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When you are in a car wreck, you will almost always know the date you were injured because, by their very nature, car wrecks are sudden and obvious events. But what happens when you are exposed to dangerous chemicals and the symptoms don’t show up until years later? Or what happens if a doctor leaves a foreign object in your body after surgery and you don’t discover it until years later? In these cases, courts will give you a reasonable time to file your lawsuit after you discovered that you have a claim for damages. There are at least two primary ways to keep the statute of limitations open when the injured person does not know they have a claim: (1) the Discovery Rule and (2) Fraudulent Concealment.
The Discovery Rule
The discovery rule exists in case where you could not reasonably be expected to learn that you were injured by someone else’s actions. For example, you may have known that you were exposed to a chemical, but you did not know that you were injured until after the two-years expired. In that case, courts will give you a reasonable time to file suit – not necessarily a full 2 years, but enough time to hire a lawyer and get your lawsuit on file.
In the law, there is a difference between simply keeping quiet about your own negligence and actively deceiving others about your mistakes. For example, if a doctor makes a mistake during surgery and then lies to the patient about what happened, he may have committed fraudulent concealment that could extend the statute of limitations until the victim learns or should have learned that they have a claim. This sounds a lot like the discovery rule, but it is actually different. With the discovery rule, the focus is on whether the Plaintiff’s injury was undiscoverable. In contrast, with fraudulent concealment, the victim knows that she has been injured, but the wrongdoer has actively concealed his mistake or misconduct. Thus, with fraudulent concealment, the focus is on whether the wrongdoing was actively concealed.
Children cannot bring suit in their own name until they become an adult. Parents and certain other adults can bring suit on behalf of a minor child, but they do not always do so. What happens if the adults do not protect the child’s case? The Texas Constitution protects children in this circumstance and by preventing the statute of limitations from starting until the child turns 18 years old. For example, if a 10-year old girl is injured in an accident and nobody files suit to protect her rights, she has until two years after her 18th birthday to file suit.
18-wheelers are monstrous vehicles. A loaded 18-wheeler will weigh between 60 and 80,000 pounds. That is 20 times the weight of an average passenger vehicle. And when you are talking about damage to a car or to the people inside, it is not just the speed of the vehicle, it is the momentum. And when you are talking about 60 to 80,000 pounds, it will just crush a passenger car.
These 18-wheelers kill and maim people every day. Government studies show that 18-wheelers account for only 4% of the vehicles on the road, but they are involved in one in eight of the traffic fatalities. When you are on the road, be mindful of the 18-wheelers because they can be really dangerous.
Well, they are usually a lot more complex, and they have a lot more issues. For example, you are going to need an expert witness almost all the time, usually more than one. You are going to want to evaluate the rig itself. It is very important to examine the vehicle, the 18-wheeler.
You want to check the tires to make sure they are not overly worn, you want to make sure the brakes are in the right settings. Essentially you want to make sure that the vehicle should have been in service, so you look at the maintenance records, for example. And you also want to make sure that the load was secured so that it wasn’t sliding around as that could be the cause of the accident. None of that is relevant in a typical car wreck case, most of the time.
In an 18-wheeler case, a truck accident lawyer really needs to be involved in enough of the details to know when an expert is trying to deceive them. They don’t have to know all the science but they have to be willing to learn it so that they can be conversant with the experts. They have to know the rig, they have to know the regulations and they have to know the science.
I had a case one time where an 18-wheeler killed four people. The expert that the other side had hired calculated the speed of the 18-wheeler at something that was very disadvantageous to our case. And we knew that he was wrong, but my expert couldn’t figure out what he had done wrong. So, I went out and bought the textbook that the expert had used when he was in college. I read the whole thing, some of it multiple times until we found it. The expert from the other side had used the wrong formula, wherein the right formula would have had a very different speed for an 18-wheeler. I confronted that expert in open court in front of the judge, and the judge threw out the expert and all of his testimony as nonscientific and it turned the whole case. So, you have to have a truck accident lawyer that is willing to get into the details, get into the science and if he doesn’t know, he is willing to learn it. Because on these kinds of cases where the stakes are high, there is no telling what the other side will do.
In an 18-wheeler accident, it is very important that the family and the person who is injured, call a truck accident lawyer whose got a team of experts immediately. There is a lot of evidence that can get lost if they don’t act quickly. In fact, federal regulations allow the trucking company to destroy evidence after a certain period of time.
According to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics, over 200,000 truck accidents occur each year, severely injuring more than 100,000 victims. Of these accidents, nearly an astounding 35% occur in or as a result of an intersection turn. Think about it: How often have you come to an intersection and had to slowly inch into it because you weren’t 100% sure that someone wouldn’t T-bone you? How often have you held your breath as a semi turned toward you and came within inches of scraping off your door? Due to the explicit design and rules of intersections, even the slightest miscalculation of time or angle could cause a severe accident. Unfortunately, due to a big truck’s size, length, and weight, it’s extremely difficult for the truck driver to accurately calculate his turns. As a result, turning at intersections – especially turning left at intersections – is one of the main regular causes of truck accidents.
What should I do if the truck in front of me loses control?
Every year, thousands of truckers lose control of their rigs and cause irreparable damage. In 2012 alone, over 100,000 people were severely injured due to truck accidents – 70% of whom were car passengers and pedestrians. (The remaining 30% were drivers or passengers of the trucks which caused the collisions.) So what’s the deal? Why are trucks so dangerous? Although poor maintenance and environmental factors are sometimes to blame, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that truck drivers are 10 times more likely to cause truck accidents than any other determining factor. Anything from fatigue-induced distractions to simple miscalculations are enough to cause a driver to lose control of his truck. Unfortunately, due to the size and weight of most semis, once control is lost, it’s extremely difficult to get it back. This unfortunate span of events can consequently lead to a collision, a rollover, or a multi-car accident.
Although it’s easy to see how a truck can cause an accident, it’s not so easy to stomach the thought of you and your family being caught up in one. Thankfully, despite the risk factors, you can protect yourself and your family from a tragedy by simply knowing how to handle yourself when forced to drive near a truck, whether it shows signs of distress or not.
Additional questions? Contact our team today in San Antonio.
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