Hurt in Houston- Truck and 18 Wheeler Accidents

They say everything is bigger in Texas. Our fatal truck accident problem is no exception. Texas leads the nation in the number of deadly commercial vehicle accident deaths. In 2020, we had over 13% of the nation’s fatal trucking accidents.

Harris County had more commercial vehicle accidents than any other county in Texas. So, Houston, it is not your imagination. People are driving crazy out there.

If you are in an accident with an 18-wheeler, the priority is getting medical care. Serious injuries can keep you from collecting evidence at the scene. You may not have the proof you need when you make a claim. The Salazar Law Firm can help.

San Marcos Truck Accident Lawyer
San Marcos Truck Accident Lawyer

Is Houston That Dangerous?

Absolutely. Houston leads the country in fatal trucking accidents. In 2020, Houston had over 2,835 serious commercial vehicle accidents. They led to

  • 41 fatal accidents
  • 46 deaths
  • 121 severe injuries
  • 2668 other injuries

You can file first a third-party claims against a truck driver. First-party claims are when the truck driver’s actions directly hurt you. File a first-party claim if you were a

  • Driver
  • Passenger
  • Pedestrian
  • Cyclist

Third-party claims are when the driver’s actions indirectly hurt you. Wrongful death suits are the most well-known third-party claim. However, you may be able to sue for other losses, even if your loved one survived the accident.

It’s important to know when to hire a lawyer. Some lawyers will tell you that you always need an attorney after any car accident. However, that might not be true unless you have substantial or costly injuries. You may get a fair settlement offer without an attorney. The stakes are higher in truck accidents. You are more likely to have serious injuries. Next, the driver and the company might face severe penalties for the accident. So, drivers may have incentive to misrepresent the facts.

Big companies also have deep pockets. They can afford to fight against our claims. On the other hand, money and time pressure you to settle. A lawyer helps level the playing field.

Trucks and 18-wheeler accidents are notoriously dangerous. They often lead to severe injuries or death. You might think it is their size that makes 18-wheelers dangerous. You are right. However, that is not the only thing.

Truck drivers must meet demanding deadlines. That can lead to reckless behavior, including

  • Sleepy driving
  • Using substances to stay awake
  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Improperly loading cargo

Trucking companies can also contribute to the accident through

  • Lack of training
  • Improper maintenance
  • Negligent hiring
  • Negligent HR practices
  • Lack of safety programs

We have rules and laws that govern commercial trucks to discourage those behaviors. However, some truckers still violate those rules. When they do, accidents are more likely.

First, Houston is huge. We are the nation’s fourth-largest city and multiplying. However, size alone is not the only factor. We have more tractor-trailer accidents than New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, even though they are larger than Houston.

Texas has several major trucking routes. Many of them pass through Houston or the Houston suburbs. It is almost impossible to travel across the city without getting on one of these dangerous highways.

Do I Need a Lawyer After a Truck Accident?

Some lawyers will tell you that you always need an attorney after any car accident. However, that might not be true unless you have substantial or costly injuries. You may get a fair settlement offer without an attorney.

The stakes are higher in truck accidents. You are more likely to have serious injuries. Next, the driver and the company might face severe penalties for the accident. So, drivers may have incentive to misrepresent the facts. Big companies also have deep pockets. They can afford to fight against our claims. On the other hand, money and time pressure you to settle. A lawyer helps level the playing field.

What Type of Trucks Are Commercial Vehicles?

When you think of a truck driver, you probably picture an 18-wheeler. Also known as tractor-trailers, these big trucks carry vast amounts of cargo. However, they are not the only type of commercial vehicle. Some other standard commercial vehicles include

  • Semi-trucks
  • Trailers
  • Tankers
  • Box Trucks
  • Tow Trucks
  • Dump Trucks
  • Refrigerated trucks

While smaller commercial vehicles are not as dangerous as larger ones, they have many of the same challenges for plaintiffs. So, even if a driver is in a passenger truck or car, you might need a lawyer to handle your claim.

