The Main Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents

While a variety of factors contribute to big-rig trucking accidents, many of these are largely preventable. A large truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, depending on whether it is loaded or empty. The cargo in the truck could also be hazardous, resulting in additional injury in the event of an accident. The United States Department of Transportation estimates that there are over half a million truck accidents each and every year.

The number of fatalities from truck accidents vary from year to year. However, in 2010, 3,413 people died in accidents involving large commercial trucks. Seventy-two percent of these deaths were occupants in another vehicle, 13 percent were those on motorcycles, bicycles or pedestrians, and 14 percent of the fatalities were truck drivers. While large commercial trucks accounted for 4 percent of the registered vehicles on the roadways, they accounted for 9 percent of collision deaths.

While it is widely believed that driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs on the part of the truck driver is responsible for many commercial truck accidents, in fact, statistics do not bear this out. Only a small portion—between one and three percent of the total truck accident fatalities are the result of drugs or alcohol.

Primary Factors in Trucking Accidents

Driver fatigue is one of the top reasons for trucking accidents. Although there are federal regulations in place which spell out the maximum number of hours drivers can legally drive, many times these laws are circumvented by drivers who are pushed into driving impossible hours by a trucking company whose biggest concern is their financial bottom line. It is estimated that at least 13 percent of the trucking accidents in the United States are caused by driver fatigue. This number is likely much higher because most drivers would not want to admit they fell asleep at the wheel or were overly fatigued.

Distracted Driving

Just as with regular auto accidents, distraction has moved steadily up the ladder to become a major factor in trucking accidents, accounting for 18 percent or more of commercial truck accidents. Distraction comes in many forms; visual distraction occurs when a person takes their eyes from the road to look at their cell phone screen, looks at the radio or GPS or looks at a passenger or child in the vehicle.  Manual distraction occurs when the hands are off the wheel, engaged in another task. Truck drivers are well known for eating while driving, meaning their hands are engaged in something other than driving.

Cognitive distractions occur when a person is thinking about something other the road ahead and the cars around them, or when they have the radio up at full blast, oblivious to the potential hazards around them. Cell phone use involves all three types of distraction, which is why it is particularly dangerous.  Despite the fact that more and more cell phone driving laws are being implemented, it is still estimated that at any given moment thousands of drivers are using a cell phone, whether talking or texting.

 Truck Jackknife

When a trucker suddenly slams on the brakes of the truck, the trailer momentum does not slow at the same speed as the attached truck, causing the trailer to swing out and “jackknife.” You can imagine how dangerous such an accident would be to the vehicles around the truck, even in relatively light traffic. Jackknifes can also occur from brakes which are poorly adjusted, improper downshifting, turning too quickly or accelerating on slick surfaces.

Inexperienced Truck Drivers

Since most truckers are required to a thorough training program, we tend to think that they are fully trained and experienced from the moment they get behind the wheel of their truck. Like most things in life, however, there is a steep learning curve regarding driving an 18-wheeler. It is no easy feat to maneuver a huge vehicle which can be loaded with difficult or even hazardous loads. Drivers are generally given specific instructions on maintaining their trucks, securing their loads and how the different loads can increase the chances of accidents occurring. Truckers must learn how to handle these huge vehicles no matter the weather conditions, the heaviness of traffic, or time of day. Those who will carry toxic waste or hazardous materials will need even more training.

Lack of Vehicle Maintenance

The companies who operate the 18-wheelers which travel across our nation are responsible for ensuring their fleets are well-maintained. Drivers bear the responsibility for regularly inspecting their vehicles, especially the tires and brakes before driving on public roads. Any accident caused by malfunctioning equipment which can be traced to poor vehicle maintenance can place the liability for the accident squarely on the maintenance company.

Contact Us

The Lake Charles, Louisiana personal injury attorneys of Hoffoss Devall have extensive experience with trucking accidents and can determine the appropriate course of action to assist victims of truck accidents in receiving equitable compensation for their injuries. It is very important that you speak to a Hoffoss Devall attorney as quickly as possible following your accident to ensure your rights are fully protected prior to settling your truck accident claim.

