Truck drivers who drive while intoxicated greatly increase their likelihood of causing a severe accident. Large commercial tractor-trailer vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when they are fully loaded with cargo, so the force of the impact when a large truck collides with a 3,000-pound vehicle can be catastrophic.
If you have been in a truck accident caused by a drunk or drugged truck driver, you may be entitled to compensation to cover costs related to the accident, such as medical expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering.
At the Loewy Law Firm, we understand that truck accidents can be devastating, even life-altering. We will use every available resource to help you seek the compensation you deserve. Our seasoned Austin truck accident attorneys will immediately get to work conducting a comprehensive investigation of the accident, collecting relevant evidence, and ultimately, pursuing a fair settlement on your behalf.
Contact us today to learn about your rights and legal options when a reckless, impaired truck driver causes you harm. We’ll help you determine your best path forward.
The Dangers of Drunk and Drugged Driving
According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were approximately 4,800 large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2018. Among the drivers of those trucks, 4.6 percent had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 percent or higher, while 3.1 percent had a BAC that was at or exceeded the normal legal limit in most states, .08 percent.
Although .08 percent is the legal limit for most motorists, because truck accidents are so dangerous, the FMCSA has established that the legal limit for truck drivers is .04 percent. So, a truck driver driving with a BAC of .04 percent or greater is considered to be driving under the influence.
Texas law has also established that truck drivers may not have a BAC of higher than 0.4 percent. Texas law has additionally outlawed the use of narcotics and other chemical substances while driving a large commercial vehicle.
Even truck drivers with a small amount of alcohol in their system can cause devastating accidents. Driving while drunk or drugged may trigger:
- Delayed reaction time when encountering road hazards
- Impairment of judgment and ability to concentrate
- Reckless driving behavior that endangers other motorists
The Responsibility of the Trucking Company
Trucking companies have a legal responsibility to conduct extensive alcohol and drug testing of their drivers. The FMCSA requires that trucking companies test their drivers before they hire them, at random intervals throughout the year to ensure compliance, anytime a driver is involved in a collision, and anytime the trucking company has reason to suspect that the driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
FMCSA regulations also mandate that trucking companies take truck drivers off the road if they test positive for a BAC of 0.04 or higher, or if a blood/urine test reveals the presence of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, PCP, or opiates.
How Do You Prove a Driver Was Intoxicated?
Law enforcement will typically conduct an investigation of the accident if a large truck driver is alleged to have been drunk or drugged at the time of an accident. Truck drivers will typically be required to complete a breathalyzer test, blood test, or urine test, which can provide powerful evidence of culpability if a driver was indeed intoxicated. Drivers may incur serious consequences for refusing to comply with law enforcement.
If a breath, blood, and/or urine test provides evidence that a truck driver was drunk or drugged at the time of the accident, you and your attorney can use that evidence as proof that the driver’s intoxication caused the accident.
Even if the truck driver is not eventually criminally convicted for driving while intoxicated, you can still hold them liable in civil court using evidence collected by law enforcement. Your attorney may also collect evidence such as receipts showing alcohol purchases, credit card statements, and statements from any bystanders who may have witnessed the accident. Additionally, there may be witnesses who may have seen the driver drinking or taking drugs prior to the accident.
Injuries Caused by Truck Drivers Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Being impacted by a large commercial truck can result in life-altering and even fatal injuries. Some of the most common injuries caused by drunk and drugged truck drivers include:
- Traumatic brain injury – Traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) are usually caused by a violent blow to the head. TBI’s can range in severity from minor concussions to life-threatening hematomas. Immediate or delayed symptoms of TBI’s include cognitive and behavioral changes, slurred speech, blurred vision, difficulty focusing, brain bleeding, skull fractures, seizures, severe and persistent headaches, and much more. These types of injuries may not immediately show themselves but often require emergency care.
- Internal injuries – Internal injuries can be life-threatening, although they are not always immediately obvious. Common internal injuries include a ruptured spleen, ruptured kidneys, ruptured liver, ruptured diaphragm, punctured lungs, hematomas, and internal bleeding. Many internal injuries require immediate medical attention.
- Spinal damage – Pinched nerves, herniated discs, and fractured vertebrae are just a few of the spinal cord injuries that can occur because of a truck accident. The spinal cord is one of the body’s most important structures, carrying neurons from the brain to the rest of the central nervous system, and an injury to the spinal cord can cause permanent mobility issues.
- Paralysis – If the spinal cord is broken or transected, paralysis can occur below the site of the injury. Depending on where the spinal injury occurs, paralysis could occur in the lower limbs or from the neck down.
- Broken/fractured bones – It is incredibly common to suffer broken or fractured bones in a truck accident, including broken ribs, which can be particularly dangerous as they can puncture the lungs, creating a dangerous internal puncture wound. Broken and fractured bones sometimes require surgery to repair and may take many months to fully recover from.
- Soft-tissue damage – Soft-tissue damage often occurs when tendons, ligaments, or muscles below the skin are torn or damaged in an accident. Whiplash is a common type of soft-tissue injury that occurs in the shoulders and neck, often when a driver is rear-ended. Whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries may not be immediately apparent after a crash, which is why it is important to seek medical care immediately.
- Burns – Burns can cause permanent disfigurement and scarring to the skin. If a motorist is exposed to any hazardous chemicals or fire in a truck accident, they can easily sustain burns.
Compensation for a Truck Accident
You may be entitled to recover compensation if you are the victim of an accident involving a drunk or drugged truck driver. Compensation is designed to cover expenses related to the accident, including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income if you are unable to work as you recover
- Lost earning potential if a disability prevents you from returning to work
- Property damage, such as damage to your vehicle
- Non-economic damages, including pain and suffering
When drunk or drugged truck drivers cause accidents, it is possible that a judge may award punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are designed to “punish” the driver (and/or other at-fault parties) for excessively reckless behavior.
Contact an Austin Truck Accident Lawyer
If you have been in an auto accident caused by a drunk or drugged truck driver in the Austin area, you need the experienced truck accident attorneys at the Loewy Law Firm on your side.
We will move quickly to collect vital evidence, such as the truck driver’s blood and urine tests, which can provide vital proof of the driver’s BAC prior to the accident. We will also conduct a full, independent investigation to determine whether any other parties might be liable for the accident.
Our skilled attorneys will aggressively pursue compensation on your behalf, and if a fair settlement cannot be reached, we will fight for your case in court. Call us today at (512) 280-0800 or contact us online for a free consultation.