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Common Defenses in Trucking Accident Cases

Monday, October 9, 2017

Tractor-trailer accidents can lead to catastrophic property damage, severe injuries, even deaths. These accidents can happen for any number of reasons, including driver errors, faulty vehicle parts, poor maintenance, or aggressive driving. When a person suffers an injury in a trucking accident, he or she may attempt to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver or trucking company. While some cases are open and shut, others are more complex, may involve multiple defendants, or there may simply be a lack of evidence that could help reach a speedier conclusion.

Trucking companies carry insurance coverage for personal injury claims and often employ response teams that travel to accident sites to gather evidence. These responders look for any evidence to protect their employers from legal entanglements with plaintiffs injured in trucking accidents.

Common Defenses for Trucking Companies

The first step in handling any type of personal injury claim is establishing fault. While the plaintiff must prove the trucking company is at fault for his or her injuries, the trucking company will look for any reason to disprove or cast doubt upon a plaintiff’s claims. Some of the most common defenses these companies will use include:

  • Plaintiff fault. Some states follow comparative negligence laws that allow plaintiffs to secure compensation for damages even if they are partially to blame for those damages. In trucking accident cases, the trucking company will likely look for any evidence that the plaintiff is at least partially to blame for an accident.
  • Third parties. A trucking company may claim that a third party unrelated to the plaintiff or the trucking company caused the accident in question. In these cases, the trucking company must be able to prove a third party had a hand in the accident and may need to collect evidence such as traffic camera data.
  • Honest accidents. If the trucking accident occurred due to an unavoidable accident or honest mistake, the trucking company may be able to prove the driver was not negligent and the accident was inevitable. In these situations, the trucking company’s liability coverage may go toward the plaintiff’s damages, but the trucking company may escape liability for negligence.
  • Plaintiff exaggeration. Plaintiffs can only sue for actual harm suffered or measurable losses. The trucking company may argue that the plaintiff overestimated his or her losses or did not suffer any actual damages.
  • Lack of evidence. A trucking company may cite lack of proof of injury as evidence that the plaintiff lied or exaggerated his or her injuries. Plaintiffs should be certain to secure as much evidence as possible to prove the extent of their injuries and other damages. This also means providing evidence that a plaintiff’s medical treatment was appropriate, given the situation and the plaintiff’s injuries. Additionally, if the plaintiff claims lost wages as damages in a lawsuit, the plaintiff must be able to provide evidence of the lost income.

Plaintiffs injured in trucking accidents should work quickly to secure legal representation if they feel a lawsuit is necessary. The right attorney will help build a strong case with all the necessary supporting evidence for reaching a satisfactory verdict and help hold negligent trucking companies and drivers accountable for their actions.

Posted by admin at 6:29 pm

Tanker Truck Rollover Prevention

Monday, October 2, 2017

Tractor-trailers are vital parts of the American economy and transportation network, but they are also inherently more dangerous than smaller vehicles on the road. Trucks that pull tankers full of liquid goods, including gas and oil, can be even more dangerous. If these tanker trucks roll over, they can cause catastrophic damage, severe injuries, even fatalities. Depending on what a rolled-over tanker truck carried, the spilled contents can also present a serious risk of additional injuries as well as environmental hazards or public health emergencies.

Statistics indicate that almost 80% of all tanker truck rollover accidents happen due to some level of driver error. While truck drivers must obtain special certifications to perform their jobs and generally have more miles of driving under their belts than typical drivers, it is still crucial for them to understand the risks of driving tanker trucks and follow a few best practices to avoid rollovers.

Speed Control

Large trucks cannot stop or slow down as quickly as smaller passenger vehicles. They also require much longer distances to come to a complete stop. If a tanker truck driver is travelling too fast or not paying enough attention to other vehicles on the road, the driver may not have time to slow down or stop to avoid a collision. Tanker truck drivers can easily cause rollovers if they swerve to avoid a collision while traveling at speed. The sudden change in direction will cause the trailer to tip and probably fall over.

