Texas is famous for its identity with the “old west,” cowboys and rugged friendliness but is almost equally as famous for its terrible traffic. No wonder why auto accidents remain the most common cause of personal injuries in Texas. Every year, millions of people are severely injured in motor vehicle accidents across the Lone Star State, and thousands more are tragically killed. The economic and cultural hub of North Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth, alone reports hundreds of thousands of auto accidents every year.
Though any auto accident is frightening, the one involving a large truck can feel even more so. The situation becomes worse if the collision involves a fully loaded rig that can weigh in at more than 80,000 pounds or one moving at high speed, or both. When these 18-wheeler behemoths collide with passenger vehicles on a Texas freeway, they can cause crippling personal injuries that can radically affect the victim’s day to day well-being for the rest of their life. Some even die.
What Are the Causes of Truck Wrecks?
Operating a 40-ton vehicle is not easy and should be done with the utmost care and focus. But no matter how much training and experience a truck driver has under his or her belt, accidents do happen. Sometimes they are driver-error, and other times they are not. Here are the primary causes of a truck accident:
Driver Fatigue - Like the rest of us, truck companies are under the gun now with high gas prices guzzling up a bigger share of their profits. Big rig drivers are in a bigger hurry to deliver their goods. The result of all this pressure? Longer hours, less sleep, and more stress. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for disaster.
Inexperienced Truck Drivers - Experience makes a huge difference in the trucking industry. Truckers who have been driving for decades have “learned the ropes” through years of hands-on experience. Drivers new to the industry are still novices. They are native to the road’s true nature when behind the wheel of a semi-truck.
Driving Too Fast - Did you know that a mere ten mph over the speed limit can sharply increase the distance a truck needs to brake safely — from 315 feet to 400 feet? In wet weather, those figures practically double to 720 feet for a full stop.
Following Too Closely - The Texas Department of Public Safety recommends a car length for every ten miles per hour. But with big rigs measuring in at 65 feet long, you can see the actual stopping distance far exceeds the normal following distance we all see truckers using on the freeway.
Loss of Control - Seemingly minor errors in driving that could be easily corrected in a passenger car can become fatal errors in a big rig. Over-correction, too little braking room, and heavy loads balanced on the trailer can all contribute to a disastrous truck accident.
Poor Maintenance - Sometimes, semi-truck accidents are not all driver-error. In some cases, semi-truck manufacturers can produce a defective product, while other times, the trucking company itself may neglect their fleets by not providing proper routine truck maintenance. Fluid changes, inspections, tire service, brake service, and more are important to ensure that a truck performs safely and efficiently on the road.
Improper Loading of Cargo - It is vital for freight to be loaded and secured properly to prevent accidents and injuries. Improper loading can lead to shifting, uneven weight distribution, and more, all of which are common contributing factors to truck accidents.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
Have you been injured in an accident involving a large truck or semi in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, that was caused by a truck driver’s gross negligence?
If yes, then you have the constitutional right to hold the reckless driver liable for the crash and claim economic and non-economic compensation for the losses you suffered. Common compensatory damages in a truck accident typically include medical expenses, costs of future medical care and treatment, vehicle repair or replacement costs, lost wages, loss of potential earning capacity, pain and suffering, loss of a limb, loss of consortium for a spouse or partner, as well as punitive damages.
Having said that, in order to enforce your rights under Texas law and collect the maximum compensation you deserve, you must partner with a veteran DFW truck accident attorney immediately and file a claim.
What Is A Truck Accident Claim?
Any effort you make to recover compensation from the at-fault driver whose lack of proper care and attention caused the truck collision that injured you is what makes up a “truck accident claim.” These efforts typically consist of two interrelated processes: settlement negotiations and bringing the case to trial. Both of these processes are intended to have the truck company — and its insurer —pay the full amount of damages that you sustained.
So how do you initiate these processes?
Start by talking to a qualified DFW truck accident attorney as soon as possible.
