Articles Posted in Trucking Accidents

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One of the most critical decisions a Texas car accident victim must make when pursuing a claim for compensation is which parties should be named as defendants. Naming all potentially liable parties is important for several reasons. First, plaintiffs typically only get “one bite at the apple,” meaning that an injury victim can only bring one case based on their injuries. It is the plaintiff’s responsibility to name all potentially liable parties, and if an essential party is not named a plaintiff will not likely be able to file a subsequent lawsuit against the unnamed party. Thus, a plaintiff should name all potentially liable parties because a failure to do so could result in the named defendants shifting a portion of the fault for the accident onto a non-present party.

Another important reason for naming all potentially liable parties is to increase the likelihood that a successful plaintiff will be able to collect on an award. Serious Texas personal injury cases can result in substantial monetary damages. Often, individuals may not have sufficient assets to fully compensate a successful plaintiff and, in some cases, they may not carry enough insurance coverage. By naming additional parties, a plaintiff has the ability to collect a damages award from several parties, increasing the chance that the plaintiff will be able to collect the entirety of what she is entitled to.

Texas Woman Killed When Delivery Truck Runs Red Light

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Texas truck accident case requiring the court to determine if the lower court properly excluded evidence of the plaintiff’s mental health diagnoses. Ultimately, the court concluded that such evidence was relevant and that the probative value of the evidence outweighed any potential prejudice caused by the admission of the evidence. Thus, the court reversed the jury’s verdict.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, a pedestrian was killed after she was run over by a semi-truck that was in the process of making a turn. Evidently, the truck was negotiating a tight corner that was complicated by the presence of another motorist on the road. As the truck driver made the turn, the side of the truck clipped the pedestrian, knocking her to the ground. The truck’s rear tires then ran over the pedestrian, killing her instantly.

The pedestrian’s family members filed a Texas wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and his employer. As a part of their defense, the defendants intended on introducing evidence that the pedestrian suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and had alcohol, cocaine, and oxycodone in her blood at the time of her death. The plaintiffs objected to the admission of the evidence and the trial court precluded its admission, finding that it was relevant but that any probative value was outweighed by potential prejudice. The defendants appealed.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a Texas truck accident requiring the court to determine if the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff should be reversed based on inadmissible expert testimony from a state trooper. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trial court correctly admitted the trooper’s testimony; however, the court remanded the case on an unrelated issue so that the plaintiff’s damages could be recalculated.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a truck driver who was involved in a serious Texas truck accident when a truck traveling in the opposite direction crossed over the center median and crashed head-on into the plaintiff’s truck. The collision caused a massive explosion, resulting in the plaintiff being severely burned. The driver of the out-of-control truck died in the accident. The plaintiff proceeded with a personal injury claim against the company that hired the truck driver to transport the load he was carrying at the time of the accident.

At trial, the plaintiff presented testimony from the state trooper who first responded to the scene. Apparently, the trooper was behind the at-fault truck driver and saw the explosion from a distance. The trooper testified regarding his on-scene investigation immediately after the accident. Among the issues the trooper mentioned were the road conditions, the fact that the truck driver was using a cell phone at the time of the crash, and his belief that the truck had hydroplaned causing the driver to lose control. The trooper could not estimate how much the truck weighed or how fast it was traveling.

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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.”

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.In 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. Recently, 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.The 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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In 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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In 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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