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Understanding How Inexperienced Truckers Cause Truck Accidents

Experience matters when operating a commercial 18-wheeler

Commercial truck accidents involving semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, delivery trucks, tanker trucks, and other large vehicles often occur due to inexperienced truck drivers, according to several truck safety studies and truck accident statistics.

This probably explains why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) took a tough stance and recently denied two requests from truck driver training schools to allow less experienced truck drivers to teach new truck drivers, according to a Land Line article.

So why do inexperienced truck drivers cause collisions? What makes them so dangerous? And what legal options are available for people injured in an accident caused by an inexperienced trucker? You can learn more about all these topics below. And if you need legal assistance, contact a Houston truck accident lawyer at Smith & Hassler, Attorneys at Law.

Education requirements for truck drivers to obtain a CDL

To legally operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), a truck driver must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The FMCSA has numerous requirements for obtaining a CDL. Many of these CDL requirements can be found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, along with specific requirements unique to Texas commercial truck drivers listed in the Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook.

In order to obtain a CDL, drivers must first get a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) for at least 14 days. To get a CLP, drivers must pass a written exam. Afterward, in order to obtain a CDL, drivers must pass additional written exams and a road skills test in the type of commercial motor vehicle they will be driving.

There are three types of CDLs based on the type of commercial vehicle:

  • Class A CDL – Commercial trucks with a gross vehicle combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more and tow a trailer that weighs at least 10,000 pounds. This includes tractor-trailers, livestock carriers, and flatbed trucks.
  • Class B CDL – Commercial trucks that weigh at least 26,000 pounds and do not have a trailer. This includes dump trucks, box trucks, and many buses.
  • Class C CDL – Commercial trucks that weigh less than 26,000 pounds, have a trailer that weighs less than 10,000 pounds, or the vehicle is transporting more than 16 people. This often includes buses, tanker trucks, and HazMat vehicles.

There are many other requirements for obtaining a CDL, including:

  • Driver must have a valid non-commercial driver’s license.
  • If only driving in one state, the driver must be at least 18 years old.
  • If driving interstate, the driver must be at least 21.
  • Driver must be able to speak and read English (for instance, to understand road signs).

How often do inexperienced truck drivers cause collisions?

Inexperience often plays a significant role in many commercial truck accidents. For example, one study conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech found that inexperienced truck drivers often caused more collisions, regardless of the age of a new driver.

“Generally speaking, the first year of driving a CMV is riskier in terms of crash rates, crash involvement, and moving violations, regardless of age,” Virginia Tech researchers wrote based on an analysis of the driving records of 9,000 commercial truck drivers. “Thus, motor carriers may want to focus on driver training, including engaging older, experienced drivers in driver mentoring programs to share their knowledge with inexperienced CMV drivers.”

Why do inexperienced truckers cause accidents?

Inexperienced commercial truck drivers often cause collisions involving other vehicles for many reasons. But, in general, these drivers cause crashes because they don’t have the knowledge or skills to assess potential risks or hazards on the road properly. Examples include:

  • Truck drivers who follow other vehicles too closely, especially at highway speeds, and then don’t have time to slow down to avoid a collision.
  • Speeding truck drivers who drive too fast, especially during hazardous weather conditions.
  • Truck drivers who misjudge how to safely turn or stop a truck, especially when exiting a highway, resulting in a rollover or jackknife accident on a sharp curve.
  • Not knowing how to properly inspect a truck or ensure it’s safe to drive.
  • Drivers who do not properly maintain their trucks, resulting in a collision caused by poor truck maintenance.

Who’s responsible for paying for truck accidents caused by inexperienced drivers?

Collisions caused by commercial truck drivers are different than other motor vehicle accidents for many reasons. This includes who’s responsible for compensating victims. Unlike other motor vehicle accidents, there might be more than one at-fault party in a commercial truck accident caused by an inexperienced trucker, including but not limited to:

  • The truck driver who caused the collision.
  • The trucking company that the driver works for, especially if the trucking company knowingly hired an inexperienced truck driver.
  • The company that loaded the truck, especially if the truck driver failed to inspect the cargo after it was loaded to verify that it was safe to drive.
  • The insurance companies for each individual or business.
  • A third party, such as the driver of another vehicle involved in the accident

Can truck accident injury victims sue the driver?

In many cases, injury victims can file a lawsuit against the inexperienced trucker who caused their accident. However, there are many decisions truck accident injury victims need to make before filing a lawsuit.

Such choices include where to file the lawsuit. Injury victims often have several options concerning where to take legal action. Such choices may include the court that has jurisdiction over:

  • Where the truck accident took place.
  • Where the injury victim lives.
  • Where the truck driver lives.
  • Where the trucking company is located.

In addition, injury victims might want to file a lawsuit against someone other than the truck driver or in addition to the truck driver.

Should I file a lawsuit or accept a settlement offer?

In many cases, truck accident victims receive a financial settlement offer. Such offers might be tempting because victims often have many bills and expenses. However, it’s important to understand what a settlement offer means.

If you choose to accept a settlement offer for your truck accident, your injury claim is finalized, and you cannot request any additional money in the future. That’s because you agreed to settle your case in exchange for not asking for more money, even if your injury-related expenses increase significantly.

This is important to consider since many settlement offers do not accurately reflect the total financial impact of a serious truck accident. This is why many injury victims file a lawsuit seeking damages (financial compensation) rather than accepting a lowball settlement offer.

How much is my truck accident claim worth?

There’s no pre-determined dollar amount for a truck accident claim. However, you should be compensated for all past, present, and future anticipated expenses related to your accident. This is because Texas has an at-fault motor vehicle insurance system. That means the at-fault party should pay for all damages, including but not limited to:

  • The cost of all medical care for the victim, including follow-up doctor’s appointments and future surgical procedures.
  • The cost of repairing or replacing your damaged vehicle.
  • Replacement income if you cannot work while recovering from your injury.
  • Future income if you cannot return to work or can only work in a limited capacity due to a permanent disability.
  • Home care or assistance at home due to your injury.
  • Modifications to your home if you sustain a permanent disability due to your accident.

Add all these expenses, and your truck accident lawsuit or injury claim could be significant.

How can a Texas truck accident lawyer help?

Truck accident claims and lawsuits in Texas often quickly turn into complicated legal cases. This is because there’s usually a lot at stake and more than one at-fault party responsible for financially compensating you.

Your legal case might be even more complex because the inexperienced trucker who caused your accident was from another state or country or did not have a valid CDL.

Whatever the circumstances of your case, the Houston truck attorneys at Smith & Hassler, Attorneys at Law can help you find your way forward. We know the state and federal laws that apply to commercial truck accidents in Texas. That’s why we have a strong track record of success, including $1.3 million obtained for crash victims injured by an 18-wheeler driver. Case results matter here.

Learn more about your legal rights. Contact our law firm and schedule a free case evaluation. We have four offices in and near Houston. We also work on a contingency fee basis. That means you pay no fees unless we win your case.

Click here to download a printable PDF version of this article, "Understanding How Inexperienced Truckers Cause Truck Accidents."

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