If you've been in an accident with a drunk commercial truck driver, you'd think your case would be open and shut quickly. The truck driver was breaking a very serious law, so they should have to pay the penalty, right?
As a Texas personal injury lawyer who's been handling commercial drunk driving incidents for years, I have sad news. No, it's not always that simple. It is not uncommon to see the big rig driver's trucking company hire attorneys to avoid having to pay a large sum of money to the injured victims of the car accident, which is why you need a legal team on your side.
Suing a Trucking Company for a Drunk Driving Accident
When it comes to auto wrecks caused by drunk big rig drivers, there's often a lot of money at stake - sometimes tens of thousands of dollars; money to cover the damage of the victim's wrecked vehicle, ambulance charges, emergency room visits, surgery, physical therapy, lost wages, pain, suffering, and the list goes on.
If you've been hurt in a Texas traffic collision caused by a drunk CDL driver, you should know that the trucking company (and their insurance provider) won't give that money up easily.
Even if the big rig driver was clearly at fault for the wreck, the trucking insurance company will try to minimize it's losses by paying out as little as possible - or nothing at all. They'll try to blame the victim or downplay their trucker's role in the accident. They care about their bottom line, and they'll do whatever they can to protect it.
My first piece of advice to you: never attempt to deal with the motor carrier or their insurance company alone. Always make sure that you consult with an experienced Fort Worth truck accident injury lawyer first.
Who's Liable in a Texas Drunk Driving Accident?
In addition to facing criminal charges, any intoxicated motorist who causes a collision can also be sued in civil court for damages related to the accident. This allows the injury victim to recover compensation for medical care necessitated by injuries, as well as various other damages.
However, in the case where a commercial vehicle was driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol, the driver’s employer can also be held responsible. This is known as vicarious liability. The law clearly states that employers are responsible for their employees’ actions while they are on the job.
This is beneficial to injury victims of DWI truck wrecks since commercial shipping companies are required to carry much more insurance than individual drivers. With more money available, it's likely that injury victims can recover adequate compensation.
Additionally, a claim might be possible against the liquor store, bar or restaurant that supplied the drunk truck driver with alcohol. Texas’ Dram Shop Law is designed to hold businesses responsible for selling alcohol to an already intoxicated person.
The Law Concerning Alcohol-Related Truck Accidents in Texas
All newly hired drivers are required to undergo drug and alcohol testing. The new employer must also contact the driver's prior employer to ensure they had no record of alcohol violations within the past six months.
Per FMCSA regulations, a professional truck driver is prohibited from consuming alcohol within 4 hours of going on duty or being physically in control of operating a commercial vehicle (such as a semi-truck, 18-wheeler or tractor-trailer).
Trucking companies must prohibit drivers from operating a vehicle if it appears that they've drank beer, wine or any form of liquor within the past 4 hours. Drivers suspected of this must be placed on a 24-hour out-of-service period.
The official drunk driving limit for commercial truck drivers is a blood alcohol content of 0.04. (That's half the legal limit for regular civilians).
If an employer suspects that one of their employees has violated any of these rules, they have an obligation to test that driver. Tests must be given within two hours of the suspected violation.
Prescription Drugs, Narcotics and Other Controlled Substances
Naturally, there are similar rules in place to prevent commercial truck drivers from getting behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs, medicines and other controlled substances.
Drivers are prohibited from working if under the influence of any controlled substances. Truckers must follow the advice of their physician, especially when taking prescription drugs that could hurt their ability to drive.
Sometimes, motor carrier companies make it company policy for all their drivers to disclose any therapeutic drug use required for a medical condition.
How Can You Tell if the Trucker Was Drunk When They Hit You?
Anytime a professional commercial truck driver is involved in a wreck, they're required to undergo drug and alcohol testing, even if there was no sign that they'd been driving under the influence.
If the alcohol test is not conducted by the trucker’s employer within two hours, a written record must be prepared to indicate why this failure occurred. Testing must be completed no later than 8 hours following the wreck. Controlled substance testing must be completed with 32 hours of the collision.
This is important to a victims case: If a test isn't given, it's assumed that the employer is trying to cover up their driver's impairment and guilt.
Dallas-Fort Worth Truck Accident Injury Lawyer
If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Texas truck wreck, it is critical that you seek a free, no obligation consultation with a board certified attorney who is experienced in handling large truck wreck claims. Contact the Anderson Law Firm today. Call toll free from anywhere at 800-354-6275 or locally in Fort Worth at 817-294-1900.
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