Austin Semi-Truck Accident Lawyer in Texas
Semi-trucks are useful and necessary to transport consumer goods across our country to ensure that we not only have food available for our families, but also clothing, shoes, fabric, building materials, household goods, automobiles, automobile parts, trucks, and an endless list of items we have become accustomed to having in our daily lives.
Thousands of semi-trucks transporting these items also means many individuals and families are at risk of involvement in an 18-wheeler accident. The mere size of an 18-wheeler truck compared to that of an automobile strongly increases the chances of serious, if not fatal, injuries when one collides with a car, small truck, or motorcycle.
Austin Semi-Truck Accident Litigation Attorney in Texas
Many Texas semi-truck crashes could be avoided if the 18-wheeler trucks were properly serviced, and if drivers and trucking companies adhered to the regulations that the law dictates. There are rules written by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that regulate the semi-truck and 18-wheeler trucking industry, and include:
- Limiting the length of driving time allowed for each 18-wheeler truck driver
- Driving logs that are properly maintained and signed by each driver
- How a driver is supposed to respond in case of an accident
- Keeping truck maintenance logs
- Loading of trucks to maintain proper balance in the trailer of the truck
Experienced Austin Truck Accident Lawyer in Texas
The most recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records available for truck and bus-related accidents indicate that in 2008 the following statistics occurred nationwide:
- 123,918 semi-trucks were involved in non-fatal crashes
- 4,229 fatalities involved 18-wheeler semi-trucks
- 90,000 injuries involved 18- wheelers
- 318 pedestrians were involved in fatality accidents with 18-wheeler semi-trucks
- 69 bicyclist were involved in fatality accidents with 18-wheelers
Causes of Truck Accidents
Many factors have been known to result in trucking accidents, including driver fatigue, excessive speed, fraudulent log book records, negligent truck maintenance, unbalanced loads, overweight loads, unsecure loads, negligent hiring and/or training of drivers, tailgating or failing to judge stopping distance, cell phone use and other distractive driving behavior, unsafe lane changes, aggressive driving, and lack of safety systems such as reflectors, lights, and other warning devices. According to other FMCSA records, the following factors contributed to, or caused the above accidents involving 18-wheeler trucks:
- Truck drivers driving fatigued
- Loads not properly balanced or secured
- Truck drivers using cell phones (texting, and/or dialing)
- Truck drivers using computers
- Truck drivers improperly trained
- Poorly maintained trucks with braking, and/or worn tires causing blow outs and subsequently causing the driver to lose control of their trucks
- Negligent driving
- Alcohol, and/or drug abuse
Truck Driver Fatigue
Truck driver fatigue occurs when too many hours are spent behind the wheel and it is one of the most common factors associated with trucking accidents. To regulate this risk, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented strict rules which dictate the maximum number of hours a trucker can spend on the road in a day, the minimum number of hours of rest required between shifts, and the maximum hours of driving in a week. When these rules are ignored for the sake of profit, the results can be disastrous.
When a driver is drowsy from exceeding maximum hours on the road or failing to obtain the minimum of rest hours, he or she is more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, drift in to the next lane, cross over the center line, and/or collide with another vehicle. Fatigue also impedes one’s ability to accurately judge and respond to surrounding situations. However, truckers and trucking companies make more money when they make more deliveries. Consequently, many drivers feel pressured to stay on the road as long as possible and/or exceed speed limits to meet deadlines for delivery.
In order to prevent incurring penalties from the FMCSA, truckers often record fraudulent hours in their logbooks. To determine liability in the case of an accident, the truck driver’s logbook entries are reviewed alongside actual departures, deliveries, weigh station times, and truck stop receipts to identify any discrepancies. Similarly, data collected from black box recorders and GPS transponders can help to verify inconsistencies.
Unbalanced or Overweight Truck Loads
A second common factor in many truck accidents is an unbalanced, unsecure, or overweight truck load. Knowing that every extra pound increases the devastation in the event of a crash, the Federal Highway Administration set the maximum weight for an 18-wheeler at 80,000 pounds. On certain roads there are additional weight regulations for specific types of trucks which can be dictated by federal, state, and local law. Failure to comply with these weight regulations is subject to a hefty fine. Sadly, in an industry where more cargo equals more profit, some truckers are willing to take the risk.
An overweight truck requires more distance to stop and decreases maneuverability. Truckers often fail to take this into account, especially at stoplights and freeway exit ramps. An overloaded truck also puts more stress on tires and brakes, which may fail if the truck has to swerve or stop suddenly.
An unbalanced load with shifting or poorly-secured freight can cause a truck to jackknife, veer into other lanes, or overturn. Additionally, loose cargo or material has the potential to fall from the truck and wreak havoc on surrounding traffic. When a trucking company or truck driver ignores weight restrictions or carelessly loads truck trailers, they are gambling with the lives of others.
Poor Truck Maintenance
Poor truck maintenance is also responsible for many collisions causing serious injuries. For example, the loss of steering or stopping ability dramatically worsens the damage a truck might cause to another vehicle. Trucking companies are responsible for the operating condition of their trucks and truckers are responsible for truck inspections before departure. Many preventable accidents can be traced back to mechanical failures and safety violations making trucks unsafe. Claims of negligent maintenance and poor safety precaution may involve bald or flat tires, mechanical steering malfunctions, broken or missing lights and reflective tape, worn or faulty brakes, and damaged latches.
Austin 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer in Texas
The partners at Shaw Cowart LLP are highly experienced Austin, Texas Semi-Truck Crash Attorneys. Our entire team of professionals is determined to fight for your rights, and ensure that you and your family receive the compensation you deserve. Contact Shaw Cowart LLP today for a free consultation.