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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

How to Avoid Being in a Texas Truck Accident

Because of their size and weight, a Texas truck accident is usually far more serious than the average car crash.  There were about 5,100 fatality collisions involving trucks in the United States in 2018, according to statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That is because commercial truck crashes are much more dangerous than those involving smaller vehicles.  Here is a photo from a case we handled recently to give you an idea of the massive damage a jack-knifed 18-wheeler can cause on our North Texas roads.

Texas Truck Accident Causes

Trucks are much larger, heavier, slower, and more difficult to maneuver than cars, but many truck and vehicle drivers seem to forget this. These are some of the common causes of a Texas truck accident that we have seen over the last 40 years:  

Blind Spots

This is probably the biggest factor when it comes to truck accidents. Because of their length, trucks have much larger blind spots than smaller vehicles in these four areas:
  • directly in front of the tractor trailer,
  • directly behind it, and
  • on both sides next to its side mirrors, especially on the right.
Remember that if a smaller vehicle gets within 100 feet of the back of an 18-wheeler, it will usually be invisible to its driver. 

Speed and Stopping Distance

Many tractor-trailers have a gross weight vehicle rating exceeding 80,000 pounds. Traveling at typical interstate speed of 65 miles per hour, a three-axle truck-tractor with a two-axle semitrailer travels over 95 feet per second (or the distance of three first downs on a football field) and can take up a whopping 900 feet to come to a stop.

Driver Issues

Truckers have to cover long distances with their cargo, and often try to travel as quickly as possible for the sake of efficiency. This means 18-wheeler drivers often take to the road in a rushed and even sleep-deprived state, significantly increasing their risk of causing a collision. Substance use is also a problem. Alcohol and prescription medication often have a role to play in a Texas truck accident. Of course, this is not limited just to those behind the wheel of a truck. The CDC reports that alcohol was involved in 28% of all deaths that occurred on American roads in 2016.

Poor or Unsuitable Roads

Tractor-trailers perform best on wide, straight, well-maintained, and dry roads. But when they have to navigate routes with tight turns or roads with potholes or other types of damage, crashes become more likely. These kinds of roads are common in more remote areas. Wildlife Sometimes truck wrecks happen because an animal comes onto the road unexpectedly. This is a particularly pressing issue in rural areas, especially during deer season that starts this weekend. Drivers of large vehicles should be especially conscious of the possibility of animals getting in their way.

Avoiding Texas Truck Accident: Truckers

As a truck driver, there are a few steps you can take to keep yourself and other road users safe. These include the following:
  • Get the proper amount of rest. In Texas, commercial drivers can only legally be on duty for 15 consecutive hours, and can only drive for 12 of these. Drivers must also take 8 consecutive hours off after reaching one of these limits. However, if you feel tired despite having time left before breaching a limit, you should still rest.
  • Make your vehicle visible when you pull over by using flashers or cones, especially in darkness.
  • Make sure your vehicle is running properly by taking it for regular checks and having any issues fixed promptly. Many a Texas truck accident has been caused by avoidable mechanical faults, especially in all the one-truck, owner-operator businesses on the road.
  • Carry different kinds of weather-related equipment in your vehicle at all times. You never know how conditions will change, especially if you are traveling long distances.
Remember, your obligations to other road users are more serious when you drive a large vehicle. The consequences of a simple mistake can be severe.

Avoiding Truck Accidents: Other Drivers 

While truck drivers bear the responsibility for managing their larger and more dangerous vehicles, there are things other road users can do to help them. Small/moderate sized car drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians are most at risk of serious injury from truck collisions. Even if you drive a pickup truck or SUV, it’s a good idea to know how to protect yourself.

Watch Out For Blind Spots

Never cut off a tractor-trailer. Be conscious of the large blind spot trucks have when you’re driving behind or beside one. Be extremely cautious passing them, use your turn signal, flash your headlights, then speed up to get out the way. Stay well behind large commercial vehicles, especially when roads are wet or congested with stop-and-go traffic, as it will take longer to brake fully. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see the truck driver in their mirror, they should be able to see you. If you can’t see them, you should try to reposition yourself on the road.

Don’t Overtake a Truck Going Downhill

Trucks take longer to stop than other vehicles due to their weight. They take even longer than usual when going down a slope. Therefore, you should try to avoid passing out trucks and buses while traveling downhill.

Keep a sufficient amount of room ahead of the 18-wheeler

If he or she is tail-gating you, you should move over and let them pass. You don't want to run the risk of being rear-ended by an aggressive driver.

