Those who have been involved in a truck accident are fully aware of the trauma involved, both in the collision itself as well as in the aftermath of injuries and damages. An 80,000 pound loaded truck can—and does—do immense damage to the much smaller passenger vehicles involved in the accident. In fact, the vast majority of fatalities in truck accidents are the occupants of the passenger vehicle rather than the driver of the large commercial truck.
The Fatigued Driver
Studies show that a significant number of truck wrecks involve an overly fatigued truck driver. Despite federal mandates which prohibit truck drivers from driving more than eleven hours within a fourteen-hour period with a following ten hour rest period, drivers routinely exceed those limits. Truck drivers only get paid when they are actually driving so are willing to bend the rules in order to receive a paycheck which is large enough to support their families. Trucking companies are interested in their quarterly financials so they too have little motivation to insist their drivers adhere to a safer driving schedule. The quicker the turnaround on load deliveries, the more money everyone involved makes. The question is, at what cost? Exhausted truckers sharing the road with all other drivers can lead to tragic consequences.
The Complexities of Trucking Accidents
It can be extremely beneficial for those involved in a truck collision to seek legal guidance; trucking accidents are extremely complex as there are many potential parties who may be held responsible. Perhaps the truck driver was driving while fatigued, distracted, or even driving recklessly. The trucking company could be at fault for sending an inexperienced or poorly trained truck driver out onto the road or for failing to perform a proper background check on the driver. The manufacturer of the truck could be held liable if the truck or a part on the truck is found to be defective or the company who is responsible for maintenance could be responsible for the accident. Even the loading company could be liable for the accident if the truck was improperly loaded or the cargo was not secured and the accident was a direct result of those actions (or inactions).
Seeking Punitive Damages Following a Houston Truck Accident
Aside from a lawsuit which will pay the victim for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering which resulted from the accident, punitive damages may also be sought. Truck wreck punitive damages can increase the value of the case, especially when uncertainties exist regarding liability or proof of damages. Punitive damages can be asserted when there was an action on the part of any of the defendants which could be construed as malicious, reckless or willful. Any action which exhibited reckless indifference to the rights of the victim could also subject the defendant(s) to punitive damages.
In particular, the lack of training provided to the truck driver by the trucking company could warrant punitive damages, as could proof that a driver who had exceeded the hours of service directly caused the accident. The goal of punitive damages is to punish a person or entity for their behavior when that behavior displayed blatant disregard for the health, safety and wellbeing of others. Punitive damages are also intended to deter future negligent or reckless behaviors. Those who believe their accident was not only a result of negligence but also actions which were malicious or reckless may want to consult with their Houston truck accident lawyer in order to determine what the best course of action will be.