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The Texas Supreme Court ruled against the parents of a man who lost his life driving for an oil company. By doing so, the court raised the bar for other families attempting to be compensated after a fatal truck driver crash. The court limited families to the paltry funds provided by the Texas Workers Compensation Act. That law sets up an exchange where a limited amount of money is paid to an employee and family in exchange for them giving up the right to sue the company for its negligence. The Act is the exclusive remedy for on-the-job accidents. However there is an exception if the injury was intentionally caused by the employer and was substantially certain to happen.

What caused this fatal truck driver crash to happen?

Fabian Escobedo, 48, had safely driven his company's oil tanker for many years. One morning at 3:00 a.m., after working an astonishing 138 hours in the last eight days, he drove off the road, hit a pole, rolled over, and tragically lost his life. He had presumably fallen asleep at the wheel, a common problem for commercial truck drivers. Many trucking companies dispatch their vehicles with inexperienced, overworked, and tired drivers at the wheel. The trucks can also be carrying unsafe and overweight loads. As a result, over 5,000 commercial trucks were involved in a deadly crash last year. Fatal collisions have happened more frequently during the oil and gas boom across Texas. After a deadly collision with an 18-wheeler or company vehicle, it is essential that a family hire the best truck accident lawyer if a family member tragically loses their life.  More information about the steps someone should take is here: Fatal commercial truck crash in Texas: what to do

The lawsuit

Mr. Escobedo's parents filed a lawsuit against Mo-Vac Services to collect damages under the Texas wrongful death and survival statutes. They produced evidence that the company forced its drivers to work many more hours than the number permitted under the hours of service rules established by federal and state law. This fatal truck driver crash happened in 2012 in south Texas when oil companies could not find enough drivers to meet the huge demand. Mr. Escobedo's supervisor said that some drivers worked almost 24 hours a day. Their trucks had no sleeper berths. Their ability to sleep was minimal. The company's management made the employees falsify their logbooks and fired them if they objected. Now logbooks have to be recorded electronically on apps like this one to prevent blatant fraud. Mr. Escobedo's parents argued that Mo-Vac knew that forcing Mr. Escobedo to drive these excessive hours made the collision substantially certain to occur. In addition, they showed that their son had suffered "conscious pain and suffering" before his death. Mo-Vac filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit which was granted by the trial court. The plaintiffs appealed.

The appeal to the Court of Appeals

The Corpus Christi court denied most of the parents' claims. However it remanded the case to determine if their son had suffered conscious pain and prior to his death that would permit damages under the Texas survival statute. Mo-Vac appealed.

The decision from the Texas Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the company and made it virtually impossible for an employee or their surviving family to obtain damages after an on-the-job injury or death. Damages can be awarded if the business (not the employee or safety experts) believes "that its actions are substantially certain to result in a particular injury," not just "highly likely to increase overall risks to employees." The concurring opinion filed by Justice Guzman notes that these events will not satisfy this onerous standard:
  • Failing to provide a safe workplace;
  • Removing safety guards;
  • Requiring long hours;
  • Failing to train for a dangerous job; and
  • Proving gross or willful negligence.
Justice Guzman also wrote that the state legislature must amend the Texas workers compensation act and allow the deceased worker's parents to be paid benefits. Mr. Escobedo had no spouse or children.

Overtired truck driver cases

Many commercial truck drivers work more than the law allows. Drowsy drivers cause many car and truck crashes. After an 18-wheeler collision, the personal injury lawyer obtains evidence to prove that the commercial truck driver was negligent. Violations of safety regulations and hours of service rules can be the key to winning the case. Key evidence includes driving records, cell phone calls, texts, GPS information, emails, truck inspections, bills of lading, and credit card receipts. Every truck collision needs to be investigated by an experienced commercial truck accident lawyer. He needs to determine what caused the wreck to happen so that the individual and their family can be properly compensated for their damages and prevent other collisions from happening. Berenson Injury Law has represented individuals who have been injured and the families of those who were in a fatal truck driver crash in Texas for over 40 years. For a free evaluation of a truck accident, please contact Texas truck wreck lawyer Bill Berenson. More posts on this subject: Truck driver fatigue: a deadly danger How good truck investigation can win case Tractor trailer crashes have to be stopped

