Texas had 359 fatal truck-tractor/semi-trailer accidents in rural areas during 2018. That same year there were 106 truck accidents in urban areas and 465 statewide.
Accidents involving 18-wheelers are complicated. Obtaining any kind of fair compensation for wrongfully being injured, can be difficult because of the number of parties involved. Here is what a Houston truck accident lawyer can do for you.
Consult Your Attorney First!: Do Not Sign or Settle Without an Attorney
Do not communicate, sign or agree to any statement, or any proceedings for settlement with the trucking or insurance company. Even if you think you are guilty, it is important you speak with a truck accident lawyer first as this will help avoid or reduce any liabilities. Legal proceedings can be complex and not following some basic protocol can get you in uncomfortable catch-22 scenarios (Which should be absolutely avoided when possible), an experienced lawyer can hold your hand while maximizing your chances of success to enforce your legal rights.
An insurance company may want you to sign a release that states you will not file more claims related to the accident. This could prevent you from receiving any and all the compensation you are legally entitled to.
If possible take photographs at the scene of the accident. Photograph the accident scene and all involved vehicles. Make a note of weather and road conditions. If you or anyone in your vehicle is injured see a doctor as soon as possible after the accident, and keep copies of all medical records and bills. Ensure to get a police report, the report number, and the tracking protocol.
The first call you should make is to an experienced truck accident lawyer to discuss. The second call is to report the accident to your insurance company. This process will ensure that you maximize enforcing your rights.
What a Houston Truck Accident Lawyer Does
A semi-truck weighs up to 40 tons, and injuries from an accident can be serious or fatal. The legal battle will be difficult. The average person is not aware of the laws and court rules needed to negotiate their case.
Mishandled cases are often dismissed without the victim receiving fair compensation. Trucking companies have teams of lawyers on retainer. Their purpose is to protect the company and drivers from being found liable.
Commercial vehicle accidents are complex. An attorney knows how to navigate the legal system. They will help you receive all the compensation you deserve and need to get back life to normal.
One of the attorney’s first steps will be to gather information. This includes a copy of the accident report and medical records for injuries sustained in the accident.
The attorney will discuss the accident in detail with you. They will then be able to determine the best course of action. This may include requesting investigations, recruiting experts, and presenting evidence.
The lawyer will know the steps necessary to collect other information deemed necessary. This might include coordinating a truck accident investigation and property damage to your car. They may also gather witness testimony.
The attorney may also gather information regarding the truck driver. This may include the truck driver’s employment history and qualifications. They may also request the truck’s electronic control module (EMC) a/k/a “black box.”
Information will also be obtained from the trucking company. This may include their insurance carrier information and proof of commercial inspections done on the semi.
There are a large number of parties who may be either fully or partially liable for the accident you were in. This can include the truck driver, truck manufacturer, loader of the truck’s cargo, and the company that does maintenance on the truck.
If it appears the driver of the big rig was reckless or did not follow safety regulations, your attorney may seek to prove driver negligence. There are standard safe driving standards truck drivers must follow. These are established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
A truck accident lawyer will sift through all the truck regulations to see which ones apply to your accident. Those include the regulation on how many hours a truck driver may operate a big rig before taking “downtime.” There is also a specific number of hours they must be off the road before they can drive again.
There are three types of damages an attorney can seek compensation for: property damage, minor injury, major injury, and miscellaneous (This is why experience and a strong paralegal team are important as they play their part in negotiating the case). They may need to file a lawsuit against one or several parties based on the determined liability.
Navigate Truck and Federal Laws
A truck accident attorney will understand the ins and outs of dealing with the parties involved in a commercial truck accident. This includes insurance companies, cargo companies, and medical professionals.
They will also know how to secure any necessary experts. The attorney is aware of court requirements for what is and is not a qualified expert.
A lawyer is aware of the court rules and deadlines. If court rules are not followed or deadlines are missed your case may be dismissed. The attorney will prepare all documents according to court rules.
They will make sure your lawsuit is filed within the 2-year time frame set forth by the statute of limitations. The attorney is familiar with courtroom procedures. They will be able to handle stressful courtroom situations and complicated questions in front of a judge. Note: Time is of the essence the quicker you can talk to your attorney the better your chances of case filing, scope, and success.
Documents and Questions
When you or a loved one has been injured in an accident it is easy to become flustered when you meet with an attorney. Here is a list of documents to take and questions to ask at your consultation appointment.
- Take to the appointment any documents you have from the accident. This should include any police reports, medical records, photographs, and any notes you made about the accident. Do not worry if you are missing records, the attorney will know how to make a legal request for any information needed.
- Advise the attorney where the accident happened. They will also need your personal home address. This is the information needed in determining jurisdiction.
- Ask how much experience the attorney has in handling truck-related accidents. Inquire on the percentage of cases similar to yours the attorney normally handles in their practice.
- Fees are normally handled on a contingency basis for accident/injury cases. This means their legal fees are collected after you are awarded compensation. Ask what upfront fees and expenses you will be responsible for such as filing fees, investigation costs, and expert fees.
- Ask the attorney for their legal opinion on whether or not you have a viable case.
Keep in mind that an attorney cannot ethically guarantee you the outcome of a case. They can give you their professional opinion on what your chances are of receiving financial recovery.
Get the Help You Need
In Texas, about 300 fatalities and over 2,000 injuries are related to 18-wheeler accidents every year. Most truck accident victims do not know the full extent of the damages they have suffered. They also do not realize what compensation they are entitled to.
If you are the victim of a commercial truck accident, call a Houston truck accident lawyer to make sure you enforce your rights and get the compensation you deserve.