Republicans Eye Trucker Deregulation

GOP lawmakers in Washington recently blocked some truck driver fatigue rules, and safety advocates feel that bold move may be just the beginning.

Previously, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued rules that require truckers to take at least two consecutive nights off if they work more than 75 hours in any one week, and also requiring that at least part of that rest period be between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. But Congressional Republicans added a provision to a must-pass spending bill that prevents these rules from going into effect. Furthermore, with the GOP in control of the presidency and both houses of Congress beginning in January, shipping industry lobbyists plan to push legislation allowing large trucks to be longer and heavier than ever before. While some advocates, like Joan Claybrook, feel that shipping companies “don’t care about safety no matter what they say,” both truckers and owners have consistently fought such regulations, saying they are intrusive and may stifle innovation in the area of driverless trucks. [Read more…]

I-10 Crash Kills Good Samaritan And Seriously Injures Driver

A runaway tractor-trailer killed a bystander as he tried to help a stranded motorist re-attach a U-Haul trailer to her vehicle.

According to Louisiana State Police, the large truck wreck occurred on westbound Interstate 10 in Henderson. As 26-year-old Tanika Adams, of Jacksonville, Fla., pulled a trailer with her Volkswagen Tiguan, it came loose and blocked the outside lane. Ms. Adams pulled to the shoulder and then tried to pull the stranded trailer out of the traffic lane; a short time thereafter, 25-year-old Vineeth Keesara, of Lafayette, stopped and rendered assistance. A few moments later, an oncoming Perterbilt tractor-trailer slammed into the disabled trailer, instantly killing Mr. Keesara and seriously injuring Ms. Adams. [Read more…]

Multi-Milliondollar Verdict In Wrongful Death Case

An Ascension Parish jury ordered the State of Louisiana and a negligent driver to pay a father and mother $4.4 million after a truck accident killed two of their children.

In June 2014, 9-year-old Sarai Lanus, 6-year-old Daylon Lanus, their father David Lanus, and several other people were fishing near the side of Bluff Road in Prairieville, when 47-year-old Shawnette Taylor’s UV left the road, slid down a steep embankment, and slammed into the group of fishers. The Lanus children were pronounced dead at the scene, and their father was seriously injured. In the truck accident lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that the road’s defective design contributed to the crash, an allegation which the state Department of Transportation and Development flatly denied. The jury disagreed, dividing fault 60-40 between the state and the tortfeasor (negligent actor). Ms. Taylor had argued that David Lanus was responsible for the deaths and another vehicle got too near the center line, forcing her to leave the road to avoid a collision, but the jury disagreed with those contentions as well. [Read more…]

What’s The Difference Between ‘Fault’ And ‘Liability?’

Two people were seriously injured in a truck wreck in Iberia Parish, and legal responsibility is unclear even though the fault seems clear cut.

According to state troopers, a passenger vehicle carrying three people crossed from the westbound to the eastbound side of Louisiana Highway 14 near the U.S. Highway 90 interchange. The car then hit the front wheels of a sugar cane truck before it careened into the rear wheels, causing the truck to flip over. All three people inside the car were rushed to the hospital with serious injuries; the other driver was not injured in the truck wreck. [Read more…]

Fatal Wreck Raises Liability Questions

One young girl is dead, and another one is seriously injured, following a serious truck crash in Assumption Parish that may have been speed-related.

According to the Louisiana State Police, 38-year-old Frannie Landry, of Belle Rose, was hauling trash cans to State Highway 1000 for retrieval; the two girls were riding on the tailgate of her pickup truck. A few minutes after Ms. Landry parked in the westbound lane facing east, 21-year-old Corey Crochet approached the scene in a separate pickup truck. He reacted late and swerved quickly to avoid a head-on collision with the parked vehicle, but he evidently sideswiped it. 15-year-old Sydny Landry and her 12-year-old sister were both thrown from the bed; Sydney Landry was declared dead at the scene and her sister was rushed to a nearby hospital clinging to life.

Investigators have ruled out impairment as a possible cause and they are still looking into the truck crash.

Speed and Breach of Duty

As discussed in a previous post, excessive speed multiplies the force in a track crash. But, there is more. Speed increases both components of braking distance, which includes both reaction distance and stopping distance. The scientific equation, Vf2=Vo2+2ad, is far too complicated for a country lawyer to understand. However, the concept behind braking distance, and its applicability to truck crashes, is easy for me and jurors to comprehend.

