On March 8, a big rig hauling a load of liquid nitrogen caught on fire near Parmer Lane, shutting down SH 130 in Travis County and causing the evacuation of a half-mile area due to risk of the truck exploding. While no casualties have been reported, many could have resulted; the truck’s cab was engulfed, and pedestrians or passing cars could have been struck by the big rig or parts of the trailer burned away. Thankfully, these outcomes were averted, but next time they might not be.
When a truck gets into an accident, there are more people to whom negligence might be imputed than there are with most automobiles. If a car causes an accident, the only person that usually winds up on the proverbial hook is the driver. If a big rig is involved in an accident, the trucker might be sued, but more often, the trucker’s employer and/or mechanic might also be involved, depending on the facts of the case. There are simply more moving parts on a big rig that have a chance of malfunctioning or being maintained in an inappropriate manner.
In a negligence case, there are four criteria that have to be proven: the existence of a duty of care between plaintiff and defendant, a breach of that duty, tangible damages, and a showing that the damages were caused directly by defendant’s actions. In an accident with a big rig, there are more likely to be multiple defendants, though generally, the rule of thumb is to bring suit against the person or entity whose actions are the closest to the accident – for example, the trucker and the person who secured the load in an improper manner.
Be Aware of Industry Standards
In bringing a negligence suit, it can be helpful to establish the nature of the duty owed to motorists to point to industry standards and flagging safety regulations. One common issue that has become more prevalent in recent years is the medical unfitness for many truckers and transportation operators – conditions like sleep apnea can lead not only to lack of sleep, they can lead to worse quality of sleep. Between a lack of sleep and a climate in which long days with no breaks are encouraged, more drivers are slipping below the threshold where they are able to safely operate such large trucks.
It is also important to keep in mind that the standards for maintaining dangerous loads are even higher than those for maintaining and transporting regular truckloads. In some cases, you may be able to introduce evidence of negligence that is more serious than an ordinary negligence threshold, and if such evidence is accepted, it may lead to punitive damages in your case, since gross negligence is considered to be a higher degree of liability (and thus worth more in compensation).
Seek Experienced Legal Help
The evacuation of the Parmer Lane area was lifted not long after the truck was cleared. However, another such accident might have more dire consequences. If you or a loved one has been injured by an 18-wheeler and its dangerous load, contacting an attorney is a good idea. The dedicated New Braunfels truck accident lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm are happy to sit down with you and try to figure out the best course of action for you and your family. Call our offices today to set up an appointment.