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Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

Trucking companies are subject to strict rules regarding the inspection, maintenance, and repair of their vehicles. These laws serve the primary purpose of keeping dangerous trucks off the road. That’s good for the rest of us drivers — as long as those rules are enforced.

When a tractor trailer causes a crash, its inspection records serve a valuable role in proving negligence, which is the key to a successful truck accident settlement or trial.

To best use this evidence here, a Fort Worth injury attorney studies safety regulations and knows where to locate inspection reports, past violations, and the truck’s and company’s crash history.

Truck companies have a duty to maintain safe vehicles

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has the authority to pass and enforce maintenance and inspection regulations concerning commercial vehicles. These trucking regulations apply to motor vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 lbs. or more and to trucks that carry hazardous materials.

Any company, whether a one-man operation or a large multinational corporation, is responsible for inspecting and maintaining its vehicles and repairing problems before putting its trucks back on the road. The company is also required to keep its records for one year and make them available to inspectors. Failure to do so is a violation of the FMCSA regulations.

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Companies are often not liable for negligence of independent contractors

Ho, ho, ho. Tis the season when we get together with our families, go to church, and of course shop. More than ever, that means we buy items online and get them quickly delivered to our door steps.

Amazon hires thousands of delivery drivers under a program it calls Amazon Flex. These people have the flexibility to work seven days a week and as many hours as he or she can handle – even after working all day somewhere else.

But it is Amazon which gets the real advantage of flexibility. The company is able to increase its pool of drivers without paying job benefits, health insurance, and vehicle liability insurance.

How does it do this? Flex drivers are somehow not classified as employees but as independent contractors.

So who is liable when there delivery truck drivers cause a wreck? This issue is winding its way through different courts with predictably conflicting results. The Texas Supreme Court rendered a decision on a related case in 2015.

The problem is that allowing delivery drivers to be classified as independent contractors shifts liability and compensation from the company to the individual who may not even have auto insurance. If he does, you can bet it is the minimum coverage. In Texas, that is only $30,000 per one person injured, $60,000 for everyone injured (excepting the driver) and $25,000 for all vehicle damage (excepting the truck). That’s usually not enough money to pay for everyone’s medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.

This disturbing trend is not limited to Amazon. FedEd, UPS, WalMart and other retailers and delivery services also rely on a fleet of independent contractors to make their deliveries.

Oh, Uber and Lyft do this too, but that’s a separate story that happens frequently in our new “gig economy.”

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Actress Jayne Mansfield was famous for her sexy image. She starred in many movies in the 50’s and 60’s, won acting awards, and was one of the first Playmates. The Dallas resident studied at UT and SMU where I graduated in the 70’s.

But Mansfield is tragically remembered for the tragic tractor-trailer accident that killed her in 1967.

Mansfield was a passenger in a Buick that slammed into the back of an 18 wheeler. The car slid underneath the trailer’s carriage and killed her and two other adult passengers. She was only 34. Two other people died but miraculously her two children were not injured.

Her legacy survives today, not only in film and photographs, but every time you see a tractor-trailer. Her crash directly led to regulations requiring installation of red and white bars at the rear of semi-trucks. “Mansfield bars” are required on all tractor-trailers to stop cars from sliding underneath the truck.

But here’s the problem. Mansfield bars prevent under-ride in a medium impact rear-end collisions, such as occurred in Mansfield’s case. However, the bars aren’t often strongenough to stop high-impact crashes.

Nor are they required on the sides of trucks, so they don’t stop cars from sliding under from the side either.

Here’s a photo from a case I handled where my client was lucky to survive a crash with an 18 wheeler that suddenly cut in front of her.

Under-ride crashes are exactly as awful as the word implies. During a collision with a tractor-trailer, the car slides underneath the semi, either sheering off or crushing the top of the car. The occupants of the car don’t stand a chance.

But what if these under-ride collisions could be close to totally avoided?

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I am again representing a client who was badly injured by a reckless trucker in the same spot where another client was seriously injured recently. Here’s a photo of the18 wheeler dangling off a bridge on I-35 from CBS-11 television after it crashed into five vehicles.

distracted trucker plowed into my client’s car and others in the exact same location a year and a half ago, seriously injuring her and killing her boyfriend.

