TxDOT stats show spike in deadly truck wrecks

During one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, we’re learning that Texas’ roads are becoming increasingly deadly for those involved in truck accidents.

The Texas Department of Transportation reports that 460 truck accidents in 2012 involved fatalities – the highest number of fatal truck accidents since at least 2008, when the state saw 429 fatal truck crashes.

Top contributing factors to these accidents include disregarding warning signs in construction zones, failure to control speed, failing to yield while turning, and the failure of drivers to stay in a single lane, according to TxDOT data.

Fatal-truck-wreck-graphic

These statistics reinforce what we’ve been saying at the Law Offices of Steven C. Laird, P.C.: that increasing truck traffic due to an improved economy, especially in the energy sector, and increasing speed limits on Texas roads, among other factors, are creating a more unsafe driving environment.

If you’re traveling this holiday season, remember to exercise extra caution. In some cases, you need to pay attention not only to your own driving, but to those around you.

Driving Perils Lurk Behind Texas’ Energy Boom

According to the federal government, the State of Texas generated more than $1.4 trillion in gross domestic product last year – the state’s highest GDP since at least 1996. That staggering number is due largely to the state’s booming energy industry, according to media reports.

However, as illustrated by two recent truck-crash settlements negotiated by the Law Offices of Steven C. Laird, the boom has come at the cost of many state residents being forced to navigate unsafe highways.

Both truck wreck settlements, which were agreed upon in June, involved big rigs hauling water used for hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Both drivers of the heavy trucks disregarded federal laws and caused serious injuries to other motorists who couldn’t avoid hitting the vehicles. The crash victims earned substantial financial settlements.

“My clients suffered terrible injuries because these companies didn’t comply with federal regulations and failed to make safety a priority,” says Steven C. Laird, who negotiated the settlements along with fellow firm attorney Wade A. Barrow. “The growing energy industry has brought incredible revenue to Texas, but our roads are becoming more and more dangerous every day as a result.”

The first accident occurred on June 22, 2011, when a semitrailer blocked the right of way on a state highway near Carthage, Texas. Mike Allen, Mr. Laird’s client, crashed into a heavy truck owned by Coraopolis, Pa.-based Heckmann Water Resources. The truck was stopped on the road without turn signals or flashing lights.

Mr. Allen is no longer able to financially support his wife and young daughter because of injuries sustained in the wreck. On June 20, 2013, the court approved a settlement in which Heckmann agreed to pay Mr. Allen and his family what is believed to be the largest lawsuit settlement in Panola County history.

The second settlement stemmed from a Sept. 11, 2011, truck crash near Weatherford, Texas, that resulted in Mr. Laird’s client suffering brain damage. Arron Gomas, 32, broadsided a tractor-trailer owned by Weatherford-based Bob Phillips Trucking (also called Phillips Water Hauling) as the truck’s driver attempted to make an illegal U-turn shortly before midnight. Mr. Laird settled the case on behalf of Mr. Gomas and his family on June 13, 2013, for the maximum payout available from the trucking firm’s insurance carrier.

“While Texans welcome the energy boom that has benefited Texas’ economy, the companies involved in oil and gas production must do better to prevent similar disasters from befalling Texas families,” Mr. Laird says.

Recent bus accidents make bus safety a top political issue

Good article in the Houston Chronicle today about how the recent bus wreck tragedies in Texas, Nevada and Mississippi have brought bus safety to the forefront of the politicians in D.C. and Austin. Among other things, there are bills being floated that will require buses to have seatbelts for passengers. That sounds reasonable and somewhat of a no-brainer. I would also suggest that bus carriers be required to carry vast amounts of liability insurance, something on the order of $25 million or thereabouts. Because when a tragedy occurs like the one we just saw in Sherman, dozens of lives are affected and I’ll bet there will be little – if any – insurance to help compensate victims.

One striking statistic in the Chronicle article is that in the past six years, 52 people have died in passenger bus accidents in Texas. That is appalling.

As an aside, Chronicle writer Clay Robison has had some great articles in the past exposing the plights of injured consumers. Tip of the hat to Clay.

Seinfeld unhurt after rollover car wreck

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. – Jerry Seinfeld was in a harrowing rollover car wreck but was unhurt after the brakes on one of his vintage cars failed.

Seinfeld was driving alone when the brakes on his 1967 Fiat BTM stopped working Saturday evening, East Hampton Town Police Chief Todd Sarris told the New York Post. Seinfeld tried the emergency brake, to no avail, and then swerved to keep the car from careening into an intersection, Sarris said.

The two-door sedan flipped over and came to a stop just yards from the highway, Sarris said, adding that the comic maneuver probably avoided a very serious accident.

The comedian took the crash in stride. Because I know there are kids out there, I want to make sure they all know that driving without braking is not something I recommend, unless you have professional clown training or a comedy background, as I do, Seinfeld said. It is not something I plan to make a habit of.

(I didn’t know Seinfeld was 53…)