The highways and interstates of Texas are often filled with big trucks. While those 18-wheelers serve a vital service, they also pose a substantial danger. Each year, motor vehicle crashes, including collisions with big rigs, are the first or second leading cause of death in every major industry group.
An estimated one in three truck drivers has experienced a severe truck crash at some point during their careers. In addition, the amount of cargo on the roads continues to go up–even during a driver shortage that has existing truck drivers pushing to reach more miles than ever–more drivers than ever face hazards when they meet trucks on the roads.
Big trucks are much larger than the average passenger vehicle. Fully loaded, they may weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Compared to the average 4,094-pound weight of a passenger vehicle, that mass can make a huge difference in a crash.
Semi-truck drivers receive special training to help them learn how to navigate safely. But they may struggle with exhaustion after long hours on the road, higher rates of distraction, or even a lack of the training needed to help them on the busy streets of Texas, especially during high-traffic times. Unfortunately, truck crash lawyers see this all too regularly.
What are your options–and what should you do next after a truck accident?
Call 911 ASAP
As soon as you determine that no one in your vehicle is in any further immediate danger, call 911–even if you do not think anyone in the car has suffered substantial injuries. The chances are that a truck accident left you with severe damage to your vehicle, even if it did not cause immense harm to the passengers. Calling 911 is the fastest way to summon local police to the scene of your truck accident. 911 operators will send out the nearest police officers and an ambulance if needed.
Look around you
In Texas, the law requires you to move damaged vehicles off the road if you can reasonably avoid interfering with traffic. Therefore, you may want to snap a couple of pictures of the positions of the vehicles to help serve as evidence before you move your vehicle. Before moving your car, however, you should make sure that:
- Moving the vehicle will not cause injury to anyone else.
For example, in a multi-car accident, you may want to make sure that you will not inadvertently injure someone else as you move your vehicle out of the way. You should also check to ensure no one got thrown from their car, including the big truck driver, before driving your vehicle.
- You can move your vehicle without worsening your injuries or putting someone else in danger. However, if you need to administer immediate first aid, including helping one of your passengers stop bleeding, you may need to wait to move your vehicle.
- Your vehicle has not suffered such severe damage that you cannot move it. Sometimes, your vehicle may suffer such severe crushing damage that you can no longer move it at all. If you try to restart your vehicle and nothing happens, it could indicate that type of severe damage, and you may want to wait instead of trying to move it immediately.
If you can move your vehicle, simply move it to the side of the road, out of the flow of traffic. Only in rare cases should you move your vehicle away from the accident scene, including issues in which you might feel unsafe at your current location.
Collect some essential evidence about the accident
Photo evidence can serve as a valuable tool that will help you seek compensation later if your personal injury claim must go to court. Look around your vehicle and at the driver of the truck. Take pictures of:
- The truck driver’s license, truck, and plates
- The damage to your vehicle
- The damage to the truck
- Any notable features of the accident scene, including tire marks, that could serve to indicate how the accident occurred
You may also want contact information for any witnesses that stop at the accident scene since those witnesses can help establish what led to the accident.
Before exiting your vehicle, make sure you can do so safely. In many cases, you may find yourself surrounded by heavy traffic, which could prevent you from getting out and moving around. If you do get out of your vehicle, move well off the road.
Many people have sustained serious injuries at the side of the road while waiting for a tow truck or for the police to arrive. Safety is particularly vital during high-traffic times: for example, in Houston, you should be very careful exiting your car during rush hour since the area sees so much heavy traffic.
Get Medical Care When Needed
Go to the hospital or an urgent care center to evaluate a medical professional, even if you do not think that you suffered severe injuries.
Truck accidents often cause severe injuries due to the extreme force of the enormous vehicle striking your car. You may know immediately that you have sustained those injuries and that you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially if you have clear signs of broken bones, back or neck injuries, or severe lacerations.
Other times, however, you may think that you walked away from the truck accident with few ill effects. You may assume that you did not suffer severe injuries. Sure, you might be sore the next day, but you think you’ll be fine.
Unfortunately, in some cases, you may discover that you sustained more serious injuries than you initially thought. Many injuries may not show up immediately, especially with adrenaline from the accident masking many of your initial symptoms. You may, for example, sustain broken bones that you do not even recognize until the next day.
Symptoms of traumatic brain injury may also not show up immediately. For example, you may feel a little confused or disoriented in the immediate aftermath of the accident but write it off to fading concerns from the accident. Later, you may suffer from a headache, continuing disorientation, memory issues, and a host of other potential problems that could leave you with much more serious long-term effects.
