Semi and commercial trucks are a vital component of our economy and the transportation of goods across the nation. However, this method of shipping can be incredibly dangerous. There are roughly half of a million truck crashes reported each year in the United States, most of which happen right here in Texas.
A fully loaded 18-wheeler truck can clock in at almost 80,000 pounds, meaning it is much more difficult for them to come to a complete stop in the event of an emergency. When these behemoths of the road are involved in a crash, they can also produce 16 times the impact power of the average passenger vehicle. This kind of power, combined with their inability to stop quickly, can result in devastating injuries and even death to unsuspecting motorists that share the road with them.
What are some Common Causes of Truck Crashes in El Paso, Texas?
Drivers of semi-trucks are required to obey safety laws under state, local, and federal authorities. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration legally limits the number of hours a truck driver can perform their duties in order to ensure that they remain alert and decrease the risk of drowsy driving. The limits will depend on what the truck is carrying and how long the driver has spent off-duty. When these regulations are disobeyed, an accident is more likely to occur.
Trucks cause some of the most dangerous and deadly motor vehicle accidents in Texas. Knowing this, we would like to believe that truck drivers follow all safety guidelines when they are operating these colossal vehicles. Unfortunately, just as you cannot trust every motorist to follow all of the traffic safety guidelines, we cannot trust every truck driver to follow the rules, either. Negligent behavior of a truck driver that can put their own safety and the safety of those around them can include:
- Texting while driving
- Aggressive driving
- Illegal passing
- Camping in the left lane
- Failure to obey traffic signs or signals
- Distracted driving
- Following too closely
If you witness a truck driver violating safety regulations or acting in a negligent manner, they should be reported to the proper authorities before they cause an accident or take somebody’s life. There are several outlets to which you can report a reckless truck driver in El Paso:
- Local emergency services (911): If a truck driver is behaving erratically and their actions necessitate immediate action or if they have already caused an accident or injury, dial 911 as soon as you are safely able to do so.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): You can file an official complaint with the federal government for any truck driver or trucking company that violates safety guidelines. Click this link to file a report with the FMCSA about a trucking safety violation you have witnessed.
- Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT): You may also file a written or oral complaint with the state government about a TxDOT employee or contractor by filing a report on their website. Click the link here to provide a statement about a safety violation you have observed to TxDOT.
It is important to note that not all truck crashes are the fault of truck drivers themselves, and that several other parties may encourage unsafe driving practices. In a truck crash, several entities may be liable for the resulting damages.
Other parties that could be found to be at fault for a crash are the driver’s employer, the workers who loaded the cargo, anyone responsible for the truck’s maintenance, or even the manufacturers of truck parts. For instance, when a truck that caused an accident has been found to have a defective part, the manufacturer of that part could be found liable for the wreck.
A few common causes of truck accidents that are not necessarily the driver’s fault are:
- Payloads that are too heavy
- Defective tires
- Poor training
- Unevenly loaded cargo
- Powertrain failure
- Failure to safely set up highway work zones or detours
- Faulty brakes
- Improperly secured load
- Steering issues
How Does Truck Accident Investigation Work in El Paso?
After experiencing any motor vehicle accident that causes property damage or injuries, you are required to first report the crash to local authorities. Reporting an accident is a Texas state law, and litigation will not be able to begin until a police report on the incident has been filed. This documentation will also help to prove negligence in your truck accident case by providing:
- Statements from the involved parties
- Time and date of the incident
- Location of the crash
- Witness statements
- Any traffic violations
- Lighting conditions
- Roadway conditions
- Weather conditions
Keep in mind that local police are not always trained on how to properly analyze a crash scene. An accident reconstruction specialist trained in traffic reconstruction engineering and physics may need to be called in to use a scientific approach to solve how and why a crash may have occurred by:
- Inspecting the damaged vehicles
- Examining accident scene photos
- Studying police reports
- Visiting the crash location
- Analyzing tire marks
- Gathering data from event data recorders
- Evaluating depositions
Video surveillance from traffic or security CCTV cameras may also be used to help establish negligence in a truck accident investigation, but all evidence will need to be gathered quickly. Texas’s statute of limitations requires that all personal injury claims must be filed within two years of the accident date.
Who Could Be Held Liable for a Truck Wreck in El Paso?
