Articles Posted in Trucking Accidents

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Any party in a Texas bicycle accident claim or other legal proceeding is required to preserve evidence relevant to that claim. Texas courts have held that a duty to preserve evidence arises when a party knows or reasonably should know “that there is a substantial chance that a claim will be filed and that evidence in its possession or control will be material and relevant to that claim.”bicycle

Spoliation of evidence is a failure to preserve evidence. If a party fails to preserve evidence, it can harm the opposing party’s ability to present or defend a claim. Therefore, if a party fails to reasonably preserve discoverable evidence, it is a serious issue with potentially drastic consequences.

Texas courts have discretion in addressing the issue of spoliation. In a Texas Supreme Court case, Brookshire Bros. v. Aldridge, the court held that the judge, rather than the jury, must decide whether a party spoliated evidence and then determine the appropriate remedy. Possible remedies include an instruction to the jury, an award of attorney’s fees, exclusion of evidence, and dismissal of a party’s claims.

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Filing a claim in one state rather than another may have a number of benefits for a Texas plaintiff, including convenience and more favorable laws. In a recent Texas Supreme Court decision, the court explained why a case arising from an accidental death in Mississippi could be filed in Texas.

TractorIn that case, a man was killed while he was repairing his tractor at his house in Mississippi. The tractor was sold in Mississippi, and the accident occurred in Mississippi, but the man’s son lived in Texas and filed a negligence and product liability claim against the tractor company in Texas. The company moved to dismiss the claim based on forum non conveniens. The company argued that Mississippi was a more convenient and appropriate forum to have the claim heard. The man’s estate was there, and there were other connections to the accident there, since the man lived in Mississippi, bought the tractor in Mississippi, and died in Mississippi.

Forum Non Conveniens

Forum non conveniens allows a court to decline jurisdiction if another more suitable forum exists that is more just and convenient. Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.051, a court can decline to exercise jurisdiction under the doctrine of forum non conveniens if it is “in the interest of justice and for the convenience of the parties.”

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  1. semi truckRecently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Texas truck accident case discussing an important issue regarding what constitutes inappropriate comments with respect to a plaintiff’s ethnicity or immigration status. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff should be granted a new trial after defense counsel made several comments alluding to the plaintiff’s inability to legally work in the United States.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in an accident with the defendant truck driver. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant made an illegal lane change and collided with her vehicle. According to the plaintiff, after the accident the defendant apologized for causing the accident, and admitted that it was his fault. The defendant later took back those statements, claiming that when he learned more about how the accident occurred, and the plaintiff’s role in causing it, he no longer believed he was at fault.

The plaintiff was not legally permitted to work in the United States and the defense counsel hoped to bring that fact to the attention of the jury. However, in a pre-trial motion, the court disallowed comments on the plaintiff’s immigration status.

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Common Links to More and More Trucking Accidents 

With a 20% increase in trucking accidents over the last two decades according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), there are more and more trucking accidents occurring across Texas.

And when these types of accidents occur typically the result is much more severe, as the large truck or semi is often 20 times the size and weight of most other vehicles on the road.

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Liability in Texas car crashes is generally governed by negligence principles. Negligence refers to a party’s failure to act in a way that an ordinarily prudent person would act under the circumstances to prevent an unreasonable risk of harm. Under Texas law, the elements of a negligence claim are:  1) a legal duty owed by one person to another; 2) a breach of that duty; 3) damages; and 4) proximate causation of the damages by the breach of duty.

Legal News GavelThe standard of care one person owes another depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident as well as the relationship between the parties. Generally, the standard of care refers to the care and diligence that an ordinarily prudent person would use to prevent injuries under the circumstances. Therefore, a plaintiff must show that a defendant did something (or failed to do something) that a person exercising ordinary care would not have done under the circumstances.

In car accident cases, in order to hold another driver liable, a plaintiff must show that the driver was negligent and also that the other driver’s negligence proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Proximate cause refers to both the direct cause of the damages and the foreseeability of the damages. In cases involving more than one negligent driver, each driver is jointly and severally liable for the resulting damages.

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Legal News GavelIn a recent Texas wrongful death case, a car that drove into oil-based mud cuttings slid from the roadway and rolled over. A passenger was ejected and killed. An oil company had loaded mud into a dump trailer operated by an independent trucking company. Neither the trucking company nor the oil company had made sure the truckload of mud was adequately attached before the truck left the drill site.

