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If you were driving anywhere in North Texas in the past few days, you may have gotten stuck in some lengthy back ups. Police had their hands full helping victims, clearing the wreckage and investigating two major truck crashes.

On Monday on Loop 820 in Fort Worth, a westbound tractor tumbled over the barrier and crashed to the ground level embankment between the two elevated lanes. The trailer teetered precariously along the edge of the guardrail for hours, with its back wheels still propped over the road. Here’s a photo of this crazy crash. Four people sustained injuries, one serious, but miraculously nobody was killed in the crash. Several lanes of the highway were shut down for hours while crews removed the Texas Lone Star Materials 18-wheeler.

On Tuesday there was a second catastrophic wreck between a dump truck, a trash truck and a tractor-trailer in Arlington. Tragically, the driver of the trash truck died in the crash. The trash truck was speeding around a corner when it clipped the tractor-trailer and overturned. The dump truck then rammed into the wreckage.

And I was just retained in a major collision case where a trash truck and truck collided in Fort Worth last week, causing serious injuries to two people. Continue reading


You guessed it — Texas

Why do we manage to win the top spot in every category, year after year? And what are we doing about this horrific problem — if anything?

The latest available Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2014” statistics show that no other state comes close to Texas in these statistics. The crash data covers the decade ranging from 2004 to 2014.

Texas shockingly took the top spot every single year in every single category.

In 2014, the last year that tractor-trailer crash statistics are available,

  • 481 fatal tractor-trailer crashes in Texas had at least one fatality
  • 553 total fatalities resulted from Texas tractor-trailer crashes
  • 101 tractor-trailer deaths in Texas occurred from single-truck crashes
  • 380 fatalities resulted from multiple vehicle crashes in Texas

There is no reason other than 18 wheeler driver and company negligence that the number of tractor-trailer crash deaths increased by 77 percent in Texas since truck crashes hit a statewide and nationwide low point during the study period in 2009.

Across the United States, the number of fatalities increased from 3,211 to 3,744, only an increase of 17 percent.

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Truck driver error was a critical reason for almost all (87 percent) of all tractor-trailer accidents, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If we could improve drivers’ performance of their jobs, we could avoid thousands of tractor-trailer crashes every year.

Or maybe we could just cut out the driver altogether.

Although this may seem like a crazy idea, it is actually a viable solution to a serious problem. And this idea is closer than you may realize.

It was just announced that a Silicon Valley company is working on a self-driving big-rig that might be near completion.

And in an interesting twist, California laws forbid self-driving automobiles, so the vehicles will not likely launch in the state where they are being created. However automated vehicles are legal in Texas.

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Beyond Compliance Program Encourages Safety Investment

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a new rule to implement its “Beyond Compliance” program. A directive to the FMCSA to create the incentives program was included in the America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), passed in December 2015. The legislation requires the FMSCA to implement the program at least 18 months from the law’s enactment date.

Under the Beyond Compliance program, the FMSCA will either give a carrier credit through the new Beyond Compliance Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) or improve its Safety Measurement System (SMS) percentile if the company:

  • Installs advanced safety equipment
  • Uses enhanced driver fitness measures
  • Adopts fleet safety management tools, technologies, and programs
  • Satisfies other standards determined appropriate by the Administrator

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A semi driver lost control of his truck on a road in Lubbock as he took a sharp curve. The truck rolled into an open field and landed on the tractor-trailer’s top, killing the 50 year-old driver from Fort Worth.

A truck driver was thrown from the cab of his 18-wheeler when he lost control on I-20 in Midland. The truck’s tire blew out, causing the truck to tip and roll onto its side. The driver sustained serious injuries. Fortunately, the Basic Energy oil truck did not catch fire or explode.

A driver from Central Texas lost his leg when his 18-wheeler hit a guardrail and flipped over in Williamson County.

These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Tractor-trailer rollovers are surprisingly common. Rollovers put the truck driver at risk of serious or fatal injuries and put motorists in harm’s way. Nothing is scarier than being near an out-of-control semi. A truck that flips can plow over anything in its path and crush a car.

What Causes Semi Rollovers?

First, the tractor-trailer design makes these vehicles vulnerable to rollover crashes. The high base of gravity, heavy weight and long size of the truck can send the truck onto its side during a sharp turn or when the driver has lost control. 

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration described road conditions and driver errors that contribute to rollover crashes. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study analyzed 239 accidents in which a truck rolled over and determined that almost half were caused by:

  • The driver’s failure to adjust speed to account for curves in the road
  • The driver taking the on-and off-ramps too fast
  • The truck being improperly loaded
  • The truck’s poor brakes maintenance 
  • A poorly maintained road surface or improperly designed intersection 

Driver error or inattentiveness further contributed to the crash.

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FAQs Answered By An Experienced Fort Worth Lawyer

After a truck accident, you have a lot of questions. As a Texas Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Attorney with 35 years of experience, I have dealt with almost every scenario imaginable involving truck and auto accidents. 

I want to answer some commonly asked questions about how to recovery financial damages after a tractor-trailer or commercial truck accident. For more detailed answers about your individual case, schedule a complimentary meeting with me at my Dallas-Fort Worth law office.

Should I sue the commercial driver who ran into me?

