Texas Transportation Code § 548.001 defines a commercial motor vehicle as meaning a self-propelled or towed vehicle used on a public highway to transport passengers or cargo when the vehicle has a gross weight, registered weight, or gross weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds, used or designed to transport over 15 passengers, or used to transport hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding by a regulation issued under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act. Commercial vehicles are typically the largest vehicles on most roads, so accidents involving them can be catastrophic, and victims in such crashes will want to be sure to seek the help of an experienced Texas personal injury attorney.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) states that large trucks frequently weigh 20 to 30 times as much as passenger cars, and only 15 percent of the 4,014 deaths in large truck crashes in 2020 were truck occupants while 68 percent were the occupants of cars or other passenger vehicles, and another 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. The annual Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts (LTBCF) report in 2019 found that of roughly 510,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2019, 4,479 were fatal crashes, and another 114,000 were injury crashes.
Commercial Vehicle Accident Liability Issues
Whereas most motor vehicle accidents involve victims filing claims against the insurance company for another negligent driver, commercial vehicle crashes can be far more complex because a commercial vehicle can involve various types of ownership issues that are not common with traditional passenger vehicle claims.
For example, any of the following may be true in a commercial vehicle accident:
- If the driver of a commercial vehicle crashes while acting within the scope of their job, the employer may share or assume liability.
- If a commercial vehicle driver has a poor driving record, the employer can be liable for negligent hiring issues.
- Another entity can own a commercial vehicle and thus share liability with other parties.
- If a subcontractor or shipper loads a commercial vehicle before its delivery, that party can also share responsibility for certain load-related accidents.
- Certain independent commercial vehicle drivers can contractually assume liability for their actions.
- If a commercial vehicle crashes because of improper maintenance or repairs, then the repair shop or contractor that serviced the vehicle can share liability.
- State or local governmental entities can bear liability for crashes that are the result of dangerous or defective road conditions.
The bottom line is that determining liability in a commercial vehicle accident can be extremely complex, and it will be in your best interest to find a lawyer who can assist you in identifying all possible liable parties so you can recover as much financial compensation as possible. The drivers of commercial vehicles have strict federal standards they must comply with, and violating certain rules can immediately make these parties liable for damages in such cases.
Securing Evidence in Commercial Vehicle Accidents
The most common form of evidence used in most commercial vehicle accidents comes in the form of a police report that an officer responding to the scene of a crash will complete, but that is rarely the only form of evidence available. Victims of these accidents should always take steps to gather their own evidence by taking videos or pictures of the crash scenes and getting photographs of the vehicles, roadways, and any other factors in an accident from varying distances.
In addition to these forms of evidence, commercial vehicles also have their own sets of records that can be remarkably telling, such as driving logs, maintenance records, possible dash cam footage, event data recorders, and communications with numerous clients. While all of this information can be critical in helping establish the fault of a commercial vehicle driver, many companies will immediately make efforts to either destroy or hide these forms of evidence.
The sensitivity of such evidence exemplifies why you need to hire an attorney as soon as possible because the more time you give your legal representation to find this evidence means, the more likely they can actually gather it.
Serious Commercial Vehicle Accident Injuries
Considering the simple size of commercial vehicles, occupants of much smaller passenger vehicles are incredibly likely to suffer severe injuries in these cases. People can sustain a wide range of possible injuries, some of which will be positively catastrophic and require several months, years, or even entire lifetimes of recovery.
Possible injuries in these crashes may include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Closed head injuries
- Skull fractures
- Spinal cord injuries
- Back injuries
- Knee injuries
- Leg injuries
- Neck injuries
- Arm injuries
- Internal injuries
- Permanent nerve injuries
- Fractures or broken bones
- Severe burn injuries
The worst-case scenarios in commercial vehicle crashes are obviously the possible deaths of individuals involved in such accidents. Family members losing loved ones in such crashes should know that they can have the legal right to recover wrongful death damages in these cases so they can recover compensation to cover the losses their family will be dealing with because of an untimely death.
Wrongful death damages can include medical and funeral bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering, as well as several other types of damages. While many families are overwhelmed with grief and do not immediately think about legal action, it remains important for somebody in the family to take the necessary action because there are strict time limits on wrongful death claims, and Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code § 16.003 imposes a statute of limitations (or time limit) of only two years on actions for wrongful death.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation With a Texas Personal Injury Attorney
If you or your loved one suffers any kind of serious injury in an accident caused by a commercial vehicle in Texas, be sure to immediately retain legal counsel. Mack Injury Attorneys has offices in San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and McAllen.
Our firm has now been serving injury victims throughout the Lone Star State for more than a decade. You can call us at 888-978-9302 or contact us online to set up a free consultation so we can really review your case in detail and fully discuss all of the legal options that are available to you.