A medical professional can help identify those injuries and ensure that you receive the treatment you need, increasing your odds of making a full recovery.
Seeking medical attention immediately after your Texas truck accident also serves another vital purpose: those medical records will help show precisely when your injuries occurred. If you fail to seek medical attention, the truck driver’s insurance company can try to prove that your injuries occurred at another time, and that, therefore, the insurance company should not bear liability for your damages. Medical records showing treatment immediately after the accident, on the other hand, will serve to establish precisely when your injuries occurred.
Notify your insurance company
After a truck accident in Texas, you should talk to your insurance company as soon as possible, even if you know you did not cause the accident. Your insurance company can help you navigate your claim and give you a better idea of your rights in the aftermath of the accident.
Your insurance company may also provide personal injury protection, or PIP, insurance, which will provide you with immediate assistance in paying your medical bills. While Texas drivers do not legally have to carry PIP insurance, insurance companies who offer liability insurance must also offer PIP coverage to their clients.
If you carry PIP insurance, it may offer an average of $2,500 of medical coverage or coverage for your lost wages in the aftermath of the accident. By reporting the accident quickly to your insurance company, you will ensure that you receive your full PIP coverage.
Get in touch with a personal injury attorney
Ideally, you should get in touch with the best truck accident lawyers before speaking with the truck driver’s insurance company. Truck accidents often prove much more complex than other types of car accidents. Therefore, not only does the truck driver bear liability for an accident caused by his negligence, you may find that other parties, including the trucking company or the company that loaded the truck, may also bear liability for the accident and your injuries.
A prominent truck accident attorney can aid in that investigation and make sure that you understand the full extent of your rights.
The truck driver’s insurance company may try to get ahead of the situation and contact you shortly after the accident to discuss a settlement offer. Often, however, this offer will fail to reflect the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
In many cases, the insurance company will start with a meager settlement offer: one that looks attractive at first glance but which ultimately fails to provide you with the full compensation you deserve for your injuries.
An experienced tractor-trailer accident lawyer can go over your right to compensation and give you a better idea of what you should expect as you move forward with your claim, including how to respond to the offer issued by the insurance company. When you may want to accept an 18-wheeler settlement offer, and when you should continue to negotiate.
A Texas truck accident attorney can also help walk you through the claim process, including how long you should expect it to take for you to receive the compensation you deserve.
Common Causes of Texas Truck Accidents
Truck accidents can occur for a wide range of reasons, and liability may depend on who contributed to the accident–not just the truck driver himself, but also the trucking company, the team that manages the trucks, and even the company that loaded the vehicle. Causes of truck accidents may include:
- Driver distraction. Eating or drinking in the vehicle or paying more attention to leisure activities than to the task of driving. As a result, many drivers struggle with increased distraction and even road haze after long hours on the road.
- Driver drunkenness. American truck drivers have a higher risk of drinking than truck drivers anywhere else in the world. Often, they turn to alcohol to cope with loneliness and isolation when they must spend long hours on the road, away from their families.
- Loading errors. A poorly loaded trailer may lead to a shifting load accident or jackknife accident. On a flatbed, a shifting load may crush other vehicles.
- Poor weather conditions. On wet or icy roads, drivers may have a more challenging time controlling their vehicles, resulting in serious accidents.
- Excessive hours on the road. Federal law mandates that truck drivers can spend only 11 hours out of each 14-hour shift on the street, after which they must spend at least eight hours away from the wheel before getting back on the road again. Unfortunately, some trucking companies may push their drivers to exceed those hours, especially if they have tight deadlines to meet.
- Blindspot collisions. Big trucks come with significant blind spots that can make it very difficult for drivers to avoid accidents, especially in heavy traffic or while making a tight turn. Truck drivers may also struggle to see directly in front of their vehicles in areas where most drivers assume they can safely pull over.
- Other drivers were pulling over in front of the truck or failing to exercise adequate caution. Many drivers do not realize how much room big trucks need to maneuver on the road and may mistakenly pull over in front of them.
Do You Need a Texas Truck Accident Attorney?
Suppose you suffered serious injuries in a Texas truck accident. Learn how to hire the best truck accident lawyer to help you navigate your claim, from helping to go through the evidence to ensure that you understand the full compensation you deserve.
Contact Baumgartner Law Firm today to learn more about your right to compensation after a truck accident.
We have been winning multi-million-dollar settlements for Texas families from collisions with big rigs for over three decades!
Never a Charge for a Consultation After Being Hit By an 18-Wheeler!