In the state of Texas, commercial trucking accidents are common. The state consistently ranks top in the nation for trucks involved in fatal crashes. Between 2016-2020, there were an average of 74,000 crashes involving commercial trucks and trailers per year. In 2017 alone, over 4,700 people died in crashes involving large trucks, and of those people killed, only 18% were truck drivers, with 72% being the occupant of other vehicles. Below you will find information and resources regarding truck accident laws in Texas and legal resources to help you with your legal action.
Drug Test Post-Accident
A truck driver in Texas must follow federal guidelines following a fatal truck accident, whether or not a citation was issued. According to the FMCSA Code of Regulations, truck drivers must submit to drug and alcohol tests administered by their employers following most road accidents, particularly if it involves a human fatality. This drug test must be provided within the first 32 hours after the accident, but ideally, it would be as soon as possible following the incident. The results of these tests can be used as evidence against the truck driver during an accident lawsuit.
Licensing Requirements in Texas
Another federal guideline that truck drivers in Texas must follow is driver’s license requirements. Truck drivers can only have one license, which has to be issued by their home state, and may only receive it if they pass the necessary knowledge and skills tests as provided by the state of Texas. Additionally, if truck drivers in Texas transport hazardous materials, they must undergo additional examinations before being issued their valid operating truck driving license. The guidelines for the Texas commercial driver’s license (CDL) require drivers to be 21 or older, have residence in the state of Texas, must read or speak English, must have 20/40 vision or better, and not be color blind, along with other specific stipulations.
Physical Exam Requirements for Truck Drivers in Texas
To be able to be a truck driver in Texas, drivers must undergo a special training program and pass a physical exam every two years before being allowed to operate trucks. If drivers fail the exam, they will be ineligible to drive trucks in Texas. If the applicant has medical conditions such as epilepsy, heart problems, high blood pressure, or respiratory issues, they will automatically be barred from driving trucks in the state. Good hearing is also a physical requirement for truck drivers in Texas, as well as not having any impairment of the extremities that would deter them from being able to drive.
Service Hour Requirements in Texas
Most trucking accidents that happen during the year are caused by driver tiredness, a recurring problem that has recently seen a rapid increase. In response, the FMCSA has revised its guidelines on limits of how many hours a driver can operate their truck. In Texas, truck drivers are only allowed to drive for eleven hours in a workday of 14 hours maximum. After that workday, they must spend a minimum of ten hours off duty. Additionally, truck drivers must properly maintain log books detailing their time at work. This law and additional guidelines are meant to reduce the possibility of trucking accidents and the use of stimulants and other drugs that truck drivers use during long drives that also contribute to accidents.
Mandatory Insurance Coverage for Truck Drivers in Texas
All drivers in Texas are required to carry insurance coverage for their vehicles. The Texas Department of Transportation and the FMCSA require commercial trucking companies to maintain a minimum liability insurance coverage for all registered vehicles. These insurance coverages include coverage against bodily injury, property damage, and more. The coverage does differ if the driver is driving interstate or intrastate, as well as guidelines for coverage for intrastate truck drivers and what kind of cargo they are hauling. Intrastate trucks carrying household goods will have a minimum coverage between $300,000 to $500,000 for trucks weighing less than 26,000 pounds and more than 26,000 pounds, respectively.
Safeguarding Cargo Rules and DOT Weight Regulations in Texas
Whenever cargo is loaded on a truck for transport in Texas, the law states that the driver must properly inspect the load and make sure that it is properly distributed. It’s also their responsibility to know the weight of the load and ensure that it’s not overloaded. Under the law in Texas, truck drivers are responsible for knowing the gross vehicle weight rating, the gross combination weight rating, the axle weight, the tire load, and the coupling device capacity. The maximum gross weight for a truck and cargo load in Texas is 80,000 pounds, and the maximum weight on a single axle is 20,000 pounds. There are exceptions, however, such as a tandem axle group that can have up to 34,000 pounds if permitted.
Regulations on Transporting Hazardous Materials in Texas
When truck drivers are transporting hazardous materials in the state of Texas, drivers are required to follow the safety standards established by the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety. Any individual who suffers injuries due to the truck driver’s failure to fulfill the conditions for their load will be eligible to make a claim against the driver, the trucking company and the entity responsible for transporting the hazardous materials. Trucks in Texas specifically designed or used for hazardous material transport must carry a minimum insurance coverage of between $1,000,000 to $5,000,000.