The faster an object travels, the longer it takes to slow or stop safely. At the same time, as speed increases, reaction distance increases as well. That is the amount of ground that the vehicle covers in the half-second or so it takes a driver to see a hazard, mentally react to the hazard, and move his or her foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal. At 50mph, reaction distance is about three car lengths and stopping distance is about ten car lengths. At 70mph, these distances increase to four and twenty car lengths.

So, speeding truck drivers are unable to avoid crashes. Alternatively, as illustrated by the above story, they are only able to partially avoid these collisions. Either way, damages in these cases typically involve compensation for both economic damages, like lost wages, and noneconomic damages, like loss of enjoyment in life. Additional punitive damages are also available, in some truck crash cases.

Just a little extra speed transforms normally careful drivers into negligent drivers. For a free consultation with an assertive personal injury lawyer in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. Home and hospital visits are available.

Landmark Fatigued Driving Report

Nationwide, drowsy driving may cause as many as one in five car crash fatalities, according to a recent report.

The Governors Highway Safety Association says that an estimated 83.6 million Americans get behind the wheel every day, even though they are dangerously fatigued. Industry experts, insurance company experts, and other professionals all collaborated on the 73-page study. In addition to the side-effects of drowsy driving, which include inattention, slow reaction time, and reduced decision-making ability, the report examined best practices for dealing with the problem, like the protocols that exist in Utah, Texas, and New York. Study authors were especially critical of commercial truck driver rules. Although the federal government has established limits for weekly hours of service, “repeated efforts to modify HOS regulations have resulted in the suspension of some provisions.” Additionally, the rules may be too generic to be effective, the report added. [Read more…]

Are Large Trucks In Louisiana Equipped With Trans-Continental Alarm Clocks?

From a monitoring station in Peoria, Illinois, a large truck manufacturer says it can effectively prevent drowsy driving-related crashes.

Using advanced facial recognition software that is linked to dash-mounted cameras, operators at Caterpillar’s Sleep Fatigue Center can tell when drivers start to nod off or become distracted. Mike Hatfield, a Business Development Manager at Caterpillar, says that SFC operators also access the drivers’ schedules, to predict when their alertness levels will drop. Once the data is collected, safety advisers review it and then forward it to the client shipping company. The transportation company then takes action based on the results, which could involve more rest periods or a different shift schedule. [Read more…]

Moving Truck Liability In Louisiana

Summer is moving season for both military and civilian families, because new orders come in during these months and school is out of session, for most kids. Nationwide, about 65 percent of relocations occur between May and August.

The uptick in activity means that more rented vehicles, especially larger moving trucks from Ryder, U-Haul, and other companies, will be on the roads. These large vehicles are quite unwieldy, particularly when they are fully loaded, and inexperienced drivers often find it difficult to control them. Add the fact that many drivers are operating in unfamiliar new territory, and there are all the ingredients for a serious truck wreck. Is the rental company or other vehicle owner responsible for damages in these negligence cases?

The Graves Amendment

In the early 2000s, a number of states started passing very strict vicarious liability laws that made vehicle owners responsible for damages if their lessees caused car crashes. To protect this industry, Congress added 49 U.S.C. 30106 to the 2005 omnibus spending bill. Like many such add-ons, there is almost no legislative history in support of the so-called Graves Amendment, which bears the name of its sponsor.

Instead, there is only a blanket grant of immunity, which says that “An owner of a motor vehicle that rents or leases the vehicle to a person (or an affiliate of the owner) shall not be liable. . .for harm to persons or property that results or arises out of the use, operation, or possession of the vehicle during the period of the rental or lease.” A subsequent provision leaves open the possibility that some conflicting state laws may still be valid.

