Hurt in a car accident involving an 18-wheeler truck? Call the Dallas accident attorneys at Montgomery Law.
Big rigs, tractor trailers, 18-wheelers, or semi-trucks… Whatever you call them, they’re a fact of life on highways throughout Dallas-Fort Worth. These large commercial vehicles carry necessary supplies across the country; however, they also present a significant danger to other motorists should they become involved in a wreck.
Truck accidents are unique due to the fact that all commercial vehicles are governed by a complex network of overlapping state—and federal—laws. Additionally, 18-wheeler trucks often carry well over $1 million in insurance coverage, meaning that any accident injury (or wrongful death) claim will be heavily contested and defended by the insurance company and their team of attorneys.
If you’ve been injured or have lost a loved one in a Dallas-area truck accident, it’s important that you understand what to expect with regard to your potential claim. This article will go into depth about exactly how and why truck accident claims are handled differently than “normal” (passenger-car-only) crashes, as well as explain how our law firm may be able to help. At Montgomery Law, our job is to ensure that you and your family are fully compensated for your losses.
Our Dallas truck accident lawyers have considerable experience handling catastrophic accident cases here in Texas, and we’re available to answer your questions—by phone or by email—24 hours a day. We offer free consultations, and we handle every case on a no-win no-fee basis. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call us today at 214-720-6090 (local) or 1-833-720-6090 (toll-free).
Understanding the legal process can help you make the best decisions possible when it comes to your truck accident claim. Click below to learn more about your legal options, as well as how Montgomery Law may be able to help.
Speak With a Dallas Truck Accident Lawyer Today
What Should I Do After a Truck Accident?
After a truck accident, the most important thing to focus on is your health and well-being. If you’ve been injured, call 9-1-1 and wait for first responders to arrive. Getting medical treatment for your injuries is critical to ensure that they do not become more serious—even if you think you’re only slightly hurt or that your injuries are relatively minor.
Attempting to “tough it out” serves no legitimate purpose, and in fact may hamper your ability to recover compensation from the insurance company later. It’s important to seek immediate medical attention, and to keep records of any and all expenses incurred as a result.
If you are able to do so, try to collect as much evidence as you can while at the scene of the crash. Take pictures of the wreckage, any tire marks, etc. Write down or take a picture of the truck driver’s insurance information, drivers license, license plate, and/or the cab’s USDOT number decal. You should also collect contact information from any witnesses. When police arrive, speak with them and ask for a crash report number. Give this number to your attorney.
As soon as you can, write down your recollection of the accident. Be sure to include as much detail as you can, such as the time of day, the weather and daylight conditions, as well as details about the other driver’s actions prior to the crash.
Next, consult with a Dallas truck accident lawyer. Ideally, you should consult with a lawyer before you even speak with the insurance company. Your attorney will be able to file a claim with the insurance company on your behalf and refer all communication to them moving forward. Do not sign anything or make any decisions about the case until you have discussed it with your attorney. Remember that the insurance company is not interested in helping you. Their only goal is to find a way to either reduce the value of your claim or deny it altogether.
Common Causes, Injuries & Statistics
There are many causes of truck accidents, however according to a study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are three major events that lead to over 80 percent of all truck crashes in the US:
- Running out of the travel lane, either into another lane or off the road (32%)
- Loss of vehicle control from traveling too fast for conditions, an unbalanced load, a cargo shift, poor road conditions, or other reasons (29%)
- Colliding with the rear end of another vehicle in the truck’s travel lane (22%)
Unsurprisingly, 87% of the accidents studied by the FMCSA were reportedly caused by driver error. The most common of which being:
- Decision-based (e.g., driving too fast for conditions, misjudging the speed of other vehicles, or following too closely).
- Recognition-based (e.g., driver inattention, distracted driving, or otherwise failing to observe the situation adequately).
- Performance-based (e.g., the driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control).
- Non-performance (e.g., falling asleep at the wheel, experiencing a medical episode, or other physical impairment).
Only 10% of all truck accidents are caused by vehicle issues such as a tire blowout, and even fewer (3%) are attributed to inclement weather as opposed to driving too fast for conditions.
Many of the most-common contributing factors have been addressed by the FMCSA. For example, the federal hours of service rules—which mandate the number of hours that a truck driver can spend behind the wheel before having to take a break—were enacted solely to combat the rising number of truck accidents caused by fatigued/drowsy driving. In a similar vein, truck drivers have been federally prohibited from texting while driving since 2010.