All trucks that travel in Texas must have specific markings on the outside of the vehicle. These markings include hazmat markings, their USDOT number, and other necessary identification details. These markings are not specific to Texas but regulated by the FMCSA. Failure to correctly identify these markings can lead to claims against the truck driver and the trucking company.
Texas Commercial Trucking Insurance Requirements
Truck drivers and commercial trucking companies that operate in Texas are required by the Texas Department of Transportation and the FMCSA to carry a minimum liability insurance coverage for every one of the vehicles that they have registered, as well as coverage against property damage and bodily injury. Under the Texas Administrative Code, the minimum coverage amount for trucks is $300,000 and $500,000 for trucks weighing less than 26,000 pounds and more than 26,000 pounds, respectively. Trucks that travel interstate are required to have a minimum coverage amount between $750,000 and $5,000,000, depending on what type of hazardous material they are designed to carry or are carrying in their load.
Trucks designed to carry hazardous materials must have a minimum coverage amount of between $1,000,000 to $5,000,000, with the exact amount depending on the materials being transported. General trucks, which don’t fall under the category of either hazardous material transport or home goods transport, must carry a minimum coverage amount of $750,000 in Texas. If trucks that operate in Texas fail to meet the coverage requirements, it can result in a loss of registration.
How much can someone sue for a truck accident in Texas?
The amount of money someone can sue for after a commercial truck accident in Texas depends on several factors. Medical costs can most likely be recouped after an accident, but Texas does allow victims to sue for economic and non-economic damages. These include:
Lost capacity to earn
Damage to property
Emotional adversity (stress, emotional suffering, loss of enjoyment of life)
Medical assisting tools (wheelchairs, walkers, etc.)
Future care costs (therapy, surgeries, etc.)
The amount of money depends on insurance coverage and other factors that play into the accident, such as failure to comply with specific laws and practices.
The Statute of Limitations in Texas
In the majority of trucking accident cases, the statute of limitations to file a civil claim in Texas is two years from the date of the accident.
Based on the Texas Consumer Bill of Rights, an insurance company has to approve or deny a claim made in writing within 45 days after the claim was made. Reporting a truck accident as soon as possible is the best practice for victims, as it makes for a faster investigation and could even lead to a quicker payout time. This does not mean that the case must be solved within the two-year timeframe, but it does mean that you must have your paperwork filed and have an open case within the two-year statute.
The two-year statute allows victims the time to properly calculate the cost of their damages and build a strong case against the offending party. It’s very important to gather and preserve as much evidence as possible after the accident. It’s crucial to contact the police to have them present to make an accident report and get the driver’s information and any witnesses present at the time of the accident. You should also take pictures of any injuries that may occur from the accident, especially if they are serious or life-threatening.
There are stipulations to the statute of limitations in Texas for trucking accidents, though. For instance, if the victim of the accident is suing for an accident that involves a Texas government entity or a Texas government employee, the victim must file their case within six months of the date of the accident.
Is Texas a no-fault state?
No, the state of Texas is not a no-fault state. Texas is one of 38 at-fault states. This means that the party that is found to be at fault for at least 50% of an accident is responsible for the compensation of the injured party. For more information, read more here.
Legal Resources for Texas Trucking Accident Victims
If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident with a commercial truck in the state of Texas, please refer to the following legal resources to help answer any questions or concerns regarding the accident. Any accident can be traumatic, and finding the right legal advice or representation for yourself can make a big difference in your life after a trucking accident.
TexasTruckingLaw.org is a very helpful and insightful resource for any information regarding trucking laws in Texas. The site features an informative guide to truck accident laws in Texas, the different types of trucking accidents, the most common truck accidents, statistics about Texas trucking accidents, as well as a multitude of additional information. The website features resources for finding legal representation, FAQs on trucking accidents, information about the laws in the state, and information on trucking regulations in Texas. Find out more about the legal information you need on their website here.
Enjuris.com is a legal resource website created by personal injury attorneys across the country. Their website features insights and information for personal injury accident representation for a number of states, including Texas. They have several guides with information regarding commercial trucking accidents in Texas, a lawyer directory, insurance claim information, accident stories, and a guide to personal injury law. The website also features free printable forms for accident victims to use if needed. To learn more information about the services and information they offer to truck accident victims, visit their website here.
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