Fighting for the rights of injured truck accident victims
While big commercial vehicles serve a valuable purpose to our economy, they can cause serious injury or even death to other motorists. In fact, truck accidents are far too common in Katy—and the problem grew so bad that the state legislature needed to intervene.
If one of those big trucks injured you, fight back! Call the law firm 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.
How Bad Are Truck Accidents in Katy?
Recently, the Katy Police Department got a little help from a state representative in addressing a rather large issue regarding commercial vehicles. State Rep. Gina Calanni of Katy filed a bill that would allow the department to hire its own commercial truck enforcement officer. Generally, certified commercial motor vehicle enforcement officers are only permitted for larger cities or at the state level. However, with several truck yards either in the city or at the border of the city, Katy’s roadways are filled with tractor-trailers, many of which are overweight. All the commercial motor vehicle traffic has resulted in damage to the roads, damage to street signs, and too many accidents with other motor vehicles.
The bill was signed into law. At that time, it was noted that the city has experienced over 300 commercial motor vehicle crashes since 2010, with many of these trucks carrying hazardous cargo. The Houston Police Department also has a commercial truck enforcement unit, which was established 20 years ago and is staffed by officers who have become certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These officers conduct a 57-point inspection and are authorized to place trucks out of commission when violations occur. The enforcement unit conducts at least two of these inspections on trucks in the area each month.
In 2017, Texas law enforcement agencies reported 433 fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicles, including 284 on the state’s rural roadways and another 149 in urban areas. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that, in 2016, there were more than 4,000 fatal crashes involving large trucks on the nation’s roadways, accounting for 11.8 percent of the total number of fatal crashes for that year. Additionally, there were around 537,000 nonfatal crashes involving U.S. commercial motor vehicles in 2016.
National Trucking Accident Attorney Stewart J. Guss discusses trucking safety on national news with Mike Papantonio on America’s Lawyer
What Makes Commercial Trucks so Dangerous?
Commercial trucks put other motorists at risk because of:
- Massive size differences: The average tractor-trailer weighs around 40 tons, while a passenger car weighs around 2 tons or less. This means that the truck is 20 to 30 times heavier than the cars it is sharing the road with, which increases the risk of serious damages, injuries, and fatalities. Because they’re so large, commercial trucks are harder to maneuver.
- High centers of gravity: Not only are commercial trucks heavy, but they’re also much taller than other vehicles. This causes a high center of gravity and poses an increased risk of rollovers, particularly on ramps and around sharp curves. The size of the truck can create its own windstorm and this wind can actually pull smaller vehicles beneath it.
- Significant blind spots: Large commercial trucks feature significant blind spots on all four sides. These are areas where, if a motorist is traveling directly in front of, behind, or to either side of the truck, the truck driver will be unable to see them due to the length of the tractor-trailer. Motorists are urged not to linger in these blind spots, particularly if the truck is turning, changing lanes, or backing up. Don’t know if you’re in a truck’s blind spot or not? A good rule of thumb is that, if you cannot see the driver in his or her side mirror, it’s likely that he or she can’t see you either.
- Greater stopping distances needed: Commercial trucks require a greater distance to come to a safe stop than passenger vehicles due. The FMCSA notes that a fully loaded truck traveling at highway speeds on good roads needs the distance of two football fields to come to a safe stop. This distance is increased with the weight of the truck and on wet or icy roads.
- They also need more space to turn: Because of their size, trucks are unable to make turns as easily as cars. The space needed to turn a truck is 55 feet. Motorists should use caution particularly when the truck is making a right turn not to get caught in what is known as the “right turn squeeze.” This involves the truck moving to the left to have enough space to make the turn, creating a risk for other motorists in the lane of travel to the left of the turn lane.
Aren’t Commercial Trucks Heavily Regulated? Doesn’t This Prevent Them From Causing Accidents?
Yes, trucks are heavily regulated by the FMCSA, which is an agency of the federal government. Some regulations that the trucking industry faces include:
- Enhanced licensing requirements. Truck drivers are required to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a tractor-trailer.
- Hours of service rules. Under these rules, drivers can only drive a maximum of 11 hours in a 14-hour workday, at which point they must have an off-duty time of no less than 10 hours. They must take a break of at least half an hour after eight hours. They cannot work more than 60 hours in a 7-day workweek or 70 hours in an eight-day work week, after which time they must have at least 34 hours of off-duty time.
- Physical fitness requirements to ensure they’re healthy enough for the job.
- Drug and alcohol testing.
- Enhanced regulations about alcohol consumption. Drivers cannot drive if their blood alcohol content is 0.02 percent or more. This is stricter than the .08 percent legal limit imposed on the drivers of passenger vehicles.
- Required vehicle markings on the truck, including the USDOT number and hazmat markings.
- Regulations regarding the securing of cargo and the transport of hazardous materials.
