Distracted Truck Drivers in Austin
According to the most recent data from the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 537,475 reportable motor vehicle traffic crashes on Texas roads in 2017. Almost 20% of those crashes involved distracted driving, resulting in 444 fatalities and almost 3,000 serious injuries. More than 1,200 of the distracted driving accidents involved semi-trucks, not to mention the several hundred more that involved light trucks. Distracted drivers present new challenges to the safety of other drivers, but distracted truck drivers significantly elevate the problem. When a distracted truck driver causes an accident, victims are far more likely to experience serious injuries and the amount of property damage is typically much higher.
If you have sustained an injury because of a distracted truck driver, you need an experienced personal injury attorney that specializes in truck accidents and knows how to navigate the legal process with the larger insurance policies and increased damages involved with truck accidents. Call one of the skilled attorneys at The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin at (512) 851-1004 for a free consultation.
What Is Distracted Driving?
In the recent decades most states have enacted some sort of laws about distracted driving. The Texas Department of Transportation defines distracted driving as:
… any activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distractions can include anything from texting and talking on a mobile phone to eating and drinking, putting on makeup, shaving, reading, programming a navigation system, watching a video and even adjusting the radio.
Although distracted driving includes other things, cell phone usage is the major culprit in many recent accidents. Truck drivers must follow more stringent rules when it comes to cell phone distractions. Federal law mandated by the US Department of Transportation make it illegal for commercial motor vehicle drivers to engage with their cell phone in any fashion. Dialing or reaching for one's phone, even when using only one hand, is strictly prohibited and punishable with fines, as is sending or reading text messages. Continued violations may result in disqualification by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that could ultimately lead to losing one’s Commercial Drivers' License (CDL) from the State of Texas.
What Are the Typical Truck Accident Injuries?
Truck accident injuries are similar to any other car accident injuries, except that the size of a heavy duty truck or semi creates more force upon impact. This extra force makes truck accident injuries more serious and deadlier. Here are some of the most common injuries that may occur when someone is involved in an accident with a distracted truck driver:
- Cuts, scrapes, bruises and road rash that is often so severe it may lead to permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Head Injuries including traumatic brain injuries, concussions, and indirect head trauma from whiplash
- Broken and crushed bones
- Internal bleeding from organs getting punctured by the force of the crash
- Neck, back, and spinal cord injuries
Who Can Be at Fault?
If a truck driver was distracted at the time of the accident, he is clearly liable to some extent. In some truck accidents, the trucking company, or even the truck manufacturer, may be held liable; but when the driver is operating the truck negligently, it's difficult to shift the blame to another party. Shared liability may occur if a trucking company pushes its drivers to log too many hours without adequate rest or forces the driver to "multitask" while behind the wheel.
What Kind of Damages May Be Recovered When a Distracted Truck Driver Causes an Accident?
If you have sustained an injury because of a distracted truck driver, you might be entitled to compensation. Here are some of the most common damages that the court may award you if they rule in your favor:
- Medical costs that are directly related to your injury including ambulance rides, hospitalization, doctor visits, physical therapy, medication, radiology, and more
- Lost wages for any time that you had to miss work due to your injury
- Lost future wages, called lost earning capacity, if you aren't able to return to work due to a long-term disability
- Assistive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and special computer programs to help you do daily tasks
- Replacement services such as domestic help and lawn service to maintain your home if you are no longer able to do so after your injury
- Pain and suffering
How Can Those Who Are Liable for Distracted Truck Driving Accidents Try to Shirk Responsibility?
Texas isn't a no-fault state, so a distracted truck driver who caused an accident will try to place blame on you to get out of paying damages. The claim is typically filed against the insurance company of the trucking company, so it's often the carrier trying to shift the blame. In some cases, they will distance themselves from the truck driver and deny the claim or downplay your injuries. It is in their best interest to apportion as much of the blame to you as they can by arguing that you were also distracted, or you weren't following traffic rules: Texas applies a modified comparative negligence standard to personal liability cases.
For an injured person to recover damages, they must prove that the negligent person is at least 51% at fault in an accident. If the court decides in your favor, but finds that you are partially at fault, the amount of damages awarded to you will be reduced by the percentage you are at fault. For example, you sue XYZ Trucking because one of its drivers caused an accident. The court awards you $500,000 but assigns you 20% of the fault. In this case, you would only receive $400,000, or 80% of the damages.
How Much Does a Lawyer Cost Me?
Most personal injury law firms offer free consultations, so you can discuss your case with an attorney. If after reviewing you case a lawyer decides to represent you, attorney fees will typically be handled on a contingent fee basis. This means that you do not pay your attorney’s fees up front, and your lawyer will recover their fees out of any settlement or judgment the court awards you.
Truck accident injuries have the potential to negatively impact a person's life for years to come. An experienced truck accident lawyer will focus on the details of a case such as investigating the accident, talking to witnesses, and dealing with tricky insurance companies, while the victim focuses on rehabilitation and recovery. If you have been injured because of the negligence of a distracted truck driver and you live in the Austin area, call one of the experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of George Salinas at (512) 851-1004 or contact us online for a free consultation.