SMS Legal: Fighting for Victims of 18-Wheeler Accidents
Over 11 million large trucks barrel down the nation’s roads, hauling food, consumer goods, industrial products, and toxic substances. Tractor-trailers account for almost three million of those large trucks.1 Such commercial vehicles form the backbone of the U.S. economy, but they also pose a serious risk to other drivers. Every year, thousands of lives are lost in truck accidents. Many more people suffer crippling injuries.
Unfortunately, the accident is just the beginning for those who are injured or who lose loved ones. In addition to the pain, the grief, and the loss, they face an array of legal and financial challenges. Pitted against well-funded trucking companies and a complex legal system, they must fight an uphill battle just to obtain a fair settlement.
Unless they have the help of a seasoned truck accident lawyer, the obstacles become insurmountable. With a skilled 18-wheeler lawyer at their side, victims and their families can see through the post-accident fog and begin to craft a legal strategy that ensures both justice and financial restitution.
No matter what your role in the accident—whether you were a truck driver, a car driver, a motorcyclist, a passenger, a pedestrian, or a family member of someone who was killed—a commercial truck accident attorney can help you sort through your options and set you on the path toward establishing fault and collecting financial damages.
Where Do You Begin?
The ordeal begins the moment the dust settles over the accident scene. A crash leaves victims with pain, confusion, wounds, and more questions than they can sort through on their own. What should I do next? Where do I go from here? How do I cover my medical bills, funeral costs, or lost wages? How do I piece my life back together again? Who’s responsible? Do I have any recourse? What does the law say about truck drivers? Will justice ever be done?
Before throwing up your hands in defeat, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. You’re not powerless. You have legal rights. With the help of a Houston truck accident attorney, you can devise a plan, cut through the red tape, overcome the opposition of crafty trucking companies and their allies in the insurance companies, and obtain the compensation you need to move forward with your life.
It starts with a phone call. The truck accident lawyers at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. specialize in helping victims make sense of the law, demand their legal rights, and hold negligent parties accountable. From the moment you call us for a free consultation to the moment you collect your settlement award, we’ll guide you through the legal system. Every step of the way, we’ll fight against unscrupulous trucking companies and irresponsible drivers who put their financial interests above the safety of ordinary people.
Truck Accident Statistics
The average large truck weighs 20 to 30 times more than a passenger vehicle and takes 20 to 40 percent more time to come to a full stop. Throw in the fact that they’re significantly taller, and you can understand why truck accidents are some of the most dangerous on the road. When a truck collides with a car, occupants of passenger vehicles bear the brunt of the damage, accounting for 97 percent of people killed in two-vehicle crashes.2
Fortunately, fatalities have declined steadily since 1975, thanks to safer vehicles and better engineering. Unfortunately, truck accidents still take thousands of lives every year. In 2016, almost 4,000 people died in truck accidents, according to official statistics released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.2 Here are a few other facts related to truck crashes:
- 11% of all motor vehicle deaths involved a large truck.
- 48% of deaths occurred between the hours of 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- 31% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths resulted from head-on collisions.
- 73% of deaths involved tractor trailers.
Truck Drivers and Companies Bear a Heavy Responsibility
Trucking is a dangerous business. To minimize the risks, legislators and regulators have enacted strict rules that govern what owners, employers, and drivers can and cannot do. Drivers have to follow well-defined safety procedures and undergo regular training. Trucking companies are also responsible for setting reasonable schedules, training their employees, and maintaining their fleets. Failure to meet locally and federally mandated rules constitutes negligence in the eyes of the law since it puts truckers and other drivers at risk.
In spite of all the precautions, things fall through the cracks. Truck drivers travel long distances and work brutal hours. In the rush to meet a deadline, they sometimes fail to heed the warning signs. Instead of pulling over, they continue to drive in spite of their inability to take quick, evasive action. In some cases, they or their employers go so far as to doctor their logbooks in order to hide their negligence.
When negligent behavior leads to an accident, victims must hold trucking companies and/or their drivers accountable. They must seek the help of an 18-wheeler accident lawyer so they can balance the scales of justice and fight for their rightful compensation.
Types of Driver Negligence
- Alcohol Use – Given the strict rules governing the industry, trucks drivers tend to drink and drive at a lower rate than the general population.2 Unfortunately, some drivers ignore the rules and disregard any concern for human life.
