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 Laird & McCloskey, 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.