Commercial motor vehicles, including large commercial trucks, contribute to over 30,000 injuries suffered in Texas each year, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. If you have been injured in a collision with a truck in the Corpus Christi, Texas area, partnering with an experienced Corpus Christi truck accident attorney can help ensure that your legal rights are protected.
Regulations for the Prevention of Truck Accidents in Corpus Christi, Texas
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented guidelines to prevent truck accidents and protect the public’s safety. These policies are intended to regulate:
- Qualifications for truck drivers
- Truck operations
- Vehicle repairs and maintenance
- Weigh stations
- Roadside inspections
- Compliance reviews
- Complaint investigations
- Trucking terminal audits
If these federal regulations are not followed correctly, not only could it put innocent people at risk, but it could render truck drivers, their employers, or the truck’s mechanics liable in the event of a crash.
The minimum financial responsibility requirements for different large commercial vehicles are also set by the FMCSA and are as follows:
- General freight: For-hire vehicles in interstate or foreign commerce with a gross weight rating over 10,000 pounds that do not transport hazardous materials must carry at least $750,000 in insurance coverage.
- Low hazmat: Vehicles in interstate or foreign commerce over 10,000 pounds in weight must carry $1,000,000 in coverage if they carry oil, hazardous waste or other hazardous materials.
- High hazmat: Any vehicle in foreign, interstate, or intrastate commerce with a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 or more pounds must carry at least $5,000,000 in insurance coverage if they carry hazardous substances transported in cargo tanks, portable tanks, or hopper-type vehicles with capacities over 3,500 water gallons.
The massive weight and size of tractor-trailers can impede their ability to make a quick stop in the event of an emergency. Even when weather and driving conditions are perfect, it can take a semi-truck about 525 feet (or roughly two football fields in length) to come to a complete stop from a speed of 65 mph. When faced with danger, this lack of stopping power is liable to cause accidents that can result in severe injuries and even fatalities. A failure to carry the minimum insurance coverage could leave trucking companies unable to cover the costly expenses victims can accumulate in a collision with a large commercial truck.
Truck drivers or trucking companies in violation of federal safety guidelines can be reported by visiting the FMCSA National Consumer Complaint Database (NCCDB).
Corpus Christi truck drivers or their employers can be reported to TxDOT if they are in violation of safety or traffic laws. Written or oral complaints can be submitted about any TxDOT policy, program, operation, employee, or contractor by utilizing their Customer Complaint System.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents in Corpus Christi, Texas
TxDOT has reported that there were 414 crashes that involved at least one commercial motor vehicle in Nueces County during 2019. The year before, Nueces County had 394 crashes involving at least one commercial motor vehicle. That is a 5% rise in commercial motor vehicle accidents over just a single year.
Although it may be difficult to pinpoint what is causing the rise in commercial motor vehicle accidents, there are several common reasons a large truck may crash in Corpus Christi and the rest of Nueces County, such as:
- An improperly secured load
- Defective tires
- Poorly trained drivers
- Unevenly loaded cargo
- Fatigued driving
- Powertrain failure
- Faulty brakes
- Steering issues
- Reckless driving
- Inadequate safety inspections
- A payload that is too heavy
- Distracted driving
- Poor weather conditions
Trucking companies are to be held accountable for taking all essential safety precautions and inspections to ensure the safe operation of their trucks. Should a trucking company neglect to do so, they could be held liable in the event of an accident.
Other than the driver and the trucking company, there are several parties that could be held liable for a truck crash, including the:
- Manufacturer of the truck or its parts
- Owner of the cargo
- Cargo loaders
- Truck’s repair facilities or mechanic
Drivers of other vehicles and injured parties could also be found liable for a truck crash. In cases where this occurs, claimants may still be able to recover compensation under Texas state law. Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 33.001 states that an injured party can be held partially liable for their damages and still recover compensation if they are found to be no more than 50 percent responsible for their injuries. The court would then withhold the claimant’s percentage of liability from their compensatory award. However, in cases where the injured party is found to be more than 50 percent liable, they will be barred from recovering their damages.
What You Should Do After Being Involved in a Truck Accident in Corpus Christi
Experiencing any motor vehicle accident is traumatic on some level, but when the crash involves a large commercial truck, the effects can be particularly disastrous. If you have been involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler or other large commercial truck, there are a few things you should do to protect your health, wellbeing, and legal rights.
What actions should be taken immediately after experiencing a truck accident in Texas?
- Call emergency services. Ensuring the safety of yourself and your passengers should always be your first priority after a motor vehicle accident of any kind. If anyone needs emergency medical attention, dial 911 right away.
- Seek medical attention. Whether you feel like you were injured in an accident or not, it is always best to get checked out by your doctor. You may not feel like you were injured at first, but your doctor may be able to identify any latent injuries that could affect your wellbeing in the future.
- File police report. Under Texas state law, you must report any accident that resulted in an injury or over $1,000 in property damage. The police officer will fill out what is known as the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report form CR-3, which includes information such as:
- Conditions of the road
- Location of the crash
- Weather conditions
- Lighting conditions
- Details of what happened
- Driver identification
- Insurance information from all parties
- Statements from the drivers
- Date and time of the crash
- Location of the accident
- Witness statements
- Traffic violations
- Lighting, weather, and road conditions
- Trucking carrier identification
- Hazardous material classification, if applicable
- Property damage
- Possible vehicle defects
- Possible contributing factors
- Document the scene. Take photographs or video recordings of the vehicles involved, any other damaged property, injuries, and views of the scene and surrounding areas.
