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.
Here is we could stop many of these tractor trailer crashes
- Make companies do a better job of screening job applicants. There is a national shortage of truck drivers and there are simply too many unqualified drivers like this one on the roads.
- Make pay and working conditions more attractive so that there is not such a huge shortage of drivers.
- Make companies do a better job training and supervising them. Make them do ride alongs. Make them watch safety videos and have safety briefings. Test them.
- If they are bad drivers, terminate them immediately and give them bad references so they can’t start working at another company the next day.
Charge truck drivers with crimes if they cause avoidable collisions
Make criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter and assault mandatory. The driver in Denver was almost immediately charged with 36 felonies and is in jail with a $400,000 bond. If convicted, he could spend decades in the state prison. Of course that won’t help the families of the four people or all the people he recklessly injured.
In Texas, someone who causes another’s death recklessly can be charged with manslaughter pursuant to Texas Penal Code §19.04 and criminally negligent homicide under §19.05 and the Texas Transportation Code, §545.401. But criminal charges are rarely filed against a Texas truck driver.
Several years ago here, a 18 wheeler driver who crashed into a van carrying college softball players on I-35, taking the lives of four of the young ladies, was arrested. But that was only because they found he was using alcohol and drugs. That should not be a prerequisite and evidence is sometimes tampered with.
What compensation can be collected after a commercial truck wreck?
We certainly hope you have not been involved in one of these catastrophes but if you were, you will have a lot of questions, especially this one. Injured people and the families of decedents can receive the following reimbursement for their damages:
- The market value of the vehicle if it is totaled plus tax, title, and license, or all necessary repair costs;
- Towing, storage, and a rental car while their vehicle is in the repair shop or the damage is being appraised prior to it being totaled (usually);
- Medical treatment, including ambulance, hospital, diagnostic testing, prescriptions, and physical therapy hat have been paid and that will be paid in the future;
- Wages and job benefits and money that have been lost and will be lost in the future; and
- Physical pain and emotional suffering in the past and future.
Depending on the facts of the case, these damages can also be recovered:
- Disfigurement (scarring);
- Lost of consortium (the relationship with your spouse is damaged); and
- Punitive damages if the trucking company or driver was grossly negligent.
More information is here: How much money can you get from commercial truck insurance after crash?
Why you need to act quickly
Truck accident cases are complicated legal affairs. Huge trucking companies don’t want to pay damages or have their insurance rates go up and fight these cases.
This starts with their driver being trained what to say and what evidence to get or hide at the scene. A company and insurance crisis management team, often with an attorney, rushes to the scene immediately after the crash.
And like in the Denver crash, multiple people can be killed or seriously injured and file claims for their medical bills and damages before you get around to it.
These problems are compounded when there is not enough insurance or assets available to pay for everyone’s damages. In the Denver tragedy, the trucking company only purchased a minimum liability policy with a payment limit of $750,000, which is extremely inadequate to pay the damages to all parties involved.
The insurance company can choose to pay certain claims first and exhaust the available policy, which we see often.
And even worse, trucking companies in this situation sometimes file for bankruptcy and the injured parties only get paid pennies on the dollar.
How a North Texas truck accident law firm can help you
Berenson Injury law has been based in Dallas-Fort Worth for almost 40 years and has handled thousands of accident cases. We have the experience, skill, and resources to fight for our clients. We specialize in one area: representing the victims of truck and car wrecks.
Our law firm immediately investigates and determines exactly how the truck collision happened. We work with the police officers and accident reconstruction experts so that we will have the necessary evidence we need to argue successfully to the insurance company or jury. We file all for available compensation and work so that our clients receive all necessary medical treatment for their injuries so they can get back to normal. We answer all of our clients’ questions and walk them through the legal, medical, and insurance process.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision with a commercial truck, it is essential that you contact a good truck accident lawyer immediately. Please contact us so we can help you get the compensation you deserve.