In a car-vs-truck accident, occupants of passenger vehicles routinely suffer catastrophic or even fatal injures due to the disparity in size and weight between the two vehicles. A full-loaded tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, while passenger cars are generally only 2,000-3,000 pounds. Injuries commonly include broken bones, spinal cord injuries, head and brain injuries (TBI), burns, dismemberment, chronic pain/disability, or even death.
According to TxDOT, there were at least 26,417 crashes involving commercial trucks or 18-wheelers in Texas in 2018. Those accidents led to at least 465 fatalities and 2,530 injuries (786 of which were listed as serious). There were an additional 3,406 commercial vehicle accidents which resulted in “possible” injuries.
What Makes Truck Accident Claims Unique?
If you’ve ever filed an injury claim after a car accident in the past, then you may be familiar with the types of tricks that insurance companies employ to avoid paying victims what they’re truly owed. But with truck accidents, insurance companies are simply ruthless.
The typical auto insurance policy has approximately $60,000 in liability coverage. In contrast, the average 18-wheeler truck has an insurance policy worth well over a million dollars. Insurance companies aggressively defend these policies, looking for any reason to deny your claim or deflect liability elsewhere.
The insurance adjusters handling these claims are not novices. They’re seasoned professionals who’ve worked their way up from handling small, low value car accident claims to now defending multimillion-dollar policies. These adjusters know (and have used) every trick in the book to take advantage of victims when they’re at their most vulnerable.
For example, an insurance rep may show up at the hospital in an attempt to get you to settle or sign your rights away before you even know the full extent of your injuries. Investigators will scour your social media accounts, perform background checks on you, and may even put you under surveillance. An adjuster may even straight-up lie and say there’s no coverage.
It might sound outlandish, but truck accident attorneys who represent victims have seen some pretty crazy things. In fact, we’ve even seen insurance companies send someone to the scene of the accident in an attempt to manipulate evidence in their favor.
As mentioned earlier, truck drivers and transportation companies alike are governed by an additional set of FMCSA rules. With any truck accident case, your attorney will need to determine whether the driver was violating any of these regulations. Oftentimes the best way to do this is by inspecting the truck’s ECM (black box) and electronic logbook data.
Truck accident cases are also unique due to the doctrine of “respondeat superior,” which is a legal principle that allows employers to be held liable for the negligent actions of their employees. When a truck driver is working for a company, in many cases, both the driver and the company can be held jointly responsible for compensating the accident victim(s). This is particularly true in situations where the trucking company failed to perform a background check on the driver or even encouraged them to violate the law (e.g., by setting unrealistic driving goals).
How Much Is My Case Worth?
The value of any truck accident case generally depends on the extent of your injuries and/or related losses. If you suffered relatively minor injuries, a law firm like ours can give you a good idea of what we feel your case is worth. For truck crashes involving catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, damages can easily reach into the hundreds of thousands—or even millions of dollars.
There are two categories of damages available: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are for losses that can be more easily documented. This includes things like medical expenses, physical therapy, property damage, and lost wages. In some cases (if you’ve been disabled or are unable to return to work due to your injuries), you may also seek additional compensation through a reduced earnings capacity claim.
Non-economic damages include those losses that are more difficult to put a number on, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, or disfigurement. It can be challenging to decide how to value something intangible like pain and suffering—and to justify it to the insurance company—but this is where having an experienced Dallas truck accident attorney on your side can really help.
The insurance company does not have your best interests at heart. Their goal is to protect their bottom line by paying you as little as possible (preferably nothing). If you don’t have an attorney, they will always have the upper hand. There’s nothing to prevent them from unreasonably denying your claim, delaying you at every turn, or even flat-out lying to you. Even if they act as though they care about you, understand that their goals are the exact opposite of yours. Insurance companies are only in this to make a profit, but we’re here to hold them to the fire.
The Importance of Evidence
Evidence is crucial to any personal injury or wrongful death claim. After all, the burden is on you as the plaintiff to prove that the other party was responsible (and thus liable) for your losses. Evidence is particularly important when it comes to truck accident cases, as insurance companies will go through great lengths to defend these (often) high-value claims.
To have the highest possible chance of success, you and your attorney will need to collect as much evidence as possible. If and when you can, take photos and videos of the accident scene, and look for any traffic cameras (or nearby private businesses) which could have potentially caught the wreck on video. If you act quickly, your attorney can often prevent this footage from being erased by issuing what’s called a “spoliation letter.”
If you feel that the police officer’s accident report is erroneous or misleading, it’s important that you correct the record and/or provide solid evidence to the contrary. Police officers are not always spot-on in their synopses, and it may take the testimony of an expert witness or accident reconstructionist (hired by your attorney) to refute an inaccurate crash report.