Several years ago, I represented the family of a young tow-truck driver who was struck and killed by a fatigued trucker just up the road on I-35 who fell asleep at the wheel — or had a heart attack, as his insurance company attorneys claimed in federal court.

These wrecks are never-ending. Last week, a tractor-trailer barreled into six vehicles on I-35 in north Fort Worth and caught fire, injuring nine people and shutting down the highway for six hours. The truck driver was speeding and could not stop in time to avoid the crash. I’m sure that an investigation will show he was also distracted.

My law firm has represented many people who were injured and the families of those who were tragically killed by 18 wheelers.

When the same problem occurs over and over again, it’s time to fix it.

We know the dangers. How do we fix it?

4,067 people died in 2015 in tractor-trailer accidents, a huge increase of almost 10 percent over 2014. These fatality statistics includes pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, motorists and the truckers themselves.

Why are deaths increasing and how can we stop this terrible trend? Continue reading

Watch This Video

It’s hard to believe that no one died in this horrific tractor-trailer crash. I’m letting you know before you watch this, because otherwise the video of a woman trapped in a burning car might be too disturbing to watch. A wreck like this can happen in the blink of an eye. Hopefully not to you.

You can see the tractor trailer barreling through a construction zone and ramming into a line of cars like pin balls. To the left of the screen, you can see a car erupt into flames. It had been crushed against the center barricade. The driver was not able to get the door open as a fireball shot 10 feet in the air billowing black smoke.

The quick thinking of fellow motorists and a nearby construction crew fortunately saved her life. And somehow the woman suffered only minor cuts and bruises. So much for the age old insurance company argument that only big collisions can cause big injuries and small crashes yield minor injuries, right?

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The National Transportation Safety Board issued its annual Most Wanted list for 2017. The wish list comprises easily implemented regulations that could prevent tractor-trailer deaths and injuries.

Safety regulations are important for the well being of truckers, but the general public is the real loser of lax regulations. Occupants and pedestrians account for 84 percent of tractor-trailer collision deaths versus 16 percent of trucker deaths. When the trucking industry claims that regulations will increase costs of transporting goods, which will be passed to the consumer, it is obvious that consumers already bear the costs of not implementing effective regulations.

Truck crash fatalities were 22 percent higher in 2015 than they were just six years earlier. Technology has improved by leaps and bounds in that time. We also have definitive studies that identify the causes of tractor-trailer crashes and yet the death rate continues to increase. Why is this happening? The ineffectiveness of trucking rules is a big reason.

Here are the NTSB’s suggestions for new procedures and devices that would make our roads safer. Continue reading

An 18-wheeler driver crashed into a bus carrying the North Central Texas College women’s softball team in 2014, horrifically killing four students and injuring 12 other people.

The truck driver claimed that he was distracted as he reached for a drink in his cooler. However an investigation revealed that Richard Staley, who lived in north Fort Worth, was intoxicated on K2, a synthetic cannabinoid.

The driver was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Last week, just before his criminal trial was set to begin, he committed suicide.

Will Staley’s death affect the civil lawsuits the victims and their families have already filed? And will it impede the new lawsuits just filed against the bus company for manufacturing a defective vehicle and the college for failing to enforce its seat belt rules?

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For the families of two Dallas-Fort Worth women recently killed by a speeding tractor-trailer east of Dallas, the collision was unbelievable. A truck hit their loved ones as they sat in traffic on I-30. The truck driver failed to stop for the crawling traffic and rammed into another semi, an SUV, and two cars.

You might think that an out-of-control tractor-trailer barreling down on a small car is just the subject of action films. Tragically, this scenario is all too common. I hope it never happens to you or someone you love, but last year, 34,000 commercial vehicle accidents killed 601 people and injured more than 17,000 Americans –almost the crowd in a sold out show or game at the AAC Arena in Dallas.

