Dallas Truck Accidents Attorney
At Bristol & Dubiel, LLP, we provide dedicated representation to injured people in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and throughout North Texas and Oklahoma.
Our personal injury attorneys are known for their aggressive litigation techniques and sharp negotiating skills. They have an in-depth understanding of the complex rules and regulations governing the interstate commercial trucking industry. They are very experienced in bringing cases against the owners of delivery trucks, 18-wheelers and tractor trailers when failures in maintenance or hours violations lead to fatal accidents.
Contact us to arrange a free initial consultation with a highly skilled lawyer who has handled many complex truck accident cases.
How are Truck Accidents Different Than Car Accidents?
Car accidents and truck accidents share many similarities. Either may be caused by speeding, reckless driving or failing to keep a proper look-out for other vehicles on the roadway. However, there are certain conditions inherent in the driving of a truck which distinguishes truck accidents from other vehicle collisions.
For example: The braking system on a semi tractor trailer is different than that of a car. Heavy trucks use compressed air to make the brakes work. Although air brakes are a safe way to stop large vehicles, it takes one-half second or more for the air to flow through the lines to the brakes which impacts the stopping distance for the vehicle.
The air brake lag distance at 55 mph on dry pavement adds about 32 feet to the stopping distance. A truck driver traveling 55 mph under good traction and brake conditions must contend with a total stopping distance of over 300 feet, a distance longer than a football field. The additional time required to slow or stop a large truck impacts the speed at which the truck may be safely driven and the awareness the truck driver must have for the condition of traffic on the roadway.
Is Truck Driver Conduct Regulated?
Given the distance required to stop a large truck, the limited ability to see other traffic from the cab and the difficulty maneuvering a tractor trailer, the truck driver’s conduct and response to conditions on the road are regulated and taught to drivers across the country. Certain industry wide “countermeasures” have been established and are taught to truck drivers so that they may appropriately respond to various traffic conditions. The focus of the countermeasures is improved safety management, preventative maintenance and defensive driving. The countermeasures address negotiating curves, passing, turning left and right, crossing intersections, using and changing lanes and pedestrian interaction. Whether the appropriate countermeasures were taken by the driver of a truck involved in an accident must be evaluated on a case by case basis.
Additional regulations which govern truck drivers are issued by the Office of Motor Carriers within the United States Department of Transportation. These regulations require specific driver documentation and conduct. The conduct of the driver, condition of his vehicle and the circumstances surrounding the collision must be promptly reviewed and evaluated to determine whether the truck driver’s conduct conforms with the applicable rules.
Who May Be Responsible for Injuries Suffered as the Result of a Truck Driver’s Negligence?
If the driver of the truck was negligent and his negligence caused you injury, he may be liable for the damages you suffered. The truck driver’s employer and in some cases the entity which leases the vehicle may also be liable for the negligent conduct of a truck driver. The terms of the lease and the nature of the relationship between the driver and the party that retained and compensates him must be examined to determine their potential liability.
What if the Truck Accident Occurred Because the Truck Wasn’t Properly Loaded?
Federal safety regulations impose a duty on a carrier to secure the load safely. Different types of loads have their own requirements for being properly secured.
A trucking company is not liable for defects which are not apparent upon a reasonable inspection of the load. The company is also not liable for sealed loads. However, a shipper may be liable where it improperly loaded its own truck, its employees negligently instructed the truck driver on the manner in which the cargo should be secured or if the truck driver was given false assurances as to the safety of the load.
It is important to determine the identity of the party involved in loading the trailer if it is suspected that the cargo was not appropriately loaded. The circumstances surrounding the loading of the vehicle and the identity of those involved in the loading should be determined as quickly as possible after the accident occurs.
What if the Truck Driver Was Not Qualified to Drive the Truck Involved in the Accident?
The incompetence of a truck driver may give rise to liability for the party who hired him or retained his services to transport a load. The question is whether the employer exercised “reasonable care” in hiring or retaining the driver.
- Did the employer make a reasonable investigation of the driver?
- What did the employer know or what should have been known prior to hiring the truck driver?
- Once an employer knew or should have known that a driver was unfit, was it reasonable for the employer not to investigate or take corrective action such as discharge or reassignment?
Federal regulations require a reasonable investigation of a driver’s qualifications at the time the driver is hired. The regulations require that the truck driver must be able to do the following:
- Safely able to operate the type of motor vehicle he drives
- Determine whether the cargo he transports has been properly located
- Determine whether the cargo he transports has been appropriately secured
- Familiar with the methods and procedures for securing cargo
- Physically qualified to drive a motor vehicle
- In possession of a valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s license
Fort Worth Tractor Trailer Accidents Lawyer
In addition, a truck driver must prepare and furnish the motor carrier that employs them with a list of violations of the motor vehicle traffic laws and ordinances which the driver has been convicted of within the preceding 12 months. They must also have successfully completed a driver’s road test and furnish the motor carrier with a completed application for employment.
The failure to comply with federal regulations may be evidence that a “reasonable investigation” was not performed and may give rise to an independent basis of liability against the employer. Whether the truck driver who caused your loss was qualified must be evaluated based upon the facts surrounding your collision.
Do Truck Drivers Have to Carry Liability Insurance?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the amount of insurance a carrier must maintain. For vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds and hauling only non-hazardous materials, minimum liability coverage in the amount of $750,000.00 is required. If hauling hazardous materials, the required minimum liability coverage increases to between $1,000,000.00 and $5,000,000.00 depending upon the type of material transported.
Contact Bristol & Dubiel, LLP
If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident, contact us to discuss your options for pursing compensation.