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Truck Accident Lawyers—18-Wheeler Semi and Big Rigs

Texas Truck Accident Attorneys Serving Clients in Texas and Nationwide

The 18-Wheeler and Truck Accident Problem

Almost 500,000 collisions between tractor-trailer rigs and passenger vehicles occur every year. Most 18-wheelers or semis are 20 or more times heavier than personal vehicles. Often these big rigs weigh 80,000 pounds, meaning 40 tons are hurtling down highways at or above maximum legal speeds toward and beside unsuspecting motorists. The difference in mass between personal vehicles and commercial trucks is tremendous. Compact cars average about 3,500 pounds; mid-size cars about 5,000 pounds; minivans, light trucks, and SUVs about 6,000 pounds; and larger pickup trucks around 10,000 pounds. This disparity in size traveling at high speeds creates dangerous forces on our roadways that kill almost 5,000 people each year in accidents and leave thousands more seriously injured or disabled.

Truck Accident Lawyers Know the Interstate Trucking Industry

Experienced commercial truck accident attorneys like Ken Lewis, Don Bush, Chris Smith and the other Bush Lewis lawyers know what needs to be done in handling these serious accident cases. This begins with determining whether the commercial truck engaged in interstate transportation or only intrastate (within a single state). Southeast Texas serves as a hub of interstate transportation. Interstate Highway 10 passes through Beaumont, Orange, Vidor and Winnie and is the main commercial highway between the east and west coasts, carrying millions of tractor-trailer rigs through our area each year at high speeds, often through dangerous construction. U.S. Highways 287, 69 and 96 merge from the north into I-10 in Beaumont, while I-45 and U.S. 59 feed from the north and south into I-10 in Houston adding to the heavy west to east flow through Beaumont. I-59, I-55, and I-49 all feed into I-10 in Louisiana, increasing the east to west commercial traffic through the Orange and Beaumont area. The I-10 corridor through our area is one of the most dangerous highway sections in America for 18-wheeler accidents. For over 33 years, Bush Lewis truck accident lawyers have been suing interstate trucking companies for injuries and deaths they cause in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.

Federal Laws and Regulations

Interstate carriers are governed by special federal statutes and regulations which require them to register with the Secretary of Transportation through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), obtain a USDOT number, and receive FMCSA operating authority. The motor carrier must file a MCS-150 identification report with FMSCA and mark each commercial motor vehicle with the carrier’s name and USDOT number. The carrier must comply with all regulations of the Secretary of Transportation and Surface Transportation Board, and safety regulations, duties for employers and employees, safety fitness requirements, and minimum financial responsibility requirements. Additional special safety permit programs apply to carriers of hazardous materials. Carriers ranking in the top 30% of the national crash averages cannot qualify for such safety permits.

These federal requirements force every interstate carrier to meet minimum safety fitness standards, which mandate having adequate safety management controls to reduce risks associated with the following 10 specific causes of accidents:
  • Commercial driver’s license standard violations
  • Inadequate levels of financial responsibility
  • Use of unqualified drivers
  • Improper use and driving of motor vehicles
  • Unsafe vehicles operating on the highways
  • Failure to maintain accident registers and copies of accident reports
  • Use of fatigued drivers
  • Inadequate inspection, repair and maintenance of vehicles
  • Improper transportation of hazardous materials
  • Vehicle accidents and hazardous materials incidents
The FMCSA provides notice to carriers of their safety ratings and deficiencies which must be corrected. Motor carriers from Mexico are subject to intensified monitoring by frequent safety audits and inspections. Every obligation and responsibility under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations (FMCSR) applies equally to the truck driver and his company. Even independent contract drivers are considered employees of the motor carrier company for which they haul. FMSCR specifically prohibit operation of a commercial motor vehicle by a driver impaired by fatigue, illness or substance abuse (which includes any use of alcohol within 4 hours prior to driving). Strict regulations limit the hours of driving permitted for commercial drivers and require detailed record keeping that includes a mandatory log book showing precise duty status for each 24-hour period in 15-minute increments.

Commercial drivers are supposed to undergo detailed background checks before being hired, pass annual medical exams and submit to regular alcohol and drug testing (including after every accident). An interstate agreement between the lower 48 states requires all drivers to keep fuel receipts for fuel tax purposes, which provide a good check on the claimed duty status reported in a driver’s log book.

