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Who Is Responsible for My Texas 18-Wheeler Accident?

Jan 9, 2023 - Truck Accident by

An 18-wheeler truck driving on the highway

In most car crashes between two personal vehicles, there are usually two parties: the at-fault driver and the innocent victim. However, when the accident involves a semi-truck, box truck, or any other type of commercial vehicle, assigning legal responsibility for the crash is often much more complicated. You might have truck accident claims against multiple parties—but only if you know how to find them.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. By law, trucking companies must carry much more insurance coverage than personal vehicle owners. So, you can expect the responsible parties to defend themselves aggressively—dipping into their deep pockets and using their many years of experience fighting claims.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at who might be responsible for your big rig truck crash, and why you should contact a truck accident attorney as soon as possible if you’ve been injured.

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Truck Crash?

Truck accidents are a common sight here in East Texas. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2021, in just Smith and Gregg counties (where our offices are located), there were 725 reported commercial vehicle accidents. Dozens of people were injured, and 12 sadly lost their lives.

Figuring out who was at fault for your truck accident is a necessary step before you can get any compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and other economic and non-economic losses you’ve suffered.

In a legal context, for someone to be at fault, the following things need to be true:

  • They owed a duty of care to the injured individual. (In other words, they’re supposed to follow the law, watch out for pedestrians, and drive safely).
  • They violated that duty of care.
  • That violation caused injury (“damages”) to another person.

Fault determines which parties can make a claim for compensation, who they can make claims against, which insurance policies apply, and how much an injured person is ultimately able to receive.

This is not always an easy process. Facts may be unclear. Parties may disagree. And often, fault can be shared between multiple different parties. Some of the most common include the following:

The Semi-Truck Driver

Just like drivers of any other vehicles, truckers owe a “duty of care” to others on or near the roadway. If this duty of care is violated—for example, due to distracted driving, drunk driving, or driving while excessively fatigued—and it directly results in an injury to another person, the truck driver can be held personally liable for the crash.

The Trucking Company

Trucking and logistics companies are responsible for their drivers’ conduct and must follow strict state and federal safety rules. It is their responsibility to make sure that anyone who gets behind the wheel has the training and temperament to do the job—and that their drivers have all the tools they need.

Unfortunately, we frequently see companies cut corners and risk public safety in the name of keeping drivers on the road, making more deliveries, and earning higher profits. Typical examples of this kind of conduct include:

  • Insufficient training for drivers
  • Allowing a driver to keep working despite multiple safety violations or a poor driving record
  • Pressuring drivers to ignore federal regulations, such as mandatory break periods

A Truck Owner, Mechanic, or Equipment Manufacturer

An 18-wheeler is an incredibly complicated piece of equipment. And at 80,000 lbs. when fully loaded, a single mechanical failure to the wrong part at the wrong time, like brake failure or loss of steering control, can have devastating consequences.

For this reason, big rigs are supposed to get rigorous safety inspections and maintenance at regular intervals. However, this is another area where corners sometimes get cut. If required safety inspections weren’t made, or the maintenance work was careless and shoddy, the individuals or companies responsible for maintaining the truck could be held liable for the crash.

Similarly, if the part itself was defective, the manufacturer of the part (or the truck itself) might be on the hook.

RELATED POST: Texas Auto Defect Attorneys | Texas Auto Defect Lawyers (robertslawfirm.com)

The Cargo Loader

A double-axle semi-truck can haul nearly 35,000 lbs. in cargo alone. But it’s not just about the total weight. How that cargo is loaded can make a big difference in terms of how safe the vehicle is to drive.

If cargo in the trailer shifts around, or puts the center of gravity too high, the truck’s handling could be severely compromised, and the risk of accidents (especially rollover accidents) can increase dramatically.

Other Potentially Liable Parties

The above examples highlight many of the most common scenarios, but this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. A few other less commonly liable parties include:

  • A bar or restaurant that knowingly overserved alcohol to the truck driver before the accident
  • A government agency or contractor that failed to maintain a safe roadway
  • The owner of the cargo being shipped

RELATED POST: Can You Sue the State of Texas for Poorly Designed Roads? (robertslawfirm.com)

When (and Why) Should You Contact an Attorney After a Texas Truck Accident?

If you’ve been injured in an accident with an 18-wheeler, box truck, or other commercial vehicle, you need to act fast. Contacting an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible after the crash happened is the best way to protect your legal rights and get the care, treatment, and compensation you deserve.

Here are just a few of the major reasons why:

  • Evidence won’t last forever. The trucking company is only required to keep truck logs and other recorded data for a limited time. Once they can destroy those records, they will do so—even if they prove that their own driver was responsible for the crash. Evidence left at the Texas highway scene (like skid marks and debris) won’t last long either. After an injury, you should be focused on healing—not fact-finding. Your attorney can help.
  • An attorney knows where to look—and who to talk to. Rebuilding what happened during the crash may require accessing event recorder data, dashcam or security camera footage, and connecting with eyewitnesses. It may even require expert input from a specialist in traffic engineering or accident reconstruction. By getting an attorney on the scene as quickly as possible, you’re much more likely to identify (and protect) critical evidence before it’s lost for good.
  • An attorney can help you accurately calculate your damages. Truck accident injuries are frequently catastrophic, and the insurance company is hoping you’ll take a quick lowball settlement offer to make the case go away. An attorney can help you understand what your case is truly worth, and fight for what’s fair.
  • An attorney can protect you from unintentional mistakes. The insurance company won’t hesitate to take advantage of your inexperience. They’re hoping you’ll say something that could be misconstrued as accepting blame when you talk to their adjusters, or that you’ll forget to file key paperwork on time. In the worst-case scenario, it could cost you your entire claim.
  • Trucking companies and their insurance companies defend claims aggressively. Their goal is to protect profit—not to pay claims fairly. And they have a lot of practice defending themselves in court. An attorney who has a successful track record of holding negligent truck companies accountable can level the playing field and put you in a much better position to negotiate a fair settlement.

Our Attorneys Are Ready to Help

After a truck accident, your priority needs to be focusing on your healing, your recovery, and your family. But you can’t afford to ignore your legal claim, either.

Roberts & Roberts can help. We’re East Texas’ largest personal injury firm, with a national reputation—but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our perspective on what really matters. We don’t just handle your legal case. We make sure you are fully cared for along the way, from answering your questions, to helping you with doctor appointments and rental cars, and more.

To schedule your free consultation with a truck accident lawyer, give us a call at (903) 207-5405 or complete our simple contact form.


Texas Department of Transportation. (May 2, 2022). Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Involved Crashes and Injuries by County. Retrieved from https://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_statistics/2021/30.pdf

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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