Dallas Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyers

Commercial vehicle accident lawyers in Dallas make all the difference when pursuing an accident claim. Find out more about what they can do for you after a crash.

Commercial vehicle accidents could involve a motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian, automobile or another commercial vehicle. Knowing the type of vehicle involved in your accident makes it easier to understand how your accident claim would go. Every accident is different, and the liable parties may vary.

For example, there may be more than one fault party in a commercial vehicle accident, depending on the vehicle's type. After an accident involving a commercial motor vehicle, it's crucial to seek legal guidance from accident attorneys. At Dunn | Sheehan LLP, our accident lawyers have the experience and legal knowledge to get you the maximum compensation.

What Is a Commercial Vehicle?

When most people talk about commercial motor vehicles (CMV), they mainly refer to heavy-duty vehicles like 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, tractor-trailers and other large trucks. But the term goes beyond these so-called big rigs. For example, small vans and busses qualify as commercial vehicles depending on their usage.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, a commercial vehicle is any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the car:

  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001 pounds, whichever is greater;
  • Is designed or used to transport more than eight passengers (including the driver) for compensation;
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or
  • Is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous and transported in quantity requiring placarding.

In addition to the categories listed in the regulations, several other vehicles have the designation of a CMV. They are:

  • Rideshare vehicles like limousines, taxis, cars used for Uber, Lyft, Alto, or similar services
  • Delivery vehicles like cars, trucks, vans, trailers owned and operated for commercial purposes.
  • Buses like school buses, city buses, and motor coaches
  • Heavy equipment vehicles or specialty vehicles for job sites like oil fields, mining, farming, and construction
  • Large trucks such as box trucks and pickups

Furthermore, while some trucks and cars are generally classified as commercial vehicles, things are not always so straightforward because of the prevalence of the gig economy. This is why injury victims should work with an experienced auto accident attorney. A lawyer will help you file the proper claim and negotiate with the insurance company.

What Are Leading Causes of Commercial Vehicle Accidents?

There are different types of accidents that CMVs can get into. They include rear-end collisions, head-on collisions, jackknife accidents, rollover accidents, etc. These various accident types are caused by drivers' negligence and other factors. Below, we look at some of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents involving CMVs.

Distracted Driving

Several things could distract a driver on the roadway. They include eating, talking, texting, fiddling with devices, looking at objects outside the vehicle, or entertaining distracting thoughts. These distractions are of three types: cognitive, mental, and visual.

Commercial drivers are prone to distractions as they constantly check their GPS devices for their routes. In addition, it takes only about three seconds for distracted driving accidents to happen. As such, transport regulatory agencies advise drivers to keep their eyes on the road at all times.

Drunk Driving

Alcohol affects a person's mental capacity and slows their reaction time. As such, a CMV driver who drinks or drives or takes intoxicating drugs would likely cause a collision. Therefore, it is an offense for a driver to drink and drive in Dallas. In addition, Texas law states that commercial drivers must always keep their blood alcohol concentration below 0.04%.

A driver who has more than this percentage of alcohol in their system would be legally drunk. If they cause an accident, they will be liable for damages to the victim. It means they will pay financial compensation to the accident victim. Thus, it is better to stay sober and vigilant.

Fatigue

Most commercial drivers travel interstates, carrying essential goods and food items. Unfortunately, long-distance travel leaves them exhausted, typical for causing accidents. To curb the number of crashes caused by driver fatigue, the federal and state government created regulations for drivers to follow.

For example, truckers are not to spend more than 15 hours on the road before taking a break. In addition, rideshare companies like Uber limit their drivers to 12-hour shifts. But most times, CMV drivers fail to abide by these rules, and the consequences of such violations are injury or fatal accidents.

Speeding

Commercial truck drivers are always in a hurry to meet deadlines. Therefore they often drive above the speed limit. Unfortunately, traveling at high speeds means they cannot stop in time to avoid a collision. This is because it takes a large truck a longer time to stop entirely than a smaller vehicle. Thus, it would be best if truck drivers maintained the speed limit for their safety and other road users.

Lane Merge Error

Specialized vehicles like box trucks and delivery vans have less visibility than a car. These blind spots make it hard for them to see smaller vehicles when merging lanes, causing accidents. To prevent crashes caused by lane merge error, the driver attempting to merge should give ample signal before doing so.