Speed is also a problem for turning. Tanker truck drivers need to account for changes on the road, and taking a sharp turn at high speed can easily cause a tanker truck to rollover. Drivers should reduce speed for turns and accommodate their vehicles’ size and weight.

Sudden Movements

Tanker truck drivers should do everything possible to avoid any sudden movements or jerking of the steering wheel. If a driver needs to suddenly turn to avoid another vehicle, the driver can unintentionally cause the tanker truck to rollover by oversteering or making the move too quickly. Tanker truck drivers can prevent rollovers by staying vigilant for changes in traffic patterns and avoiding reflexive sudden movements.

Plan Ahead

Tanker truck drivers can avoid rollovers by carefully planning routes ahead of time. By studying a route’s topography, known hazards, and any other elements like road construction on the route, drivers can make their deliveries with additional confidence. A driver who is not expecting a sudden change in road conditions is more likely to suffer a rollover accident, so preparation before every trip is important.

Trucking companies must ensure their drivers receive thorough training and have the experience necessary for handling tanker trucks. Most tanker trucks carry valuable goods, including fossil fuels, so trucking companies and their drivers have a high duty of care to ensure they do not put other drivers at risk with unsafe driving. Other drivers should be wary of all tractor-trailers on the road, especially tanker trucks, and avoid driving aggressively near them. Caution and good judgment from all drivers can help prevent tanker truck rollovers.

Posted by admin at 6:24 pm

How Effective Are Roadside Inspections of Commercial Trucks?

Monday, September 18, 2017

The commercial trucking industry is an enormous, complex system that is imperative to the U.S. economy. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) strives to regulate this industry, enacting rules that companies and drivers must obey to increase the safety of everyone on the roadways. Roadside inspections are one of many strategies in place to improve the safety of commercial trucking. Unfortunately, not every effort works as well as regulators would hope. Here’s a look at the effectiveness of roadside inspections in Texas.

What Happens During a Roadside Inspection?

Roadside inspections are largely part of state-run systems, with trained and certified vehicle safety inspectors stationed at unannounced inspection stops. The FMCSA financially supports statewide inspections through annual grant programs. The FMCSA’s National Training Center handles inspector training programs throughout the country, certifying new inspectors and giving certificates in areas of expertise. The state of Texas is in charge of ensuring its safety inspections comply with federal regulations.

Any commercial truck or bus that passes an active inspection station is required by law to stop and comply with the process. The inspectors will look at the driver’s license and documents, the cargo, any hazardous materials, the condition of the truck, and other factors during the inspection. If any truck fails a safety inspection, it will receive an out-of-service order. These trucks cannot continue their scheduled drives until someone remedies the issue. Similarly, commercial drivers with regulation violations will not be able to continue driving.

Traffic enforcement programs are also in place to improve trucking safety. During this process, a law enforcement officer may pull over a truck for a moving violation. The officer then has the right to conduct a roadside inspection of the driver and vehicle. Any sign of unsafe driving or operations can result in an out-of-service order. The FMCSA continues its inspection programs, initiatives, and efforts in the hopes that they will catch safety violations before they result in accidents.

Inspection Effectiveness By the Numbers

The FMCSA developed a tool called the Roadside Intervention Effectiveness Model (RIEM) to gauge the effectiveness of roadside inspections. This system analyzes the results of annual roadside inspection data and concludes how many lives may have been saved. The most recent data available from RIEM is from 2012. The facts from the 2012 RIEM analysis are as follows:

  • Roadside inspections prevented 8,721 accidents, saved 285 lives, and prevented 5,341 injuries.
  • Traffic enforcement inspections prevented 5,703 crashes, saved 187 lives, and prevented 3,492 injuries.
  • In total, roadside inspections prevented almost 9,000 injuries in more than 14,000 crashes in 2012.

Despite allegedly preventing accidents, Texas’ current roadside inspection system does not consistently screen vehicles or drivers. This results in a fraction of commercial trucks being dangerous to operate at any moment on the state’s highways. This is a frightening reality for other drivers in Texas. After a trucking accident, one of the first steps should be to investigate the truck and driver involved for potential safety violations. Any type of infraction could have contributed to the crash, such as an unsafe load, unsecured hazardous materials, or a driver operating despite an out-of-service order. In these events, injured victims may be able to sue the trucking company for negligence.