State and local regulations are in place to regulate the trucking industry, as well. However, just like other drivers, truck drivers are not immune to distractions, errors, and negligence even with these regulations in place.
What Causes Commercial Truck Accidents?
Truck accidents are caused by:
- Fatigue: In spite of the hours of service regulations, many drivers of commercial trucks continue to work while tired due to lack of adequate sleep, strenuous work, long work hours, and even medical conditions such as sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that prevents an individual from sleeping soundly. The FMCSA estimates that approximately 13 percent of commercial truck drivers involved in traffic accidents admitted to being tired at the time of the crash.
- Alcohol or drug impairment: In spite of regular testing and a lowered BAC limit for commercial truck drivers, many drivers continue to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs. While some drivers are bending and breaking rules knowingly, others are unaware that the medication they may be taking is causing deficits in the skills they need to operate the truck safely. Even over-the-counter medications can cause impairment, reducing reaction time, the abilities necessary for adequate surveillance, and the driver’s ability to make logical decisions.
- Speeding: Driving above the posted speed limit or too fast for the conditions of the road poses enormous risks, as a commercial truck is already harder to handle and stop due to its large size. When it comes to speeding, all the dangers of the truck itself come into play: the mass of it, how securely the cargo has been loaded, the high center of gravity, the blind spots, and the distance needed to stop safely.
- A disruption in the flow of traffic: Stop and go traffic is difficult for trucks due to the space needed to stop and the time needed to accelerate once more. Further, work zones including flaggers and work vehicles entering and exiting the roadway create further issues that the driver needs to pay careful attention to.
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway: One of the hazards of driving a commercial truck is the requirement to go where the load needs to be picked up or dropped off. This often results in a driver of a large truck traveling across roadways that he or she is unfamiliar with. Drivers are encouraged, when encountering unfamiliar roadways, to not attempt to turn sharply to avoid missing an exit and to pay attention to road signage, especially on one-way roads.
- Poor training: While training is required to pass the CDL test, that training has little to do with the real world of driving a large truck for a living. Unfortunately, driver shortages have caused some trucking companies to cut corners in their training programs, meaning brand new truckers are taking to the road with little on-the-road experience and minimal training.
- Poor maintenance: Trucks travel thousands of miles every year to transport commercial goods across the country. Because so many miles are traveled, the parts that make the truck run are subject to extreme wear and tear. Commercial trucks must be regularly maintained or they pose a risk for other drivers. Some parts that require regular maintenance include the tires, braking system, and electrical system. Even a tire blow out—which is a situation frequently experienced by commercial truck drivers—can result in an accident if the driver is not aware of how to appropriately deal with it in the conditions he happens to be traveling in.
- Distracted driving: Truck drivers often spend their working hours alone and driving across boring terrain. Many of them choose to entertain themselves during this time by engaging in distractions such as talking on the phone, texting, browsing the internet, eating, drinking, or looking at billboards along the roadway. According to a 2009 study, 71 percent of the commercial truck drivers who had been involved in an accident reported that they were doing something else in addition to driving the truck.
- Inclement weather: As previously stated, commercial trucks are harder to stop than other vehicles. This is even more true when there is inclement weather. Poor visibility due to bad weather can affect how much time the driver has to spot a potential hazard on the roadway, and slippery road conditions require more distance for the truck to come to a stop and could result in sliding.
I Was Seriously Injured in an Accident With a Large Truck. Now What?
If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a commercial motor vehicle, you are likely facing extraordinary expenses, and the expenses related to your injuries may last for the rest of your life. That’s why it is important to talk to a personal injury attorney who is experienced in trucking accidents as soon as possible. Some things a personal injury attorney can help you with include:
- Advising you of your legal options.
- Helping you to establish a value to your case, which is an amount of money that can pay for the expenses you’ve incurred due to your injury, those you will incur through your lifetime, your loss of wages and earning capacity, and the problems that your injury has had and will cause in the future.
- Helping you to identify liable parties and sources of insurance to obtain the compensation you need to pay for the expenses you face. Some potential sources of liability include the driver, the company who employs him or her, the company who contracted this driver to transport their goods, and the manufacturers of potentially defective truck parts.
- Negotiating with high-powered corporate lawyers who often represent the trucking company and the insurance companies who provide their coverage.
- If a fair settlement offer is not received, your truck accident attorney may also help you in filing a personal injury lawsuit within the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for this type of case in Texas is generally two years after the date of the accident.
- Gathering evidence and seeking the testimony of experts which can bolster your case.
- Representing you during all pre-trial and trial proceedings.
- Handling the payout of your award.
- Representing you at the appellate level if the at-fault party wishes to appeal the court’s determination in your case.
Injured in a Truck Accident in Katy? Contact Our Katy Truck Accident Attorneys Now!
The legal team of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, is nationally recognized for protecting the rights of injured victims for more than 20 years. If you were injured in a truck accident in Katy, call our office right now to schedule a 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.