Accidents involving commercial trucks like 18-wheelers or semi-trucks are some of the most serious types of collisions and often result in major damages, permanent, life-changing injuries, or even death. If you’ve suffered injuries because of a truck accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be entitled to significant compensation. Several parties may be responsible for your accident, including the truck driver and the trucking company.
At Steinger, Greene & Feiner, our Austin truck accident lawyers can navigate the complexities of your case and get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case consultation.
Why Truck Accidents Require Expert Legal Help
Truck accidents involve commercial motor carriers, multiple insurance providers, and the likelihood of more severe damage, making it more difficult to prove liability than in accidents involving non-commercial vehicles.
The lawyers and insurers that represent trucking companies will try to argue that the company was not at fault for the accident and offer you a settlement that does not cover all of the damages you may have suffered. An experienced truck accident lawyer can help prove the trucking company’s negligence and secure you the compensation you need and deserve.
When you hire an attorney to help after your trucking accident, they will fight for your interests against the trucking and insurance companies. At Steinger, Greene & Feiner, we know how state and federal regulations affect each case, and we’ll begin our investigation right away.
- Examine the truck’s black box, which can reveal the truck’s speed at the time of the accident, the direction in which the truck was traveling, and any sudden changes in speed
- Check the truck driver’s record for prior accidents and substance abuse
- Investigate the trucking company’s training and loading procedures
- Examine maintenance procedures and inspection reports
- Work with accident reconstruction experts to study the accident scene and analyze road conditions, skid marks, and any other evidence
- Interview witnesses
- Identify third parties who may have contributed to the accident
- Handle all negotiations with insurers and opposing counsel
- Take your case to trial if necessary
Common Causes of Truck Accidents in Austin
According to data from the TxDOT, there were 612 fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicles.
Truck accidents are often caused by driver error or the negligence of the trucking company, maintenance and repair contractor, or inspector. If drivers or their employers fail to comply with federal and state laws and safe driving practices they could be found negligent and liable for truck accident injuries.
Less often, truck accidents can be the result of a product defect or a road hazard.
Semi-trucks are prone to more serious accidents than passenger cars because they are more difficult to maneuver, require a large area to turn, have larger blind spots, and take a longer time to stop once the brakes are applied.
Common causes of truck accidents that are considered negligence include:
- Improper driver training
- Failing to properly balance the load
- Carrying a load that exceeds weight limits for the truck
- Not properly securing the truck’s cargo
- Failing to properly attach the trailer to the tractor
- Speeding or driving too fast for weather or road conditions
- Alcohol or drug use, including illegal, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs
- Driving too many hours without rest, which violates federal law
- Distracted driving, including texting and other cell phone use
- Missing required maintenance and inspections
- Backing up, passing, or changing lanes without checking blind spots
- Ignoring traffic regulations, signage, and signals
Understanding Liability and Negligence in Truck Accidents
Because multiple parties can be held responsible for a truck accident, your claim can name multiple defendants. When you hire a truck accident attorney, they will conduct an investigation into the crash and identify who can be held liable. Once this is determined, you can begin the process of seeking damages from the at-fault parties.
The following parties can be held liable for truck accidents:
- The truck driver
- The owner of the truck
- The trucking company
- The truck driver’s employer
- The manufacturer of the truck
- The manufacturer of the truck parts
- The person responsible for loading the truck’s cargo
- The entity responsible for maintaining the truck
The truck driver can be held liable for the accident if they:
- Were impaired at the time of the crash
- Violated the federal hours of service rules
- Were speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, failing to yield, or breaking any other traffic law that caused the crash
- Failed to use headlights or turn signals
- Lost control because of excessive speed
Your truck accident attorney and investigators will review the following to identify at-fault parties:
- Witness statements
- Security video footage
- Your statement
- Photos of the crash scene
- Accident reconstruction experts
- Damage to the vehicles
- The road conditions at the time of the crash
- Your injuries
Due to the complexity of truck accident cases and determining who can be held liable for them, it’s in your best interest to speak to an experienced semi-truck accident lawyer about your case.
The Role of Evidence in Truck Accident Cases
In order to thoroughly investigate a truck accident, key evidence must be preserved and analyzed.
Some of that evidence includes:
Black Box Data
A black box is a recording device found in semi trucks that captures vital information about the operation of the vehicle. It records:
- Steering and braking input
- Seatbelt use
- Maintenance data
- Fuel economy readings
This data is stored on an internal memory card that can be accessed by authorized personnel for inspection purposes. This data can be used to help identify what happened before, during, and after a crash, including vehicle speed at the time of impact, whether brakes were applied, whether the driver had taken evasive action such as swerving, whether headlights were on, road conditions, weather conditions, activity inside the cab before impact, and more.
All of this is crucial evidence for legal proceedings against negligent truck drivers and trucking companies.
Truck Driver Logs
Truck driver logs are detailed records kept by professional drivers that include:
- The length of their journey
- The truck driver’s route
- Rest periods
- Other pertinent transportation information
These logs provide specific information about when a driver started and stopped driving, which can show if they stopped for rest breaks, meals, refueling stops, and more. The logbook also details the number of hours worked per day and how many consecutive hours were driven without stopping for rest.
