The current regulatory environment (which is one of deregulation) continues to put the burden on motorists forced to share the road with these tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles. Just last month, USA Today reported the U.S. Department of Transportation is delaying or repealing several initiatives, including a proposal that would require heavy trucks to have software that electronically limits speed.
Updates to rear underride guards and a requirement for trucks to install front and side underride guards have also been slow to gain momentum or find approval. Those measures have been backed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which reports almost 4,000 people were killed in crashes with large trucks in 2016.
Staying Safe Around Tractor-Trailers on Texas Highways
Although many crashes with large trucks are the fault of the trucker, motorists driving passenger cars can do their part on the highway to reduce the odds of a collision. A recent travel article outlined tips for staying safe around large trucks.
- Maintain safe distances: Rear underride collisions typically happen when a closely following vehicle collides with the rear of a tractor trailer. Allowing yourself plenty of distance also makes for better visibility of upcoming signals and traffic-control devices.
- Avoid blind spots: If you cannot see a driver's side mirrors, he cannot see you. A driver also has limited visibility when you are coming alongside, particularly as you approach beneath the side mirror.
- Pass promptly: Don't linger alongside a tractor trailer. You may be in a driver's blind spot and any movement in your direction by a trailer could pull you beneath a truck.
- Give them room: Trucks need a significant distance to stop and a lot of room to turn. Don't crowd a truck and don't pull in front of a truck until you are well in front of the driver and you can see the truck's windshield in your rear view mirror.
- Be aware: Any time you are around a large truck, pay attention and remain aware of a trucker's movements. Always proceed as though a trucker has the right of way because you will not come out ahead in an accident.
Compensation in Houston Tractor-Trailer Accidents
In most cases, an injury victim will seek compensation from a driver's trucking company and its insurer via Texas' vicarious liability laws. One type of vicarious liability is respondeat superior, which means "let the master answer" for the employee's negligent actions. Another means of recovering from an employer under Texas law is in cases of negligent hiring, supervision, training or retention of staff. For example, if the trucking company hired a dangerous driver or failed to adequately train the driver, you might have a legal cause of action when that driver causes a collision.
Under Texas law, when a truck owned by a defendant company is driven by the defendant's employee, the driver is presumed to be acting within the scope of his or her employment at the time the accident occurred (Robertson Tank Lines, Inc. v. Van Cleave, 468 S.W.2d 354, 357 (Tex. 1971)).
Companies continue various schemes to avoid liability for trucking accidents, including hiring independent contractors or classifying employees as independent contractors.
Consulting with a Houston injury law firm with significant experience handling trucking accident cases is best done as soon as possible after a collision. These are complex cases that require in-depth review to determine all responsible parties and identify their associated insurance companies.