- Gather contact information. Collect the license and insurance information of the other drivers involved. Also, obtain contact information, such as full names and phone numbers, from any bystanders or witnesses of the incident.
- Report the crash with your insurance provider. When reporting the crash with your insurance company, be sure not to provide any recorded statements or deliberate fault until you have spoken with an experienced Corpus Christi truck accident attorney.
- Keep all records related to the accident in a secure place. All documentation related to the crash, such as medical bills you have accumulated, paychecks illustrating a loss of wages, and copies of police reports, will need to be kept in a safe place.
- Contact an experienced truck accident attorney. If there is any information related to your accident that you were not able to collect, an experienced Corpus Christi truck accident lawyer will be able to help you find any documentation that you are missing, such as traffic reports or other evidence that could be vital in the event that you choose to pursue a claim.
Taking these steps will help ensure that you have the necessary information needed to hold the responsible party (or parties) liable for the injuries and property damage you suffered in a crash with a commercial truck should you choose to do so.
Why Are Truck Accidents More Dangerous Than Car Accidents?
A wreck involving a tractor-trailer will typically be far more serious than the same crash would be if it only involved passenger vehicles. That’s mostly due to the vast weight and size discrepancies between an 18-wheeler versus a car, which can mean that:
- Big rigs are traveling with much more force and momentum than smaller, lighter cars going at the same speeds.
- The force of a moving big rig gets transferred during the impact of a collision. That has the potential to cause catastrophic injuries even at relatively low speeds.
Additionally, truck wrecks tend to be far more severe than car crashes because of other risks, like (but not limited to):
- Rollover and jackknifing: Big rigs are taller than the average passenger vehicle. If cargo isn’t properly loaded, secured, or balanced in trucks, they can be far more unstable due to higher centers of gravity and the risks of shifting cargo. Either of those issues can amplify the risks of rollovers and jackknifing trailers, which could end up leading to life-threatening wrecks, like underride crashes or chain-reaction accidents.
- Cargo releases or spills: Another risk that comes with 18-wheelers on the roads (and that doesn’t usually pertain to passenger vehicles) is the danger that unsecured cargo or trailers could cause cargo to spill or fall off of tractor-trailers. If that cargo includes flammable, volatile, or hazardous substances, horrific accidents could follow. Similarly, if falling cargo includes larger, heavier objects, that debris could lead to wrecks if other motorists are trying to avoid it on the roads (or if it directly hits a car’s windshield).
What Should a Truck Driver Do After an Accident in Corpus Christi, TX?
More than 330 big rigs and other commercial vehicles crash every year in Corpus Christi and Nueces County, TX, the latest data shows. If you’re a trucker who’s involved in one of these wrecks at any point, here are the most important steps you should take immediately after the crash.
- Move to the shoulder or any area that’s out of the path of traffic as soon as you can.
- Call 911 if anyone is hurt. You should also dial 911 if anyone tries to leave the scene, if anyone seems intoxicated, or if the crashed vehicles are blocking traffic. If there are no injuries and the accident was minor, call the non-emergency number for the Corpus Christi Police Department at (361) 886-2600.
- Get emergency medical care if needed.
- Turn on the truck’s hazard lights and/or put cones (or flares) around the crashed big rig if you can safely do so (to alert other motorists to the crash).
- Contact the motor carrier to report the wreck. If the trucking company has other protocols for what to do after a crash, do your best to follow these to the extent you can safely do so.
- Gather names, contact information, and driver/insurance information from everyone else involved in the truck wreck. Also, gather names, contact information, and statements from any witnesses to the 18-wheeler accident.
- Photograph the crash scene and damage extensively. Also, try to record videos of the activities at the scene immediately after the wreck.
- Keep your statements about the big rig crash specific to the facts. Do NOT guess, exaggerate, or admit blame at any point.
- See a doctor ASAP after a crash, regardless of whether you received medical attention at the scene.
- Talk to a Corpus Christi truck accident lawyer ASAP. An attorney can explain liability, your rights, and your options for recovering.
What Type of Damages Are Paid for a Truck Accident Lawsuit?
Compensation is meant to provide the financial resources needed to recover from the losses caused by a wreck. As a result, damages for a truck accident lawsuit:
- Are contingent on the injuries and losses associated with a specific big rig accident
- Must be calculated on a case-specific basis
Depending on the severity of a wreck and the devastation it causes, that means that damages for truck accident lawsuits can include compensation for (but not limited to):
- Medical expenses: Ambulance and ER bills, hospital and surgery costs, follow-up doctors’ appointments, and various therapies can all be included in the compensation awarded to truck wreck victims. So can the costs of medications, assistive equipment, nursing care, and more.
- Lost earnings: Past and future lost wages, bonuses, commissions, and other income can also be covered in the financial recoveries awarded to big rig crash victims.
- Property damages: This may include damaged or totaled vehicles, destroyed cellphones, and any other personal property that was ruined in the truck accident.
- Pain and suffering: Related to the physical pain and psychological trauma victims sustain, this aspect of truck accident compensation can be tricker to calculate, especially if there are disputes over the nature or severity of the injuries victims have suffered.
- Other losses: Loss of consortium, funeral expenses, and other damages may also be included in tractor-trailer crash compensation, depending on the claim and the crash that sparked it.
A Corpus Christi truck wreck lawyer can tell you more about the compensation you may be entitled to, after learning more about your crash and potential claim. That professional insight can give you the information you need to seek full, fair compensation when it’s time to file a case and recover.