Where Do Truck Crashes Happen?

Most commercial truck accidents are on major highways—the smaller the street, the lower the risk. However, in urban areas, there is still a risk on smaller roads. In Houston, the most dangerous highways are

  • I-45
  • I-10
  • US-290
  • US-69
  • Beltway 8
  • Loop 610

In other words, if you want to drive anywhere in Houston, you will probably be on a dangerous road.

Who Can File a Claim Against a Truck Driver?

You can file first or third-party claims against a truck driver.

First-party claims are when the truck driver’s actions directly hurt you. File a first-party claim if you were a

  • Driver
  • Passenger
  • Pedestrian
  • Cyclist

Third-party claims are when the driver’s actions indirectly hurt you. Wrongful death suits are the most well-known third-party claim. However, you may be able to sue for other losses, even if your loved one survived the accident.

Can I Sue the Driver’s Company?

Maybe. In any car accident, you may be able to file a third-party claim. You must show that another party’s actions indirectly contributed to the accident.

If the company employs the driver, it is responsible for torts that the driver commits while doing their job. So, if a driver is negligent, the company should be liable.

Many drivers are contractors. They are known as driver-owners. They own their trucks and get jobs from companies. They are not technically employees. Proving their liability can be challenging.

You may also be able to sue other parties if they were negligent. Cargo companies may improperly load a truck. Manufacturers may have faulty tires. If they contributed to the accident, you might have a claim against them.

What Laws Govern Truckers?

One of the reasons that truck accidents are complicated is because of legal issues. In most car accidents, state law will govern. However, truck drivers must comply with federal laws. These laws impose stringent rules on truckers and their employers.

However, Texas is not a plaintiff-friendly state. Texas lawmakers have made it more challenging to get your case in front of a jury. Along with other tort reform restrictions, you may have to fight to get the damages you need to recover. So, you need a lawyer with truck accident experience.

Why Are Truck Accidents Different?

We already discussed size, which makes severe injuries and death more likely. However, size also complicates things in front of a jury.

  • Do you know how to drive a commercial vehicle?
  • What is the correct stopping distance?
  • What can you see in the mirrors?
  • What is your maximum speed?
  • How can you safely make turns?

Most people do not know those answers. We have to make sure that the jury understands. If they judge a truck driver by the same rules as other drivers, they might miss negligence or recklessness.


Why Does the Severity of the Injury Matter?

Most people think the more severe the injury, the bigger the settlement should be. That is true. However, many people underestimate the actual costs of a severe injury.

People with severe injuries may never recover. Putting aside the emotional impact of a life-changing injury, consider the financial impact.

Severe injuries can mean

  • Large immediate medical bills
  • Inability to work
  • Lifelong medical needs
  • Greater demands on caregivers
  • Complications from injuries
  • Specialized medical equipment
  • Changes to personal relationships

Imagine a man who gets a traumatic brain injury from a truck accident.

He spends months in the hospital and is in a wheelchair when he gets out.

  • The immediate medical bills are astronomical.
  • When he gets out, he cannot work.
  • He needs a wheelchair and a hospital bed.
  • He must continue rehab several times a week.
  • His spouse has to work to support the family.
  • They have to pay someone to drive them to rehab.
  • He can no longer do everyday chores around the house.
  • They have to hire someone to mow the yard and do housework.
  • His wife is handling all childcare.
  • He is more vulnerable to disease.
  • He was healthy, but now he is vulnerable.
  • He develops pneumonia when he gets a cold. It is not a direct result of the accident but a complication related to the accident.

What are the lifelong financial costs of that accident? They are often much higher than most people realize. That is why a settlement that seems generous may not be nearly enough.

What Are Damages?

You may have heard of damages in lawsuits. Damages refer to the monetary award a person in a suit gets. While damages are all monetary, there are three categories

  • Economic
  • Non-Economic
  • Punitive

Economic Damages

A lawyer will tell you that the purpose of economic damages is to make you whole. What does that mean?

