Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyers in Waco, Texas
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When commercial vehicle drivers are negligent, they harm not only themselves but also other drivers on the road who exercised the appropriate level of care. Waco commercial vehicle accident lawyers help those who are victims to the carelessness of commercial vehicle drivers. We understand how devastating such an accident can be to the victim, often changing the victim’s life forever.
As we will see, there are several kinds of commercial vehicles, and there are also steps that drivers must take to be permitted to drive commercial vehicles. We will also discuss how under certain circumstances, an employer has to take responsibility for an employee’s negligent driving.
What is a commercial vehicle?
According to a safety manual distributed by the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas, a commercial vehicle is a self-propelled or towed vehicle, other than a farm vehicle, with a gross weight, registered weight, or gross weight rating under 48,000 pounds, that is used on a public highway to transport passengers or cargo. If the vehicle is used to transport people, it must be designed to transport more than 15 people. The vehicle or combination of vehicles should meet a minimum weight of 26,000 pounds if it is not transporting more than 15 people or hazardous material.
While that description helps technically define what a commercial vehicle is, it is more helpful to have some examples:
- Box trucks
- Pickup trucks
- Travel trailers
When we discuss commercial vehicle accidents, we will primarily be talking about accidents involving semi-trucks. These wrecks can be catastrophic and, unfortunately, relatively common.
What Causes Waco truck accidents?
While it is possible for anyone to be involved in a car accident, certain situations render commercial vehicle drivers particularly vulnerable. First, since it is their job to drive, commercial vehicle drivers are more likely to be on the road during hazardous weather conditions. Second, the temptation to continue driving while fatigued is extremely difficult to resist.
For this reason, there are federal laws intended to stop drivers from driving while fatigued. Those laws limit the number of consecutive hours that truck drivers may be on the road without taking rest breaks. However, some trucking companies still encourage their workers to sleep as little as possible in order to make deadlines.
Next, some trucking companies fail to regularly inspect or maintain vehicles. They might fail to implement safe loading procedures, such as by loading a vehicle with too much weight. This can cause trailer swaying or whipping.
Finally, commercial vehicle drivers are also subject to the same distractions and obstacles as other drivers on the road. They can be distracted by talking on the phone or eating, or they might come across construction that is confusing to navigate. Also, commercial vehicle drivers could cause accidents by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or could otherwise fail to follow the rules of the road.
What are the requirements for being a commercial vehicle driver?
A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is the most clear-cut requirement for commercial vehicle drivers. On top of that, there are several requirements that a driver must meet in order to obtain a CDL; this creates many levels at which the driver or his or her employer may have been negligent. We will discuss the elements of negligence more later in this article so that you can decide with your Waco injury attorney whether that theory is appropriate in your case.
Types of CDLs
Applicants for CDLs in Texas must first know the type of CDL they wish to obtain, and they must only drive the vehicle appropriate for the class of CDL they obtain.
The three classes of CDLs include
- Class A, which allows the driver to tow vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds;
- Class B, which allows the driver to tow vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds and to drive vehicles designed to transport 24 or more passengers; and
- Class C, which allows the driver to drive vehicles designed to transport 16 to 23 passengers or to transport hazardous waste.
Get a Commercial Learner’s Permit
To get a commercial learner permit in Texas, a driver must first have a valid Texas driver’s license. Then, the applicant must provide proof of the following:
- Citizenship or lawful presence for the United States
- Texas residency (for example, a bill to your home address)
- Social security number
- Self-certified medical status to show that the applicant is physically fit to drive
- The registration of the vehicle the driver will drive
- The insurance of the vehicle the driver will drive
Apply for a CDL
Once the applicant obtains a learner permit, then he or she can apply for a CDL. This involves an appointment with the local driver license office with the documentation of proof of U.S. citizenship (or lawful residence), Texas residency, identity, and social security number. Then, the applicant must also pay the application fee, provide his or her thumbprints, and have his or her picture taken.
Pass the Physical Requirements
Even though the applicant personally certifies his or her health to the best of his or her knowledge, there can be additional physical requirements that applicants must pass in order to obtain a CDL. One such physical requirement involves passing a vision exam.
Pass the Knowledge Requirements
Next, applicants must pass the appropriate tests to prove their knowledge of the driving laws and regulations of Texas and the United States. The pieces of the knowledge tests that Texas CDL applicants must pass include sections covering:
- Texas Commercial Rules
- General Knowledge
- Combination License Restrictions (for a Class A CDL)
- Air Brakes (if applicable)
Pass the Skill Requirements
Once the applicant has passed the knowledge requirements, the driver must show that he or she has the skill to drive the vehicle that he or she plans to use the CDL to drive. This involves a test examiner who looks at the vehicle to make sure that the vehicle is in suitable condition and that the vehicle is of the class of CDL that the driver is trying to obtain.
Then, the driver shows his or her control of the vehicle, answering questions about the vehicle’s features. Finally, the driver shows the examiner his or her understanding of the rules of the road pertaining to the vehicle.