Be Responsible for Yourself

Don’t assume truck drivers will drive perfectly or obey every rule of the road. As they say, accidents happen, and truck accidents have a far greater impact on car users than trucker. In 2017, 72% of those killed in truck accidents were driving the smaller vehicles. With this in mind, be extra-cautious when sharing the road with a truck. Make sure you always have room to protect yourself in the event of an unexpected movement from a large vehicle. This applies doubly to cyclists. To be entirely safe, you should dismount if you encounter a truck on a challenging stretch of road. Even without touching you or your bike, a truck can cause you to lose control or fall if it gets too close at speed.

What to Do When Something Goes Wrong

Avoiding crashes must be a priority of every person on the road. Whether you’re a big rig operator, a driver of a passenger truck or car, and especially a motorcyclist or pedestrian, there are steps you can take to keep your risk as low as possible. Unfortunately, avoiding truck accidents is not always possible. If you have been involved in a truck crash, whether as a truck driver or the operator of another vehicle, you could be facing significant medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses if you don’t obtain a favorable settlement or jury verdict. For more on this topic: How much money can you receive from commercial insurance after crash? When seeking legal advice in the aftermath of a Fort Worth area truck accident, it is a good idea to hire a good Fort Worth personal injury lawyer.  At Berenson Injury Law, we’ve been helping people injured in a Texas truck accident since 1980. If you have been injured or lost a family member in any type of vehicle collision, contact us for a free consultation. Related post: What you should do after a tractor-trailer crash

 

Truck Accident Investigation

If you have seen the aftermath of a collision between a car or pickup truck and a tractor-trailer, you know that the results can be life-changing, even catastrophic. If you or someone you love has been involved in a crash with a commercial vehicle, it is important that you get a good truck accident investigation ASAP. This will help win your liability case against the 18-wheeler driver and his company.

The injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain, disfigurement, and disability, and vehicle damage from a collision with a semi truck can be phenomenally high. You will need a substantial sum to reimburse yourself for your damages. This can be a major injury, high-dollar situation that both sides want to win. Almost every personal injury case is settled out of court. You can usually make the insurance company representatives pay a reasonable amount of money, but only after you have proven your case. Getting a fair settlement or a jury verdict from an insurance company or trucking company can be impossible without a strong legal team backing you.

What a personal injury lawyer is looking for

Your injury attorney can create a reconstruction of the accident scene, especially if he is able to view the scene before the police have cleared away the debris. This can provide important information about what each vehicle was doing at the time of the collision. For example, did the semi truck drift out of its lane, tailgate, speed, or fail to yield the right of way at an intersection? Did the weight shift when it should have been properly secured or did an unsecured piece of cargo fly out of the vehicle? Was the truck properly maintained? Was the driver qualified? Were any other vehicles at fault? Was the weather or condition of the road a factor? A fast immediate investigation enables your personal injury lawyer to collect evidence. In a motor vehicle collision, no matter how severe, the police report is primarily an internal document for record keeping. The police often don’t take witness statements, take photographs, reconstruct the accident scene, download vehicle speeds and stopping data, or stop the trucking company from destroying evidence. It also allows your attorney to notify all parties that a lawsuit is in progress. He can notify all parties, particularly the trucking company, that no evidence may be tampered with, destroyed, or changed in any way.

What each side will be doing

The driver is carefully trained and knows what he must do. You don't. He must call his dispatcher, who will alert the company's crash response team, including attorneys and accident reconstruction experts. They will be at the site within minutes and will coach their driver, scour the scene, take photos and measurements, talk to witnesses, and work with the police officer to possibly shape his perception. But you will be injured, dazed, and might even be unconscious. You might be taken away from the scene to the emergency room by ambulance. What do you think will happen in the mean time? Important evidence will be taken that you need. It can possibly be destroyed or lost. The investigation must begin as soon after the impact as possible. Each minute, each day can be critical. But too many people wait for a police report to arrive and then find that it contains insufficient information to prosecute their case. Or they never see the police report and have no idea how to get one. We immediately obtain the report for any one who asks us, at no charge. This protects evidence that can win or lost your lawsuit including the driver's cell phone with text messages about traffic, speed, delivery times, weight, malfunctions, stops, and required rest. And almost all cell phone use while driving is outlawed by the FMCSA.

Text Messages

Berenson Injury Law has filed many commercial vehicle collision lawsuits over the last 39 years. We just resolved one against a major carrier that injured two people, one seriously.

