COVID-19 UPDATE: What We Are Doing to Protect Our Clients

LBJ Freeway at Josey Lane in Dallas was shut down for hours yesterday morning when a tractor-trailer crashed into another car and caused a huge chain reaction. Several people were rushed to area hospitals. The wreck was typical of Texas 18-wheeler wrecks: it happened during rush hour so more vehicles were affected and was caused by a careless commercial driver.

Trucking litigation has recently changed with the addition of electronic discovery and new safety standards for the comercial carrier industry. New electronic control modules, trip recorders, and satellite tracking equipment have changed the rules of the game. Plaintiff's lawyers can now discover details about the truck driver's activities before the collision, speed, reaction time, braking, maintenance, and other key aspects.I have an investigator who specializes in 18-wheeler crashes who travels all across the state to download information from truck black boxes. There have been numerous cases where the information about speed, cruise control, and breaking has been the key piece of evidence proving the defendant's negligence.

An employee working for LSG Sky Chefs was senselessly killed at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport on Sunday when he was hit by his own company's truck.

This kind of driving is inexcusable and must be stopped.

The victim, Faustino Delapaz, 53, who lived in Dallas, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The collision occurred about 6:45 a.m. at the loading dock of the LSG Sky Chefs catering facility on the south side of the airport.

Mr. Delapaz was on the south side of the building when he was hit by a large Sky Chefs catering truck.

"It's the kitchen area of the company where they load the trucks with the food," said airport spokesman David Magaña. "The trucks then go to the planes and load them up."

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the man who was killed. But collisions like this should not be allowed to happen. I call on LSG Sky Chefs and all companies to hire and train more responsible drivers, monitor traffic at loading docks and on the road, and enforce their safety rules and regulations - or face the consequences.

Yesterday an Oregon jury returned a large verdict against a trucking brokerage company for its negligent hiring of a drug addict. The jury awarded over $5 million, including punitive damages, to the family of a man killed in 2008 because the broker failed to do any due diligence when it hired Washington Transportation to hire drivers to haul goods for bottled water giant Nestle Waters.

The jury was swayed by the fact that the truck driver was coming off a crystal methamphetamine high and fell asleep at the wheel when he crashed his 18 wheeler into the deceased man, who was standing beside his own tractor-trailer inspecting its brakes.

The key evidence was that the trucking broker negligently hired a man who claimed to be operating for Washington Transportation, when it was a company owned by his twin brother. Further, the broker did not carry insurance and had no legal operating authority, statutory violations which had repeatedly occurred in the past. Tje company had no legal authority to transact trucking business due to its repeated and flagrant disregard of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules and regulations.

The at fault truck driver served time in prison for negligent homicide and driving under the influence. The trucking broker is no longer in business.

I have handled similar cases where individuals have tragically been killed or seriously injured by commercial truck drivers and have collected damages for the negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention against the trucker's company. However it has been difficult to prove negligence against the trucking broker. Here is a new case I will be able to argue, even though it is from an Oregon federal district court.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has just indicated that it may change federal guidelines regulating required stopping distances for all vehicles, including buses, automobiles, semi-trucks and tractor trailers, as well as improving heavy duty brake systems for tractor-trailers.

It can require as many as 335 feet to stop an 18 wheeler traveling at 60 miles per hour, depending on the weight of the load, road conditions, brakes, driver reaction, etc. That is more than the length of a football field.

I have handled many trucking accidents involving serious injuries and deaths which presumably would not have happened, or the injuries would not have been as severe, if these two restrictions had already been in place.

Here is a newspaper article from a case I handled a few years ago:

Victims want help inspecting wrecked oil truck

A hearing is set for Friday to see if an oil company should pay extra costs so attorneys representing a couple injured in a wreck in June can inspect the truck that hit them. The truck has been moved near Abilene.

The hearing will be in the 249th District Court of Johnson County in front of visiting Judge Kit Cooke.

Two women in the June 13 accident remain hospitalized at area hospitals, one in intensive care, attorney Bill Berenson said Wednesday.

Berenson is the attorney for Mary and John Reutter of Burleson, who both sustained serious injuries when an oil tanker truck driven by Ismael Villarreal, 41, of Abilene failed to stop in the southbound lane of Interstate 35W near the Briaroaks overpass and collided with two vehicles, creating a wreck with four other vehicles.

