Motor vehicle accidents involving large trucks tend to cause severe injuries, and more often than not, fatalities. The sheer size and weight of large trucks, even without cargo, can cause extensive damage on impact. Commercial trucks, especially those with fully loaded trailers, are difficult to maneuver and control. For example, a truck traveling at 55 miles per hour requires a distance that is the length of a football field to safely stop.
In addition, large trucks also have large blind spots that prevent them from observing passing vehicles or those following too closely. To help prevent accidents, truckers need to look for drivers of smaller vehicles and clear their blind spots before turning or changing lanes.
Truck Accident Causes
Like all motor vehicle accidents, truck accidents occur for a variety of reasons, most of which may be out of the driver’s control. However, when the truck driver is at fault, you may be entitled to compensation for accident-related expenses and impacts. When a commercial driver causes an accident, victims may be entitled to seek compensation from multiple entities such as the trucking company or truck manufacturer.
Common causes of truck accidents include:
- Truck driver error, including fatigue, speeding, distracted driving, reckless driving, or inexperience;
- Inclement weather conditions, such as snow, ice, rain, and wind, especially when dealing with sharp curves, such highway on- and off-ramps;
- Maintenance issues, such as the improper part installations, mechanical defects, inadequate inspections, or failure to repair a known problem;
- Road maintenance issues; and
- Other drivers whose behavior caused the truck driver to collide with your vehicle.
When identifying who is at fault for the accident, the causes of the accident are the primary concern.
Depending on the specific circumstances leading up to a truck accident, injured parties may be entitled to collect compensation from:
- The truck driver;
- The truck’s owner, whether the driver, another independent person, or a company;
- The lessee, if the truck is leased from a third-party that is different from the truck’s owner or driver;
- The maintenance company responsible for maintaining and repairing a company’s fleet;
- The person or company who loaded the truck, if an improperly balanced or secured load contributed to causing the accident;
- An employer, if the dispatcher “encourages” a driver to make a deadline, even if it means breaking the hours of service rules and regulations;
- Another driver whose actions or inaction caused the truck to collide with your vehicle;
- The agency responsible for maintenance of roads and bridges and ensuring roadways are free of dangerous potholes and other hazards; and
- Any other person who might cause a truck driver to wreck as a result of their own negligence or gross negligence.
In most cases, injured victims will seek to recover damages from the above entities’ insurance providers. However, if the entity or person does not have adequate coverage, you may be entitled to seek compensation directly from the driver. Typically, trucking companies’ insurance carriers have more financial resources than individuals, and therefore they can pay more substantial claims.
If you communicate with insurance representatives, including your own, before retaining an attorney, only provide basic information, such as the date, time, and location of the accident and your contact information. Insurance companies are businesses aimed at increasing profits and their representatives are trained to try to gather certain information to help discredit or devalue compensation claims.
Oftentimes, representatives will try to entice injured parties to accept an initial settlement offer in exchange for quick cash. However, their initial offer is usually much less than the actual value of the claim and insufficient to cover all past and future medical expenses you may incur.
Under Texas law, injured parties may seek compensation for the following categories of damages: economic damages, non-economic damages, and exemplary damages (which includes punitive damages).
Special damages, usually referred to as economic damages, are tangible expenses that have a specific dollar value. Economic damages compensate victims for costs they have incurred as a direct result of the accident to make them whole again.
Common economic damages include:
- Past medical expenses for costs incurred from the date of the accident until a settlement agreement is reached or a jury trial commences.
- Future medical expenses for costs of treatment after a settlement is reached or jury award issued. Depending on the extent and severity of your injuries, the defendant may need to pay the costs of medical expenses for years or even your lifetime.
- Past lost wages when accident injuries prevent you from working while you are recovering.
- Future lost wages if you can no longer work in the same capacity as before the accident as a result of life-altering injuries and disability. Even if you can work in some capacity, but not in a comparable position, you may collect partial future lost wages.
- Repair or replacement of personal property damaged or destroyed in the accident, including your vehicle and any personal property that was in your vehicle.
- Funeral, burial, and cremation expenses.
Medical expenses also include the costs of physical, cognitive, and psychological therapy that might be necessary after experiencing a traumatic accident.
General damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, are intangible impacts that do not necessarily have a quantifiable cost. Non-economic damages compensate victims for impacts the accident caused to their lives, to try to make injured victims whole again. Of course, no amount of compensation can bring back a lost loved one nor erase the pain of your injuries, but compensation can greatly reduce the financial burden of a serious accident.
Non-economic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of consortium.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of the use of a body part.
- Loss of the use of a bodily function.
Exemplary damages, also referred to as punitive damages, are damages awarded by a judge or jury when a defendant’s behavior that caused an accident was particularly egregious. Punitive damages serve as a form of punishment to deter similar egregious behaviors in the future. Injured parties must request that the court consider awarding punitive damages.
While it is not easy to obtain exemplary damages, in some cases, it is worth it. Injured parties have the burden of proving that a defendant’s actions were grossly negligent and that the negligence caused your injuries. If you lost a loved one because of a truck accident, eligible familiar members may seek exemplary damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you suffered injuries in a truck accident, contact a truck accident lawyer who can review your case and help you decide what steps to take next.