In early June 2018, Austin-Travis County EMS responded to an accident on US 290 which killed one man. An 18-wheeler and one vehicle were involved; Austin police surmised that the automobile collided with the big rig as both were at an intersection with a traffic light, killing the driver of the car. The driver of the 18-wheeler was treated for minor injuries. This accident is perhaps remarkable in that many times, it is the truck driver who winds up being at least partially culpable for injuries, but this does not appear to be the case here.
Truck Accident Statistics and Causes
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that approximately 4,000 people died in crashes with big rigs in 2016, but the truly noteworthy statistic is that of that number, roughly two-thirds (66 percent) of the fatalities were occupants of cars or sport utility vehicles, with only 17 percent being truck occupants. Also, most of the occupants of large trucks who died in crashes were killed in accidents with other trucks, not with smaller vehicles. Automobiles simply do not have the same level of protection as large trucks do, and their occupants will often suffer the differences. An impact that might be minimal with another automobile can be potentially devastating when there is a big rig, with two to three times the weight behind it, on the other end.
Causes of this type of accident can be legion, or many can work together, and seemingly anyone can be at fault. Many may stem from outside actors – for example, studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have linked truck accidents with trucking companies pushing their employees to drive longer than the federal regulations would recommend. Others are more akin to driver behavior, like driving distracted or after indulging in substances. Still, others can be ascribed to defective or poorly maintained parts. Only a thorough investigation of your accident can begin to discover cause.
While it appears that the driver of the car was largely responsible for the US 290 accident, many times it is not that clear-cut. If you are in an accident with a big rig, you may be able to bring suit to try and recover for your injuries. Texas law requires that you prove certain criteria in order to prevail on a claim of negligence. They are: (1) that the duty of care owed between motorists was breached by the defendant; (2) that the plaintiff was harmed in a tangible way, with injuries lasting longer than mere minutes or hours; and (3) that the harm to the plaintiff was a direct result of the defendant’s breaching conduct.
It also may be possible to bring suit against not only the trucker but the trucking company, under a theory that Texas law calls respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Respondeat superior is a legal theory under which an employer is held liable for torts committed by their employees if done within the scope of employment. While it can sometimes be difficult to pin down exactly when the “scope of employment” begins and ends, especially for workers like truckers whose schedules will vary, it is sometimes worth trying, because trucking companies tend to have deeper pockets than their individual employees.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help Get You Justice
While the accident on US 290 appears to have been simply a tragedy, sometimes accidents of this type can lead to lawsuits. If you have been harmed by a dangerous truck driver, contact a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your case. The skilled New Braunfels truck accident lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm are well versed in this type of case and are happy to try and help you decide how best to handle yours. Contact our offices today to set up an initial appointment.