Although truck accidents in Austin only account for a small amount of all of the traffic accidents, they require special consideration because of their potential for danger. The large size and weight of trucks mean that truck accidents result in a higher risk of injuries or even fatalities. Trucks also have a higher risk of being involved in multiple-vehicle crashes, including those that result in deaths.
Moreover, many trucks carry loads that may include hazardous materials. Those materials could pose additional risks, even if they are not dangerous materials and are just heavy and spill.
In short, truck accidents in Austin can be incredibly serious, making the question of liability relevant.
Important Statistics and Potential Factors
In 2018, large truck accidents involved 80,000 people injured and 3,675 killed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Compared to 2011, this is an 8 percent increase for injuries and 9 percent for fatalities.
Various factors can cause truck accidents in Austin. Most occur due to some combination of driver error and sleep deprivation or fatigue. It is also common for accidents to happen due to equipment failure from lack of maintenance or issues like poor weather, poor roads, and failure of traffic signals.
With that in mind, how do you determine liability in truck accidents? This process tends to be incredibly complicated, especially compared to an average car accident. One of the reasons for the additional complications is that the person driving a large truck does not necessarily own it. The company that the driver works for may not even be the owner of the vehicle.
As such, the legal team and judges need to determine which party or parties bear the blame for the accident. Those with potential involvement will include the driver, the owner of the vehicle, the company leasing the truck, the manufacturer of the vehicle, the manufacturer of any replacement parts, the maintenance company that cared for the truck, or even the company that loaded the cargo.
It is exceedingly common for each of these parties to try to fend off the blame for the accident by pinning it on another party.
Laws and Regulators Are in Place
To understand the often-confusing mess of liability related to truck accidents in Austin, one should know of multiple regulations and federal laws governing the industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation both play vital roles. To further complicate matters, all states have their laws.
Current Laws Prevent Past Trucking Company Liability Evasions
Historically, it was common for trucking companies to have many tricks up their sleeves to avoid liability. They would get permits and then lease the vehicles. They would further remove responsibility by hiring drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. They would even give out placards implying ownership but deny liability based on the fact that the driver was not an employee, and the truck was not theirs.
The good news is that local laws have stopped all of these evasive measures. Now, owning a trucking permit is enough to make a company responsible for any truck accidents involving vehicles with its name or placard. The leasing and employment status of the driver no longer matters.
Inspections Help Determine Liability
Regulations at both the federal and state level require certified truck inspectors to investigate commercial trucks and trailers in crashes. This must happen before the vehicle is removed. The victim can access this report, as can their lawyer. Trucks also now have “black boxes” with stored data on speed, brake use, and more.
Even with inspections and black boxes, it can still be a tough fight to prove liability for truck accidents in Texas. As such, it is wise to have a lawyer experienced like Steven C. Lee & Associates on your side.
Steven C. Lee is a personal injury lawyer in Austin, Texas specializing in truck accidents, car accidents, bicycle accidents, drunk driving accidents, motorcycle accidents, construction site accidents and wrongful death cases.
Steven C. Lee is a member of the Texas Bar, Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Texas Trial Lawyers Association and a member of the BBB in Austin, TX. You can view Steven C. Lee’s LinkedIn Profile here.