Harlingen, deep in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, is just a few miles north of the Free Trade Bridge, a major entry point for truck traffic. Given the proliferation of accidents involving commercial trucks and passenger cars in the Harlingen area, the odds have increased that you will suffer such an accident. If so, talk to a Harlingen law firm with experience handling accidents between semis and passenger cars. You have options, and Texas law may entitle you to compensation.
For a free case evaluation to determine if you are entitled to compensation for your injuries, contact the legal team of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law. We are open, for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-898-4877, or you may contact us now by CLICKING HERE to submit your case for review.
Why Harlingen Is a Truck Accident Magnet
The customs inspection site in Harlingen can handle 75 trucks at a time. Hundreds of trucks pass through there each day, spurred on by the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which reduced trade barriers between the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Harlingen also is at the intersection of U.S. Route 77 and U.S. Route 83, which also are known as I-69E and I-2, respectively. While Harlingen is not among the largest cities in Texas, its location and recent industrial growth—based on low cost of living and access to major transportation networks—has led to the city’s development as a major transportation hub, especially for long-haul truckers.
Unfortunately, this also makes Harlingen a prime location for traffic accidents involving 18-wheelers. Harlingen’s geographic location and industrial growth have made it a hub for commercial transport. Many big rigs travel through the area along U.S. Routes 77 and 83, and some, unfortunately, become involved in serious accidents during their commute.
Much of the growth in truck traffic is due to the increase in drilling in the Permian Basin. Texas traffic deaths involving commercial vehicle traffic have spiked in recent years, with many of those accidents occurring in areas affected by increased oil industry activity, including Harlingen. While statistics don’t indicate how many of those commercial truck accidents involve the oil industry, the counties in the Permian Basin and surrounding the Barnett and Eagle Ford shale oil fields have experienced higher rates of trucks involving commercial truck traffic. Anyone in this area should be aware of the risks and know what to do if a truck accident occurs.
National Trucking Accident Attorney Stewart J. Guss discusses trucking safety on national news with Mike Papantonio on America’s Lawyer
The Many Potential Causes of Truck Accidents
Commercial trucks—especially 18-wheelers, also known as tractor-trailers or semis—are the kings of the road. They are larger, longer, and weigh far more than even the largest passenger vehicle—including buses, but absolutely including private passenger vehicles, such as cars and pickup trucks. Everyday, cars and trucks by the millions drive side-by-side on the nation’s highways. For the most part, they do so without incident. When they do collide, the passenger cars almost invariably come out holding the short end of the stick. Recent federal statistics show that nearly 4,000 people died and 111,000 suffered injuries in truck-car accidents. As you might expect, nearly three-quarters of those deaths and injuries were occupants of the passenger vehicles involved in the accidents.
Accidents between semis and passenger cars come in many forms. However, there are several especially common categories of truck-car accidents that frequently occur. Knowing about these types of accidents might help you avoid them.
Truck Override Accidents are Both Extremely Common and Extremely Dangerous
A truck override accident couldn’t be more like what it sounds like. Because 18-wheelers ride so much higher than passenger cars, or even pickup trucks, when they strike such vehicles, either head-on or from behind, the almost invariably wind up on top, literally riding over the passenger vehicle. While such accidents often occur when a truck driver is speeding and comes upon a passenger car going slower, or the truck is following too closely when a car in front of it brakes suddenly, there are ways a passenger car driver can cause an override accident, as well. While the truck driver in such a rear-end accident often will be at fault, that likely will be small consolation to the passenger car driver who has a tractor-trailer override his or her vehicle because of a foolish mistake. Drivers of a passenger car can cause an override accident in a number of ways, including:
- Failure to yield the right of way when entering a highway from an on-ramp. Pulling out in front of a truck traveling at high speed is never a good idea.
- Changing lanes too closely in front of a truck at high speed, and then braking.
- Driving far below the speed limit on highways at night without properly functioning position lights.
- Of course, a trucker can cause an override accident any number of ways, including:
- Miscalculating stopping distance and running over the car in front of him.
- Brake failure
- Defective tires
- Making an improper lane change or failing to consider the relative speed of a vehicle in the lane into which the truck is moving.
No matter what the cause, truck override accidents are extremely dangerous, especially for those in the car that winds up under the tractor-trailer. Semis ride much higher than do passenger vehicles. When a tractor-trailer hits a passenger vehicle from behind, it can literally drive over the car, crushing the car and sheering off the roof of the car. This exposes the car’s passengers to the possibility of major head and upper-body injuries, or even death. The car can become caught under the truck and dragged some distance along the roadway. This also can result in severe injuries or death for the car’s occupants.
A federal study found that override happens in almost three out of four of car-truck collisions where the truck strikes the car with the front of the truck. This includes head-on and rear-end collisions, but collisions where the truck rear-ends the car are much more common. Such accidents resulted in override in 72 percent of the collisions. In most cases, the occupants of the car either died or were severely injured.
