Sadly, the people in passenger vehicles that collide with tractor-trailers often fail to survive the crash. The families they leave behind are left looking for answers about how such a tragic event could have ever occurred. At The Sloan Firm, we find those answers.
For decades, our experienced lawyers have worked hard to hold careless and reckless truckers, trucking companies, truck manufacturers and others accountable for the harm they cause. We pursue the compensation that grieving families deserve, using the full extent of our law firm’s skill and resources. Above all, our truck accident attorneys act with compassion. We focus on the family behind the loss.
What matters to you, matters to us.
If you recently lost a loved one in a truck accident in Texas, New Mexico or elsewhere in the U.S., contact us to talk about your case. We will provide a free consultation for wrongful death truck accident cases from our offices in Longview, Houston or Santa Fe.
Texas and New Mexico Truck Accident Statistics
As you move forward after a truck accident, statistics may help you to gain some perspective. Simply put: These tragic accidents are not rare. In fact, they happen far too often in Texas, New Mexico and across the United States.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that, in 2014, 12.2 percent of the fatal crashes on the nation’s roadways – a total of 3,649 collisions – involved at least one large truck or bus. Additionally, the FMCSA reports, between 2003 and 2013, each year, on average, crashes involving large trucks caused:
- 472 deaths in Texas
- 53 deaths in New Mexico
- 4,396 deaths in the nation as a whole.
Who is to blame for these fatal truck crashes? As we explain below, getting the answer to that question in each case requires a thorough investigation – one that must begin as quickly as possible after the accident in order to preserve and gather important evidence. The trucking company and its insurance carriers will have investigators and attorneys on the scene within hours. So, it is important for the families of those killed or seriously injured to act quickly so that we may also begin our investigation.
FMCSA data indicates that, in a large percentage of cases, the truck causes the crash. Between 2011 and 2013, the following crash types accounted for 46.4 percent of fatal crashes on our nation’s roads:
- Large truck rear-ending passenger vehicle (4.3 percent)
- Large truck crossing center median (head-on) (2.0 percent)
- Large truck striking passenger vehicle (other) (40.1 percent).
Of course, when your loved one dies in a tractor-trailer wreck, it is the only accident that matters to you. Rest assured: It matters to us, too.
Why Do Fatal Truck Accidents Occur?
At The Sloan Firm, our experience with handling investigations of fatal truck accidents makes a difference for our clients. We know the importance of acting quickly and collecting evidence such as:
- Accident scene and vehicle photos
- Eyewitness statements
- The driver’s alcohol and drug test results
- Electronic on-board recorder data
- GPS/Qualcomm systems data
- Driver logbooks and other records
- Vehicle inspection and maintenance records
- Driver fuel and meal receipts
- Bills of lading
- Weighing station records
- Driver cell phone records.
Our attorneys know how to analyze the massive amount of evidence that a truck accident typically involves. We also consult with experts such as engineers, trucking industry safety experts and accident reconstruction specialists to determine the cause of a crash and identify who should be held responsible.
In your case, our law firm’s investigation may reveal that one or more of the following factors contributed to the crash:
- Speeding and driving too fast for conditions
- Tailgating and aggressive driving
- Distracted driving
- Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs
- Driving while fatigued
- Improperly loading the tractor-trailer (or failing to secure cargo)
- Failing to use emergency flares and/or triangles
- Defective tractor-trailer components such as brakes, steering, tires, wheels, hitches, couplings or hydraulic systems.
Many 18-wheeler crashes result from the failure of a trucker or trucking company to follow state and federal regulations. Those rules address nearly every aspect of the trucking industry. For instance, they prohibit texting or talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving, limit the number of hours that a driver can spend on the road and require routine vehicle inspection and maintenance.
If our investigation reveals that a violation occurred in your case, it will help to establish the trucker’s or trucking company’s liability for your loved one’s death. In other words, a trucking violation may establish what is called “negligence per se.”
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Deadly Truck Crash?
Many fatal tractor-trailer accidents lead to criminal investigations. Prosecutors may file charges against certain parties and obtain convictions. However, criminal guilt differs from civil liability. A conviction does not provide compensation to those whose lives have been upended by the loss of a loved one. In order to pursue that compensation in Texas, New Mexico or elsewhere, surviving family members must pursue a wrongful death or survivor claim.
However, before you initiate a civil claim, you must identify all parties who should be held accountable. Even if they do not face criminal prosecution, those parties may still be liable for damages in a civil claim.
In your case, those parties could include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The owner of the truck and/or trailer
- The owner and/or loader of the cargo
- The mechanic
- Shipping brokers or other third-party vendors
- Manufacturer and/or distributor of a defective truck or truck part
- Government agency.
At The Sloan Firm, we know how to tackle the challenge of determining all potentially liable parties in a truck accident case, including defendants from different states or foreign countries. We know that the identification of everyone who is responsible for the will go a long way towards obtaining maximum compensation for the tragic loss that your family has suffered.