Your lawyer can also collect and analyze the truck’s black box (ECM) data, as well as the trucking company’s accident history, maintenance records, and driver logs. The truck driver’s criminal history and driving records are also important pieces of evidence which must be examined—as you can be certain the insurance company is already examining your driving records and criminal history as well.
How Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Help?
A personal injury attorney is bound by the rules of professional conduct (and the law) to zealously advocate on the client’s behalf and to look out for their best interests from beginning to end. Unlike the insurance company, your lawyer truly is on your side and wants the case to be resolved in your favor.
At Montgomery Law, we will handle your claim from start to finish beginning the day you call us. We’ll help you get medical treatment at no out-of-pocket cost and will handle all communication with the insurance company moving forward, easing that burden and allowing you to focus on your recovery.
We also promise to investigate your case thoroughly, collect evidence on your behalf, and prove up your damages to determine the true value of your claim. Our team will then work with the insurance company to negotiate a settlement. If necessary, we will file a lawsuit against the truck driver and/or trucking company and take the case to court to get you the compensation that you deserve.
Our firm handles all cases on a contingency fee (no-win no-fee) basis. This means that unless we put money in your pocket, either through a settlement or a jury award, we do not get paid. Under no circumstances (even if we lose) will you ever receive a bill from us. To be clear, there is absolutely no financial risk in hiring a law firm like ours to work on your case.
One of the great things about a contingency fee agreement is that it aligns the goals of the attorney and the client. Because we don’t get paid unless you do, we share the same motivation. Unlike the insurance company (who wants to drag out your case and pay you as little as possible), our goal is to get you the best possible settlement or jury award without any unnecessary delays.
In fact, studies have shown that accident victims who hire an attorney receive—on average—3.5 times more in compensation than those who attempt to handle their own claims. In a truck accident case, this could easily translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
We also help our clients get medical treatment following a truck wreck. In Texas, many hospitals and doctors are reluctant to treat victims of car and truck accidents, knowing that private health insurance may reject their bills because another insurer may be responsible for the claim. We can issue what’s called a “letter of protection,” allowing you to receive medical treatment and rehabilitation at no out-of-pocket cost.
You only get one shot at bringing your truck accident case. When you file a claim, you’ll be going up against a team of seasoned adjusters and high-priced attorneys who earn their living fighting claims like yours every single day. You need someone looking out for you; someone who will advocate on your behalf to ensure that you are not taken advantage of. That’s where we come in.
Time Limits to Filing Your Claim
There is always a time limit when it comes to filing any personal injury or wrongful death claim, which is known as the “statute of limitations.” In Texas, the statute of limitations on all truck accident claims is two years from the date of the crash (with some exceptions).
Even though this may seem like a long time, you ideally want to file your claim as soon as possible. As days, weeks, and months go by, it becomes increasingly more-difficult to prove your case and to collect important evidence. Witnesses move away, memories fade, and vital records may be lost forever.
For these reasons, it is important to speak with a Dallas truck accident attorney as soon as possible so that you fully understand the options available to you and your family. At Montgomery Law, we offer free consultations to all prospective clients, and are happy to answer your questions (free of charge) by phone or email.
Settling Out of Court vs. Going to Trial
Most truck accident cases are resolved via settlement way before ever reaching a courtroom. The truth of the matter is that unless the facts of the accident are in serious dispute, you will probably never have to set foot inside a courtroom.
Our attorneys will work hard to negotiate a fair settlement prior to filing a lawsuit. Importantly, as the client, the final decision on whether to settle your case is ultimately up to you. If an agreeable settlement cannot be reached, our law firm is happy to file a lawsuit on your behalf in order to fight for every penny you deserve.
When you retain our services, we’ll sit down with you and explain exactly what to expect moving forward with your case. We’ll discuss your desired outcome, give you our honest advice, and can often give you a rough estimate of what we believe your case to be worth. If you decide to hire our law firm, we will keep you updated throughout the entire process.
At Montgomery Law, our team is experienced at handling truck accident cases in Dallas, Fort Worth, as well as across the State of Texas. We are dedicated to helping victims of truck accidents receive the medical care they need, as well as the compensation they deserve.
Our firm handles all truck accident cases on a no-win no-fee basis, which means that there is no financial risk to you. We offer free consultations, and our attorneys are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions throughout the development of your case.
If you’ve been hurt or have lost a loved one in an 18-wheeler truck accident, contact our law firm today at 214-720-6090 (local) or 1-833-720-6090 (toll-free) to learn how we can help. If you’d prefer to communicate electronically, we’re available 24/7 by email or via SMS text message.