Authorities Initiate ‘Zero For December’ Campaign

This month, the Louisiana State Police will supplement the nationwide Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign with the annual Zero for December initiative, to hopefully eliminate fatal accidents in the coming weeks.

Officers plan to use a combination of sobriety checkpoints and aggressive saturation enforcement to combat impaired driving this holiday season. Although the Zero for December program has never reached that goal, Cassie Parker of the South Central Planning and Development Commission said the goal remained the same. “Every fatality involving a car crash is preventable, 100 percent,” she insisted, if vehicle occupants buckle up, drivers avoid alcohol, obey the speed limit, and focus on driving. “We all have a responsibility to do those things,” she added. The LSP has observed Zero for December every year since 2001. [Read more…]

Buckle Your Seat Belt In Texas And Louisiana

The Lone Star State and Bayou State share a dubious distinction, because according to an insurance company survey, they are the two most dangerous states in the Union, in terms of motor vehicle accidents.

Texas moved from fourth to first on the list, and it is the only state among the top fifteen in all five categories, including drunk driving, speeding, and fatalities per miles driven. In fact, there has been at least one motor vehicle accident fatality on a Texas roadway every day for the last 55,000-plus consecutive days, a period covering sixteen years. Here in Louisiana, failure to obey traffic signals and distracted driving are among the primary culprits, and the Bayou State also ranks near the top (or the bottom, depending on your perspective) in terms of fatalities per miles driven.

South Carolina, North Dakota, Delaware, New Mexico, Nevada, Alabama, Arizona and Montana are the other top-ten most dangerous states. [Read more…]

Gruesome Highway Crash Kills One

A pickup truck ran over a woman in the road after she was ejected from her car in a vehicle crash.

The wreck occurred on southbound U.S. Highway 61 between Kenner and Laplace. Per Louisiana State Police, 20-year-old Angelica Matamoros drifted across the center line and collided with 23-year-old Norman Porter, who driving an SUV. Ms. Matamoros was not restrained and was ejected from her vehicle. As she lay on the ground, 28-year-old Justin Hunter ran over the woman. Ms. Matamoros was pronounced dead at the scene.

State police opine that if she had been wearing her seat belt, the woman may have survived. “Motorists are encouraged to make the smart choice and to always wear their seat belt,” police said in a news release. [Read more…]

Court Orders ‘Immature And Stupid” Drivers To Pay $5.5 Million

An East Baton Rouge court closed the book on a 2013 serious injury collision that killed five people.

Citing their “immaturity and stupidity,” District Judge William Morvant ordered 34-year-old David Leger and 27-year-old Kelsye Hall to pay $5.5 million to the families of the five victims. According to evidence presented at trial, Mr. Leger and Ms. Hall played a high-speed game of “cat and mouse” after a road rage incident. Mr. Leger, whose BAC was well above the legal limit, lost control of his pickup truck. The vehicle shot across Interstate 10’s grassy median and smashed into Effie Fontenot’s car. The ensuing fireball killed all five people in the car. [Read more…]

Drunk Driver Indirectly Kills Local Cyclist

An intoxicated motorist caused a fatal collision which killed a nearby bicyclist.

Lake Charles police state that the crash occurred near the intersection of Alamo and Kirkman. Jaylin Jack ignored a red light while northbound on Kirkman, and smashed his Chevrolet Impala into a Hyundai Accent that was westbound on Alamo. Mr. Jack’s vehicle then spun around and hit Shawn Allison as he was pedaling past the scene. First responders rushed Mr. Allison to a nearby hospital, where he was later declared dead. Authorities arrested Mr. Jack and charged him with DUI and failure to yield.

Investigators say that the charges may be upgraded later. [Read more…]

Survey: Drunk Drivers Abound On Area Roads

Lafayette ranked second on a list of the 100 cities with the most fatal alcohol-related crashes; Shreveport was no. 39, New Orleans was no. 40, and Lake Charles was no. 47.