Legal Responsibility of Commercial Carriers

Commercial carriers are responsible for accidents caused by their drivers:
  • Unsafe dispatches
  • Operation of a vehicle with its load improperly distributed or secured
  • Failure to have and use proper warning devices for a stopped vehicle
Failure to have proper equipment such as:
  • Rear underride guards
  • Safe fuel systems
  • Appropriate lights, reflectors, and retro-reflecting sheeting
  • Properly working brakes
  • Adequate tires

Types of Trucking Accidents

  • Left Turns. Often truckers are impatient on left turns and fail to wait until they have ample time to turn completely without forcing oncoming passenger vehicles to slam on their brakes to avoid a collision. The left turn is sometimes made in a hurry knowing approaching drivers must slow down and stop to prevent a crash. Fatigue is seldom an issue in these maneuvers but the results are often deadly when oncoming passenger drivers have insufficient time to safely respond to the rig suddenly blocking their path.
  • Right Turns. Right turn accidents usually occur as a trucker either swings wide to his left during or in preparation for his right turn causing a collision with a vehicle in a lane to his left or turns partially or wholly from a lane to the left of the actual right turn lane into the path of a passenger vehicle traveling in the right lane. These crashes are often the equivalent of the passenger vehicle running into a wall as it strikes the rear of the trailer or involve underride scenarios as the passenger vehicle slides under the side of the trailer.
  • Underrides. Rigs making a turn or maneuver that causes the trailer to block the roadway create a potential that passenger vehicle drivers who did not see the trailer in time to stop will slide under the trailer, creating a potential for decapitation. These accidents can involve issues of lighting, weather and conspicuity.
  • Stopped Trucks. Trucks stopped in the wrong place or without proper warning markers and operating flashers create risks of collisions from passenger vehicles.
  • Rear End Collisions. The most common commercial truck case is when a rig crashes into the rear of a stopped, slowing or turning passenger vehicle. Speed, fatigue and inattentiveness (including use of cell phones, texting, CB radios, radar detectors and eating while driving) are common contributing factors but faulty brakes, worn tires, and overweight loads may often play a role.
  • Improper Maneuvers. Truck drivers who cause accidents with improper lane changes, missed stop signs or lights, or failure to stay in their lane often have a history of traffic violations and erratic driving.
  • Cargo Shifts. Many tractor trailer jackknives or overturns are caused by the shifting of cargo that was improperly loaded or secured. Such jackknives or overturns often create additional accidents and injuries. Any time cargo comes off a flatbed trailer prior to an accident and causes damage to a passenger vehicle (and its occupants), the cargo was improperly loaded or secured.

Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers

Skilled Texas truck accident attorneys like Ken Lewis, Don Bush and Chris Smith of Bush Lewis know how to begin a prompt investigation and force preservation of key evidence. Once the lawsuit is filed, Bush Lewis lawyers are aggressive in using appropriate discovery techniques to secure key materials of all kinds, including documents, Qualcomm or other electronic databases, and black boxes (the commercial truck onboard electronically controlled systems used to record speed and other data since the 1990’s). Experienced truck attorneys know which experts are needed in a particular truck case and get them involved in a timely manner.

Commercial truck crashes are serious matters. These cases should not be trusted to lawyers who are not licensed and experienced in both state and federal court because most interstate trucking cases will end up in federal court, where special rules of procedure and evidence apply. Ken Lewis, Don Bush, Jack Smith, and Chris Smith are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attesting to their abilities and qualifications in personal injury cases. The lawyers at Bush Lewis know how to handle truck accidents, and in particular, 18-wheeler cases. They are licensed to practice in both federal and state courts, and regularly practice in all the state and federal courts of Southeast Texas (including the Eastern District of Texas). You can put the experience, integrity and commitment of Ken Lewis, Don Bush, Chris Smith and Jack Smith to work for you on your 18-wheeler case by contacting us today. Do not let the evidence in your case begin to disappear before you act.

Contact a Texas Truck Accident Lawyer about 18-wheeler accidents

If you or a family member has been injured in a truck accident with a tractor-trailer or any commercial vehicle, hire experienced truck accident lawyers to investigate your claim. Call Ken Lewis today at 409-835-3521 or email Bush Lewis. Our firm proudly serves clients nationwide who are involved in serious truck accidents. We also represent clients in other motor vehicle accidents in Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur, in addition to handling cases in Jefferson, Orange, Hardin, Newton and Jasper counties and the Eastern District of Texas Divisions including Marshall, Tyler and Lufkin.

Know This Before An Accident

No one plans to have an accident and no one expects to sustain a serious injury or lose a loved one to death from someone else's actions or mistake. It helps to at least have heard what experienced lawyers say you can do to ease the situation. At Bush Lewis, we think there are some helpful guidelines that we recommend to you. Our lawyers suggest: Learn more.