Bypassing the Graves Amendment

Under traditional negligent entrustment tort theory, vehicle owners are responsible if they allow unqualified drivers to operate their vehicles, and these operators subsequently cause car crashes. This analysis still applies to rented vehicles if:

  • Trade or Business: Under Section (a)(1), the Graves Amendment only applies to firms that are in the “trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles.” This label arguably does not apply to U-Haul and other firms, because they are moving companies that happen to rent trucks on the side.
  • Not Otherwise Negligent: According to Section (a)(2), the owner or affiliate must be free from “negligence or criminal wrongdoing.” Some courts have held that owners and affiliates have a duty to verify the drivers’ licenses of potential renters, and a poor driving record or an invalid license is evidence of negligence.
  • State Financial Responsibility Law: Under relevant portions of Louisiana law, an owner or affiliate is liable for damages if the operator was uninsured. The same result arguably applies to underinsured motorists, although this theory has not been tested in court.

Damages in a car crash case typically include compensation for both economic damages, like lost wages, and noneconomic damages, including loss of consortium (companionship). Punitive damages are also available, in some cases.

Rental vehicle owners are liable for damages that lessees cause, in some cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorney, contact Hoffhoss Devall. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

The Dangers of Overweight Trucks

At some point in our lives, we have all seen the “oversize load” or “wide load” signs on large trucks traveling on the roadways. Transportation of these loads is necessary for construction, manufacturing, and other industries. But, if the loads are not in compliance with weight limits imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration (FMCSA), it can cause a serious risk to the truck driver and particularly to other motorists.

What Is Considered An Overweight Truck?

The maximum weight allowed on the roadways by federal law is 80,000 pounds. This includes the weight of the truck itself, so the cargo must be less than the maximum minus the truck weight. However, there is more to weight compliance than just the maximum weight allowed. The number of axles on the truck and how far apart they are spaced also limit the maximum amount of weight a truck can carry. While the formulas for determining maximum weight might seem complicated, there are numerous weigh stations where trucks can be inspected to ensure they are following federal regulations. It is the trucking companies’ responsibility to ensure their trucks are not overweight.

Dangers Of Overweight Trucks

Overweight trucks can cause devastating accidents in a variety of ways. Excessive weight makes trucks more difficult to control and take longer to come to a complete stop. Additionally, the weight can easily cause tire blowouts, which can cause total loss of control of the truck. Perhaps the greatest threat of overweight trucks is the increased likelihood of a truck rollover. Truck rollover occurs because extra weight moves a truck’s center of gravity, making it unstable. Rollovers can cause major accidents and devastating damage to other motorists on the roadway.

How Do Trucks Get Overloaded?

Because of their weight and size, trucks have the potential to cause more damage than other motor vehicles. Trucking companies have a responsibility to follow the safety guidelines imposed on them, but they do not always do so. In an effort to meet tight deadlines and cut costs, some companies may overload a truck, but this can have deadly consequences.

Louisiana Overweight Truck Accident Attorneys

If you or someone you love was injured in an accident with an overweight truck, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries and hold the negligent parties responsible. Contact the experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorneys at Hoffoss Devall for a free consultation to discuss your case.


A Truck Accident Can Be Caused By Exceeding Weight Limits

Many Louisiana readers may be aware that the trucking industry is heavily regulated. One important regulation concerns how much weight a truck can carry. This is because exceeding weight limits can lead to a truck accident. Unfortunately, deadlines and the pressure to deliver cargo in a timely manner can cause trucking companies to ignore the weight restrictions and put innocent motorists and their passengers at risk.

When a truck is carrying more cargo than it should, it can take even longer to stop. However, that is not the only danger an overweight truck poses. If the cargo shifts, the truck can tip over or jackknife. Further, excess weight puts a strain on the mechanical and safety components of a truck such as the brakes.

If you or a member of your family were involved in a truck accident, it would be beneficial to enlist the services of a Louisiana attorney as soon as possible. Because of the complexity of these types of cases, it makes good sense to contact an attorney who is familiar with the regulations governing the trucking industry and truck accident cases. An independent investigation can be conducted in order to determine whether any state or federal regulations were violated that could have been a factor in the crash, including the weight of the truck.

Serious injuries can mean a long recovery during which you are incurring a significant amount of lost income, medical expenses and other damages. If you lost a loved one to a truck accident, the unexpected costs associated with laying a family member to rest are expensive. In addition, other economic losses may occur when a family member dies. Depending upon the gathered evidence, you may be entitled to restitution from the driver, the trucking company and possibly others. You are under no obligation to accept a settlement from anyone without first seeking your own counsel to evaluate the case, make recommendations and represent your best interests.