Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident In Texas?

Texas leads the other states as far as fatal roadway wrecks are concerned. California and Florida are close behind. This trend has been increasing over the last few years as more trucks take to the road to satisfy the high demand for delivery services across the nation.

The National Safety Council (NSC) reported roughly 5,000 instances of fatal truck wrecks in Texas in 2022 alone. That’s a 17% increase over 2021. The number of people who died in trucking collisions that same year increased by 50% compared to 2021.

While large trucks accounted for only four percent of all registered vehicles, they were disproportionately involved in nine percent of all deadly Texas crackups.

Why Are There so Many Texas Wrecks?

As 2024 continues to unfold, there are more big rigs on the Texas roads than ever before. Nevertheless, it doesn’t explain the spiking highway death rates. The NSC tells us that most people who die in fatal truck accidents are those in smaller passenger cars that slam into large trucks.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Joint Study of Texas Truck Accidents

An in-depth study was undertaken by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to identify the most common causes of big truck collisions and to identify who is liable for the extensive destruction these truck accidents can cause.

Precrash statistics reveal what the FMCSA calls the single critical event that causes a truck accident. Researchers identified numerous such events in the 2019 big rig collision data. Here is a summary of what the researchers uncovered.

Impaired drivers

Fatigued and speeding truck drivers were often involved in big rig smashups. Fatigue sets the stage for poor judgment and flawed decision-making which, in turn, increases the likelihood of a wreck. Fatigued drivers involved in accidents can be found liable for the damages they cause.

Over time, fatigue can become chronic for busy drivers who exceed rule of service limits. Although the federal government imposes harsh fines and penalties on drivers who exceed the limits, many truckers continually disregard them in order to earn more money.

Chronic fatigue can impair brain function in the same way that alcohol does, and that holds true whether a driver is chronically fatigued or just occasionally drowsy.

Aggressive drivers

Reckless driving like tailgating, speeding, making unsafe lane changes, executing illegal turns, ignoring traffic signs, weaving in and out of lanes and cutting off other drivers can all cause a deadly truck pileup.

The FMCSA study found that 23% of 18-wheeler and other big rig smashups involved trucks that were going too fast for hazardous conditions.

Aggressive driving is almost always a byproduct of tight delivery deadlines that are nearly impossible for many drivers to meet. The drivers get upset with anything that prevents them from reaching their destinations on time.

If drivers are running late, they can cause plants and production lines to shut down. They are then subject to stiff penalties and fines for breaking the rules.

Driver error

The researchers learned that even minute deviations in a driver’s performance, decision-making and recognition ability can result in a catastrophic, multivehicle pileup.

Fourteen percent of large vehicle wrecks were caused by illegal road moves, while five percent were due to tailgating. Pileups involving driver error, driver impairment, reckless driving and aggressive driving are usually the fault of the driver, but there are always exceptions.

If you are a driver who has been involved in a Texas truck wreck, we recommend contacting an experienced truck accident lawyer in Texas immediately. We can consult with you free of charge to determine whether there were extenuating circumstances that could change the outcome of your case.

Passenger vehicle driver error

Although it might seem so, semitrailer drivers are not responsible for every truck wreck in Texas. The FMCSA study found that in over 35% of the 2019 Texas roadway fatalities, passenger vehicles creeping into a big rig’s lane were liable for an ensuing pileup.

In 28% of the cases, a passenger vehicle traveling in a large truck’s lane was held liable for a collision between the passenger vehicle and the big truck.

Dangerous roads

Twenty-two percent of big rig wrecks were caused by truckers who were not familiar with the roads on which they were traveling.

Twenty percent of these crashes involved drivers with other road problems such as unsafe roads, poor visibility, roadway obstacles and going too fast for current conditions.

Liability could then fall to the trucker, government agency or private company tasked with keeping the roads safe.

Poorly secured loads

Cargo-bearing 18-wheelers can be doubly dangerous on the road. These giant rigs can be packed to the gills with toxic or flammable chemicals, rolling cargo like tree logs and other deadly objects that can severely injure drivers behind the rig.

If rigs are overloaded, poorly secured or improperly balanced, the cargo can shift position in transit and cause the truck to tip over. That’s what happened in almost five percent of the cargo truck wrecks in this study. The company that employed the workers who loaded the cargo was found to be liable for the damages caused by the wreck.

Poor maintenance

Driving a truck that’s deprived of proper maintenance is asking for trouble. A small problem that could easily have been resolved can instead cause a massive pileup when routine vehicle care is neglected.

Malfunctioning brakes are responsible for most mechanical truck wrecks followed by faulty tires. The guilty party could be the driver and owner of the rig, a trucking company or a mechanic tasked with maintaining the rig’s safety.

