The weight differential between big rigs and passenger vehicles is an obvious cause of serious injuries and death in these cases. Why our state leads the nation in fatal trucking accidents is more nuanced.
Recently, a jury decided that surviving family members of a young truck-accident victim deserved many millions of dollars in damages. The 42-year-old Fredricksburg man was killed near Burnet in February 2015. His minivan crashed into an 18-wheeler that had slid to a stop across State Highway 29 after its driver lost control and hit a guardrail on the icy roadway, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The victim left behind his wife and two daughters as well as his mother.
The semi truck and its driver were part of the transit operations of a major retailer. The jury reportedly found that 60 percent of the blame for the death was on the retailer and 40 percent on the driver, who allegedly did not place reflective cones in the road by the stalled truck to increase visibility of the hazard during weather conditions that limited visibility.
The issue of corporate responsibility was raised at trial because apparently the driver had a record of accidents, speeding citations and a complaint from the public about his driving. Despite this history, the company still allowed him to drive for them.
Fatal truck accidents in Texas off the charts
The Burnet accident is part of a terrible truth: Texas leads the nation in the number of fatal truck accidents by a large gap. According to the most recent federal numbers available, in 2014, 553 people died in large-truck accidents in the Lone Star State.
Incredibly, the next highest state was California, with 300 such deaths – 253 fewer than Texas. The entirety of why this gap exists is beyond the scope of this post, but it certainly illustrates the dangerous risk of accidents with semi trucks on Texas roads that other motorists face every day.
One well known contribution to South Texas commercial truck accidents is the increased traffic to and from drilling and fracking sites in the Eagle Ford Shale. Many related factors contribute to this phenomenon: wear and tear on inadequate roads; inexperienced, poorly trained and screened drivers; truck driver fatigue; and more.
Beyond the Shale issues, Texas truck accidents causing injury and death can be attributed to many other factors, depending on the circumstances, including:
- Poorly designed or maintained roadways
- Violation of federal hours-of-service or HOS regulations that help to keep drivers fresh and free from dangerous fatigue by requiring rest periods, breaks in service and limited hours
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription
- Inadequate screening, training or discipline of drivers by trucking companies and retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, service providers and other industrial concerns that own or operate trucking fleets
- Negligent inspection, repair or maintenance
- Improper loading or securing of freight
- Negligent or reckless truck driving practices
- Failure to adjust driving for weather conditions
- Violation of traffic laws
- Driving while tired or ill
- Driving with known or suspected health problems like sleep apnea that threaten the ability to drive semis safely
- And others
The lawyers of Rush & Gransee, L.C., with three South Texas offices, represent those injured in accidents with large trucks as well as the survivors of victims killed in such crashes in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Rush & Gransee attorneys are experienced in conducting investigations and analysis of truck accidents, including consulting reconstructionists and other experts, reviewing driver logs and maintenance records, and more.