Navigating the complex laws of Texas truck accident claims and negotiating favorable settlements takes experience and know-how. You cannot hope to do either on your own. This is where qualified truck accident attorneys come in. When it comes to winning legal actions involving truck accident injuries, enlisting the services of an attorney with years of legal practice representing truck collision victims in Dallas Fort-Worth can tip the scale in your favor.
Keep in mind that under Texas law, adults have a specific time window of two years from the date of the crash within which you can file a civil lawsuit following a truck accident. Regardless of how strong or compelling your case, if it is not brought to a Texas court before the two-year “Statute of Limitations” is up, the law may take away your right to file it, leaving you with significant medical expenses and lost wages that you will not be able to recover. This makes it even more important to contact a team of Dallas Fort-Worth truck accident attorneys as soon as possible after your crash.
Filing A Truck Accident Claim In Dallas, Tx
Once you have found an ideal team of legal experts, you can refer to the following step-by-step guide to uphold your legal rights and file a personal injury claim after a truck accident disrupts your life by causing a serious injury.
Step 1. Get Immediate Medical Attention.
It is often difficult for an individual to gauge the devastation that has just occurred after a truck collision. If you have been involved in an accident involving a big rig, it is important that you seek medical attention immediately. While you may feel no pain following an accident, your injuries may be internal — some severe injuries (e.g., head traumas) have no immediate outward symptoms — and an examination by a medical professional immediately following an accident can ensure that the appropriate safety precautions are taken.
Not only does getting medical help immediately after a truck accident save your life, it can also help ensure that your injuries are well-documented. This can be critical in proving that it was the truck accident that caused your personal injuries.
Step 2. Investigation and Collection of Evidence.
In order to make your car accident claim against the at-fault driver stronger, you need to have irrefutable evidence. Indeed, the thought of collecting evidence in the wake of a truck collision seems very overwhelming. But the good news is, a qualified DFW truck accident attorney knows what evidence to scrape together to prove your case and where to find it. Your team of attorneys will make every effort to unravel even the tiniest specifics of your case. This often includes:
Appointment of qualified accident scene investigators to visit the truck crash site
Review of all police reports
Review of all medical records and visits
Accident reconstruction, when necessary
Meeting with insurance adjusters
Locating and reviewing available traffic camera recording evidence
Locating additional eyewitnesses
Conducting negotiations with the truck company’s legal and insurance representatives
Demanding and reviewing copies of all documents and any additional evidence
Important: Evidence about the truck accident is crucial to establishing your right to recover the settlement amount you deserve. The closer to the time of the crash you begin collecting that evidence, the better off you will be. That means that you need to get a skilled Dallas-Fort Worth truck accident attorney involved as soon as possible before witness memories start to fade or the scene of the crash undergoes changes that make reconstruction difficult or impossible.
Step 3. Request Compensation
Now that all the key evidence has been collected and reviewed, it is time to move forward with your demand for settlement. Your Dallas-Fort Worth truck accident attorney will carefully draft and send a letter to the at-fault party’s insurance provider, essentially putting in writing a very specific demand — a financial payment amount in exchange for resolving the case out of court.
Step 4. Engaging In Settlement Negotiations
The most predictable outcome of a truck accident claim in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, is a “settlement.” Settlements are essentially “out-of-court” arrangements between the at-fault party’s insurance provider and the injured party, wherein the at-fault party’s insurer offers a certain amount of money to the injured party in return for the injured party agreeing to instantly drop the truck accident claim.
Once the at-fault driver’s insurance adjusters have your demands in front of them and they have had the opportunity to review the evidence and get the measure of their own case, their next move may involve going along with your demands and moving forward with a settlement outside of court or negotiating the terms and presenting a counter-offer.
Step 5. Pursuing Legal Action
While most truck accident claims in Dallas, Texas settle out of court, not all do. When that happens — and the at-fault party’s insurance company fails to do the right thing — you and your legal team should be prepared to fight. This is where having an experienced DFW truck accident attorney can really make a difference. Attorneys who have years of experience taking 18-wheeler accident claims to trial can explain complex facts in a way that the jury can easily understand.