- Drug Use – Commercial drivers must stay alert in spite of the monotony of the road and the lateness of the hour. Unfortunately, many turn to illegal drugs or even prescription drugs to ward off drowsiness and to fall asleep at the end of a shift. Such uppers and downers can help drivers cope with tough schedules, but drugs may also interfere with a driver’s judgment and reaction time, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
- Aggressive or Reckless Driving. Aggressive driving, road rage, and recklessness pose a danger no matter who engages in it. When semi-truck drivers lose control of their emotions or rush to meet a tight deadline, the risks grow exponentially. Excessive speed, tailgating, sudden lane changes, and other forms of reckless driving constitute a serious violation of safety procedures.
- Ignoring Scheduling Limits – Federal law limits the number of hours truck drivers are allowed to sit behind the wheel. Such Hours-of-Service rules are designed to prevent burnout and drowsy driving. When drivers ignore the rules and exceed time limits, whether because they’re facing a tight deadline or because they’re acting in a reckless manner, they not only violate federal law, they also increase the chances of a serious accident.
- Texting or Talking – The proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices has made distracted driving a national problem. Most people who text or talk on their phones while driving are passenger vehicle occupants, but truck drivers are also guilty of such carelessness. If you see a distracted truck driver, report them to their employer by calling the number on the back of their truck.
Types of Trucking Company Negligence
- Insufficient or Improper Training – Employers bear the responsibility for hiring qualified drivers and training them to handle the specific vehicle they are tasked with driving. If an 18-wheeler accident attorney can prove that the company failed in their duty, they can make a case for negligence.
- Maintaining Trucks – The law requires that all commercial trucks be regularly and properly maintained. Vehicles must also obtain certification before hitting the road. An oversight, such as a failure to inspect a truck’s brakes, can lead to dangerous situations and may be cause for a lawsuit in the event of an accident.
- Burdensome Schedules – If a driver fails to heed the federal Hours-of-Service rules, the trucking company may also be implicated, particularly if a manager or other employer set unreasonable deadlines or encouraged the driver to skirt around the rules.
How to Prevent a Truck Accident
Truck drivers and their employers bear the heaviest burden of responsibility when it comes to preventing accidents, but you can also do your part to prevent a catastrophe from occurring. In addition to the standard safety tips, which apply to nearly any situation (pay attention to the road, maintain a safe speed, get plenty of rest, avoid distractions, etc.), there are some specific prevention tips that can help you avoid a collision with a big rig or other large truck.
- Avoid a truck’s blind spots, or “no zones”—large areas of no visibility.
- Avoid trucks that engage in reckless behavior, such as swerving or speeding, and call the authorities immediately.
- Never pull in front of a truck or slam on the brakes with one behind you. It takes large tucks significantly longer to stop, and you want to leave them with plenty of room for error.
- Pass carefully, giving the truck plenty of room—more than you would give a smaller vehicle.
- Don’t tailgate or follow a truck too closely. Truck drivers won’t be able to see you. If they brake suddenly or swing wide to make a turn, you may be in harm’s way.
- Err on the side of caution. When dealing with large, unwieldy vehicles like 18-wheelers, it’s always best to be careful. Always be vigilant around big rigs and, if you feel uncomfortable, try to maneuver into another lane so as to avoid them altogether.
Why Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P.?
With over a century of combined legal experience and over $720 million in recoveries, the law firm of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. has a proven track record for success when it comes to representing injured parties. Our commercial vehicle accident lawyers have spent decades fighting for the rights of accident victims, whether they are truckers, passenger vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, or pedestrians.
Why choose our law firm? When you work with our 18-wheeler accident lawyers in Houston, you get:
- Experience you can trust.
- A proven track record of success.
- Compassion for victims and their families.
- A tireless commitment to our clients.
- Skilled negotiators and litigators.
- Extensive knowledge of the trucking industry.
- An impeccable work ethic.
Our Houston motorcycle accident lawyers have stood on both sides of the law. Before joining the team at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., they spent years representing big insurance and trucking companies. They know the tactics that well-funded special interests use to avoid paying settlements to injured victims. They also know how to overcome the obstacles put in their way. Now you can take advantage of their industry experience to stop big companies from dismissing or undercutting your claims.
Not sure where to go next? Contact our office to speak with a tractor-trailer accident lawyer for free. We’ll listen to your story, evaluate your case, and advise you on how to move forward—all without charge. Don’t wait until trucking companies and insurance providers get the upper hand. Protect your rights. Call 713-364-0723 today.