Posted by admin at 10:08 pm

How Truck Drivers Cheat On Their Logbooks

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has hundreds of rules in place to improve the safety of the commercial trucking industry. One such rule is that all truck drivers must keep daily logbooks that record duty statuses, operations, and other information. Section 395.8 requires electronic logging devices (ELDs) in most commercial trucks. It is shocking how often truckers and companies disobey this rule and “cheat” on their logbooks to cover up inappropriate or dangerous behaviors. Safety violations and abuses of the federal regulatory process can quickly lead to tragic accidents in Texas.

Why Do Truckers Cheat the Logbook System?

Drowsy truck driving is a major problem on Texas’s roadways. It is impossible for drivers to operate a truck safely when they are tired or even falling asleep. Truckers are especially at risk for drowsy driving because of long hours on the road, pressure from bosses to meet deadlines, and being alone in the cab. The FMCSA strives to reduce this dangerous behavior with the ELD and hours of service rules. Unfortunately, drivers who lie about their daily activities easily circumvent these laws. Here are a few possible ways to cheat the system:

  1. Create fake logbooks. Some truckers and trucking companies still falsify their logs, though this problem is diminishing thanks to the ELD requirement. They create logs with made-up information to present to authorities in the event of inspections, but they do not actually fill them out daily, as they should by law.
  2. Lie about information. Drivers may create duplicate logbooks, so that they may have one “good” one on hand in the event of an unexpected inspection. They may also fill out logs much later than required to cover up hours of service regulation violations or fill out the book with dishonest information.

Truck drivers may lie on their logbooks to drive past their hours of service regulations or break other FMCSA rules. They do this to meet deadlines, receive fast delivery bonuses, and get home to their families faster. Unfortunately, broken rules greatly increase the risk of accidents. There is a reason the FMCSA requires daily activity logging – to prevent truckers from breaking the rules. Entries should be current, accurate, and truthful, not falsified for the trucker’s personal gain.

Logbooks and Personal Injury Claims

Daily logbooks can serve as hard evidence of a truck driver’s negligence in truck-related personal injury claims. Acquiring a driver’s logbook or ELD records is an important step in the investigation phase of any truck accident. This document can show proof of a driver breaking the FMCSA’s rules by disobeying hours of service or other regulations. If a driver falsified the books, a thorough investigative team may be able to catch the driver cheating – also proving negligence.

If a truck driver caused a serious accident or wrongful death, an accident attorney can most likely discover whether he or she cheated on the logbooks. This may take comparing the book with shipping documents and black-box data from the truck itself. Unexpected inspections and electronic logs can also uncover truckers cheating the system. Seek help from a lawyer after an accident in which you suspect a trucker broke an FMCSA safety rule. Analyzing the logbooks and checking for cheating may be necessary to prove your case.

Posted by admin at 10:04 pm

Truck Accidents and Roadway Lighting

Monday, September 4, 2017

Roadway lighting plays a large role in driver safety. Adequate road lighting makes it easier for drivers to identify signs, other vehicles, and hazards. Though proper lighting is crucial for all drives, it’s particularly important for those manning big rigs. Commercial truck drivers depend on streetlights to guide them down urban and rural roads and to help stay them awake and alert. Inadequate roadway lighting in Texas can be dangerous and result in preventable truck accidents. It is up to each city to install and maintain roadway lighting to reduce this risk.

The Risks of Nighttime Driving

There were more than twice as many traffic accidents in “dark, not lighted” conditions (29,757) than “dark, lighted” (12,744) in Texas in 2016. It is more difficult for any driver to maneuver safely as roadway light diminishes. Most urban highways in Texas have some kind of lighting system, but rural highways and smaller roads often do not. This increases crash frequency and severity. There is a high risk of accidents when lack of proper lighting is combined with long nighttime driving hours and drowsy truck drivers.