Negligence by Truck Drivers Can Be a Significant Factor in Accidents
Obviously, there are many other causes of truck-car accidents. Some of these can
be avoided by vigilance on the part of the passenger car driver. Some can’t. The elephant in the room is that trucks are big. If you have ever driven a passenger car on an interstate highway or some other major multi-lane roadway, you know full well that 18-wheel tractor-trailer rigs are a hazard to you just because they are so much larger than your vehicle. They have larger blind spots, they are not as maneuverable, they often can’t stop in time to avoid you. And when truck drivers are negligent, it’s the drivers of passenger cars who pay the price. Negligence on the part of truck drivers can include:
- Tired drivers: Federal statistics indicate 13 percent of commercial drivers were fatigued when they were involved in an accident. Some studies indicate that lack of sleep could be a contributing factor in as many as 40 percent of accidents involving large commercial trucks.
- Driving under the influence: Truckers are no different than other drivers—driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol is a possibility and, as you might expect, often results in disastrous consequences.
- Speeding: Truckers speed, too, and speed kills.
- Sloppy or careless driving: This can include improper lane changes, failure to check mirrors, failure to check blind spots, and other lack of attentiveness. Blind spots on trucks are much larger than on passenger cars, and every driver at some point has had a heart-stopping moment when they see a vehicle in a blind spot that they didn’t see until it was almost too late. Truckers have the same problem, but magnified by much larger large blind spots behind the truck as well as to both sides and potentially in front, depending upon the design of the truck.
Cargo Spills Can Cause Accidents or Result From Accidents
Cargo spills are not usually the cause of truck accidents. In roughly three out of four truck accidents involving property damage, the cause of the accident is a collision with another vehicle. Recent statistics indicate that only 5 percent of all fatal truck crashes began with the vehicle overturning and spilling its cargo without colliding with another vehicle. A recent government study found that the leading causes of truck crashes were:
- Loss of control due to a sudden equipment failure. This could include tire failures, total engine failure, or less predictable events such as a vehicle hood coming loose and blowing into the windscreen, blocking visibility
- Driver fatigue
- Either another vehicle drifting into the truck ‘s lane, or the truck drifting into another vehicle’s lane
- Bad driving conditions. This could be due to poor maintenance or bad weather
- Shifting cargo
- Driving off the edge of the road
- Driving too fast through a turn
- Unexpectedly encountering a stopped vehicle in the lane of travel, or unexpected debris in the road
While statistics indicate that shifting cargo is not a major primary cause of truck accidents, truck accidents often result in dumping the truck’s cargo onto the roadway no matter what the cause of the accident. Trucks involved in accidents often make sudden maneuvers, either because of the accident or in an attempt to avoid the accident. Often, this results in the truck’s cargo spilling. This is a common result in truck accidents, and carriers take considerable pains to properly secure cargo. First of all, it is simply good business. If cargo spills and is damaged or lost, the carrier will suffer a business loss. Further, failing to secure a cargo can result in load spills that result in damage, injuries, or death, including such adverse effects to the carrier’s driver and property. The carrier doesn’t want to see such results.
From a safety standpoint, an improperly secured cargo can cause the load to spill, posing a severe hazard to other vehicles in the area, potentially leading to accidents causing damage, injuries or deaths. Federal regulations exist to try and prevent cargo spills. Federal regulations set standards regarding properly securing cargo on flatbeds, vans, or refrigerated trailers. These standards are intended to ensure cargo is secured properly, making sure that the cargo will stay where it is supposed to be no matter what kind of turns, rapid decelerations, or stops the vehicle undergoes during transport.
Trucks are at Enhanced Risk for Rollover Accidents
Because trucks have a high profile, they have a higher risk of rollover accidents. Physics dictates that vehicles that are taller and narrower are at greater risk of rollover. While tractor-trailers are wider than regular passenger vehicles, they are considerably taller. Tractor-trailers are easily the tallest vehicles on the road. This gives semis a higher center of gravity, which increases their risk of rolling over in an accident. One federal study determined that the primary causes of truck rollovers included
Driving too fast through curves, which accounted for nearly half of all truck rollover accidents. These accidents occurred most often while negotiating on-and off-ramps
- Faulty brakes
- Poorly maintained road surfaces
- Distracted or drowsy driving
- Oversteering. This could include taking turns too tightly, failing to stay in the lane, and overcorrecting for bad steering.
If You Suffered a Truck Accident Injury in Harlingen, the Legal Team of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, Can Help
If you suffered injuries in a traffic accident that involved a truck in the Harlingen area, consult a personal injury law firm to explore your legal options. It is imperative to select a firm with experience handling accident cases involving commercial trucks.
The attorneys and legal professionals of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, are nationally recognized for protecting the rights of truck accident victims for more than 20 years. If you were injured in a truck accident, contact our office right now for your free consultation! Because we take all of our truck accident cases on a contingency fee basis, you will not owe us a DIME unless we win your case. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so call us today at 800-898-4877 or contact us now by CLICKING HERE.
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