Truck accidents kill thousands of Americans every year, hundreds of those in Texas. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fatal truck accidents hit a record low in 2009. However, as the economy recovered and Americans hit the road again, these numbers began to climb once more. Truck accident fatalities in Laredo and nationally have been on the rise ever since.
How A Trucking Company Can Be Legally Responsible For Causing a Truck Accident
Legal responsibility (“liability”) for a truck accident can fall to either driver. Trucking companies can also be found liable for causing a truck accident when their conduct resulted in an unsafe situation on the road. For example: Because truck drivers are often paid by the mile, not by the hour, they are forced to choose between productivity and safety. Trucking companies which encourage drivers to push themselves to drive unsafe hours - or simply do not discourage it - can be liable for accident caused by tired truck drivers.
Carriers can also be held vicariously liable for the negligent actions of drivers even if the carrier itself was not negligent. This is known as the doctrine of respondeat superior. In order to prevail on this cause of action, plaintiffs must show:
- Truck driver breached a duty of care to exercise reasonable care;
- Truck driver's negligence caused accident;
- Accident resulted in plaintiff's injuries/ damages;
- Truck driver was an employee of the carrier;
- Truck driver was acting in the course and scope of his/ her employment at the time of the crash in question.
A common problem in the trucking industry is a high turnover rate. Long hours, low pay and tough working conditions have caused turnover among truck drivers to remain near 100 percent. This means that truck drivers on the roadway are almost always inexperienced. The turnover rate among truck drivers also means that trucking companies do not always thoroughly screen for problem drivers - especially those with a history of trucking and traffic violations. Accidents caused by drivers who are inexperienced or have poor driving histories can also bring liability to the transit companies that hire them.
Why Hasn’t This Problem Been Addressed?
In most other industries, this many deaths would attract national attention. Unfortunately, fatal truck accidents are often scattered in small numbers all across the country, and do not often receive significant media coverage. Accidents like those involving actor Tracy Morgan are the exception. CNN reports that the National Transit Safety Board discovered that the driver of the truck which rear-ended Morgan’s limo bus had not slept in the twenty-eight hours prior to the accident.
In contrast to the little public attention truck accidents receive, the trucking industry has powerful lobbyists in Washington D.C. These are professionals whose only job is to prevent Congress from regulating the trucking industry. Until there is an increase in public awareness, it seems that the government will be more likely to cater to the trucking industry than to the American public.
How Texas Drivers Can Avoid Truck Accidents
- Slow down! Large trucks maneuver more slowly than small vehicles, and they cannot quickly respond to cars that weave around them or make sudden movements. Speed should also be reduced any time that visibility is reduced at night, due to weather, or other circumstances.
- Make sure you are visible to any truck drivers nearby. Large vehicles have large blind spots, and this can make it difficult for a truck driver to avoid collision with smaller vehicles nearby. Use your horn and lights as necessary to increase visibility. Do not stay in a blind spot for too long – speed up or slow down to get out of the blind spot and remind the truck river that you are still nearby.
- Allow extra space between your vehicle and any large vehicle nearby. Large, heavy vehicles require greater stopping distance, and an unexpected obstacle in the road can be disastrous for a vehicle following a truck too closely.
After any accident, contact a Laredo truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Injury victims have legal rights which must be protected.