Truck drivers aren’t the only ones who suffer in poor lighting. It is difficult to see 18-wheelers in the dark, despite their large size. The non-reflective sides of most trailers make them almost invisible in low-light conditions. Trucks should have reflectors or lights on the top and bottom of the trailer to help improve visibility. Broken lights or no lights at all can lead to another driver plowing straight into the truck. In these cases, the trucking company may be liable for the accident. The city also may also be responsible for poor roadway lighting.

Who May Be Liable?

After a truck accident, a victim’s first thought is likely to hold the driver liable. This may be the case if the driver behaved in a way that breached industry standards, such as falling asleep behind the wheel. If a dangerous roadway condition contributed to the crash, you may be able to hold the city of Dallas (or other municipality) responsible. Inadequate roadway lighting is a dangerous condition in the eyes of the law. What constitutes “inadequate lighting” depends on the specific area. Factors a city must consider when deciding where and how to install lights include:

  • Traffic volume and speed
  • Nighttime road use and crash rate
  • Road geometrics
  • General nighttime visibility
  • Style, height, and brightness of the fixtures

Partial lighting may be adequate and reasonable for conditions in some areas. In others, a specific type or brightness of light may be necessary. An investigation will reveal whether the city fulfilled its duties in installing a certain type of light for the particular section of roadway. If the courts decide that the city failed to provide lighting to protect drivers, victims of light-related truck accidents may be able to recover compensation. Suing a municipality in Texas is possible, but it is more difficult than typical lawsuits. Seek help from an attorney if you think you have a case against Dallas for inadequate roadway lighting.

Posted by admin at 9:44 pm

Tips for Avoiding Wrecks with 18-Wheelers in Dallas

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Commercial motor vehicles and big rigs are a part of our everyday lives. We may see them on our daily work commute or on family trips. These vehicles provide a valuable service to us all, transporting goods and driving our local economy. We all know, however, that these vehicles can also be dangerous. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways you can reduce your risk of being in an accident with an 18-wheeler.

Simple Ways to Prevent Big Rig Accidents

You can’t always predict the actions of another driver, but you can control your own. Use these tips the next time you get on your local highway or truck route:

  • Don’t hit the brakes quickly unless necessary. Rapid deceleration is dangerous when you’re ahead of a big rig, as even empty ones take a long time to stop. A fully loaded semi can require 300 yards to come to a complete stop. Keep an eye on the road ahead of you and allow plenty of time to react to possible hazards.
  • If a truck is following you too closely, give them time and space to pass. Move out of the way safely and continue your way.
  • Know their blind spots. Commercial motor vehicles have pretty impressive mirrors, but they still have blind spots – in fact, their blinds spot are much larger than typical vehicles. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you cannot see their mirrors, they cannot see you. It’s always a good idea to assure a safe following distance, especially behind a semi.
  • Don’t tailgate. Tailgating is dangerous for the reasons listed above, but also because it prevents you from seeing road signs, traffic lights, and other things necessary for safe driving. Always allow ample room between you and a large vehicle.
  • Exercise patience. Semi-trucks can travel slowly, but this is a good thing. It’s much safer for them to travel at slower speeds than it is to keep pace with smaller vehicle traffic. On the highway, travel in the faster lanes, as semis tend to keep to the slow lane. If you need to pass, wait until it’s safe to do so – a little patience could save your life.
  • Drive defensively. A trucker owes you a duty of care, but you also have a duty to drive safely on the road. Minimize distractions and concentrate on the road always, especially when you’re sharing it with a semi.
  • Use your blinker. Before making lane changes or engaging in any other activity with a driver, be as predictable as possible. This means using a blinker and waiting a moment before switching lanes. Remember, large vehicles take longer to maneuver and require more reaction time.

Sharing the road with semi-trucks may seem like second nature, but’s it’s important to keep your guard up. By driving defensively, remaining visible, and allowing them plenty of time to react on the road, you can make your commute safer. Do your part to prevent trucking wrecks in Dallas by observing these tips.