Get the Correct Endorsements
We have discussed classes of CDLs that allow a driver to operate a Class A, B, or C commercial vehicle. The driver must also get the appropriate endorsements for the type of commercial vehicle or the item the driver is transporting.
The following is a lift of available endorsements:
- for transporting hazardous materials (H endorsement)
- for operating a tank vehicle (N endorsement)
- a combination of the H endorsement and the N endorsement (X endorsement)
- for driving a school bus (S endorsement)
- for driving a vehicle designed to carry a specific number of passengers (P endorsement)
- for towing a double or triple trailer (T endorsement)
Some endorsements require an additional knowledge test and some require additional skills tests, too. The more steps there are involved in the commercial driver’s qualification, the more chances there are that the driver or the driver’s employer were negligent at some stage. Talk to an accident lawyer to see if you can investigate whether the commercial driver who crashed into you was negligently hired or was negligent because he or she did not pass all of the required testing.
What are the legal theories in commercial vehicle cases?
The overarching legal theory in commercial vehicle cases will often be one of negligence. This means that the victim of the commercial vehicle crash must prove the following:
- The commercial vehicle driver owed the victim a duty of care.
- The commercial vehicle driver breached his or her duty of care to the victim.
- The victim sustained an injury of the kind for which he or she can receive compensation.
- The victim’s injury was caused by the commercial vehicle driver.
If the commercial vehicle driver was the employee of a company and acting as an employee at the time of the crash, then the doctrine of respondeat superior may apply. In that case, the employer stands in place of the commercial vehicle driver under the negligence doctrine, meaning that the employer owed the victim a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused the victim’s compensable injury.
Standard of the Duty of Care
There is a legal duty of care when the tortfeasor—the one who caused the harm—should have prevented some foreseeable harm to the victim. For example, store owners owe a standard of care to their customers by keeping the floor clear, providing warnings of slick spots on the floor, and removing obstacles that could foreseeably cause injuries to store patrons. Doctors owe a professional standard of care to patients by staying within the average expectations of the care a doctor would be expected to provide within a particular medical field.
Drivers on the road typically are expected to take the amount of care that a reasonable person would take in preventing foreseeable harm by following general traffic laws. They are expected to signal when changing lanes, and adjust speeds and braking time for changes in the weather.
Truckers and other commercial vehicle drivers are held to standards of care beyond those expected of typical drivers in that they must perform regular maintenance checks and proper loading procedures for their vehicles. As we discussed regarding the causes of commercial vehicle accidents, drivers must also get enough sleep to ensure that they are not driving while fatigued. Drivers or companies who fail to maintain the industry standards of care will have breached the standard of care and may have been negligent.
The Victim’s Injury
The next set of elements that the victim must prove in a negligence claim pertain to the victim’s injury. The injury must be one for which the plaintiff can receive compensation. For example, the plaintiff’s injury cannot only be the fear the plaintiff felt when the commercial vehicle driver cut him off. Usually, a physical injury will suffice to show that the victim deserves to receive compensation.
Finally, the person the victim sues must have caused the injury the victim sustained. The victim of a Waco truck accident, for example, cannot sue a commercial vehicle driver’s employer if the commercial vehicle driver was not working for the employer when the accident occurred.
When the Employer Is Liable
The commercial vehicle driver’s employer must take responsibility for the driver if the driver was working at the time of the accident. Additionally, there are other ways that the employer can be negligent.
One way the employer may have been negligent is if he or she negligently hired the driver. Earlier, we discussed many of the steps that drivers must take to obtain a CDL, and if the driver has not met one or some of those steps, he or she may not be qualified to drive—or may not be qualified to operate the specific type of commercial vehicle he or she was driving. The employer may have hired someone who failed those tests or has a messy driving record.
Another way that the employer may have been negligent is by failing to enforce restrictions on the number of consecutive hours employees can drive. The employer might also poorly trained its employees on how to properly load and maintain company vehicles.
Call the zinda law group Waco Commercial Vehicle Accident lawyers for compassionate guidance
You likely expect that there should be a heightened standard for a commercial vehicle driver, and to an extent, that is true. Unfortunately, commercial vehicle drivers make human mistakes when they are fatigued or distracted.
Talk to a Waco injury lawyer to see what standard of care the commercial vehicle driver should have been held to in your case and whether the driver breached that standard of care. Your lawyer can estimate the standard of care based on the CDL requirements, the employer’s requirements, and other pieces of evidence of the standard of care.
Perhaps you are still wondering, “Is there an affordable injury lawyer near me?” or “Should I even reach out to a personal injury attorney near me?” When you talk to our Waco accident lawyers, not only will we use our experience to help you determine how to proceed, but we will also take your goals into account.
For example, some clients prioritize wrapping up litigation as quickly as possible, while other clients do not want to end the suit unless they have obtained as much compensation as possible. Our attorneys understand both of these perspectives and can let clients know the pros and cons of either approach in your unique case.
You have nothing to lose by talking to a Zinda Law Group Waco injury attorney, since we offer a free consultation. You can tell the Waco injury lawyer your story and hear his or her initial thoughts about your case.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.