You might think that an out-of-control tractor-trailer barreling down on a small car is just the subject of action films. Tragically, this scenario is all too common. I hope it never happens to you or someone you love, but last year, 34,000 commercial vehicle accidents killed 601 people and injured more than 17,000 Americans –almost the crowd in a sold out show or game at the AAC Arena in Dallas.
I’m in the middle of a case involving an 18-wheeler crashing into the rear of my client’s SUV, seriously injuring my client and killing her boyfriend who was driving in Fort Worth in 2015. Here’s a scene photo.
I’ve represented many people and the families of deceased motorists in wrecks like this over the past 36 years as a personal injury attorney.
You might think that these are easy cases for an injury lawyer to win but this is not always true. Here’s why.
Being rear-ended by a semi seems like a no-brainer case. Clearly, the truck driver was at fault. But many plaintiffs have lost cases they should have won because they didn’t handle the legal details correctly.
A tractor-trailer collision case is not just a big car wreck case. And the commercial truck driver in the back is not automatically to blame. I’ve handled cases where the truck driver was paying attention and driving below the speed limit when a motorist suddenly whipped in front of him and then slammed on his or her brakes, or it was rainy and the roads were slick, or a giant box in one and road debris in another flew up and struck a driver’s windshield or vehicle, and many other scenarios.
Now let’s say the truck driver was clearly to blame, say you were stopped at a red light when a speeding truck hit you. In a court of law, you must prove your claim by a preponderance of the evidence. In layman’s terms this means that it is more likely than not that the driver caused a crash that resulted in your injuries. And Texas has adopted the comparative negligence rule, but here the truck driver would presumably be 100% at fault unless there is other evidence that could be admitted that could reduce his percentage of fault.
Obtaining critical evidence
What evidence do you need and how do you get that evidence and have it admitted at trial? What evidence will the trucking company be using and how can you keep it out of trial? This is where an experienced injury attorney can help.
The truck driver and trucking corporation are not going to admit fault. Just the opposite, they are going to deny liability, blame you and/or other vehicles or causes, conduct their own investigation, hire their own experts, take depositions, delay court dates, and fight you tooth and nail. Only an immediate and exhaustive investigation can prove what happened and who is liable so you can obtain the evidence you need.
To prove the trucker’s liability, some of the steps I might take in a rear-end collision case are to
- Hire an accident reconstruction expert to go to the scene immediately to get vital evidence
- Subpoena phone records to check for texting or calls that were placed immediately prior to the collision
- Review the black box data to determine speed, brake application, steering and other driving behavior
- File an emergency motion to stop the truck owner from repairing or moving the truck before I have the chance to inspect it
- Analyze crash debris scatter for clues as to speed of travel and position of vehicles at time of the crash
- Inspect hours of service logs to determine if the truck driver was sleep-deprived and fatigued
- Analyze which Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations were violated
I will discuss your 18-wheeler crash case in depth at a free case evaluation meeting where I will carefully review the facts of your collision and advise you on your rights and options for a medical and financial recovery.