The idea of wholeness is that damages should restore you to the place you would have been in if the accident had not occurred.

Damages are easy to determine when the only injury is routine property destruction. Imagine you are in a fender bender with no injuries. The damages are the costs to repair or replace the car. There may be some negotiation about those costs, but they are pretty straightforward.

In an injury accident, the calculation gets more complicated. How do you make someone whole from an injury? It is not enough to cover medical care. You also have to consider what the person could not do due to the injury.

If you break your leg in a car wreck and cannot work until it is healed, damages would include your lost wages. Many people stop there, but what other things would a broken leg keep you from doing?

The more severe the injury, the more things in your life will change. Damages should cover the cost of those changes. Financially, you should not be worse off because of the accident.

Non-Economic Damages

It is not the same even if you can hire someone to do things you can no longer do.

Think about it. Sure, you can pay someone to bathe you if you can no longer wash. Is that the same as being able to hop in the shower and get yourself clean?

No one would say yes, even though you would be clean, either way.

Non-economic damages address those losses that are real but are not monetary. In civil cases, courts can mainly address money. So, they try to put a dollar value on those losses that are not economic.

The more severe the injury, the longer your life is impacted by an accident. The worse the injury, the greater the number of those impacts. Non-economic damages essentially pay you for those non-monetary losses.

Pain and suffering is another term for non-economic damages. What is the dollar value of no longer being able to

  • Walk your dog
  • Hug your kid
  • Have sex with your spouse

Those are real consequences that people with severe injuries can have. What are they worth?

Punitive Damages

The final category is punitive damages. Courts award punitive damages when they want to discourage or punish horrible behavior. For that reason, they are not available in all cases.

What Is My Accident Worth?

We use those three types of damages to estimate the value of your claim.

  • What are your financial losses?
  • What is the value of your pain and suffering?
  • Should punitive damages apply?

We use our experience to help us answer those questions. We consider

  • Your short-term and long-term medical prognosis
  • Your pre-accident earning potential
  • Whether you can work
  • What local juries award people with similar injuries
  • Your costs to date
  • Future medical costs
  • Future non-medical costs

With that information, we can come up with a range of potential jury awards if we go to court. Knowing that number, we can assess the fairness of settlement offers.

Should I Take a Settlement?

The answer to that depends on whether the settlement is fair.

Whether a settlement is fair depends on two things.

  • The financial value of your claim
  • The likelihood you will win your claim

You could have a million-dollar claim, but the fault may not be apparent. In that case, you might not win if you go to court. The higher the odds are that you will succeed in court, the closer the settlement needs to be to the value of the claim to be fair.

However, we will encourage you to settle your claim if you get a fair settlement offer.

Lawsuits are hard on people. Your household will reel economically and emotionally if you have had a severe injury. Taking a fair settlement instead of holding out for a potentially higher payoff after years of litigation may be the right choice for your family.

Lawsuits are also risky. Even when the facts support your case, the jury might disagree. They might have prejudices. Often, they cannot understand the math behind long-term medical care. So, you may receive a smaller award, even if the jury finds in your favor.

Finally, Texas is a tort reform state. Tort reform has led to some unfair limits on damage awards. You must listen to your attorneys discuss what that might mean for your case. Most of our clients undervalue their claims. Some overvalue them. We will give you our honest opinion, based on years of experience, on the fair value of your claim.

What Can The Salazar Law Firm Do for Me?

We have experience dealing with truck accidents. So, the most important thing we can do is tell you whether or not you have a case.

However, we may not be able to tell you that at our first consultation. Truck accident investigations are more involved than most car accident investigations. Fatalities and severe injuries increase those complexities.

We may investigate further before we tell you whether you have a case. However, we have access to the experts that can do those investigations.

To find out how we can help in your case, contact us. We can schedule a free no-obligation consultation.

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