The decedent’s parents, the next friend of her minor daughter, and the estate administrator sued the oil company and others for negligence. The oil company moved for summary judgment. It argued it didn’t have a duty to the decedent by law because the trucking company owed a non-delegable duty to secure the load, and its internal policies didn’t generate a duty to secure an independent contractor’s load. It also argued it wasn’t foreseeable that the trucking company would act negligently. The trial court granted the motion.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that it was an error for the lower court to grant summary judgment based on the argument the oil company didn’t have a duty to secure the mud load. The oil company needed to present evidence to show it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The appellate court explained the parties hadn’t relied on conflicting evidence. An oil company operated a drilling rig and hired another oil company to control solids. The solids control operator provided evidence that he owed a duty to load trailers transporting mud from the drill site and that he hadn’t relied on the driver of the trailer for how to load the trailer.

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Legal News GavelIn a 2016 Texas truck accident case, the plaintiffs sued an excavating company. The accident caused a pileup, and when the sheriff investigated, it found that it was caused by the driver of an 18-wheeler. The trailer being pulled had the excavating company’s name and motor carrier number on it. The 18-wheeler hit a cement truck on I-30. Both moved toward the center guard lane, with the cement truck crossing over the guardrail and rolling, hitting vehicles in its path, including the plaintiff’s car. The front of the 18-wheeler also crossed the guardrail and wound up on the other side.

The plaintiffs intervened in a lawsuit filed by many other plaintiffs, including the driver of the cement truck. The claim of all of these accident victims was that the tractor-trailer driver’s negligence was the cause of the collision and that his employer under common law and the FMCSA regulations, as well as the Texas transportation code, was the excavating company, which was vicariously liable. The plaintiffs also argued the driver and truck driver were grossly negligent and sued the company for negligent supervision, negligent entrustment, negligent retention, and negligent hiring.

A jury trial was resolved in the plaintiff’s favor, such that the company was determined to be vicariously liable for its driver’s negligence. Judgment was rendered against the employer and the driver jointly and severally, and they were ordered to pay the plaintiffs a little less than $1 million.

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Legal News GavelIn Hospadales v. McCoy, the defendants appealed a judgment in a truck accident case that awarded the plaintiff damages in the amount of $292,000 for past pain and suffering, past medical expenses, and past lost earning capacity. Among other things, they argued the evidence was insufficient not only to show causation but also to support the jury’s damages award and finding that the plaintiff was not contributorily negligent.

The plaintiff worked to transport cars from one location to another location, using a 30-foot trailer pulled by a pickup. He and his wife were driving on I-45 to pick up a car when the defendant was driving an armored truck for his employer. The armored truck had data that included the speed and movements of the truck, as well as a system to record data related to the plaintiff’s operation of the vehicle.

A video from the armored truck showed the armored truck driver was driving behind the plaintiff in the same lane, then switched lanes, and went faster, trying to pass on the left of the plaintiff. The left side of the armored truck driver’s truck and trailer were directly on the white dividing line between lanes, although it didn’t cross.

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Legal News GavelIn Blevins v. Pepper-Lawson Construction, the plaintiff appealed after a jury awarded him $170,850 for injuries suffered when he hit a construction vehicle driven by an employee of a masonry company.

The case arose one evening when the plaintiff was driving near a high school under renovation. A subcontractor of Pepper-Lawson Construction was doing some masonry. The plaintiff tried to pass a car but instead hit the mason’s construction vehicle. He was hurt and sued Pepper-Lawson, the mason, and the driver of the construction vehicle.

At trial, he argued that the construction vehicle should not be driven on a public road without a road kit (headlights and tail lights), and there was a failure to warn. A witness testified at trial that she was driving in the same area, which was well lit. A motorcycle sped around her in the right lane, followed by the plaintiff’s truck, which was also speeding. She believed they were racing and stopped her car because she saw that the plaintiff was driving as if he didn’t see the construction vehicle and was going to hit it.

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Legal News GavelTrucking companies often deny liability in truck accident cases, and in some cases, they even destroy or falsify evidence to avoid liability. It is important to retain an attorney who understands how to obtain discovery in a Texas truck accident lawsuit. In Greenwood Motor Lines, Inc. v. Bush, a trucking company and its driver appealed a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

The trucking company argued a number of things, including insufficient evidence and incorrect handling of allegations of spoliation of evidence.

The case arose when the plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendants’ tractor trailer while driving east on I-20 one night. The plaintiff suffered physical and neurological harm that necessitated surgeries and caused her pain up to and through the trial. Her two dogs were killed.

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