In Texas, it is all too common to see big rigs on freeways and main roads, and if one grows up in New Braunfels or San Antonio, learning how to exist on the road with them is a part of learning how to drive. However, when someone does not know what they are doing, 18-wheelers become much more dangerous, and that danger is made even more real if the truck driver is not at their best. If you have been in an accident with an 18-wheeler, understanding what is and is not appropriate for their drivers can give you insight you can use in your case for compensation.
National Statistics Show a Trend
A Public Health Policy paper from 2013 shows that underreporting of hours and maladjusted sleep schedules are common in the trucking industry. Almost 20 percent of drivers surveyed admitted to falling asleep at the wheel one or more times in the previous month. While rules for driver safety do exist, having been promulgated in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, they are often ignored, and most of the reasons are economic. Payment schedules are quite low, and delivery timetables are tight.
Statistics also show that generally, the most incidents happen in the first hour after a driver has stopped to sleep, implying that sleep inertia may be a factor. Sleep inertia is defined as the physiological state one experiences immediately after waking, where the overwhelming feeling is sluggishness and inability to parse communication or stimuli, and it can take anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes. If you are able to prove, for example, that the driver began operating his vehicle again right after waking, it might be a point in your favor.
Driver fatigue is unavoidable to some degree, but when taken to an extreme, it can and does rise to the level of negligence. Like any other negligence case, four criteria must be established under Texas law: (1) the existence of a duty of care, (2) a breach of that duty, and a showing that the (3) plaintiff was injured (4) directly due to the actions of the defendant. A general duty of care between motorists exists at common law, and it is decidedly a breach to cause an accident which leads to injury. Showing that you were injured is also relatively easy, with medical records and expert witnesses if necessary. Proving causation is always the difficult part of a negligence case, but it can be done.
One thing to be aware of is that Texas is a comparative fault state, which means that if a plaintiff is more than 51 percent at fault for their own injuries, they may not recover. The state is also one of the handful that preserves joint and several liability, meaning that if there are two or more defendants, a plaintiff may collect the entire amount of a judgment from one defendant if the others are judgment proof (without assets). A common scenario in which this occurs is if a plaintiff sues both the truck driver and his company – the truck driver might be judgment proof, but as long as the plaintiff is not more than 50 percent at fault, they may recover the whole amount from the trucking company, who can then seek contribution from the driver.
Call a Trucking Accident Attorney Today
The Bettersworth Law Firm has seen and handled its share of truck accidents over the years, and is happy to try and help you with yours. Contact our office today to set up an initial appointment, and let our New Braunfels truck accident attorneys try to get you back on your feet.