What our law firm does after being hired

  • Go the the site of the wreck to get evidence
  • Work with an accident reconstruction expert
  • Get statements from witnesses
  • Get the police officer's photos and notes
  • Obtain and analyze the police report
  • Research the other driver and company
  • Write a letter demanding that the trucking company preserve the truck and all evidence
  • Mail a letter to the trucking company making it preserve evidence
  • Download black boxes of vehicles involved
  • Helps our client get the medical treatment they need
Commercial truck collisions are often difficult legal battles because they can cause serious injuries. If you have been involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer, it is in your best interest to hire a good personal injury lawyer. If you are looking for a legal team to get a good verdict or settlement from a trucking company, contact Berenson Injury Law. We will help you get the compensation that you deserve.

One of the first questions accident victims often ask an attorney is “How much is my case worth?” There’s no magic truck accident settlement calculator to get an instant answer. Each case is different. There are different types of damages involved. A number of factors go into the calculation of each to determine the overall value of your case. The best way to get answers is by talking to a personal injury attorney about your case. However, there are some common factors that you might want to consider as you go into this process. Why Truck Accidents Matter

We rely on big trucks to transport all kinds of goods to every corner of the country. Without them, you wouldn’t have access to groceries, clothing, or even the US Mail. Trucks transport raw materials to manufacturers to keep them in business. Laws pertaining to truck safety help us balance the necessity of the services they provide while protecting the truck driver and other drivers on the roads. When the truck driver or trucking company doesn’t obey the laws, accidents are more likely to happen. When they do, the damage is going to be a lot more severe. There are more than 15.5 million trucks on the U.S. roads. Of that number, two million are tractor trailers. These trucks carry all kinds of cargo with a legal weight of 80,000 pounds. That’s about sixteen times the weight of the average passenger vehicle. When you consider the high speeds that these trucks travel, it’s easy to see the potential danger. The faster they are traveling, the greater the impact is when they hit another vehicle. An impact between a truck and a passenger vehicle often has severe consequences. It’s difficult to imagine the kind of terror a person experiences when an eighteen-wheeler is coming at them. Even more difficult to understand is the type of pain and loss that they feel after a serious accident. The severity of a truck accident typically causes more time off from work, more expensive medical treatment, and diminished quality of life.

Common Causes of Truck Accidents

There’s an old saying that “There’s no such thing as an accident.” While this may not be 100% true in all cases, it’s reasonably close. Most accidents could have been prevented if someone had taken a different action than they did. When trucking accidents happen, it’s usually the fault of the driver. These are some of the most common reasons that truck accidents occur:
  • Driving While Tired – Truckers have deadlines, sometimes because of carrying perishable items. Sometimes they risk not getting paid if they don’t arrive with their load on-schedule. In the past, truck drivers were known for taking products like No-Doz and other stimulants to help keep them awake. Today, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) places Hours-of-Service rules to prevent the problem of driving while tired. This includes the maximum number of hours the driver can drive. It also enforces time off and rest breaks. Still, some drivers keep inaccurate logbooks and fail to abide by these rules.
  • Cell Phone Use While Driving – The entire country seems to be obsessed with their cell phones. Truck drivers are no exception. While the FMCSA strictly forbids texting while driving, many drivers use their phones to stay in contact with friends and family. Using their cell phone to talk is permitted if they use a hands-free device. There are limitations here as well. The driver is required to stay in a seat-belted position and can’t push more than one button to answer, call, or hang up the phone. Too often, the driver’s confidence in his/her skills overrides common sense and the law. Distracted driving remains one of the leading causes of big-rig accidents.
  • Reckless Driving– The risk of accidents gives truck drivers an even greater responsibility to watch out for the other guy. Reckless driving includes taking unnecessary risks, turning too quickly, or failing to check for traffic before switching lanes. These are just some of the careless mistakes that lead to accidents.
  • Driving Under the Influence– The idea of a truck driver being intoxicated while on the road is frightening enough. Today, a large number of truck drivers are using mind-altering drugs. Many cite poor working conditions as the reason. Some skip the No-Doz to help them stay awake and use amphetamines or cocaine instead. These drugs can change the driver’s perceptions and their reactions times. They also cause vertigo, mood swings, and even hallucinations. Perhaps most frightening of all is the use of opioids while driving. Opioid use, in general, has grown to serious proportions. It’s also hitting the trucking industry. The Department of Transportation (DOT) tests for these other drugs, but opioids have long been overlooked. As of January of this year, that is no longer the case. Testing is expected to deter opioid use. Even so, the issue of drivers who have valid prescriptions will still be a debate for the courts. Don’t take any chances if you suspect the driver who hit you was under the influence. It’s important to have a good personal injury attorney to prove it.
  • Speeding – Speeding is one of the factors that an attorney may put into the truck accident settlement calculator. Speeding reduces the amount of control the driver has over the rig. When driving on wet or icy roads, speeding is an even greater safety risk. It also requires more time for him to stop.
  • Overloaded Trucks– This is another factor that reduces the control the driver has over the truck. There are weight limitations on every truck. The specific limit depends on its braking system, frame, quality of suspension, and more. Failing to follow these limitations increases the chance of getting into an accident.