Unmanageable delivery schedules

If a trucking company cares more about money than safety, it can pressure its drivers or offer them incentives to put themselves and others at risk by ignoring hours of service rules.

In the current study, 10% of drivers reported that they had been involved in accidents as a direct result of ignoring hours of service rules to please their employers. Not only are these drivers liable for the accidents they cause, but they can also suffer severe penalties for hours of service rules violations.

Defective components

A truck part manufacturer may be to blame for a semitrailer pileup if a component is defective and causes an accident. If component failure caused the smashup, the injured parties may be able to sue the manufacturing company for damages with the help of a truck wreck lawyer in Texas.

Employer negligence

Trucking companies can be found negligent if a big rig collision is caused by a poorly trained, improperly screened or inexperienced driver or for hiring drivers with poor driving records and a history of abusing substances on the road.

Given the current shortage of skilled drivers, transportation companies are hiring freshly minted drivers with little or no hands-on experience and turning them loose on the roadways with a big rig.

If you have been hired by a trucking company that did not provide adequate training, you may be blamed for an accident that was not your fault. Consult a truck wreck attorney in Texas for a free review of your accident case.

New driver error

Inadequate training leaves drivers without the skills they need to prevent accidents. If poor training causes wrecks, how can new drivers avoid collisions?

Although the driver appears to be responsible for the crash, that driver could have prevented the crash if the employer had provided proper training.

Distracted driving

The researchers found that distracted drivers were involved in nine percent of all truck collisions. Careful attention is required to remain aware of roadway conditions at all times. Even a three-second distraction can result in a catastrophic accident.

Making phone calls and responding to text messages are the most common distractions, but eating, drinking hot coffee and even interacting with the navigational system can all cause enough distraction that a pileup results.

Alcohol and driving

Attempting to drive a trailer truck after having a few beers can cause severe visual impairment and reduced motor control.

Most large truck accidents do not involve alcohol. Drivers understand that on-the-job intoxication is a serious infraction of the rules. For all the dangers involved, truckers still earn a handsome income, especially those who own their own rigs.

Drugging and driving

Not everyone can drive a big rig. Most people can’t, even after training. To operate a tractor trailer like a pro, a driver needs a clear head, a sharp mind and a steady focus.

Alcohol is infrequently involved in most big truck wrecks. However, prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are another matter. They are more difficult to detect in a test.

OTC drugs contributed to 17% of big rig smashups. Illegal drugs figured in about two percent of large truck wrecks. OTC medications and illegal drugs can have varying effects on drivers that are unpredictable and difficult to monitor.

Determining Liability in Texas Truck Accidents

Because of their huge proportions, high ground clearance and sometimes unpredictable behavior, big trucks can easily demolish the passenger vehicles they come into contact with.

Injuries inflicted by 18-wheelers are typically more severe and debilitating than injuries inflicted by other passenger cars. If you have been hit by a massive truck, contact a truck accident attorney in Texas at once.

Truck accident injuries may not be apparent immediately after a crash. Always visit an emergency room if you have been hit to rule out any problems, even if they’re not noticeable right away.

A truck accident attorney in Texas can help you determine who is liable for the accident and who should be held accountable for your injuries. Liable parties could include these entities:

  • Trucking companies
  • Maintenance and repair specialists
  • Cargo shippers and loaders
  • Truck parts manufacturers
  • Truck and trailer leasing companies
  • Government entities responsible for road repair

Texas Truck Accidents Resulting in Wrongful Death

A wrongful death is one that could easily have been prevented by the defendant. These unfortunate events typically kill people in the prime of life and seem to come out of the blue.

If your loved one dies due to the wrongful act of someone else, a wrongful death attorney in Texas can represent you in court, help you file a wrongful death lawsuit and assist you in receiving compensation for your losses.

To prevail, your claims must be substantiated by a “preponderance of the evidence.” In other words, the actions of the defendant that you are seeking compensation for are “more likely than not” to have caused your loved one’s death.

Wrongful death claims are determined by the total losses or needs of an eligible family member. The claims can include the following types of compensation:

  • Lost household income
  • Medical costs incurred by the plaintiff prior to death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of support, advice, services and guidance previously provided by the deceased
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Loss of compensation and earning capacity previously supplied by the deceased
  • Lost comfort and companionship
  • Physical pain experienced by the decedent prior to death
  • Emotional pain, mental distress and suffering experienced by the survivors

Under Texas law, the following individuals can file a wrongful death claim against the negligent individual or entity that caused the death:

  • Legal and common law spouses
  • Biological and adoptive parents
  • Biological and adoptive children

An experienced wrongful death lawyer in Texas can track down the parties involved in the accident, determine who is responsible for the wreck and seek compensation from all liable parties.