Your Legal Options After a Fatal Truck Accident in Texas
The attorneys of The Sloan Firm realize that no amount of money can replace the loss of a loved one. However, by pursuing your legal options after a family member dies in a truck accident in Texas or New Mexico, you may secure compensation that eases your financial burdens and helps you to move forward in life. We can help you to pursue those options.
In Texas, your options may include filing a wrongful death action and/or a survival action. These types of actions are different in important ways. We will explain these differences to you as we review your case:
- Who can file the action – Under the Texas Wrongful Death Act, the surviving spouse, children or parents of the deceased can sue for the damages they personally have suffered due to the loss of a loved one. They can file the claim individually or together as a group. If they do not file a claim within the first three months after their loved one’s death, a personal representative of the estate may file the claim on their behalf. Under the law, a brother or sister has no right to file a wrongful death claim for the loss of a sibling.
- Types of damages – A wrongful death claim seeks damages that go directly to the plaintiffs. Those damages may include actual damages such as:
- Loss of decedent’s earning capacity
- Loss of parental services, child services or spousal services
- Loss of advice and counsel
- Loss of companionship and society
- Loss of inheritance
- Mental anguish
- Expenses associated with therapy.
The plaintiffs in a Texas wrongful death lawsuit may also seek punitive, or exemplary, damages, if their loved one’s death resulted from a willful or intentional act or omission or gross negligence. For instance, the trucking company involved in the crash may have repeatedly forced drivers to break rules that limit drivers’ time on the road, and the driver’s fatigue may have, in turn, caused the crash that killed your loved one. These damages serve to punish a wrongdoer and send a message about the behavior that led to the wrongful death.
- Time limits – In Texas, time limits called the “statute of limitations” apply to civil claims. Generally, you must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years from the date of your loved one’s death. However, certain factors can extend the time available to bring a claim.
- Who can file the action – Under the Texas Survival Statute, the estate, heirs or a legal representative may file a personal injury claim that the deceased would have been entitled to bring if he or she had survived the truck crash. In this sense, a broader group of people, including siblings, may be eligible to bring the claim.
- Types of damages – The damages in a Texas survival action go to the deceased’s estate and not directly to the plaintiffs. Those damages could include any damages that your loved one sustained between the time of injury and time of death such as medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.
- Time limits – The time limit that applies to personal injury claims applies to survival claims. Generally, you must file the claim within two years after the date of injury, or the statute of limitations may forever bar your claim. Our lawyers can analyze the facts of your particular case and provide you with advice regarding when your case must be filed.
The experienced truck accident lawyers of The Sloan Firm can review these options with you and discuss the best strategy to pursue on your behalf. We will tailor our representation to meet your unique needs and goals, and we will always focus on what is most important to you and your family.
Your Legal Options After a Fatal Truck Accident in New Mexico
As in Texas, you may pursue a wrongful death action in New Mexico if your loved one died in a trucking accident. The person named in an estate plan or appointed by a court to serve as the personal representative of the deceased’s estate would file the claim for the benefit of surviving family members.
The New Mexico Wrongful Death Act sets out how damages should be divided. For instance, if the deceased left behind a surviving spouse but no children, all damages would go to the spouse. If the deceased had a surviving spouse and children or grandchildren, the damages would be split between the spouse and the children or grandchildren. If the deceased was a minor under age 18 or had no spouse, children or grandchildren, the deceased’s parents would receive the damages. If the deceased had no parents, his or her siblings could recover damages.
A wrongful death claim in New Mexico may seek damages that include:
- Reasonable and necessary medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Pain and suffering of the deceased between time of injury and death
- Loss of earnings and household services
- Loss of inheritance
- Emotional distress suffered by surviving family members
- Loss of guidance and counseling (to minor children)
- Punitive damages.
Generally, you would need to file the wrongful death claim within three years from the date of your loved one’s death. Failure to file your claim within that time may mean that New Mexico law forever bars your claim. An attorney from our firm can review your case and determine the time available in your specific case to file a claim.
Additionally, New Mexico law also allows personal injury actions to survive a loved one’s death. Like a Texas survival action, the claim would seek damages that the deceased would have been entitled to recover if he or she had survived the truck accident.
Our Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys Are Ready to Help You
If you recently lost a loved one in a truck accident in Texas, New Mexico or elsewhere, make The Sloan Firm your first call. We will handle your case with the compassion you need during this difficult time, and we will use the full extent of our skill, resources and experience to pursue all compensation that you deserve.
Many qualities set The Sloan Firm apart, including:
- More than 150 years of combined legal experience
- Millions of dollars secured on behalf of our clients
- Several attorneys who are Board Certified in Personal Injury Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization – a distinction held by less than 10 percent of Texas lawyers – and admitted to practice in Texas, New Mexico and other jurisdictions
- Our promise to always focus on your rights and best interests and to make your satisfaction our top priority.
We will not be paid unless we secure a verdict or settlement for you. To learn more, contact us today to discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation.