Injured by an 18-wheeler that ran a red light? An attorney can help.
When an 18-wheeler or a semi-truck runs a red light, the consequences can be disastrous for whoever they hit. If that person was you or a loved one, this article will explain what your next steps need to be and how to hold the truck driver (and his company) accountable for what happened. Even though it sounds like something that is "open-and-shut," that's rarely the case. You'll face opposition from the truck driver and the company he worked for, plus there is the burden to actually prove that light was red when the driver traveled through it.
Questions Answered On This Page:
- Are red light-running cases with 18-wheeler trucks easy to win?
- Why won't the trucking company take responsibility for their driver?
- How can you prove that the trucker ran the red light?
- Is having a lawyer really necessary?
Though some truck drivers run red lights out of pure negligence (they were in a hurry or under the influence), sometimes they do it simply because weren't paying attention to traffic. But there are no two ways about it: running a red light is inexcusable and must be punished. For the rest of this article, we'll talk about what how cases involving red-light running 18-wheelers work and what you can expect as they proceed.
How lawsuits against 18-wheeler drivers who run stoplights really work
In all personal injury or wrongful death cases involving 18-wheelers, there is no such thing as automatic compensation. Rather, accident victims need to invoke our legal system's power to force the trucking company to pay them what they deserve -- you can bet the trucking company won't do so voluntarily. But this process isn't easy, and the key to doing it successfully is knowing:
- What you have to prove
- What kind of defenses the trucking company will try to use
What you have to prove
In order to collect any compensation from the trucking company, you need to prove that their driver ran the red light and caused your accident. While this sounds easy, it's usually not. First, there's not usually any physical evidence that the driver did anything wrong in a situation like this. After all, it's not as though running a red light leaves any evidence behind, like rubber tire marks that might be left when someone slams on their brakes. While cameras are going up all over the country at stoplights, not every intersection has them, and the vast majority do not yet have the technology to record every person who runs a light.
Second, these cases are highly dependent on witness statements. Since there are rarely crowds of people around to witness a collision, that means semi-truck crashes usually come down to a "he said she said" fight between the truck driver and the victim. In our 25 years of practicing truck accident law, we've seen only a handful (out of hundreds) of truck drivers admit to doing something wrong. These men and women make their living on the road, and confessing to driving improperly is economic suicide, to put it bluntly.
Lastly, in far too many of these cases, the driver of the passenger vehicle tragically passed away at the scene. Therefore, they obviously can no longer relay their version of events to a jury. The decedent's family has not only lost their loved one, but their case's best witness. You can't rely on just half the story, which is exactly what you get when the trucker is the only person to survive the accident.
Defenses used by truck drivers (and trucking companies)
Nobody likes admitting it when they're wrong, but trucking companies really take it to the next level when they know their driver was at fault for an accident. For starters, they almost always try to point out the lack of evidence to defend their driver. Trucking companies have a vested interest in advocating for their driver's innocence, because admitting fault has a direct impact on their bottom line. In addition to the costs of paying victims, having a roster full of drivers who keep getting into wrecks and breaking the law could affect the willingness of shippers to hire them.
But the most common thing that we see in trucking companies is when they try to put distance between themselves and their driver. When a company knows their driver is at fault and feels they have no other avenue for defending them, they may opt to go on the offensive. Instead of taking responsibility for their driver running a red light, trucking companies will sometimes claim that their driver was a bad employee, who was operating outside of the company's policies and guidelines. It's a convenient way to blame the trucker for the accident while making the trucking company look like a victim, too, for having such a bad employee.
This next short section will discuss how the solve all the problems we just mentioned.
How our attorneys prove the 18-wheeler ran the light
The Texas truck accident attorneys at Grossman Law Offices don't just give up on our clients' cases simply because they're complex. We do the hard work of digging into each case to track down every possible witness and every available piece of evidence. These are just some examples of the kind of work we've done to prove our case:
- Hiring private investigators to not only locate witnesses, but serve them with legal documents that force them to appear to testify
- Issuing subpoenas to businesses located near the scene of the accident that have security camera footage that captured the incident
- Demanding the defendant truck driver turn over dash-cam footage and ECM data (similar to a plane's "black box") to show exactly what he was doing prior to the incident
- Sending out one of our accident reconstruction experts to assess the roadway, what skid marks are present, and "laser map" the area to show what the trucker would have seen and when they would have seen it
The key to getting all these things done in a timely fashion is having the resources and means to do them, which most local police departments just don't possess. Too many people rely on a police report or even a traffic-cam photo to prove their case in court, but that's just not sufficient. Police reports are not primarily focused on proving who was at fault, but rather on determining whether any tickets or citations need to be issued. Police aren't concerned with helping anyone prove their civil case, so they don't bother themselves with tracking down witnesses or looking at the truck's ECM data. Traffic-cam photos can be helpful, but if the trucking company employs the tactic we just talked about (trying to put legal distance between themselves and their driver), even these may not be enough to hold them liable.
Plus, things like a police report or a traffic-cam photo aren't inherently admissible in court: they have to be properly admitted via a specific legal process called proving up or the evidence may as well not exist in the eyes of the law. Lots of people ruin their cases by trying to represent themselves, thinking that all they need to do is bring the police report to court and everything will work out. But if you don't know how to get evidence admitted in court, the jury will never see it, and your case will have lost a key component.
Get an experienced lawyer working on your case
Did you or a family member have an accident when an 18-wheeler ran a stoplight? We know you've got questions. Be sure to visit our Comprehensive Truck Accident page (in the sidebar) for a full rundown on how trucking accident cases work in general. But, if you have any questions that need answering right away, please call Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000 now. We're available 24/7 to get you the help you need.
Related Articles for Further Reading:
- Accidents Caused by Mail Delivery Trucks Are Not as Straight-Forward as You May Think
- How Do We Prevent Trucking Companies from Destroying Evidence?
- Are Trucking Companies Allowed to Make a Victim's Age an Issue at Trial?