This photograph is from the latest horrific crash in Denver you may have seen on the news. A young 18 wheeler driver was speeding on an interstate highway. He failed to stop as he approached vehicles backed up at a car wreck, rammed into the rear of one, and set off a catastrophic series of tractor trailer crashes. There were a total of 28 vehicles involved. A massive fire erupted and four people were trapped inside who tragically lost their lives. Other people suffered life-threatening injuries. This nightmare didn't happen in Texas -- but it easily could have. Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos held a Texas commercial driver's license, lived in Houston, and was hauling lumber to San Antonio. The driver clearly was incompetent. He was only 23 years old and had little experience behind the wheel of a big rig. He was recklessly driving at a rate of 85 mph and had been reported for weaving in and out of congested rush-hour traffic. The speed limit for commercial trucks was restricted to 45 mph to avoid tractor trailer crashes like these. The Denver wrecks are just the latest reminder of why we need to increase our regulations of 18 wheeler drivers and companies. The very small trucking business owned by the driver's brother should not have been allowed to be out on the highways. This truck tractor had prior mechanical difficulties and had caused tractor trailer crashes in other states. The driver claimed his brakes failed. When was the last time they had been inspected? There were over 4,300 deaths and 30,000 injuries caused by tractor trailer crashes in 2016, the most recent year data is available according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Almost all were in the passenger car, SUV, or truck that was crashed into by the tractor trailer that can weigh more than 80,000 pounds GWVR. The occupants of the smaller vehicle are extremely vulnerable and need to be compensated for their injuries and damages. But with increased trade and a growing population, not to mention a surge in Amazon purchases, our highways and roads are busier and more dangerous than ever.

[caption id="attachment_1698" align="aligncenter" width="410"] Courtesy of NBC-5[/caption] On Friday afternoon a tractor trailer driver was muscling his way east on Interstate 20 in Weatherford when he collided into traffic that had backed up. The driver was not able to slow down, hit a stopped SUV, and set off a chain-reaction. The 18 wheeler hit the median wall and cable system that fortunately prevented it from going onto the other side of the highway and cause more mayhem. The big rig flipped over on its driver side, spilling plastic bottles all over the interstate. The interstate was shut down into the night-time hours. Here's another fatal 18 wheeler crash that didn't need to happen. Sadly, a 44-year-old woman in one of the cars in front of the 18 wheeler lost her life. And seven other people had to be rushed to area hospitals and two other people were treated at the scene. We extend our condolences to the family of the woman and prayers for a speedy recovery to the injured victims. Berenson Injury Law recently concluded a case for a man seriously injured in a 18 wheeler crash not far from this site and another where a woman lost her life when a tractor trailer rear ended her and other vehicles. We have unfortunately had to handle many other fatal 18 wheeler crashes like this over the past nearly 40 years. We see how constant they are. But they shouldn't be.

There are many reasons why deadly truck accidents happen. This photo is from a case we recently concluded where our client's SUV crashed into the jack-knifed 18-wheeler on Interstate 30 west of Fort Worth. Sometimes the commercial truck driver is negligent for going too fast or not paying attention to other vehicles on the road. Other times the trucking company is to blame for failing to perform needed maintenance or hiring an unqualified driver. Both can be at fault or other vehicle drivers can share the blame. Whatever the reason, if you’ve lost a loved one in a fatal commercial truck crash in Texas or have suffered injuries, you need a good truck wreck attorney on your side to get you the results you want. For example, in the photograph pictured above, a car driver on the other side of the highway was also at fault. Fortunately, no one died, although our client required a major leg surgery and many months of rehabilitation before he could walk again.

