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…]

The Year Of Living Dangerously

F Troop officers erected thirty-five human silhouette cutouts near their headquarters on State Highway 594, one for each fatal car crash victim in the group’s twelve parish area in 2016.

Troopers lament that there will probably be more victims before year’s end, because there are usually several fatal car crashes in December. The figures include a child-size cutout to represent an infant victim, and two that wear badges, representing law enforcement officers from Winnsboro and Sterlington who died this year in car crashes. Typically, the officers erect a similar display inside the building, but they felt it might have more of an impact in a more visible location.

“There’s 35 families that are missing a family member because of a fatal car crash,” observed Troop F information director Michael Reichardt. [Read more…]

Drunk Driver Sentenced For 2015 Fatal Crash

15th Judicial District Judge David Smith sentenced a 25-year-old Lafayette man to twelve years in prison, following a February 2015 drunk driving crash in which he destroyed two vehicles and killed one person.

Police and witnesses state that Bryan Chapman was heavily intoxicated and driving at least 100mph when he smashed into 66-year-old Carol Ann Richard’s vehicle near the intersection of Halifax Drive and Moss Street. The force of the impact propelled Ms. Richard’s burning car into another vehicle, causing it to topple over. Mr. Chapman pleaded guilty in July 2015, and he has remained in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center since then. At the sentencing hearing, Mr. Chapman’s parents asked for leniency, because they say he is remorseful, has been completely sober since the drunk driving crash, and is a good caregiver to his disabled sister. At the same hearing, witnesses testified through tears about Ms. Richard’s career with the school district and giving spirit. Judge Smith announced that Mr. Chapman must “carry on [that] tradition of giving” after his release from prison, by speaking once a month for twelve months in sobriety court and performing 250 hours of community service at an alcohol counseling center for young people. [Read more…]

The Bayou State: A Not-So-Great Place To Work

According to one metric, which we posted about earlier, Louisiana workplaces are among the safest ones in the country. But according to another survey, the Bayou State is almost literally a deathtrap for workplace injuries.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported that only Arkansas has a higher workplace death rate than Louisiana’s 6.8 incidents per 100,000 workers. In general, most all states in the Southeast have job injury death rates that well exceed the national average, which is 3.8 per 100,000. Motor vehicle crashes and other transportation incidents are the leading cause of workplace death in Louisiana and elsewhere, followed by contact with equipment or objects, workplace violence, falls, and exposure to hazardous substances.

Study authors suggested that more research go into the causes of, and solutions for, fatal workplace injuries.

Compensation for Fatal Workplace Injuries

No amount of money can begin to compensate for the loss of a loved one, but the money available through the workers’ compensation system at least provides a little extra economic security. Since that is one of the biggest reasons the departed loved one went to work every day, that added security is a good way to honor the decedent’s memory.

There are two types of fatal workplace injuries: persons who die almost immediately because of their injuries, and persons who are seriously injured and succumb to their work-related injury or illness within two years. In both these instances, surviving spouses and children typically receive a weekly stipend based on the decedent’s contributions during the past twelve months; if there are no surviving spouses or dependents, each surviving parent usually receives a $75,000 lump sum payment. In all these cases, workers’ compensation also pays all funeral and burial expenses up to $8,500.

Workers’ Compensation System

When these laws first appeared about a hundred years ago, injured workers rather quickly received substantial compensation for their economic losses, thus offsetting the fact that they could not sue for noneconomic damages, because of the “exclusive remedy” doctrine. But over the years, benefits incrementally went down and the time required to process workplace injury claims incrementally went up.

As a result, some victims are challenging workers’ compensation systems. The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that a key attorneys’ fee provision was unconstitutional, because it effectively denied victims competent representation in these matters.

Such reform movements have not yet come to Louisiana, because on balance, benefits are sufficient to get workplace injury victims healed and back to work in a reasonable amount of time. But as the Florida case illustrates, only an aggressive attorney gives victims a fair chance when they go up against large insurance companies, whether it is in a negligence trial or at a workers’ compensation hearing.

Employers must pay compensation when their workers are injured or killed on the job. For a free consultation with Lee Hoffoss or another experienced personal injury attorney in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. After hours appointments are available.

Distracted Driver Kills Teenager

Even though she was properly restrained, a 14-year-old girl is dead after a tortfeasor (negligent driver) ran off the road and smashed into a tree.

The wreck occurred on westbound Louisiana Route 422 near the intersection of Louisiana Route 19. According to police, 24-year-old Shannon Sessions “became distracted by a bug that flew into her vehicle.” She then drove her Jeep Wrangler off the road, and it plummeted down a steep embankment before crashing into a tree and overturning. Backseat passenger 14-year-old Emily Sessions, of Woodville, Miss., was declared dead at the scene; Shannon Sessions and a frontseat passenger were both seriously injured. [Read more…]

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…]

Reckless Injuries To Sewer Workers

Federal authorities ordered Don M. Barron Contractor to pay over $152,000 in fines after investigators determined that bosses sent workers into a potentially dangerous work injury situation; two of them fell seriously ill after they inhaled toxic fumes.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued seven safety citations: six for serious violations and one for a willful violation. Investigators concluded that the company sent sewer workers into a confined space without first testing the atmosphere. Two employees completely lost consciousness and were rushed to nearby hospitals. “This employer must take responsibility for making sure these types of injuries and the potential for loss of life do not happen again,” declared OSHA area director Dorinda Folse. [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…]

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…]

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…]