Laredo, TX 18-Wheelr Accident Attorney
What is 18-Wheeler Accident Law?
Truck accident law covers personal injuries sustained by occupants of a passenger vehicle as a result of a collision with a commercial freight truck, also known as an 18-wheeler or “big rig.” Liability in these cases is premised on the doctrine of negligence. Because the negligent party is a professional truck driver, multiple sources of law will apply. These include traffic laws and civil liability rules, as well as regulations of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Causes and Contributing Factors
The average passenger car weighs 4,000 lbs., while semi-trucks can weigh 80,000 lbs. or more. Taking into account further differences, such as ride height, stopping distance, and driver field of vision, it is easy to see how problems result when these two types of vehicles share the roadway. Moreover, commercial truck drivers are provided financial incentives for traveling distances as quickly as possible, and the safety of nearby passenger cars is not always their priority.
Of the many kinds of truck driver conduct that can result in an accident, certain ones tend to arise most often. Accidents can occur when a driver fails to stop and rest at appropriate intervals, or drives under the influence of sleep-suppressing drugs like methamphetamine. Truck drivers can also put others at risk by driving aggressively, making wide turns, merging too quickly, carrying an unsafe load, or driving too fast. It is worth noting that a truck may have been traveling within the posted speed limit, and still have been going too fast for road conditions.
Sometimes the risk posed by a semi-truck is unrelated to any acts or omissions by the driver. For example, other individuals from the trucking company may have failed to inspect or repair the truck as they should have. Cargo may have been loaded improperly, or the truck may have been manufactured with faulty lights, brakes, or other equipment. Damaged truck tires can also cause accidents by suddenly coming apart at high speeds.
Identifying the Proper Defendants
In order to establish liability and recover compensation for a truck accident, the plaintiff must first identify every individual, business entity, or government official responsible. It is critical to name all of these parties in the court documents at the time the lawsuit is filed. If any are left out, and it is later revealed that an omitted party shares responsibility, it may be too late to add that party due to the filing deadlines applicable in negligence cases.
Accident victims without previous experience in personal injury litigation often assume that the proper defendant to sue in a truck accident is the driver. After all, it was the truck driver’s carelessness that caused the accident. While the driver should be named, a number of other parties may be legally responsible as well. These additional defendants may include the trucking company, the manufacturer of the truck, parts companies (if defective equipment is involved), mechanics and maintenance companies, and others.
Proving Liability and Damages
Once all of the defendants have been named, the plaintiff in a truck accident lawsuit must establish a theory of liability. With the exception of strict liability defective product cases, the plaintiff’s theory will be based on negligence. As asserted against the truck driver, negligence is a straightforward concept, requiring only that the plaintiff show that a reasonably prudent driver in the defendant’s position would have acted with greater care.
With respect to the other defendants, however, more nuanced aspects of the negligence doctrine become relevant. Consider the trucking company that employed the driver, for example. If the company knowingly hired a driver with substance abuse problems or previous accidents, or failed to properly train the driver, the company may be liable for its own negligence. But, under the “vicarious liability” rules, it can also be indirectly liable based on its employer status. This is true even if the trucking company did nothing wrong.
In addition to proving liability, the plaintiff must show the extent of his or her damages. This is best accomplished through the use of expert witnesses. A physician will be needed to perform an examination of the plaintiff and offer a medical opinion regarding the harm suffered from the accident. The plaintiff will also need to hire an economist to form an opinion on damages such as lost income and earning capacity, and to explain how these figures can be converted to present value.
A 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer will Fight for You
18-Wheeler accidents occur every day. To avoid liability, trucking companies and their insurance providers have entire teams of investigators and attorneys ready to go to work. There is no need to face them alone. If you have been hurt in a truck accident, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for help.