The driver may be liable for his negligence for speeding, recklessly changing lanes or using a cell phone or texting while driving, and other possible actions. In these situations, his company may also be liable (see below).

We encourage you to discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer to determine whether a lawsuit is your best option. Who, where, and why you can sue, and how much money you might recover in damages,depends upon the facts of your individual case. 

Is the trucking company liable for the driver’s negligence?

Often the trucking company is also liable for its driver’s negligence. For example, the truck corporation may have hired an inexperienced driver or a driver with a history of traffic violations. Or, the company may have tolerated use of a cell phone or flaunting of the hours of service regulations. Furthermore, the company may have loaded the truck improperly or allowed it to fall into disrepair. We see this all the time.

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New Bill Would Drop Tractor Trailer Driving Age to 18 In United States

In Texas a 16 to 17 year-old teen who holds a provisional license is not allowed to drive with more than one non-family member who is under 21 years old in the vehicle and is not allowed to drive between 12:00 am and 5:00 am unless in an emergency or for a work or school related function. Only upon reaching the age of 18 can a teen obtain a full, unrestricted license in Texas. In 17 states, drivers are not eligible for a full license until age 18, and in the District of Columbia, the minimum age is 21. 

These restrictions are placed on minor drivers because they lack the maturity and judgment necessary to drive safely and not put themselves and others in harm’s way. As a personal injury lawyer I handle a disproprotionate number of collision cases caused by teens.

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U.S. Spending Bill Provisions Put Truck Drivers and Motorists at Risk

Last Saturday, the U.S. Senate passed the Omnibus spending bill to fund the government through September 2015. Although we are relieved that the government will continue functioning through next year, the bill comes at a high cost to motorists and truck drivers. The $1 trillion-dollar spending bill contains a provision that suspends federal hours-of-service laws for truck drivers.

Why the Hours-of-Service Rules Are Crucial

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (F.M.C.S.A.) had previously implemented important safety rules that limited the number of hours a commercial driver could drive and be on duty and the amount of time required for rest breaks. In addition, the F.M.C.S.A. regulations mandated that trucking companies maintain accurate, complete logs of the driving, shift and rest periods.

The F.M.C.S.A. passed the hours-of-service rules to keep exhausted truck drivers — like the man who crashed into actor Tracy Morgan after driving his WalMart tractor-trailer for over 24 hours straight — off the road. The rules address the problems that arise when a person too tired to drive operates a heavy tractor-trailer. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleepiness causes symptoms that make driving dangerous, such as:

  • Troubled concentration
  • Heavy eyelids and nodding head
  • Wandering thoughts
  • No memory of the last miles travelled
  • Missed exits and signs
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Tailgating, drifting between lanes and hitting rumble strips

These symptoms are dangerous for any driver, but when the driver is operating a tractor-trailer the risks to the driver and to motorists in the area increase substantially.

What Happens Now?

With passage of the Omnibus provisions, drivers will be permitted to drive up to 82 hours a week, more than twice the average American workweek, and 12 hours more than the current regulations permit. Many drivers will likely feel pressured to accept this hazardous working condition if their employers direct them to do so. The spending bill provisions make this irresponsible conduct totally lawful. Shame on the U.S. Congress for putting us drivers at a greater risk of getting hit by an 18 wheeler or large commercial truck.

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A Texas court of appeals rejected an 18 wheeler company’s argument that the victims of an accident caused by one of its employees should not be able to recover damages because they were wearing their seatbelt. The Texas Supreme Court has just decided to hear the appeal, so we will have to see whether this decision affects Texas personal injury plaintiffs, regardless of whether the accident was caused by a semi-truck driver or any other driver.

The case
In Nabors Wells Services, Ltd. V. Romero, a Texas court of appeals had to decide whether the lower court was correct in refusing to admit evidence that truck accident victims may not have been wearing their seatbelt. A truck being driven by an employee of Nabors was passing a Chevy Suburban filled with people when it clipped the side of the SUV. The SUV spun out of control and crashed, injuring all inside and killing one of the occupants.

At trial the semi-truck company argued that the plaintiffs should not be able to recover because their own negligence was in part responsible for the crash. In support of this claim, the trucking company tried to introduce evidence that several of the occupants were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the accident.
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Negligence per se is a specific type of negligence that is resolved by the judge as a matter of law, rather than by the jury. The phrase is Latin for “negligence in itself.” We use negligence per se as often as possible since it saves our Texas accident victims time and money, In effect, if the plaintiff can establish that the defendant was negligent per se, the case is over and the plaintiff wins.

Elements of Negligence Per Se

In a case arising out of the Texas Court of Appeals at Dallas, the court had the opportunity to explain what negligence per se is as it pertains to a personal injury suit. The court explained, “Negligence per se is a tort concept whereby a legislatively imposed standard of conduct is adopted by the civil courts as defining the conduct of a reasonably prudent person,” and “[i]n such a case the jury is not asked to judge whether or not the defendant acted as a reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances” because “the statute itself states what a reasonably prudent person would have done.”

I recently settled a case where a woman was injured when she was hit by an 18-wheeler that was set to cruise control above the speed limit. I sent an investigator out to the tow yard where the 18-wheeler was taken and he downloaded the speed and braking data from the truck’s computer. The defense had no way to argue against our negligence per se claim and decided to make a large settlement offer because they knew they would lose in court.
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