A tractor-trailer crash on I-30 east of Dallas tragically took the life of two women, one from Fort Worth and another from Dallas several weeks ago. An 18-wheeler driver behind them rear-ended a line of vehicles and set off the horrific collision pictured here.
However this barely got an inch or two in our local DFW newspapers. That’s probably because it was just the latest in a long line of fatal big-rig crashes that seem routine.
In 2015 commercial vehicles were involved in more than 34,000 accidents in Texas. The results were devastating: 601 people died and 17,000 were injured.
That crash was very similar to a case I am involved in where an 18-wheeler crashed into my client’s SUV and caused a massive chain reaction on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth last year. My client was seriously injured and her boyfriend died in front of her. A photo from that scene appears below.
You might assume that these are easy cases to win in court, but this is not always true. Here’s why.
Allocation of Fault
The driver who crashes into the back of the vehicle in front of him is often totally at fault. His speeding, following too closely, not paying proper attention, and committing other violations of the Texas Transportation Code may be obvious and irrefutable.
However Texas law apportions fault between all of the drivers involved. We are a comparative responsibility state, which is better than in other states where the plaintiff has to either be 100% in the right or receive nothing.
It is common for the 18-wheel driver to claim that other vehicles were totally or at least partially to blame. The trucker may argue other drivers stopped too quickly or that suddenly changed lanes. The trucker may claim that the collision was unavoidable or that outside factors like weather, road debris, or defective equipment were to blame. There are also other legal defenses that he and his attorneys can raise in court.
The insurance company’s adjusters and attorneys know that the 18-wheeler driver must be found to have been more than 50% at fault for the plaintiff to win in court. And if he is 70% at fault and the plaintiff is found to be 30% to blame, damages are reduced by 30% which saves the company a lot of money.
As a result, a person injured in an 18-wheeler crash must hire a personal injury lawyer to win his case.
Burden of Proof
To recoup his damages, the injured plaintiff must prove
- he was injured in the collision
- the 18-wheeler driver acted negligently
- his negligence caused the crash
- his company negligently hired, trained, supervised, and/or failed to terminate him
- the plaintiff sustained damages, including medical bills, lost wages, disfigurement, and scarring
The law requires a preponderance of the evidence, which technically means more likely true than not. However, I see that many jurors require a higher standard, all the way up to the beyond a reasonable doubt standard from criminal cases. The bar is high. Some people on the jury may be suspicious of a plaintiff’s claims to begin with and be reticent to award money for pain and suffering.
What We Do To Win Your Case
This law firm gathers crucial evidence as soon as we are hired. We don’t want critical evidence to be destroyed or lost. We immediately
- Visit the scene to photograph, take measurements, look for debris and markings, and assess causation
- Photograph our client’s vehicle and get it repaired or totalled quickly
- Retain an accident reconstruction expert
- Interview witnesses
- Meet with the police officer
- Try to get a statement from the 18-wheeler driver (if not represented by counsel)
- Contact the local newspaper to see if photographs are available
- File an emergency order to prohibit dismantling or repair of the truck and destruction of evidence
- Arrange and attend a download of the tractor’s black box to determine speed, braking, etc.
- Subpoena the trucker’s phone records to prove he was using it, which is against the law
- Subpoena the trucker’s credit card receipts to learn where he had been before
- Review dash-cam and in-cab videos
- Search cab and truck for incriminating evidence of alcohol, drugs, film, TV or cellular usage, improper logs, etc.
- Research commercial vehicle regulations
- Consult with experts in commercial vehicle operations, medicine, roadway safety, sleep deprivation, distraction, drunk driving and other relevant topics
- Work with expert mechanic to analyze the truck for evidence
- Research driving record, criminal history, past lawsuits filed against, and assets of driver
- Research trucking company’s prior accidents, SAFER rating, corporate assets, and other lawsuits
- Assess driving logs and calculate driver’s adherence with hours of service regulations
- Confirm insurance coverages for all parties
- Research best venue options and other legal considerations
- File suit
If you have questions about your 18-wheeler accident claim, call Berenson Injury Law for a free no obligation consultation.
Let us help you recover the maximum possible damages for your injuries.