Texas’ Modified Comparative Negligence Law
If the truck driver was entirely responsible for the crash and the resulting injuries, what happens next is pretty obvious: their insurance provider will pay you a certain amount to compensate you for the losses you incurred as a result of the accident. But what if you were somewhat responsible for the crash, too?
Texas is one of those states that follows a modified comparative fault law, which means that both parties can be found at least somewhat at fault for causing a car accident and the resulting injuries. In a situation where both the defendant and the plaintiff’s negligence caused the truck accident, the jury will decide what percentage of the plaintiff’s or defendant’s negligence contributed to the accident. The overall award for damages will then be reduced based on the plaintiff’s share of fault. Say the jury has estimated the total dollar amount of your damages at $8,000,000. But the jury has also decided that you are 20% responsible for the truck accident. Under Texas’s modified comparative fault rule, you are now entitled to get 80% of the $8,000,000 total, or $6,400,000 — still a significant sum, but not as much as the grand total of your damages.
Keep in mind that under Texas’s “modified” comparative fault law, you will not be entitled to anything if you are found to be more than 50% responsible for the truck accident.
How Long Does The Truck Accident Claim Process Take?
How long it will take to pursue your truck accident claim depends on a few factors, including:
The Nature and Extent of Your Injuries: When pursuing a truck accident claim in Texas, you should have a thorough understanding of the nature and extent of your injuries and prospects for making a full recovery. This will help you decide on the amount of money you should seek. Bear in mind that getting a clear picture of your diagnosis and prognosis can take some time, which will, in turn, drag out your truck accident claim process.
The Number of Parties Involved: The commercial long-haul business, in which most 18-wheelers operate, is complex. The truck may be owned by any one of several entities: the driver, a transportation company, the shipper, or a third party. As such, if you file a claim for a truck crash in Texas, you might have to contend with multiple parties. It will inevitably lengthen the time a truck accident claim process ordinarily takes.
The At-fault Party’s Willingness to Negotiate: Every so often, the at-fault party is simply unwilling to enter into settlement talks, extending the duration of the truck accident claim process.
How Much Is A Truck Accident Claim Worth?
Like the duration of the truck accident claim process, how much money you can expect to receive in the form of compensatory damages depends on a number of factors. These may include the extent of your injuries as well as the prospects of you making a full recovery, the effect of your personal injuries on your quality of life, and the amount potentially available to pay damages. This last factor is very important. While many trucking companies carry adequate insurance, in Texas, the minimum insurance limits are only $750,000, which is far below the amount necessary to fairly compensate most victims of 18-wheeler crashes.
Generally speaking, however, if you have been injured in a truck accident in Dallas-Fort Worth due to a truck driver’s negligence, you can seek compensation for:
Medical Expenses. This includes your current and future medical care and medications. Of course, the nature and extent of your injuries will dictate the value of the claim.
Lost Wages. This includes the wages you lose while recovering from your injuries, as well as the future wages you will lose because of it.
Pain and Suffering. Though pain or emotional distress cannot be quantified, you are entitled to compensation for the pain and emotional distress you endured because of the accident.
DFW Trucking Accident Lawyers At Samples Ames Can Help Protect Your Rights
Were you injured in an accident involving an 18-wheeler in Dallas, Texas? We can help make sure your rights are protected. At Samples Ames, our team of Dallas personal injury attorneys can handle all of the necessary steps after a truck accident on your behalf, so that you can focus on making a full and meaningful recovery. From reviewing the policy and insurance company report, interviewing eyewitnesses, negotiating with the insurance providers, and everything in between, we will do what it takes to help you get the maximum amount of compensation you deserve under the Texas law.
If you or someone you love was injured in a crash involving a big rig on Dallas-Fort Worth roadways, speak with one of our legal experts today online or at (817) 605-1505 / (469) 466-2600 for a free consultation.