The Port of Houston is one of the busiest ports in the United States. All kinds of manufactured goods from all over the world arrive nonstop. Frequently, longshoremen use huge cranes to lift large cargo containers off ships and onto waiting trucks. Then, these large trucks immediately depart for their destinations, often at odd hours.
When truckers make their deliveries, they often immediately turn around and come back for more. As a result, Houston is usually either the first leg or the last leg of a long journey. At the front end, truckers are pressed for time. At the back end, they are often dangerously fatigued.
Trucking accidents are common in the overlap of port activity and freeway traffic as commercial trucks zoom in and out of the metropolitan area. These wrecks can cause catastrophic injuries like serious burns and wrongful death. The resulting cases are challenging, but at Williams Hart & Boundas, our professional team is up to the task. Big shipping companies do not intimidate us. At the same time, we never forget that our clients are our most important partners.
As mentioned, truckers typically cover miles upon miles to deliver their cargo. Long hours and tight delivery deadlines can take a significant toll on truckers.
Drowsiness impairs motor skills and clouds judgment ability. In fact, driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial operators in Texas. Drowsiness is especially an issue for drivers during the early morning and late evening hours. Most people are naturally fatigued at these hours, even if they are well-rested.
Lack of quality sleep is an issue for many owner-operators. Since they sit for long periods of time, many truckers suffer from sleep apnea. People who snore have sleep apnea. In more extreme cases, sleep apnea makes it almost impossible to breathe when asleep. As a result, these individuals only nap at night. They get little, if any, deep, restorative sleep.
Legally, driver fatigue could involve the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule—more on these things below.
Substance abuse is also an issue for many truckers. For example, many truckers use mild stimulants to ward off drowsiness. Many of these stimulants accelerate reflexes. So, instead of slowly turning the steering wheel, some drivers jerk the wheel. That motion often leads to dangerous jackknife collisions. Additionally, some stimulants contribute to fatigued driving. The drugs often do not fully wear off by bedtime.
Other driver impairments include distracted driving and driving with a dangerous medical condition, such as epilepsy, which could cause a sudden loss of consciousness.
The aforementioned driver impairments have at least one thing in common. In all these instances, the drivers chose to get behind the wheel when they knew it was dangerous. Some drivers take shortcuts before they depart, and others take dangerous shortcuts on the road. Some examples include:
- Speeding: Excessive speed is a factor in about a third of the fatal vehicle collisions in Texas. Velocity increases the risk of a collision and the force in that collision.
- Illegal Turns: Large trucks are challenging to maneuver, especially on the side streets and feeder roads around the Port of Houston. Making matters worse, many of these operators do not have much experience behind the wheel.
- Overweight Vehicles: Fully-loaded large trucks weigh over 80,000 pounds. Any additional weight makes these massive vehicles almost immovable.
Since they are common carriers, a different legal standard applies to truckers in many cases. Speed limits are a good illustration. Frequently, the speed limit for large trucks is lower than the speed limit for non-commercial vehicles.
Many driver impairment claims involve the ordinary negligence doctrine. Basically, negligence is a lack of ordinary care. And, as mentioned, the standard of care is usually higher for commercial operators. As a result, it is easier for a Houston personal injury attorney to establish a lack of care.
Suppose a breach of care substantially caused physical injury and/or property damage. In that case, the truck driver could be liable for damages.
Frequently, the shipping company that owned the truck, instead of the driver, is financially responsible for damages. The respondeat superior rule applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was an employee who was working in the scope of employment. Texas law defines all these key terms in broad, victim-friendly ways.
Most driver behavior claims involve the negligence per se rule. Essentially, safety laws, like the speed limit law, sometimes establish the standard of care. As a result, if a tortfeasor violates a safety law, the tortfeasor could be liable for damages as a matter of law. There’s no need to prove an additional lack of care.
Compensation in a Houston truck accident claim usually includes money for economic losses such as medical bills. Non-economic losses include things such as pain and suffering and disability. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme situations.
Driver error usually causes truck accidents in Houston. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney, contact Williams Hart & Boundas. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence claims, which means you don’t pay us anything unless we win your case.