How 18-Wheeler Rear-End Accident Cases Work
While it may seem like getting rear-ended by a tractor-trailer would make for an open and shut case, that's not actually accurate. You see, the notion that truck drivers are automatically liable for rear-end collisions is an absolute myth. So too is the idea that the rear driver is always at fault because Texas is an at-fault state. There is no legal basis for either of these well known beliefs, yet many people take them as gospel truth. The problem with this line of thinking is that it has led many people who should have a very good case against a negligent truck driver down the wrong path, ruining their otherwise good case.
Folks, it's simple. It doesn't matter how the truck accident happened, Texas law always puts the burden on the injured party (or the family of the person who was killed in the accident) to prove that the offending driver is at fault for the accident because they acted negligently. "He hit me from behind so he must be at fault" is not an argument that any judge in Texas would allow in his courtroom. Despite the fact that the law is more complex than old wives tales and misguided adages would have you believe, if you have the right attorney on your side, proving the fault of a negligent truck driver is still possible. Our attorneys have won hundreds of these cases, and in this article, we'll explain what you need to know to understand how rear-end 18-wheeler accident cases actually work.
Questions Answered On This Page:
- Aren't trucking companies automatically responsible for a rear-end crash?
- How might a trucking company defend themselves (or their driver) when they hit you from behind?
- How much is my 18-wheeler rear-end accident case potentially worth?
Trucking companies are not automatically liable for rear-end accidents.
Sometimes when clients come to talk to us about these accidents, they say, "Isn't the 18-wheeler legally responsible for rear-end collisions by default?" To be clear, there is no law that mandates that a trucker or his insurance carrier pay you after a rear-end collision. In fact, that's never the case with any kind of accident, which you can read more about here. Instead, in any injury case, you have to prove that the accident happened through negligence. Evidence of an injury, and even evidence of misconduct itself, is not how you win. Instead, you have to translate the events of the accident into the language of the court and show that the facts in your case meet the legal definition of negligence.
The reason it works this way is because there are accident scenarios wherein a truck can hit someone from behind and it's legitimately not the trucker's fault. Consider this:
- A trucker is driving safely, within the speed limit, and keeping an eye on the road ahead. A car cuts in front of the truck and slams on its brakes, leaving the trucker no time to react. No jury in their right mind would say that the truck driver is at fault in this situation just because his vehicle rear-ended the other. That is why there is no hard and fast rule that says the person who struck you from behind is automatically at fault.
Your attorney must prove that the accident occurred because the other driver did something wrong. This takes more than just the police report or your own personal recollection of what happened in the crash. It requires hard facts that can stand up in court. Here are a couple example of how attorneys prove what actually happened:
- A trucker rear-ended you and totaled your car. Your attorney investigates the case. He subpoenas the driver's phone records and in-cab video, which show that the driver was texting while driving. Your attorney researches the thousands of regulations truckers must follow and discovers that 2 years ago, the federal government implemented a rule that truckers cannot use their phones at all while driving. He also consults with a safety expert who offers to testify at trial that the texting was negligent behavior. This multi-angle attack against the truck driver will likely convince the court that he should pay you. Simply arguing that his fault is obvious because he hit you from behind without explaining why he did so will not win your case.
- A driver in a delivery truck crashes into the back of your car at a red light, but the trucking company's insurance carrier is refusing to pay out a fair amount (this happens all the time). Your attorney then looks at the ECM
(black box) data on the truck and finds that the trucker never actually applied the brakes until 2 seconds before hitting your car, implying that he wasn't paying attention to the road. Then, several witnesses to the accident are found and they all provide testimony that the trucker was actually reaching for something on his floorboard, not looking at the road. Sound a bit far-fetched? It shouldn't. We had a case where that exact scenario happened. We won that case not by telling the court that the trucker is automatically liable, but by proving that his negligence caused the crash.
As you can see, it takes more than simply filling out a form or just alleging that you were rear-ended to win. That's why it takes lawyers many years to get the experience needed to litigate these cases well. Fortunately, we're not lacking in that department: we've been handling these kinds of cases for years.
Make no mistake: it's far from impossible to prove that a truck driver was negligent in a rear-end accident. This being said, it's not easy, either. We've successfully handled many dozens of these cases and have no shortage of favorable verdicts and settlements for our clients to show for our efforts. Though this next section is all about how trucking companies try to deflect blame, don't get discouraged because if your attorney knows what they're doing, it's not hard to poke holes in these defenses.