These causes of commercial vehicle accidents are all caused by driver error. Other known causes of commercial motor vehicle accidents are mechanical failure (e.g., brake failure, seat belt malfunction, etc.), lack of road maintenance, and adverse weather conditions.

What Injuries Can You Sustain in a Commercial Vehicle Accident?

Commercial vehicle accidents can result in severe injuries or death. Accidents involving these types of vehicles rarely cause minor injuries like cuts and scrapes. So, if you were involved in an accident with a CMV, you'll likely suffer one or more of the following injuries:

  • Spinal Cord Injuries: A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that affects the ability of a person to move. It also affects sensory and autonomic functions and can cause temporary or permanent disability. This is why spinal injuries are classified as catastrophic injuries. A person with a spinal cord injury needs life-long care, which means they may be unable to afford the medical expenses. Hence, the law allows them to seek fair compensation from the person who caused the accident.
  • Head Injury/Traumatic Brain Injuries: Head injuries or TBIs affect the skull and the brain. This injury happens due to severe trauma to the head, like when an object forcefully hits the head. If not treated on time, a traumatic brain injuries can have life-altering consequences and may lead to the victim's death.
  • Broken Bones/Fractures: The bones may break when the body receives more force than it can handle. Fractures are either open or closed, and the type you suffer determines the healing period. While some fractures heal with time, others require surgery to fix and physical therapy before the victim can use the affected body part again.
  • Back and Neck Injuries: These injuries are common in crashes involving commercial trucks. In a rear-end collision with a car, you may suffer back strain, whiplash, tendon injuries, and ligament injuries. In addition, you may also suffer soft tissue injuries which can be minor or severe.
  • Burns: Although rare, commercial vehicle accidents sometimes cause a fire, with occupants suffering burn injuries. This is particularly common in situations where the truck carries hazardous materials. Burn injuries take time to heal and require intense medical care, which costs money. As such, courts tend to award higher settlements if the victim files a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Cuts and Lacerations: Debris tends to fly around in commercial truck accidents. If a piece of glass impacts the skin, it can lead to a cut or laceration. While these injuries are not severe, they may endanger your life if infected. Also, depending on the cut's depth, you may need stitches, which might cause a scar. So be sure to get treated immediately after a cut/laceration injury.

What Should You Do After a Commercial Vehicle Accident?

If you have ever filed a claim for compensation, then you know that winning is all about being able to prove your claim. Without evidence to prove your assertions, your case would be one of "he said-she said" arguments. Therefore, the first step to getting the right pieces of evidence begins with knowing what to do after a commercial vehicle accident.

File an Accident Report

You should file an accident report with the police or other investigating authority. The report contains information on what happened, how it happened, when and where, and who caused the event. In addition, the accident report includes details of your injuries and property damage, if any. Without an official accident report, it may be hard to convince insurance adjusters that you were involved in a crash. Once this doubt sets in, your claim is in jeopardy, and the liable party may get away with hurting you.

Get Medical Treatment

There are three types of accident injury victims: those with life-threatening injuries, those with non-life-threatening injuries, and those who die. A crucial part of doing this is getting medical treatment. Sometimes, it's up to you to get treatment, and at other times, the EMS personnel decides for you. The latter is the case where you're unconscious.

If the choice is yours to get medical care, ensure you do so. If you don't, you may have delayed injuries that compromise your health. Even if you are uninjured, you should still get a complete body checkup with your doctor. If you fail to get treatment and have it on record, you cannot claim economic damages for medical expenses.

Gather Evidence

The evidence you need includes photos of the accident scene and your injuries, video footage, and witness statements. It also covers a copy of the accident reconstruction expert's report. If your injuries are not life-threatening, you can take pictures and interview witnesses before leaving the crash scene. But if your wound is severe, you can obtain a copy of the police report as soon as you can. As an alternative, you can get a law firm to handle the collection of evidence.

Get Legal Assistance

Accident victims have a difficult time dealing with what happened to them. Aside from the physical pain, there's emotional trauma to recover from. So dealing with the claims process and the fault driver's insurer would be challenging. This is where personal injury lawyers can help. A lawyer will take off the extra burden and work to get maximum compensation while you focus on your recovery.

Who Can You Sue for a Commercial Vehicle Accident?

Unlike typical motor vehicle crashes, a CMV accident can have multiple negligent parties. A negligent party breaches their duty of care and the breach caused an event that hurt an innocent person. For example, in commercial vehicle crashes, the following individuals and entities can be the at-fault party.

