Accidents in Harlingen that involve a heavy commercial truck often prove extremely serious, especially when tractor-trailers collide with passenger cars at highway speeds. Fully loaded trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, which compares to just 5,000 pounds for the typical passenger vehicle.
That means a catastrophic amount of force being transferred at the point of impact, leading to many tragic deaths as well as life-changing injuries, like spine trauma or brain damage. In a recent year, motor vehicle accidents that included a large commercial truck led to almost 500 fatalities in the state of Texas, and more than 4,000 nationwide.
Why Do Truck Accidents Happen?
Given the size and weight of tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles, truckers and trucking companies must comply with all trucking safety standards. Unfortunately, many truck drivers and trucking companies out there will regularly neglect this duty, leading to devastating consequences for the other drivers and passengers sharing the road. Most truck accidents in Texas result from either major driver errors or improperly maintained trucks.
Inadequate Truck Maintenance
Mechanical defects caused by poor truck maintenance can either directly cause a crash or create conditions that will make the crash much more destructive. Tractor-trailers have to endure long distances, heavy loads, and high speeds, which causes a lot of wear and tear on the many different components involved in driving these massive vehicles safely.
For these reasons, the federal government closely regulates the inspection and maintenance of commercial vehicles. Trucking companies and their drivers must keep their trucks in good working condition and address any potential issues as quickly as possible. Drivers also have to inspect their trucks from top to bottom at the beginning of each day.
After an accident, the maintenance logs and inspection records for that vehicle can reveal any elements of poor upkeep that caused the accident or contributed to it. Missing or inadequate records can also lead to insights regarding the accident. The biggest culprits usually consist of overloaded trucks, worn-out tires, steering suspension problems, and malfunctioning headlights or taillights.
Poorly Trained or Inexperienced Drivers
It takes a lot of skill to handle large commercial trucks safely, especially in challenging situations, like poor weather, narrow turns, and busy traffic. Most 18-wheelers have blind spots, which means the truck driver’s training and attentiveness are critical even just while changing lanes.
Inexperienced and poorly trained truck drivers face a higher risk of violating safety regulations, making careless mistakes, failing to recognize maintenance issues, and generally putting everyone’s safety at risk.
Distracted, Impaired, or Fatigued Drivers
Large truck drivers have to stay aware of their surroundings at all times, with the ability to control their vehicles and react quickly to a whole host of situations. Anything that takes away from the driver’s ability to concentrate can potentially cause a heartbreaking accident, including egregious behavior, like using a smartphone while driving or being under the influence of alcohol.
Truck driver fatigue constitutes a lesser-known issue that can also cause extremely dangerous situations. Being overtired or sleep-deprived has a significant effect on how well drivers can perform, especially on their reaction times.
Who Bears Liability After a Truck Accident?
For those that manage to survive, being involved in a truck accident leaves severe injuries, expensive medical bills, and a complicated legal process for getting compensation. Working with an experienced truck accident lawyer provides injured individuals with the best way to protect their interests, which begins with analyzing the facts of the case to identify everyone that should bear liability. Texas law allows for proportional responsibility, which means you can get compensation from multiple parties that caused or contributed to the accident, such as:
The Truck Driver and/or Trucking Company
Speeding, driving under the influence, and failing to maintain the vehicle according to federal regulations all constitute potential violations that can make truck drivers liable for causing an accident. Under the law, the driver’s liability will often extend to the trucking company that owns the vehicle and hired the driver.
An investigation may find specific issues that directly created the conditions for the accident to happen, such as negligent hiring practices, poor training, inadequate practices for maintaining the truck, or an unreasonable schedule that leads to driver fatigue. The trucking industry also faces a series of federal safety laws, and your trucking accident attorney will work to demonstrate that the trucker and/or trucking company failed to meet one or more of these standards.
The Cargo Loading Company
All commercial trucks have a federally set maximum weight limit for the loads they can legally carry. This restriction aims to prevent dangerous issues like cargo shifting, which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has identified as the cause of 4 percent of truck accidents.
Unethical trucking companies and cargo loading companies will sometimes try to maximize profits by overloading trucks, which allows them to deliver more cargo while needing fewer trips.
Overloaded trucks make it more difficult to steer, more likely to cause brake failure, and generally more unstable, which increases the risk of truck accidents and also makes them more destructive. If an overloaded truck causes an accident, the cargo loading company will potentially share liability for knowingly breaking the law.
The Vehicle’s Manufacturer
Sometimes, the cause of a truck accident will stem from a problem with the truck itself, or in a specific component. If you can demonstrate that this malfunction did not result from any kind of maintenance issue and that the product was defective from the start, you can pursue compensation from either the vehicle’s manufacturer or the manufacturer of that part. Some common examples would include malfunctioning brakes, tire blowouts, or a defective trailer hitch.
Harlingen Truck Accident FAQ
Do you have questions about your right to compensation after sustaining injuries in a truck accident? A Harlingen truck accident attorney can help you learn more through an evaluation of your specific claim.