Driver logs can reveal violations of regulations made by trucking companies that say how much time should elapse between scheduled breaks during long-distance hauls. By showing how many hours were spent on the road overall versus off-duty periods away from the wheel, they can also be relevant if safety compliance laws come into play in the case.
Bills of Lading
Bills of lading outline the nature and the contents of the goods to be transported. They must be completed before goods are loaded onto a truck or trailer, and they provide legally binding evidence of a carrier’s responsibility for the delivery and protection of the goods in its care.
They include important legal language that absolves the carrier of certain liabilities for damaged cargo or delays during transit.
If hazardous materials are being shipped, then bills of lading must include additional details about safety measures. Overall, they play essential roles in ensuring safe transportation operations between shippers/consignees and carriers.
Corporate Representative Deposition
Corporate representative depositions are an opportunity for attorneys to learn about the policies and procedures of a trucking company and any other pertinent information for the truck accident case.
These depositions can uncover details about safety protocols, training requirements, driver log records, GPS tracking data, and bills of lading, all of which can reveal whether negligence was present on the part of the driver or company at the time of the accident. They also provide insight into how the company handled the aftermath of the accident, which may be beneficial evidence during legal proceedings.
Truck Driver Employee Handbooks
These handbooks are key evidence to prove negligence in your injury claim. Some of the things they include are:
- Instructions on things like safety protocols, proper loading and unloading techniques, and regulations concerning driver logs. They provide
- Important information about handling various types of cargo, tips for avoiding issues like fatigue, distraction, and other dangerous behaviors while on the road
- Policies for things like alcohol and drug testing
- Safety regulations governing hours-of-service (HOS) laws or hazardous material transportation rules
- The processes to file grievances against management or fellow drivers
The information contained in truck driver employee handbooks helps keep truck drivers accountable for upholding regulations that are necessary for safe transportation operations.
Deposing the Truck Driver
The deposition of the truck driver in your accident claim by your attorney is a critical step in proving negligence and recovering the compensation you deserve for your injuries and other damages.
During a deposition, the truck driver will be required to answer your attorney’s questions under oath. The questions can uncover whether the driver was speeding or distracted at the time of the accident, how long they have been driving, and what type of training they received before operating a commercial vehicle.
Types of Injuries and Compensation in Truck Accident Cases
The injuries suffered in truck accidents tend to be severe or even fatal.
Truck accident victims can suffer from:
- Paralyzing spinal cord damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Severe burns
- Broken bones and fractures
- Amputation injuries
- Disfiguring facial injuries
- Blindness or deafness
- Injuries to internal organs with internal bleeding
- Nerve damage
- Herniated discs and other neck and back injuries
- PTSD and other psychological trauma
If you’ve suffered losses after a truck accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be able to recover two different kinds of compensation:
- Economic damages: These are monetary damages that you can prove with bills and receipts, including medical expenses, lost wages, household help for tasks you can no longer perform, the cost of prescription medication, and assistive medical devices, and any other expenses that were caused by the accident.
- Non-economic damages: These are losses that are harder to quantify, like pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, loss of enjoyment of your life, loss of consortium, and more.
Navigating Insurance Claims and Settlements
Commercial trucks are required by law to carry substantial liability insurance policies. Your semi-truck accident attorney will identify the available coverage for the vehicle that hit you and for any third parties who can be held responsible. But insurance companies will not release the proper amount to you without a fight. In many cases, they try to place fault on the victim, and if third parties are involved, they will try to deny responsibility and put the blame on each other. An experienced attorney will handle all negotiations with insurers and third parties to obtain a settlement that fully reflects the value of your damages.
Insurance companies for trucking companies will try to minimize their responsibility for your accident and thus offer you a settlement that is much less than you deserve. If an insurance company offers you a settlement, you should never accept it without discussing your case with an attorney first. An attorney will help estimate an amount for all of the damages you suffered and determine whether the settlement offered by the insurance company is fair.
It’s important to remember that internal injuries after a truck accident may only appear later on, and if you accept a settlement right after your accident, you cannot seek more compensation later.
Choosing the Right Austin Truck Accident Lawyer
When you’re looking for an attorney after a truck accident, it’s important to select one who has experience handling truck accident cases and bringing them to trial. Attorneys who focus on personal injury and truck accidents have the expertise and network to build a successful case and recover the compensation you deserve. When investigating your case, an experienced attorney will bring in experts, like accident reconstruction specialists, to identify who is at fault for your accident and hold them accountable.
To protect your interests, you should select an attorney who does not charge for representation upfront and has positive reviews from previous clients. At Steinger, Greene & Feiner, we operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we don’t get paid until we win your case. And we have a record that proves the expertise and commitment of our lawyers. We’ve secured maximum payouts for our former clients, and they report complete satisfaction with our handling of their cases.
Take the Next Step with a Trusted Austin Truck Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one due to a truck accident in Austin, don’t hesitate to get in touch with an experienced truck accident lawyer. Because of the severity of truck accidents, you may be entitled to significant compensation to cover injuries, wrongful death, and other losses. The lawyers at Steinger, Greene & Feiner are ready to handle every aspect of your claim and get you the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.