Picture the scene  in a small West Texas town after its small high school's football team had just won a big playoff game. The mood was celebratory — until the worst tragedy imaginable happened. An 18-wheeler crashed head-on into a bus bringing the school's cheerleaders home. The sponsor was killed and another adult and seven students sustained severe injuries. It was a Friday Night Lights nightmare. The heartbreak and injuries from a truck or auto accident can be devastating. Then there are vexing questions for the injured persons, including who is at fault and who will pay for their medical bills, lost wages and damages. And how can we stop this from happening again so others are not injured or killed? Here, could a median barrier have prevented the head-on collision, not to mention countless others?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just released a report that shows the dangers of distraction and sleepiness on our roads. More than one fourth of all 18-wheeler accidents are caused by driver inattention or fatigue. This is just what’s reported. Based on what I've seen as a personal injury lawyer, I believe the number is much higher. I am filing suit on behalf of a woman who was seriously injured when a distracted tractor trailer driver shown here crashed into her vehicle and killed her boyfriend as they were at a complete stop on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth. Several years ago, I represented the family of a young tow truck operator who was tragically killed when an 18 wheeler driver fell asleep at the wheel and veered off of I-35 north of Dallas-Fort Worth and crashed into another tractor trailer he was underneath. In June, three people were killed on I-30 in Royse City in East Texas when a tractor-trailer veered into the path of another tractor-trailer. The eastbound travelling rig dragged a small car with it as it jumped the center median into oncoming traffic. The driver fell asleep at the wheel.

Why are criminal charges so rare when drivers and trucking companies break the law?

As an early Christmas present to Tracy Morgan, the Wal-Mart driver who severely injured the comedian and killed his close friend was indicted yesterday. 

The driver was severely sleep-deprived and speeding at the time of the June 7, 2014 crash. Before beginning his long-haul shift, Kevin Roper drove 700 miles from his home in Georgia to report to a Delaware Wal-Mart. 

Roper raced along the NJ highway at 65 mph in a 45 mph zone moments before the crash. He also failed to heed multiple warnings about construction lane closures and resulting slow moving traffic ahead. Having been awake for 28 hours, Roper could not react in time to avoid hitting Morgan's limousine. 

The devastating 18-wheeler accident did not result from a mistake, bad conditions or any other unavoidable cause. The collision was entirely preventable, except for the criminal conduct of the driver and his employer.

That a driver faces criminal consequences is very rare. People are injured and killed daily by negligent truck drivers who ignore speeding, distracted driving and hours of service laws, but drivers typically get a light reprimand and the company a small fine. Drivers and trucking corporations face no real consequences when the victims are less famous than the well-regarded Tracy Morgan.


Last year, when a truck driver killed four North Central Texas College softball players in a horrific traffic collision, I was appalled to hear the driver's excuse. He claimed that he was distracted by something in the cabin. Why would that cause him to drive across the highway and cross over the median into oncoming traffic?

The real reason just came to light. Th truth is what you might have expected, but with this wrinkle: Russell Staley was high on synthetic drugs when he crashed into the NCTC bus.

Synthetic Drugs Put the Public at Serious Risk

For those who do not know what synthetic drugs are, they are chemicals that can be smoked or vaporized to cause elevated mood, altered perception and psychosis. Often the synthetic cannabinoids, a/k/a "fake marijuana" and "K2" also cause confusion, extreme anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations.

Until recently, synthetic drugs were openly sold at gas stations and convenience stores. The Texas Poison Center reported 464 cases of synthetic marijuana exposure in 2013 and that number increased by almost 60 percent to 782 in 2014. So far this year, poison centers nationwide have seen a fourfold increase in reported exposure, in part due to highly dangerous batches in Texas and six other states. 

Texas is behind only Mississippi and New York in numbers of K2-exposure cases reported to the poison control center. 

Make no bones about it, this is an extremely dangerous drug. And that a commercial truck driver would attempt to operate a tractor-trailer on this substance is nothing short of shocking.

Fortunately, a Texas statute banning K2 that took effect in September. Unfortunately, manufacturers change the chemical compounds regularly in order to skirt legislation. This makes the drugs harder to detect and harder to regulate.

All Occupants of Team Van Were Seriously Injured in the Tractor-Trailer Wreck

The driver of a tractor-trailer was charged on Friday with four counts of fatal tractor-trailer accident occurred on Interstate 35 near Turner Falls in Southern Oklahoma. The North Central Texas College softball team was returning to their Gainesville, TX campus from a game they had played in Oklahoma earlier in the day. 

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