Over 4,000 people were fatally injured in a semi-truck accident in 2020. After 18-wheeler collisions, quite a bit of decision-making power in terms of prevention is in the driver’s hands thanks to the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).
You can see by checking the state government’s website that Houston, Texas is home to the highest incidence per capita of semi-truck collisions. With this in mind, you might be wondering if truck drivers can say “no” to an assignment they get asked to do during bad weather. You might be surprised to learn the answer.
Read on to find out about accidents involving semi trucks in Houston, the implications of saying “no” for truck drivers, and how to find and hire the right truck accident lawyer if it comes to that.
Surface Transportation Assistance Act
The Surface Transportation Assistance Act was put in place to protect individuals who drive semi trucks and other freight-hauling vehicles. It specifically states that:
“A person may not discharge an employee, or discipline or discriminate against an employee regarding pay, terms, or privileges of employment, because the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public because of the vehicle’s hazardous safety or security condition.”
While specific weather conditions are not recorded in the numbers mentioned above, it is a safe assumption that many accidents via semi-truck collisions happen as a result of adverse winter weather. Whose fault these collisions fall on is completely up to whom objected or failed to do so before the driver left the route.
Safe Winter Driving in Houston, Texas
While Houston, Texas experiences much less severe winter weather than most of the rest of the United States, semi trucks and their drivers rarely make runs that stay exclusively in town or even in-state. Oftentimes, drivers must watch weather forecasts closely in the areas through which they will be driving in order to get to the delivery location.
Regardless of precautions, drivers are allowed (even expected) to make their own judgments when it comes to whether or not their route is safe to drive during any one specific weather event. Failure to do so correctly can result in personal injury to the driver or members of the public.
Because these decisions are so vital on the part of the individual driver, it is of the utmost importance that drivers understand their rights. Conversely, it’s equally as important for private citizens to understand their rights if they’ve been involved in a semi-truck collision.
Considerations For Semi-Truck Drivers
There are a few considerations that semi-truck drivers need to heed before leaving on a route in inclement weather or some other type of disaster or situation that may make roads unsafe. These include:
- Severe Thunderstorm
- High Winds
- Tornado Warning
- Dust Storm
- Extreme Heat Event
- Significant Law Enforcement Operations
This isn’t even an exhaustive list. There is a multitude of circumstances that may lead a semi-truck driver to say “no” to a work assignment.
Why Houston, Texas Is Unique For Semi-Trucks
Houston, Texas is the 4th largest city by population in the United States. As a result, you can imagine the traffic gridlock that can happen on any given workday during any season of the year. Imagine having to navigate a semi-truck through said gridlock in inclement weather, and you might come to understand the significant concern that some drivers may have.
However, this is no excuse for drivers of semi-trucks or semi-truck companies to send their drivers out during less-than-safe conditions. If you are involved in a semi-truck accident in Houston, Texas, we can help.
Can a Semi-Truck Driver Be Held Accountable For An Accident?
They absolutely can. That is why it is important to consider hiring a truck accident lawyer if you have experienced an accident involving a semi-truck in Houston, Texas. Every driver is accountable for their own rig, so if they make a mistake or if they are impaired in any way that causes an accident, you have a potentially viable claim.
Because of the above-mentioned STAA, no driver is forced to complete a route under unsafe conditions. Whether it is weather-related or due to one of the other examples above, it is solely upon the driver of the semi-truck to decide if the conditions are optimal to complete their route.
Now that you’ve seen all of the reasons and protections that semi-truck drivers and their companies have, don’t you think it’s time to take a deeper look at what caused your accident and who should be held liable for the compensation you deserve?
I’ve Been In An Accident Involving A Semi-Truck. What Should I Do?
Just as you would with any other type of automobile accident, make sure to take care of your own health and safety first. Considering the size and weight of a semi-truck contrasted with a regular sedan, there could be significant issues there, both in regard to property damage and personal injury.
After you have been able to adequately recover or appoint someone to cover your affairs for you while you recover, the first thing that you should do is contact truck accident attorneys.
A trusted local truck accident lawyer will make sure that you receive the compensation that you deserve, as long as you are able to retain the appropriate documentation.
What Documentation Should I Keep?
Hanging on to any evidence of monetary losses in the event of a semi-truck accident is one of, if not the most important thing you need to do if you’ve been involved in one. Just a few of the things that you should make an effort to keep include the following:
- Incident/Accident Report
- Medical Bills
- Lost Wages via Pay Stubs
- Receipts for Necessary Rehab Equipment
- Mental Health Appointment Receipts
- Your Driving Documents (license, etc.)
- Truck Driver’s Driving Documents
- The ID Number of the Truck
- Witness Statements
- Pictures of the Scene
- Related Toxicology Reports
While most truck accident attorneys will find this documentation for you (if it exists), it’s still important for you to obtain as much as you can in case they are not able to find it.
Is the Driver Liable or the Trucking Company?
If a semi-truck driver expresses serious concern about driving a route in any of the above-mentioned conditions and they are still forced or coerced into taking the route anyway, the trucking company is liable. If the driver themselves made a poor decision and injured someone in 18-wheeler collisions, the burden is on the driver.
Determining liability should not be your job, especially while you are in recovery. That is the driving factor behind hiring a truck accident lawyer. They will alleviate the burden on you while you recover. A truck accident lawyer specializes in sorting out all of the liability and insurance communications and paperwork for you.
When Should I File a Claim?
Accidents happen, but if you feel as if there was negligence involved in an accident with a semi-truck, you need to take into account the environmental situation and the road conditions just as much as you should consider your health situation.
Most semi-truck drivers are very cognizant of safety standards and they take great care to make sure that they are operating safely. STAA (at least in theory) eliminates the ability of trucking companies to pressure semi-truck drivers to haul their load in adverse situations.
Regardless of the situation, if you are in an 18-wheeler collision, you need someone to represent you to ensure that you receive the compensation and recovery time that you deserve. Trucking companies usually have a whole staff of lawyers on hand, so making sure that you have someone fighting for your rights is of the utmost importance.
Hire a Lawyer That Will Fight
Faced with the possibility of battling a team of insurance lawyers, some personal injury attorneys will accept a smaller payout just to get the case over with. You should instead choose a truck accident lawyer that isn’t afraid to go to court to fight for your compensation.
Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer With Experience
If you got involved in a semi-truck accident in Houston, Texas, and are recovering from a resulting injury, you need a trusted local truck accident lawyer to represent you. Call today for a free consultation so that we can get you on the right road to recovery and receive the kind of compensation that you deserve after your accident.