A fire from a burning hay truck had slowed traffic that afternoon, but Villarreal, ran over the back of the Reutters' 2002 Ford Mustang convertible, according to a police report compiled by Burleson Cpl. Sean Bolton.

The tanker then struck a 2003 Toyota RAV4 driven by Donna Ferolito, 32, of Austin. The force of that impact forced Ferolito's vehicle into a 2003 Jeep Cherokee driven by Diane Bogart, 50, of Burleson, and the Jeep was forced into a 1993 Ford pickup driven by Salvador Lopez, 23, of Alvarado.

After striking the Reutters' and Ferolito's vehicles, the trucker careened off the highway and drove until he crashed into a tree on the far side of the first crash, Berenson said.

Bolton cited Villarreal for following too closely. Ferolito and Mary Reutter, 60, were both transported by CareFlite to Fort Worth hospitals. John Reutter, 64, was transported by ambulance to the same hospital as his wife. He has been released.

The most seriously injured, Mary Reutter broke several bones in her upper body, suffered a punctured lung and remains in jeopardy of losing an arm due to nerve damage, Berenson said. She was driving the couple's convertible and the top was down.

The Reutters had just moved from Florida to avoid more hurricanes. They planned to build a home in southern Fort Worth.

Berenson said John Reutter told him the accident has ruined their lives.

The Reutters hired Berenson to represent them. A lawsuit has been filed for damages and pain and suffering as the victims continue to recover, but an emergency hearing has been planned to make sure the rig can be inspected.

In the meantime, the company who owns the tanker, United Petroleum Transports of Houston, moved the rig to near Abilene, out of reach of local accident investigators as they try to investigate the case and discover why Villarreal never applied his brakes as he struck the vehicles, Berenson said.

"The company, for no apparent reason, suddenly and without notice removed the vehicles to a location west of Abilene before such an inspection could proceed," the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit includes Villarreal's employers, L&L; Inc., which owned the truck.

The lawsuit argued the Reutters' attorneys have the right to inspect and test the tractor and tanker in Fort Worth, where it was first towed, or Burleson, where the collision occurred. Berenson said he is concerned that before an inspection can occur, the evidence will be repaired, altered or destroyed.

Berenson said United Petroleum has a facility in Euless, which would be close enough.

"Moving the vehicles west of Abilene obviously places a significant and entirely unnecessary financial burden on the Reutters and Ferolito, which may indicate the motivation behind this action," Berenson said.

Berenson said an accident reconstruction expert has warned that he will have to charge significant additional expenses to drive round trip to Abilene for that part of the investigation.

With attorneys for all parties working in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Berenson said it would have been quicker and cheaper to conduct the inspections locally, similar to costs for the other affected vehicles.

The lawsuit asks the judge to charge United Petroleum the additional expense if the inspection has to be held in near Abilene.

__________________________________________________________________

Please call me for a free no obligation telephone or personal consultation. I am an experienced Texas 18 wheeler accident attorney with over 30 years of experience. My number is 817-885-8000 or toll free at 1-800-801-8585.

The U.S. Transportation Department has just revised the hours-of-service requirements to cut down on fatigued 18 wheeler truck drivers.

The new rule reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week. Under the old rule, truck drivers could work on average up to 82 hours within a seven-day period.

In addition, truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes. .

The regulation retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit.

Truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours must now take at least two nights' rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most - from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.

Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense. Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Commercial truck drivers and companies must comply with the rule by July 1, 2013.

Here's the math:

(11 hours) Monday 12a-11a

(11 hours) Monday to Tuesday 9p-8a

(11 hours) Tuesday to Wednesday 6p-5a

(11 hours) Wednesday to Thursday 3p-2a

(34 hour reset) Thursday 2a to Friday 12p

(11 hours) Friday 12p to 11p

(11 hours) Saturday 9a to 10p

(11 hours) Sunday 8a to 9p

(11 hours) Monday 7a to 6p

Here is an excellent column in today's Dallas Morning News that I wanted to share. Congratulations to my friend, Dallas lawyer Todd Clement, for his hard work fighting to stop truckers from driving while using cell phones and texting. I just settled a large case where an 18 wheeler crashed into my client's vehicle which was at a complete stop on an interstate, because the trucker was on his cell phone and not paying attention to the road conditions ahead of him. This is a picture of her SUV.

by Steve Blow

It was more like an explosion than a collision. The work truck's cruise control was set at 71 miles an hour and the driver never touched the brake.