The Commercial Driver

A driver would be the negligent party if their actions caused the automobile accident. For example, suppose a CMV driver was distracted when the accident occurred. Since the distraction is the primary cause of the crash, they will have to compensate the victim. The driver can use their auto liability insurance or pay out-of-pocket. Under Texas law, all Texas drivers must have auto insurance.

The Company

When a commercial vehicle driver operating a truck gets into an accident, their employer may face a truck accident claim. The reasons for this lies within the doctrine of vicarious liability. Under the tort doctrine, employers are liable for the negligent actions of their employees in the course of employment.

Thus, suppose a company knows that driver has a DUI history and hires them anyway. If the driver causes an accident, the company will pay damages. However, note that if the accident occurred outside the performance of the driver's work functions, the company would not be liable. The law is the same whether you're dealing with a rideshare driver or delivery van operator.

Manufacturer/Mechanic

If a design defect caused an accident, the vehicle or parts manufacturer would be the responsible party. Similarly, a mechanic would be liable if they failed to fix a defective part and caused an accident. Unfortunately, proving the liability of these two classes of people is tricky, so you need a team of experienced personal injury attorneys.

Cargo Loaders

Cargo loaders are liable parties in commercial truck accidents. Every truck has a maximum capacity for the load it can handle. If the loader puts more goods than the vehicle can take and a rollover or spillage accident occurs, the cargo loader will handle the compensation payment.

Government Entity

Suppose bad roads or poorly maintained roadways cause an accident. The government agency responsible for the maintenance would be the liable party. However, suing a  government agency is challenging and subject to special laws.

What Types of Compensation Can You Get in Commercial Vehicle Accidents?

Medical treatment is expensive, and you need funds to stick with your treatment plan until you recover. There's also the property damage and other out-of-pocket losses you suffered due to the accident. Thankfully, Texas at-fault accident laws allow an injured party to recover compensation.

Therefore, following a successful insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit, you can recover economic and non-economic damages.

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Vehicle repair
  • Cost of future medical treatment
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish
  • Loss of future earning capacity

In fatal crashes, the victim's representatives can recover funeral and burial expenses in addition to some of the above. Furthermore, there is a third class of compensation known as punitive damages. Unlike economic and non-economic damages that are compensatory, punitive damages aim to punish an offender.

Thus, if the responsible party was willfully negligent, the victim gets punitive damages. It is noteworthy that this compensation is only available in injury lawsuits and not in insurance claims. In addition, you need to request it before the court can grant it.

When Should You File a Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawsuit?

Commercial accident lawsuits fall under the broad category of personal injury law. The Texas Statute of Limitations for personal injury actions applies to it. Under this law, you have two years to file a lawsuit. The time starts from the accident date, and once it expires you will be unable to bring an action in court. Insurance providers are aware of this time limit and will do all they can to stall for time. Therefore, the burden is on you not to fall prey to their tactics. A commercial vehicle accident attorney can also help you avoid filing a claim beyond the time allotted.

Do You Need to Hire Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyers in Dallas?

Indeed, injury victims do not need an attorney to handle their claims. Chances are the at-fault driver's insurance company will make them a reasonable settlement offer, and they smile to the bank. But this is rarely the case as insurers would rather not pay settlements. Also, they know all the tricks in the book for paying lowball settlements or denying claims outright. For these reasons it helps to have an experienced attorney in your corner.

A lawyer will do the following for you:

  • Investigate the case and determine the fault party before commencing the claim process. This way, they can guarantee your success.
  • Gather evidence to support your assertions and get expert witnesses to testify on your behalf.
  • Advise you about what to expect and provide information on when you should expect a settlement.
  • Explain legal terms and jargon.
  • Sit in on negotiations with the at-fault party's insurance carrier and represent you in court if your case goes to trial.
  • Handle your case without demanding upfront attorney fees and only get paid when they secure compensation for you. This is known as a contingency fee agreement.

Contact Dallas Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyers at Dunn | Sheehan LLP

No motor vehicle accident is easy. Those involved have to deal with injuries and financial losses. Thankfully, you can receive compensation from the responsible party or parties. This is our promise to our clients at Dunn | Sheehan LLP. We are personal injury lawyers with years of experience, legal expertise, and a desire to get our clients justice. So whatever your story is, with us in your corner, you are guaranteed to come out on top. Contact us today for a free case review.

 

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