with an eye toward the bottom line, they often fight to keep their financial payouts as small as possible. Working with a knowledgeable, experienced attorney can help ensure you’re treated fairly.

Was Your Truck Accident Caused by an Intoxicated Driver?

Those who are fortunate enough to survive truck accidents are often left buried under an avalanche of medical debt, and looking at a long and painful recovery and rehabilitation period. If you were injured in a truck accident that you believe was caused by a driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may be able to seek a financial award for your damages.

What should I do if the trucking company denies liability for the actions of its negligent truck driver?

If you were hurt in a truck accident, you want to hold the trucking company as well as the negligent truck driver responsible for compensating you because the company will have much more insurance coverage than the driver.

However, it is not unusual for the trucking company to deny responsibility for its truck driver’s actions. If that is what the trucking company is telling you, you should not assume this is true. Texas’ vicarious liability law could make the company responsible unless your situation falls within a limited exceptions to this law.

What Is Vicarious Liability?

Vicarious liability is a legal principle in Texas that holds a trucking company responsible for the actions of its negligent employees—including truck drivers. It makes the trucking company liable as long as the worker was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the crash. In general, a trucker would be acting within the scope of his employment if he was working under the control and instruction of the trucking company and his actions were related to his job.

What Are Exceptions to a Truck Company’s Vicarious Liability for Its Trucker’s Negligence?

There are a few exceptions when a trucking company would not be vicariously liable for compensating you when a negligent trucker causes your injuries. These include the following:

  • Independent contractor. If a truck driver is an independent contractor and not an employee, the trucking company would not be responsible for his negligent actions. However, the fact that the trucking company calls the trucker an independent contractor does not mean that he is not an employee. Employers can misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid providing workers with benefits and to try to escape liability for their actions.
  • Not in scope of employment. The trucking company would not be liable for the trucker’s actions if he caused your crash when he was not performing duties within the scope of his employment. For example, if the trucker was delivering his load when he hit you, he would be acting within the scope of his job. However, if he was driving his truck to his child’s school activity when your crash occurred, this would most likely be outside the scope of his employment.
  • Intentional act. Another exception to the truck company’s responsibility is if the truck driver intentionally tried to hurt you or was committing a criminal action, such as an assault and battery.

What Should You Do If the Trucking Company Denies Liability?

You should not accept the trucking company’s denial of responsibility in your case. Your first step should be to hire an experienced truck accident attorney who can determine whether the trucker was really an employee acting within the scope of his job duties and who can hold the trucking company liable for compensating you.

Which laws are applicable to truck accident cases?

Just like any other vehicle accident case, truck collision litigation requires proof of liability. To win your truck accident case, your attorney must be prepared to provide proof of negligence under personal injury law.

However, violations of truck-specific regulations can be important evidence your lawyer may use to bolster your claim.

Traffic Law Violations

While it’s possible to hold truck drivers and trucking companies liable for accidents, there really isn’t “truck accident law.” Instead, an attorney must prove negligence, which may or may not involve violations of trucking-specific regulations. Evidence of a trucker’s violation of general traffic laws may be used to demonstrate negligence, such as:

  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Drowsy driving

Regulatory Violations

The trucking industry is heavily regulated, with federal and state laws that dictate appropriate trucker and fleet transportation company behavior. Violation of these rules demonstrates that the trucking company has failed in its duty to keep the public safe.

There are a number of truck-specific regulations that may be cited as evidence of negligence in a truck accident case, including:

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) RegulationsThis set of laws applies to practically every aspect of large trucks, including the hours an operator may drive to commercial truck weight regulations. The FMCSA is important in truck accident cases because many of the mistakes truckers make are violations of these regulations. If an operator breaches FMCSA regulations, an attorney can cite this as evidence of his or her negligence.
  • Texas Transportation Code. Most sections of the state’s transportation code apply to all types of motor vehicles, but the code also includes regulations specific to trucks. As noted above, violations of these laws may be used as proof of liability.
  • Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Rules. This agency created specific rules regarding the registration and inspection of commercial trucks. TxDOT is also responsible for the licensing of truck drivers. If the fleet company or driver violates these regulations, this may also be used as proof of negligence.

Schedule A Free Consultation with Houston Truck Accident Attorney Steve Lee

Whether you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a truck accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you need–and deserve–significant compensation. The aftermath of the crash has probably put you and your family in a state of confusion and fear, overwhelmed by your situation and unsure of what to do next. That next step is easy. Contact an experienced truck accident attorney for a free case evaluation. Houston truck accident attorney Steve Lee is here to give you the highest quality legal representation, approaching your case with compassion while fighting fiercely for fair compensation and justice.