Posted by admin at 10:00 pm

Does Increased Competition in the Trucking Industry Affect Safety?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The trucking industry is becoming an increasingly competitive place to work. The North American Free Trade Agreement has created more opportunities for truckers throughout North America, and deregulation in interstate trucking has created competition in pricing and deadlines.

On some level, competition is essential in a market economy. As it relates to the trucking industry, however, competition can lead to dangers for travelers and truckers. In recent years, experts have raised concerns about safety and compliance in the industry.

Efficiency and Pressure from Competition

One of the largest areas in which competition has become a safety concern is in the efficient delivery of goods. When it comes to transportation of goods, efficiency is synonymous with speed. The need to deliver goods quickly has become a safety issue, as big rig operators are more likely to drive above the posted speed limit or faster than they should in inclement weather. Speeding plays a large role in commercial vehicle accidents, and truckers shouldn’t feel pressure from deadlines that are too tight.

A Lack of Qualified Drivers

To make matters worse, the trucking industry now faces a shortage of qualified drivers. Employers are offering sign-up bonuses and better pay to those looking for a long-haul job. The shortage especially applies to interstate trucking, as these long trips don’t suit a family lifestyle. Even though companies offer powerful incentives to hire more commercial vehicle operators, the turnover rate for these jobs is high. If a long-haul driver on the road lacks experience and proper training it can create a dangerous scenario.

Competition Leads to Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue plays a large role in accidents involving commercial motor vehicles. Trucking companies can theoretically gain an advantage by keeping drivers on the road longer. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets strict guidelines for driver hours, which they must keep recorded in log books.

Currently, a driver must take breaks throughout a shift and cannot drive for more than 14 hours in a shift. It’s easy to see how breaking these regulations could lead to accidents for the sake of meeting a deadline.

Drivers also combat fatigue by turning to illicit or over-the-counter substances. These substances, like caffeine pills, energy drinks, and even cocaine and methamphetamine, lead to energy crashes that compound fatigue. They also have disastrous consequences when it comes to roadway safety.

Competition Leads to Recklessness

In sum, the deregulation of the trucking industry has had unintended consequences – namely, an increasingly competitive landscape causing trucking companies to value profit over safety. Under pressure from their employers, truckers might drive too fast for prevailing conditions or even neglect their log books to gain a competitive edge. A trucker shortage compounds the problem, as companies struggle to retain and hire experienced drivers. Interstate commercial vehicle operators may lack the skill set or training to assure safety on our roadways.

Drivers must use caution when driving, but especially when sharing the road with commercial motor vehicles. Increased competition has had a negative effect on public safety.

Posted by admin at 10:01 pm

How Can Commercial Truck Drivers Limit Distracted Driving?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Distracted driving plays a major role in car accidents, which is why most states have a ban on texting while driving. Some states go further than others – in fact, in some states even talking on the phone is prohibited. Minimizing distractions is essential to maintaining our safety, as thousands incur injury from distracted driving each year. This especially applies to commercial truck drivers, as accidents involving commercial vehicles often lead to serious, permanently disabling injury or fatality. Fortunately, there are several techniques commercial truck drivers can employ to reduce their risk of causing an accident.

Put Your Phone Away

In the era of smartphones, keeping in touch with our mobile devices is second nature. We may always keep our devices close so we can check on texts, engage on social media, or navigate with GPS. When you’re operating a commercial motor vehicle, however, using a smartphone can prove disastrous. Texting and driving, for example, will make you 23 times more likely to be involved in what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration calls a “safety-critical” event, which includes lane deviations, near-accidents, or accidents.

Sending a text takes an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, this means a driver may travel the length of a football field without looking at the road. In fact, using a phone on the road is so dangerous that the FMCSA also has rules restricting how truckers can dial a phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle.

When driving, err on the safe side and avoid temptation; keep your phone out of reach. Pull over if you need to send a text or answer a phone call.

Maintain Your Focus

People often fail to realize that distracted driving is anything that takes your attention off the road. This may include personal grooming, talking on the phone, fiddling with the radio, or even talking to a passenger. Take steps to minimize any distractions:

  • Take care of all personal grooming needs before leaving each day.
  • Plug your route into GPS before hitting the highway.
  • Finish all personal calls before beginning a shift.