Sometimes the trucking company is equally to blame. The employer might hire a driver who has an unsafe driving record and/or a long history of previous accidents. They may have poorly maintained tractor-trailers or practice policies that result in unsafe driving practices. Some go even further and manipulate their logbooks to cover up hours of service violations. A truck accident attorney needs to prove both the driver’s and the trucking company’s fault in your accident case. Most insurance policies have an upper limit of one million dollars. Because of the severity of many truck accidents, the damages and injuries often exceed this amount. The truck driver probably can’t afford to pay a judgment that goes above the limit. The majority of large corporations have cash and assets to cover the entire judgment amount. Factors That Go into the Truck Accident Settlement Calculator - Cost of Medical Treatment – This number starts with your trip to the emergency room immediately after the accident. If you were taken by ambulance or airlifted, these costs are included. In addition, any diagnostic procedures, emergency medical treatment, hospital stay, surgeries, or care by specialists are considered part of your medical treatment expenses. - Future Medical Expenses – Sometimes it is difficult to predict how much your medical expenses will be in the future. You may learn early on that you require medication, physical therapy, or that you will require additional surgeries down the road.

There’s also the potential for your injury to get worse instead of better. You could develop a secondary condition or injury that stems from the original one. The cost of any future medical treatment needs to be figured into the cost too. Your attorney will help you make an estimate based on your current situation and the potential for ongoing treatment. - Loss of Income – All of the income you lost due to your truck accident injuries go into the truck accident settlement calculator. You and your attorney can determine the right amount based on your pay stubs. Determine your rate of pay and multiply it by the time you had to be away. This includes sick days or vacation days you took off to heal. If you have serious injuries, you may not be able to return to work. You could also be ‘partially disabled’ and have to take a position that pays less. Any income that you won’t be able to earn in the future because of your injuries is considered as damages. - Property Damage – When you look at a vehicle that’s been struck by an 18-wheeler, it isn’t hard to see the degree of damage they do. Property damage includes your vehicle and any property on you or in your vehicle that was damaged or lost. If the amount of damage to your car costs more to replace than to repair, it is considered ‘totaled.’ If you don’t know your vehicle’s value, check a guide like Kelley Blue Book to get an accurate figure. -Pain and Suffering – Determining a fair value for the person’s pain and suffering is more challenging than other factors. Unlike the value of property damages, it is hard to decide on a number that is based on the individual traits of the person. People react differently to an accident and to the injuries they receive. Some manage their physical injuries and move forward without additional complications. Others may develop physical complications like infections that also require medical treatment.

There’s also the emotional impact an accident can cause. Some accident victims develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and relive the accident. They may have difficulty driving or even riding in a vehicle with another driver. Others may have depression because of their injuries. More serious injuries might prevent them from doing things they enjoyed before the accident. These experiences and others are part of the pain and suffering that your attorney will figure into the value of your case. Some attorneys use a formula that assigns your injury a number between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of your pain. This number is then multiplied times the sum of your economic damages.

When a Loved One’s Accident Results in Death

When a loved one’s injuries are so severe that they result in death, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim. Dealing with the loss of your loved one can be devastating. You shouldn't be left worrying about your finances and caring for your family. When an accident occurs, someone is at fault. If that accident results in a wrongful death, the at-fault party is liable for all the losses that result. You can’t put a price on the loss of someone important in your life. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the compensation you need to take some of the financial burden off of your shoulders.

Why You Need an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney

There’s no simple way to calculate your losses from a truck accident. It takes an experienced truck accident attorney who has gone through the same process many times before. Depending on his ability to prove the value of your case, the value could be six figures or higher. It depends on the total cost of your damages combined. It doesn’t cost anything to talk with an attorney for an evaluation of your case. An initial consultation is your chance to learn more about the laws and your rights. Your attorney will help you understand the potential value of your case. He will also advise you on whether you have enough evidence to go forward. If you decide to pursue your case, your attorney will begin to collect evidence. You never have to worry that your legal fees will only add to your financial problems. Your truck accident attorney won’t charge any fees unless you win. He will only pursue those cases that he feels he has a good chance of winning. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident in the Fort Worth area, contact Attorney Bill Berenson to schedule an evaluation. He has nearly forty years of experience helping injured victims and he only handles motor vehicle accident cases. He can explain to you the damages that will go into your truck accident settlement calculator and the possible value of your case. Let Berenson Injury Law help you get compensation for your truck accident injuries.
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