Determining Liability in Trucking Accidents From Perspective of a San Antonio Truck Accident Lawyer

Texas Truck Accident Lawyer Discusses Trucking Safety Concerns.

San Antonio Trucking Accident Lawyer on Safety Issues

Texas trucking accidents account for a fraction of all traffic-related accidents that occur on Texas roadways. However, they have the potential to be much more dangerous than motor vehicle traffic accidents.  Due to the sheer weight and size of most trucks, injuries and fatalities resulting from trucking accidents are far greater than most car accidents.  Many trucks also haul hazardous loads that can pose additional risks in the event that they are spilled or otherwise compromised during an accident. Additionally, large trucks are much more likely to be involved in fatal multiple-vehicle crashes compared to fatal single-vehicle crashes. As a San Antonio truck accident lawyer, I have seen the devastating effects that a trucking accident can have on victims and their families, and I’m not alone in recognizing the devastation caused by trucking accidents.

According to 2012 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,675 people were killed and 80,000 injured in crashes that involved large trucks (of which there were 276,000 such crashes). These statistics represent a 9% increase in fatalities and an 8% increase in the number of injuries compared to statistics from 2011.

Like motor vehicle accidents, trucking accidents can occur as a result of a variety of factors. Most trucking accidents are caused by driver error, and fatigue and sleep deprivations are the leading contributors to such error. Another common cause is equipment failure, which might occur in the form of brake failure due to improper maintenance.  Maintenance issues such as tire blowouts as a result of wear and tear, defective lighting, or an improperly attached trailer top the list of maintenance issues that lead to trucking accidents Other factors can also contribute to trucking accidents, including adverse weather, road conditions, and traffic signal failure.

Determining liability in trucking-related accidents can be much more complicated than doing so for everyday motor vehicle accidents. Large trucks are not always owned by their driver, or even the company for which are hauling cargo. As a result, multiple parties may need to be included to determine their role in the accident. Key players often include the truck driver, the owner of the truck and/or trailer, the company that leased the truck and/or trailer, and even the manufacturer of the truck, trailer, the tires, or any other parts that may have contributed to the accident in some way. In some instances, even the shipper or loader of the cargo in the trailer may be at fault. Or, a third party maintenance company may be at fault if they were involved in maintaining any part of the truck or trailer.

There are numerous federal laws and regulations in place to govern the trucking industry in the United States. Agencies involved in this area include the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Additionally, each state establishes its own set of trucking laws and regulations. The purpose of these laws is to establish certain standards that must be met by trucking companies, truck owners, and truck drivers. Accordingly, these laws are often essential to determining who is liable for a trucking-related accident.

Since so many parties can potentially come into play in the event of a trucking accident, infighting between them is not uncommon. Consider this example: a large truck with a flatbed trailer loses control in a curve and the load separates from the truck, colliding with a passenger vehicle. The truck company might argue that the accident was caused by a defective trailer hitch. In turn, the manufacturer of the trailer hitch might claim that that the leasing company failed to maintain the hitch in proper working order. The leasing company might argue that the shipping company was also at fault for failing to secure the load on the flatbed. Such circular arguments are common in trucking related accidents, as each party tries to deflect blame and hold the other party’s insurance company responsible for compensating the victim(s).

Historically, trucking companies have gone to great lengths to avoid being held liable for accidents. They would do so by obtaining the required permits to operate the truck, but then lease all equipment, trucks, and trailers from the “owner/operator.” In addition, trucking companies would not directly employ drivers, but rather would hire them in an “independent contractor” capacity. Next, the trucking company would give the owner/operator something known as a placard, which would contain the name of the trucking company and all permit numbers. This placard would then be placed on the door of the truck, giving the impression that the truck is in fact owned by the named trucking company, and that the driver is employed there as well. In the event that the trucking company was sued in association with an accident, the company would argue that it was not liable, since the driver was not technically its employee, nor did it own the equipment and is therefore not responsible for any operation or maintenance thereof.

Fortunately, these evasive tactics are no longer permissible under current federal trucking laws. Now, any company that owns a trucking permit is responsible for all accidents involving a truck that bears its placard or name anywhere on the vehicle. Lease terms and employment status of the driver are irrelevant as well.

In addition, victims of trucking accidents now have access to information that might prove vital to establishing liability in relation to their particular accident. For example, current federal and state regulations mandate that a certified truck inspector inspect any commercial truck and trailer that is involved in an accident before it is removed from the scene of the accident. The inspector compiles a report of his or her observations, documenting the condition of the mechanical parts of the truck and the trailer; the report is the available to the victim by contacting the appropriate government agency. Moreover, the trucking industry now utilizes devices similar to the “black boxes” that are used to store vital operational and human data on airplanes. In trucks, these devices log data pertaining to truck speed, speed patterns, brake use, and length of travel. Often, this data is erased periodically in accordance with trucking company policies. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that this data is preserved in the event of a trucking accident, as it may contain important and indisputable facts regarding liability.

A Texas truck accident lawyer can be instrumental to ensuring that the interests of the injured party are served, and that appropriate compensation is received. Personal injury attorneys can work to obtain relevant corporate and government inspection records needed to help determine liability, assist with connecting injured clients with appropriate and highly qualified medical specialists, and even reconstruct the truck accident using high-technology methods. In doing so, a Texas truck accident attorney can help their clients identify every individual and/or company that is liable, and give their client the greatest chance to recover appropriate damages for their injuries.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a Texas 18-wheeler accident, it’s important to contact an attorney who can fight to protect the rights of injured persons.  Barrus Injury Attorneys offers a FREE, no obligation consultation with an experienced truck accident lawyer.  To schedule your FREE consultation, call Barrus Law Firm at (210) 593-8709 or visit our Texas truck accident website.

 

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