1. What should I do about my medical bills after a Harlingen truck accident?
Whether you pursue treatment at Harlingen Medical Center, Valley Baptist Medical Center, or one of the many urgent care centers available in the Harlingen area, you may have immense medical bills related to your truck accident.
Many types of injuries, including spinal cord injuries or amputations, may have ongoing high medical costs that you will have to contend with for the rest of your life. As the injured party, you will need to make arrangements to cover the cost of any treatments you receive after your accident.
Start by presenting your medical insurance, which can help provide some assistance with your medical costs. Then, contact a lawyer to begin the personal injury claim process. A personal injury claim can help provide much-needed compensation for your medical bills and other truck accident-related expenses.
2. Do I really need a lawyer to file a truck accident claim in Harlingen?
Yes. Truck accident claims often involve a much more complicated investigation than the average personal injury claim. A lawyer can help look through all the information related to your Harlingen truck accident, from information about the accident itself to the trucking company’s policies and procedures, to give you a better idea of how you should calculate and pursue compensation.
Furthermore, a truck accident attorney can help fight for you, whether that means taking over negotiation on your behalf or representing you in court as you fight for the compensation you deserve for your Harlingen truck accident injuries. Many truck accident victims find that working with an experienced personal injury attorney can increase the compensation they can recover for those injuries.
3. How long does it take to file a truck accident claim in Harlingen?
You should expect it to take time to file and resolve your truck accident claim. Often, personal injury victims need time to recover from their injuries. If you suffered a traumatic brain injury because of your truck accident, for example, it may take months before you know what your recovery will look like, including what long-term limitations you may have to deal with due to your injuries.
If you suffered broken bones that require surgical treatment and physical therapy, you may need time to determine how much physical therapy you will need and how much strength and mobility you will ultimately recover. Your lawyer may recommend waiting until you have a solid idea of what your recovery will look like before you move forward with your truck accident claim, since you will not know your long-term medical costs.
Both the insurance company and your attorney will also need time to fully investigate your Harlingen truck accident. It can take time to go over witness reports, take a look at traffic records, and go through the driver’s history and records. Until that investigation concludes, your lawyer may not have the evidence necessary to determine how much compensation you should pursue for your injuries.
Finally, it often takes months to negotiate a settlement after a truck accident. Patience can pay off in the truck accident claim process. By giving your lawyer plenty of time to negotiate a reasonable settlement, you may ultimately increase the compensation you can recover for your injuries.
4. What should I do if the insurance company offers me a fast settlement after my Harlingen truck accident?
A fast settlement may seem like the perfect solution to your financial needs after a truck accident. Unfortunately, it may not prove as useful as you think. Sometimes, the truck driver’s insurance company, or the trucking company’s insurance company, will contact you with a settlement offer shortly after the accident.
That offer looks like it reflects reasonable compensation for your immediate losses, but it may not take into account the long-term financial losses you will experience as a result of your injuries. If you accept that low settlement offer, it may leave you without the compensation you really need for future costs and losses.
Instead, talk over the settlement offer with an experienced Harlingen truck accident attorney. An attorney can give you a full picture of how much compensation you should expect, taking into account both the extent of your financial losses and the coverage offered by the truck driver’s insurance policy, and help you determine whether accepting a settlement offer will fit your needs.
5. Will I have to go to court to settle my Harlingen truck accident claim?
Most of the time, truck accident claims settle out of court. Going to court adds a great deal of legal expense to the truck accident claim process, and most insurance companies would prefer to reach a settlement agreement out of court if possible to avoid that added cost.
However, sometimes, your claim may have to go to court to resolve. If it does, having an attorney on your side can increase the odds that you will get the outcome you want for your claim.
Your truck accident claim may have greater odds of going to court if the insurance company has reason to contest the claim for some reason. You might have to go to court if, for example, the truck driver’s insurance company tries to claim that you, rather than the truck driver, caused the accident, or that you contributed substantially to the accident.
People who request high settlements due to severe injuries and immense medical costs have greater odds of going to court than people who require relatively little compensation for their injuries, since the insurance company may fight harder to reduce the compensation it has to pay out to the victim. The insurance company may try to dispute your medical costs or the extent of your injuries to reduce its financial liability.
With a lawyer on your side, however, you can fight that claim and increase the odds that you will recover the compensation you deserve.
How Long Do I Have to File a Truck Accident Injury Claim in Texas?
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Texas provides injured individuals with two years to file, and the clock begins ticking on the day of the accident. Whether you want to file a lawsuit or prefer to negotiate with the insurance company for a settlement, you should reach out to a skilled truck accident lawyer and make sure that you understand your rights.
The right legal team can help you build a strong case by investigating the accident from top to bottom, including all the physical evidence, electronic data about the truck’s movements before and during the crash, inspection records leading up to the accident, and anything else that may prove relevant for establishing the cause of your accident.
Kenny Perez Law
513 E Jackson Ave # 304,
Harlingen, TX 78550
“Definitely a law firm that you can trust! Professional, reasonable, and knowledgeable. The legal team has great customer service skills. They were able to help and guide us every step of the way after our accident.” – Cynthia Barrera
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