Accidents that involve commercial trucks differ from the average motor vehicle accident because there are multiple parties that could be held liable for an accident. A Texas truck accident attorney will conduct their own investigation into an accident to help determine what parties could be considered to be at-fault. Liability for a truck accident could be held by the one or more of the following entities:
- Truck driver: If a truck driver violates any traffic laws, state or federal regulations for truckers, or hours-of-service regulations, they could be held liable if they are involved in a crash. Truck drivers are also responsible for ensuring that their payload is adequately secured before operating the truck in order to avoid a runaway trailer accident.
- Trucking company, or carrier: A trucking company or carrier could be held liable for a crash for failing to properly train drivers or schedule maintenance in a timely manner.
- Manufacturer of the truck or its parts: If any truck components are found to be faulty, the manufacturer could be at risk of being found at-fault for a wreck.
- Owner of the cargo: If a cargo load is too dangerous or heavy and it results in an accident, the owner of the cargo could be held liable.
- Cargo loaders: If cargo is loaded into a tractor-trailer improperly, it can disrupt the truck’s balance and cause it to overturn. When this happens, the loaders of the cargo could be determined to be at-fault.
Trucking accidents could be caused by any of these factors, a combination of several of them, or something different completely. This is partially what makes these cases so complicated and why it can be so challenging to determine liability in a commercial truck wreck.
Types of Injuries You Could Sustain in an El Paso Truck Crash
Between their enormous size and colossal weight, large trucks do not always have the ability to stop quickly in the event of an emergency. A truck’s hurdling power can have the potential to create a catastrophe.
Moving forward with your life after experiencing a truck accident is rarely easy. Frequently, victims are left recovering from severe or permanent injuries that will forever alter the way they live. Common injuries victims sustain in truck accidents are:
- Broken bones
- Neck injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Loss of limb
- Seat belt injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
- Soft tissue injuries
- Severe burns
Always seek medical attention after being involved in an accident, no matter how serious or minor the crash appeared to be. Some injuries do not make themselves known immediately, and adrenaline can mask symptoms of pain in the human body, so it is better to be checked out for these “invisible” injuries as soon as possible so that you do not find yourself writhing in pain days, or weeks, after the crash.
Always do your best to avoid being involved in a crash in the first place by practicing safe driving techniques or taking a defensive driving course. Your risk of sustaining some of the most common injuries, such as whiplash, can also be reduced by following these driving safety tips:
- Wear a seatbelt: We all know we should wear our seat belts, but did you know that wearing a seat belt is considered to be one of the safest choices drivers and passengers can make? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that almost 15,000 lives were saved by seat belts in 2017. In Texas, drivers and passengers are also required to buckle up under state law, or they could risk facing court costs of up to $200.
- Keep your head restraint adequately positioned: Headrests should be positioned about 3 inches from the back of your head, and the top of the restraint should sit somewhere between the top of your ears and the top of your head.
- Sit upright and face forward: Head restraints won’t be able to serve their purpose if you are not sitting correctly when an impact occurs.
- Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you: Drivers should always allow enough space between their car and the vehicle in front of them. That way, if a driver needs to make a sudden stop, they will not crash into the vehicle in front of them or slam on their brakes and surprise the driver behind them.
When it comes to truck accidents, drivers of smaller vehicles tend to be impacted more than the truck driver themselves, so it is imperative to practice proper vehicle safety when sharing the roads with tractor-trailers.
How to Prepare for a Meeting with an El Paso Truck Accident Attorney
Victims who seek justice after a truck accident often choose to work with someone who knows how to navigate the unique laws and regulations that are often involved in truck accident cases. Before choosing an El Paso truck accident attorney to represent your truck accident case, ask them these questions to make sure they are experienced in these types of cases and that they are the right fit for your circumstances:
- How many truck accident cases have you worked on?
- What is your success rate with truck accident cases?
- Have you handled a case like mine before?
- How long have you been practicing personal injury law?
During the first meeting with your truck accident lawyer for your case evaluation, you should also ask questions more specific to your situation to get better insight on what the plan will be moving forward, such as:
- What is the estimated value of my truck accident case?
- Do you think my case will settle, or do you expect this to be brought to trial?
- How long do you think this whole process will take?
- Are there any potential obstacles you foresee arising?
- Do you see any trucking law violations in my case?
- How will liability be determined?
When preparing for your consultation, make sure to bring any documents you have that are related to your truck accident in addition to your list of questions. Documentation that may be useful in your case could include:
- Medical records
- Photos of injuries, property damage, vehicles involved, and the overall scene
- Insurance information
- Police reports
- Witness contact information
The more information about your accident that you can provide your El Paso truck accident lawyer, the better. Showing up prepared for your consultation will ease any anxiety you may have and will ensure that you get the most from your meeting.