A car ahead of him was stopped in the highway, waiting to make a left turn. A 30-year-old woman and her 82-year-old grandmother were killed in an instant. "The driver said, 'I never saw them.' And though he would dispute it later, in the aftermath of the accident, he told an EMS driver that he was texting prior to the wreck," said Dallas lawyer Todd Clement. Clement represented the family of the women killed last year outside Sherman. He won a confidential settlement for them from the other driver's company. And Clement has been on a national campaign ever since to ban cellphone use in moving vehicles. "This case affected me more than any other in my life," the 49-year-old lawyer said. "A 3-year-old and a 9-year-old lost their mom. A husband lost his wife of 62 years and had to go into a nursing home immediately after the accident." On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board unanimously recommended that states outlaw cellphone use while driving. And Clement supports that move. But he travels the country urging a step that would have a huge and much more immediate impact. "Businesses have to ban this activity. That's the only way they can protect themselves," he said. That goes against the tide, of course. More and more of us use our vehicles as mobile offices. The driver who hit Clement's clients worked for Cable ONE, a major provider of cable, phone and Internet service. He drove a pickup owned by the company. But whether involving a company vehicle or not, the law is clear that a business is liable when an employee on the job causes an accident, Clement said. And cellphone use not only makes a crash far more likely, it also increases the likelihood of being found at fault, he said. And this is an area where juries seem especially eager to issue "send-a-message verdicts," he said -- turning their displeasure over cellphones into huge monetary awards. A 2009 Virginia Tech study concluded that cellphone users are at least six times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. A Texas Transportation Institute study released in October found that texting drivers were 11 times more likely to miss visual cues.

Whenever I get hired on a case involving a commercial vehicle, I send a spoliation letter to the defendant immediately. A spoliation letter is a letter telling the trucking company to save evidence so I can be sure that all investigation that needs to be done can be done without the truck, documents and other materials being tampered with. On a recent case, I was able to prove that a defendant driver was not only speeding, but speeding with cruise control on while driving through a construction zone when he rear ended my client. By law, once a spoliation letter is received, none of the evidence discussed in the letter may be destroyed or changed without approval of the plaintiff and the plaintiff's attorney. Valuable evidence such as maintenance records, driving logs, the contents of the vehicles, and even items such as beer bottles or cell phones with may have contributed to cause the wreck are often cleaned before the attorney can properly investigate. If any evidence is destroyed after a spoliation letter is received, the defendant can face huge penalties if the evidence tampering is discovered. A copy of my most recent spoliation letter, with personal information removed, is available for download by clicking here. If you have been hurt in a crash with an 18-wheeler, you need a lawyer who will immediately begin working for you and perform all necessary investigation. Please call me today at 817-885-8000 for a free case evaluation.

Many semi trucks now come equipped with what is know as the "black box." The black box is essentially an electronic data recorder that monitors and reports information when certain things happen.

Typically, in the event of a sudden change in velocity or impact a black box will record some or all of the following information: brake application, RPM, truck speed, gear, and other important accident reconstruction information.

Not all trucks are equipped with a black box. An experienced truck accident lawyer will know which 18-wheelers have the event recorders and which do not.

It takes a special technician to download the crash data from the black box or event recorder. It's important to hire an experienced truck accident lawyer soon after your accident because the trucking company may try and delete the material before you can gain access to it. The data in the black box can help explain what happened in the accident and give us concrete data to show the insurance company.

If you or a family member has been seriously injured in an 18-wheeler accident, obtaining the black box information can be critical to the success of your case. The driver of the 18-wheeler may try and lie about the wreck, but the black box data will help us recreate the accident and prove what really happened.

Call me at (817) 885-8000 and I will further explain the ways in which we can help you recover the maximum amount for your injuries.

Contact Information