Last year, eight of the thirteen fatal vehicle collisions in Lafayette were alcohol-related. That 61.5 percent mark was second only to Cape Coral, Florida (70 percent). Moreover, the per capita death rate in Lafayette (0.627) was more than twice as high as the rate in number three Providence, R.I.. Most of the cities on the list, like Lafayette, have populations under 200,000 and are not in urban areas. Study authors theorize that such communities have a higher number of impaired drivers, because of less-developed public transportation, as well as hospitals that are generally smaller and have fewer resources than the ones in big cities. [Read more…]

Three Tricks Insurance Companies Often Try

Although television commercials may imply otherwise, the insurance companies are not “on your side” if you suffer serious injuries in a vehicle collision. Since these firms make money by collecting premiums and not by paying claims, insurance companies will try almost anything to reduce or deny fair compensation to injury victims.

Since the facts are unclear in many vehicle collision cases, most insurance companies have a number of investigators and accident reconstruction engineers on staff who will dispute the victims’ version of events and cast their insured parties in the most favorable light possible. Yet even in those rare instances that the liability-related facts are relatively straightforward, the insurance company typically still has a few items in its bag of tricks.

No Seat Belt

Like almost all other states, Louisiana has a mandatory seat belt law. As a result, many victims assume that if they were not wearing seat belts, the insurance company can either have their cases thrown out of court or at least significantly reduce the amount of compensation they receive. But under Louisiana law, neither of those things are true. [Read more…]

Drug-Related Deadly Crash In Lake Charles

The impaired driver who caused a fatal car crash in Lake Charles may have been under the influence of a drug cocktail, according to authorities.

The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office states that 31-year-old Derrick Leone, of Sulphur, crossed the center line on North Perkins Ferry Road and smacked head-on into a 2011 Jeep. The driver – 71-year-old Valery Jordan, of Ragley – was airlifted to a local hospital with serious injuries; she was pronounced dead on arrival. As deputies questioned Mr. Leone, they claimed he showed signs of impairment. A subsequent vehicle search turned up a bag of methamphetamines, three Xanax bars, and twenty-one Hydrocodone pills.

He was booked into jail on various impaired driving-related charges, including vehicular manslaughter, DWI, and possession of a controlled substance.

Impaired Driving

Drugged driving is one of the three kinds of impairment, according to the Global Road Safety Partnership. They are:

  • Alcohol: Studies consistently show that most drivers are dangerously impaired after only one drink.
  • Drugs: As may have been the case in the above story, drug-induced impairment can come from illegal street drugs or the unauthorized use of prescription drugs.
  • Fatigue: Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .08 BAC, which is above the legal limit in Louisiana.

Although impairment comes from diverse sources, all three types of impaired driving have similar effects. Mental symptoms typically come first, as many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who are sleep-deprived or have recently consumed intoxicating substances have difficulty concentrating and may also be less able to make sound judgments. Sensory impairment comes next, mainly because of bloodshot eyes that make it difficult to see, especially at night. After a few extra drinks, pills, or minutes, impaired tortfeasors suffer from physical impairment. Their reactions become dangerously slow and they typically also are hard-pressed to remain awake and conscious.

Any level of impairment, no matter how slight, is generally a breach of the duty of reasonable care. In these situations, victims are entitled to compensation for their economic damages, like lost wages, as well as their noneconomic damages, like loss of consortium (companionship). Punitive damages are also available, in many cases.

Impaired driving crashes cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorney, contact Hoffoss Devall. We routinely handle matters in both Louisiana and Texas.


Prison Sentence Closes The Book On Area Police Chase

An area man was held accountable for his actions in a high-speed police chase that occurred in Lafayette last summer, but when are police officers held accountable for their conduct in similar situations?

U.S. District Judge Dee Drell sentenced 32-year-old Kevin Abshire, of Maurice, to 24 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to possessing an unregistered firearm. In June 2015, Mr. Abshire passed very close to a Lafayette Police Department officer who was directing traffic after an accident. When officers ordered him to pull over, Mr. Abshire accelerated. Officers pursued him, and Mr. Abshire eventually crashed in the Ridge Road area. After subduing him, officers found a shotgun in Mr. Abshire’s vehicle which turned out to be unregistered.

He must serve three years of supervised release after he completes his two-year prison term. [Read more…]