When on the road, maintain your focus by actively scanning and using your truck’s mirrors. Drive defensively and resist the temptation to multitask.

Prepare Smart Snacks

Driver fatigue can play a large role in distracted driving. Taking frequent breaks and eating smart snacks can help keep your energy level up and combat fatigue. The FMCSA sets rules for breaks and sleep for a reason. When taking a break or refueling, choose snacks that are high in protein and complex carbohydrates, not sugar. Sugar may make you feel better for a while, but an inevitable drop in blood sugar follows, which can make your fatigue worse.

Over a third of truck drivers have reported falling asleep or nodding off behind the wheel – get plenty of rest and take breaks when you need them, as concentration helps prevent accidents.

Distracted driving can lead to devastating accidents, but commercial vehicle operators can help mitigate their risk. Follow these tips to reduce accidents and enjoy a safe trip.

Posted by admin at 10:02 pm

What Are the Common Causes of Truck Accidents?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Trucking can be a fun career, but it can also be a dangerous one. Large trucks will do more damage if their drivers make a mistake, and the industry often makes headlines for teamsters who drive sleepy or otherwise impaired. While some common causes of these incidents involve smaller vehicle recklessness, the actions of truck drivers often play a role, too. Here are some of the most common causes of truck accidents to understand and watch for:

  • Driver error. Humans make mistakes, and when your job involves driving on the roads for hours at a time, the likelihood of making a mistake increases. However, professional companies train drivers to understand and avoid the common causes of driver error accidents. Companies often eliminate some of them, for example, by restricting cell phone use on the road and taking other measures to lower the risk of distraction.
  • Equipment failure. Drivers need to carefully and regularly maintain trucks that spend day in and day out on the roadways. Professional drivers are responsible for running through checklists before and after they get on the road each day. Faulty parts and improperly maintained equipment are common causes of many accidents. Tire blowouts and other debris flying out from a truck can have deadly consequences for vehicles following behind.
  • Lack of sleep. Like airline pilots, truckers are expected to maintain strict schedules to move their cargo. While federal and state regulations have reduced the amount of time a driver can travel on the roads continuously, some still experience a lack of sleep from tight schedules. Driving while tired is a form of impairment that can cause accidents just as easily as driving while intoxicated. Some research has even suggested that driving while tired is more dangerous than driving under the influence.
  • Bad weather. Once again, those tight deadlines can present problems for truck drivers. If they continue to drive in dangerous conditions, they may face reduced visibility and traction and truck instability – all of which can contribute to a dangerous accident. Since large trucks take significantly longer to come to a stop than regular vehicles, truckers must drive carefully in inclement weather to avoid causing a multi-vehicle accident or sliding off a bridge/road.
  • Poor loading. Semi trucks need balance to navigate the roadways properly. If a load is improperly distributed in the trailer, it can cause fishtailing and turnover accidents on the roadways. Every truck needs to follow a certain loading standard developed specifically to minimize imbalances in the trailer.
  • Drugs and alcohol. You’ll notice that drugs and alcohol are pretty far down on the list. Professional truckers who work for large companies have to follow strict guidelines regarding drugs and alcohol. Some are regularly tested, and many companies have a zero tolerance policy. A trucker who gets caught drinking once may find him or herself out of a job and without a good referral or recommendation to go to a different company.

The size of trucks can make small errors turn into deadly accidents. Technology is helping trucking companies overcome some of the common causes of accidents with advanced systems and enforcement requirements, but we’re still a long way from foolproof safety measures. In the meantime, give trucks plenty of extra space on the roadways to avoid the consequences of their mistakes.

Contact Us

If you’re involved in a trucking accident in or around Dallas, The Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert can help you hold negligent drivers responsible for their actions. When teamsters fail to operate their large equipment in a reasonably safe manner, you can hold them and their companies liable for the damage caused. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Posted by admin at 12:01 am