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Texas Truck Accident Laws

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Texas Truck Accident Laws

Learn how Texas’s laws may impact the ultimate value and success of your truck accident case

One out of every fifteen workers in Texas – an astonishing 735,000 individuals – work in the trucking industry. While working as a truck operator can be a fulfilling and lucrative opportunity, it is also a dangerous one. This is often especially true when operating a large commercial truck in Texas. 

If you have questions about Texas truck laws or the laws in your state, contact Truck Law for more information.

Truck operators drive millions of miles of Texas roadway annually. Due to the sheer volume of trucks on the road, the increasing inattention of motorists generally, the size and weight of large commercial vehicles, and the competitive nature of the trucking industry, a staggering number of crashes occur on Texas roads each year. As a result, Texas consistently ranks highest in the nation when it comes to the number of fatal crashes that occur on its roads annually. 

Seeking Guidance

If you’ve recently been injured in a Texas truck accident, it’s important to understand your rights under the law. Truck accident laws and regulations vary widely by state. Understanding the nuances of state law can help you to proactively do what you can to strengthen your case. To better ensure that your pursuit of crash-related compensation is successful in Texas courts, you’ll want to speak with a local attorney as soon as you possibly can. 

Truck Accident Lawsuit Phases 

In the summer of 2021, the governor of Texas signed a bill into law that aimed to “level the playing field” for trucking companies within the civil justice system. As a result of this legal evolution, truck accident cases are now subjected to a phasing system that isn’t utilized when trucking accident lawsuits are filed in other states. This phasing system is designed to “screen out” any claims that aren’t deemed to be legitimate. 

In the first phase of the process, it is determined whether someone involved in an accident was physically harmed due to negligence. If it is determined that negligence occurred, the second phase of the process scrutinizes the role of any trucking company connected to the truck operator(s) involved in the crash. For example, did the trucking company fail in its legal duty to properly train the commercial operator named in the suit?

The bifurcated structure of Texas truck accident lawsuits is such that each phase results in a determination of a separate issue. Phase I: Is the truck driver at fault? Phase II: Is the trucking company at fault? If the truck driver named as a defendant in Phase I is not found to be liable for the wreck, the trial will not progress to Phase II. This structure makes it very difficult to hold trucking companies liable for accident causes that have nothing to do with the driver’s conduct. For example, if a company fails to safely maintain its fleet and a crash occurs due to that failure, holding that company accountable for its conduct is not an easy task. 

Statute of Limitations

Most of the time, truck accident lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of any crash in question. However, Texas does impose a stricter filing deadline under certain circumstances, including cases involving the state government. 

It is arguably more important than ever before to begin the process of building a case and filing a lawsuit as soon as possible after a crash, however. Due to the bifurcated trial structure in Texas, plaintiffs are essentially tasked with preparing two separate lawsuits. It takes time to gather evidence, investigate circumstances, and file a formal suit. The quicker that injury victims seek experienced legal guidance, the faster they can protect their interests and preserve their legal options. 

Partial Liability Concerns

Texas is classified as a modified comparative negligence state. Comparative negligence states allow injury victims to sue others for contributing to the causes of their harm, even when the victim filing a lawsuit is also partially responsible for their injurious circumstances. 

In pure comparative negligence states like California and Florida, injury victims are permitted to seek damages against others regardless of the degree of fault assigned to each party. However, Texas recognizes a modified version of comparative negligence theory. This means that, in Texas, a victim can only pursue damages against others in civil court if they are assigned 50 percent or more of the blame for the harm caused by their crash. 

In the event that a plaintiff is assigned a degree of fault for their injurious crash, their damages award will be reduced proportionally. For example, say that a plaintiff succeeds in Stage I of a bifurcated trial. The plaintiff is assigned 20 percent of the blame and the truck operator named as a defendant in the lawsuit is assigned the other 80 percent of the blame for that stage of the trial. The plaintiff’s harm has been valued at $100,000. In this scenario, the truck operator would be held responsible for $80,000 in damages because they shoulder 80 percent of the blame for that harm. The plaintiff cannot recover the additional damages because they represent the 20 percent of the case value which corresponds to the 20 percent of blame shouldered by the plaintiff.

As a result of the modified comparative negligence approach honored by Texas law, injury victims shouldn’t hesitate to connect with a lawyer if they believe that they may be partially responsible for what happened to them. The law may still protect their right to seek damages from other responsible parties regardless. 

Legal Assistance Is Available 

The aftermath of a truck accident can be truly disorienting and overwhelming. Working with an experienced attorney to clarify your rights and options under the law can help to ensure that you receive any compensation to which you’re rightfully entitled. 

If you’ve recently been injured in an accident involving a large commercial truck, you’ll want to speak with a reputable lawyer who has extensive experience handling cases just like yours. Professionals who practice in the state where your crash occurred can clarify the law that will apply in your case in greater detail. For more information concerning truck law in your local area, contact Truck Law today.