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Unlicensed 18-Wheeler Drivers: Houston’s Legal Implications and Safety Concerns

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Dealing with an unlicensed driver in Texas can be frustrating and complicated. An accident involving an 18-wheeler can be terrifying and debilitating. Combine these two things, and you have an equation that adds up to extensive medical bills and an unclear answer as to who will pay them.

When these tragedies strike, the unlicensed truck driver faces significant fines and potential liability for the damages. After an accident, it’s important to call the police, get the driver’s information, and document the accident to make sure evidence is presented.

When insurance complications inevitably occur, it’s best to have Ryan DeHoyos as your personal injury attorney. Let’s dive into the legal difficulties involved in an accident with an unlicensed 18-wheeler driver and how you can protect yourself both legally and financially.

Understanding the Laws for Unlicensed Drivers Operating Commercial Vehicles

  • CDL Mandate: In Texas, driving large or commercial vehicles like 18-wheelers, buses, and hazardous material carriers requires a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Driving these without the appropriate CDL is a violation of state law.
  • Compensation Rights: Despite lacking a CDL, if an unlicensed driver is involved in an accident that isn’t their fault, they may still have the right to pursue compensation for injuries or damages. However, their lack of a license might impact the claim’s outcome.
  • Legal Penalties: Unlicensed commercial vehicle operations in Texas can result in severe penalties, including hefty fines, potential jail time, and vehicle impounding. The severity of the punishments usually increases with repeated offenses.
  • Liability and Negligence: If an unlicensed driver operating a commercial vehicle causes an accident, they can be liable for damages. This can be complicated if the driver was operating the vehicle as part of employment, because the employing company might be at fault too.
  • Insurance Implications: Many insurance companies will deny coverage for accidents caused by unlicensed drivers, especially in commercial vehicles. This can complicate the claims of other parties involved in the incident.
  • Safety and Training Concerns: Commercial vehicles require specific safety training and skills. Unlicensed drivers pose a higher risk on the road due to the lack of this training.

Being aware of the laws surrounding unlicensed commercial vehicle operation in Texas is important for not just those drivers but also the people sharing the roads with them.

Risks with Unlicensed 18-Wheeler Drivers

Unlicensed drivers operating commercial vehicles probably lack the training necessary to anticipate the vehicle’s needs. Lack of proper training in 18-wheeler operations leads to approximately 20% of fatal accidents nationwide. In Texas, these unqualified drivers are involved in 26% of all traffic-related deaths. Therefore, Texas imposes strict legal consequences for unlicensed drivers, including fines, jail time, and license suspension.

Insurance Complications

A significant number of unlicensed 18-wheeler drivers operate without insurance as well, which complicates matters when you’re seeking compensation after an accident. Texas law provides a potential avenue for victims to claim compensation through the truck owner’s insurance. However, this isn’t always guaranteed.

Essentially, you can choose between dealing directly with your insurance company, suing the uninsured driver, or utilizing UM/UIM Coverage to pay for your recovery when the usual insurance funds don’t cover the costs.

  1. Dealing Directly with Your Insurance Company: While this is often the most straightforward approach, it does come with its own set of challenges. Your insurance provider might cover the costs upfront but later seek reimbursement from the at-fault party. It’s essential to read and understand your policy because some insurance companies might be reluctant to pay. Additionally, you might be required to pay your deductible first, even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
  2. Suing the Uninsured Driver: Taking the legal route can be time-consuming, but it might lead to higher settlements. When suing an uninsured driver, especially one operating an 18-wheeler, you’re essentially going after their personal assets. However, if they’re driving without insurance, there’s a possibility they might not have sufficient assets to cover your damages. Legal proceedings can be lengthy and require expert testimonies, evidence gathering, and court appearances.
  3. Utilizing Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage: UM/UIM coverage is designed to protect drivers from those operating without adequate insurance. If you have this coverage, your insurance will cover damages up to your policy’s limits. This is especially valuable when the at-fault driver lacks the assets to compensate you for your damages. It’s like having your insurance step in as the at-fault driver’s non-existent insurance. Still, claiming under UM/UIM might increase your future insurance premiums, even if the incident wasn’t your fault.

Post-Accident Protocol

  1. Notify Law Enforcement: Immediately call the police. Their report can be vital for any future legal proceedings.
  2. Collect Information: Gather all the relevant details that you normally would, regardless of the driver’s licensing status.
  3. Document the Accident Scene: Document the incident entirely and seek medical help immediately.

FAQs about Unlicensed 18-Wheeler Accidents

  • What if the unlicensed 18-wheeler driver is working under a company?
    • Often, if the driver is working under a trucking company, the company may be held liable for hiring an unlicensed driver, especially if the hiring was done negligently.
  • How do Texas laws differentiate between personal and commercial vehicles when the driver is unlicensed?
    • While both are illegal, the penalties for operating commercial vehicles without a license are usually more severe, given the potential risks associated with the larger vehicles.
  • Can a victim get compensation if they were partially at fault?
    • Texas follows a “modified comparative fault” rule, which means a victim can still recover damages as long as they are less at fault than the other party. However, the compensation might be reduced by their percentage of fault.
  • How long after the accident should I file a lawsuit?
    • In Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including car accidents, is typically two years from the accident date. It’s important to act quickly to secure your rights.

Call DeHoyos Law Firm, PLLC, for all your Personal Injury Needs

Dealing with the legal issues after an accident with an unlicensed 18-wheeler driver in Houston can be overwhelming. However, being informed and having a skilled attorney like Ryan DeHoyos on your side makes all the difference. With the support of DeHoyos Law Firm, PLLC, victims can confidently pursue the justice and compensation they are entitled to. Call today at (832) 745-4878.



















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