I’m in the middle of a case involving an 18-wheeler crashing into the rear of my client’s SUV, seriously injuring my client and killing her boyfriend who was driving in Fort Worth in 2015. Here’s a scene photo.

I’ve represented many people and the families of deceased motorists in wrecks like this over the past 36 years as a personal injury attorney.

You might think that these are easy cases for an injury lawyer to win but this is not always true. Here’s why.

Proving liability

Being rear-ended by a semi seems like a no-brainer case. Clearly, the truck driver was at fault. But many plaintiffs have lost cases they should have won because they didn’t handle the legal details correctly.

A tractor-trailer collision case is not just a big car wreck case. And the commercial truck driver in the back is not automatically to blame.  I’ve handled cases where the truck driver was paying attention and driving below the speed limit when a motorist suddenly whipped in front of him and then slammed on his or her brakes, or it was rainy and the roads were slick, or a giant box in one and road debris in another flew up  and struck a driver’s windshield or vehicle, and many other scenarios.

Now let’s say the truck driver was clearly to blame, say you were stopped at a red light when a speeding truck hit you. In a court of law, you must prove your claim by a preponderance of the evidence. In layman’s terms this means that it is more likely than not that the driver caused a crash that resulted in your injuries. And Texas has adopted the comparative negligence rule, but here the truck driver would presumably be 100% at fault unless there is other evidence that could be admitted that could reduce his percentage of fault.

Obtaining critical evidence

What evidence do you need and how do you get that evidence and have it admitted at trial? What evidence will the trucking company be using and how can you keep it out of trial? This is where an experienced injury attorney can help.

The truck driver and trucking corporation are not going to admit fault. Just the opposite, they are going to deny liability, blame you and/or other vehicles or causes, conduct their own investigation, hire their own experts, take depositions, delay court dates, and fight you tooth and nail. Only an immediate and exhaustive investigation can prove what happened and who is liable so you can obtain the evidence you need.

To prove the trucker’s liability, some of the steps I might take in a rear-end collision case are to

  • Hire an accident reconstruction expert to go to the scene immediately to get vital evidence
  • Subpoena phone records to check for texting or calls that were placed immediately prior to the collision
  • Review the black box data to determine speed, brake application, steering and other driving behavior
  • File an emergency motion to stop the truck owner from repairing or moving the truck before I have the chance to inspect it
  • Analyze crash debris scatter for clues as to speed of travel and position of vehicles at time of the crash
  • Inspect hours of service logs to determine if the truck driver was sleep-deprived and fatigued
  • Analyze which Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations were violated

I will discuss your 18-wheeler crash case in depth at a free case evaluation meeting where I will carefully review the facts of your collision and advise you on your rights and options for a medical and financial recovery.

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Nearly Half of Worker Deaths Resulted from Transportation Accidents

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics just released its annual injury report which showed that workplace fatalities hit a six-year high. Almost 5,000 workers were killed on the job.

Guess which industry topped the charts? A whopping 745 tractor-trailer drivers died in accidents last year, making transportation the deadliest profession in 2015. No wonder it’s so hard to find qualified truck drivers.

A huge number of workers (2,054) lost their lives while on the clock in transportation accidents, which equals almost half of all worker deaths. 1,264 of the deaths, or more than ¼ of all workplace fatalities, resulted from roadway crashes. 629 of the deaths involved a tractor-trailer or tanker truck.

I am filing a lawsuit for the driver injured in the tractor-trailer pictured here. His rig overturned when another vehicle crashed into it head-on. That driver unfortunately died. My client was seriously injured and could not drive for over six months. Continue reading

Our country is experiencing a historic shakeup as a new administration takes over. With so many high profile changes, one that hasn’t received any attention, but is a top priority for me as a personal injury lawyer, is highway safety.

Just last month, lawmakers blocked important sleep rules for commercial drivers. That’s just the start of it.

In an interview, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board predicted that there will be ”an open season on safety in this coming Congress.” His comment appears to be right on the mark. The American Trucking Association has vowed to fight states that pass roadway safety measures for their residents and federal regulations that limit drive time and truck weight and length. Continue reading

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