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America's Trucker ShortageA Fort Worth truck accident victim can pursue a claim for financial compensation against the trucking company and driver who caused the collision. Every accident – and every accident victim – is unique. No two cases are the same. The determination of how much money someone who has been injured in a Fort Worth truck accident will receive depends on a variety of factors, including if they have a good  personal injury lawyer skilled at investigating the wreck, developing the case, working with medical professionals, and presenting critical evidence to the judge and jury. Damages in a personal injury case are broken down into two main types: those that are economic and non-economic. Economic Damages Economic damages, also referred to as special damages, can be easily quantified by determining the actual amount of out-of-pocket money an accident victim had to spend or through accurate forecasting. But like with everything in the law, there are exceptions to every rule. For example, if a person is covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, or if they are self-employed or salaried, the calculations can be difficult. The following are the major types of economic damages:
  • Past medical expenses – All reasonable and necessary costs associated with a crash can be recovered. This includes bills related to emergency room treatment, surgeries, doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, medications, and transportation to and from all necessary medical appointments.
  • Future medical costs – Accident victims can recover compensation for the medical treatment that they will need in the future. In some cases, expert medical witnesses are necessary to accurately determine the future cost of care, especially surgeries.
  • Lost wages and reduced earning capacity – When someone is injured in a Fort Worth truck accident, they will often miss a significant amount of work. When they are finally able to return to work, they may no longer be able to perform the necessary duties of their former position due to their injuries or disability. Accident victims can recover for both lost wages and benefits and a decrease in earning capacity.

The increasing number of accidents involving large trucks and the severity of the injuries they cause is a serious problem for motorists. While the effects of accidents involving 18-wheelers like the one pictured can be devastating, smaller commercial vehicles also pose a common safety risk. Trucks driven by plumbers, grass cutters, cable installers, florists, and other businesses rely on a fleet of vehicles to deliver their products or services. Are they held to the same safety regulations as larger vehicles?

Trucking Safety Regulations

The Role of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Fortunately the answer is yes -- depending on several factors. The FMCSA is the federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The primary goal of the agency is to reduce crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities caused by large trucks and buses but it also has jurisdiction over smaller vehicles. States also have laws related to the license and driving requirements for commercial vehicles. Any business using commercial motor vehicles must obtain authority from both state and federal trucking authorities. Trucking safety regulations are important to every driver on the road. We share the roadways with all types of commercial trucks every day. While the FMCSA determines the regulations for all types of CMVs, it is up to the employers and the drivers to enforce them. A personal injury lawyer often finds that businesses and employers have failed to abide by federal trucking safety rules and are also at fault.

Which Vehicles Are Covered?

The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and the number of passengers a vehicle determines if a driver must have a commercial drivers license. CDL licenses ensure that drivers have increased training to handle a variety of conditions. Laws pertaining to the application and licensing process differ somewhat among the states. One consistency is that any vehicle with a weight of more than 26,001 pounds requires CDL licensure. Businesses that operate CMVs that alone (or combined with a trailer) weigh more than 10,001 pounds are required to register the vehicles and abide by the FMCSA trucking safety regulations. Some states have increased this weight limit to include trucks anywhere from 12,000 to 26,000 pounds, which coincides with the CDL requirements. Although a vehicle doesn’t require a CDL driver, many companies require the drivers to follow the same trucking safety regulations imparted by FMCSA. The key is understanding the different classes of CDL and weights that apply to different types of vehicles: Class A – Single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or a combination of vehicles with the towed vehicle having a GVWR over 10,000 pounds. Class B – Single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or more, or is towing a vehicle with a GVWR of no more than 10,000 pounds, or a farm trailer with a GVWR of no more than 20,000 pounds. Class C – A single or combination vehicle not included in Classes A or B. Single vehicles with a GVWR less than 26,001 pounds or towing a farm trailer with a GVWR of no more than 20,000 pounds. A vehicle designed to transport 23 or fewer passengers including the driver. An autocycle. Some of the most important regulations that apply to CDL drivers are the prohibitions against using alcohol, drugs, texting, hand-held phones, and driving while fatigued. These are some of the leading causes of truck crashes. Both CDL and non-CDL must follow these regulations and others, including using their seat belts and use of extreme caution during hazardous weather. If you have been injured in an accident involving any commercial vehicle, contact Berenson Injury Law. If the driver and/or the employer were negligent, you may have the right to collect compensation.

What your attorney can do to protect you

Most big trucking corporations have a legal team ready to jump into action as soon as an accident occurs. They keep a playbook of tactics for minimizing liability. I know these tactics well; I have encountered them time and time again. But I have my own playbook of strategies to protect my clients' rights. Not hiring an experienced attorney right away can put the victim at a disadvantage. An attorney can counter these common defense tactics:

1. Be first to the scene

The tractor-trailer company retains private investigators to immediately show up on the scene. These investigators walk around without restraint, taking photographs, interviewing witnesses, chatting with police officers, and looking for mitigating evidence. A company investigator may even give the false impression that he is a police officer so victims are more forthcoming. They then use the statements made in the frightening aftermath of the accident and often twist around the victim's words or take them out of context. This is why I also head to the scene for my clients. I gather evidence at this crucial stage and prevent the defendant from speaking to my client.

Companies are often not liable for negligence of independent contractors

Ho, ho, ho. Tis the season when we get together with our families, go to church, and of course shop. More than ever, that means we buy items online and get them quickly delivered to our door steps. Amazon hires thousands of delivery drivers under a program it calls Amazon Flex. These people have the flexibility to work seven days a week and as many hours as he or she can handle - even after working all day somewhere else. But it is Amazon which gets the real advantage of flexibility. The company is able to increase its pool of drivers without paying job benefits, health insurance, and vehicle liability insurance. How does it do this? Flex drivers are somehow not classified as employees but as independent contractors. So who is liable when there delivery truck drivers cause a wreck? This issue is winding its way through different courts with predictably conflicting results. The Texas Supreme Court rendered a decision on a related case in 2015. The problem is that allowing delivery drivers to be classified as independent contractors shifts liability and compensation from the company to the individual who may not even have auto insurance. If he does, you can bet it is the minimum coverage. In Texas, that is only $30,000 per one person injured, $60,000 for everyone injured (excepting the driver) and $25,000 for all vehicle damage (excepting the truck). That's usually not enough money to pay for everyone's medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. This disturbing trend is not limited to Amazon. FedEd, UPS, WalMart and other retailers and delivery services also rely on a fleet of independent contractors to make their deliveries. Oh, Uber and Lyft do this too, but that's a separate story that happens frequently in our new "gig economy."
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