18 Wheelers

The Potential Dangers of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs)

As drivers, we are required to share the road with many types of vehicles that are different from the passenger vehicles that the majority of us operate. Few, if any, grab our attention like eighteen wheelers and other large commercial vehicles that drive alongside us every day.

None present as many potential dangers to drivers either.

There are two types of commercial vehicles, Class A and Class B, which are classified by weight. Any vehicles weighing over 26,001 pounds requires either a Class B or a Class A license to drive it. If it has an attached trailer that weighs over 10,000 pounds, then the driver needs a Class A license. Class B vehicles include dump trucks, garbage trucks, passenger buses, and other such vehicles.  

There are a number of reasons why driving alongside eighteen wheelers, in particular, can be so perilous:

  • According to the Truckers Report, the total weight that one of these vehicles can haul is 80,000 lbs. There are certain overweight and oversize permits that allow the gross weight to be even higher.  
  • They are, on average, over 13 feet high, 70-80 feet long, and around 20 feet wide.
  • It takes semis almost 40% longer than a passenger vehicle to come to a complete stop.
  • When bobtailing, or driving without an attached trailer, handling can be significantly different and more difficult for a driver, especially on slick roads.

For a quick comparison, the average passenger vehicle weighs around 5,000 pounds. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, passenger vehicles are also in danger of underriding trucks in collisions due to the higher ground clearance of semis.

Here at the J. Gonzalez Law Firm we are well acquainted with the volume of car wrecks that involve CMVs. In December of 2016 alone, the Accident Data Center reported there were 81 reports of fatality crashes involving commercial motor vehicle (semis) in the U.S.  

The Texas Department of Transportation, in their 2015 report, documented over 700 crashes involving commercial vehicles in Hidalgo and Cameron counties combined. There were also 16 instances of personal injury resulting in incapacitation and the total number of potential injuries was over 400.

Beyond being lawyers in the Rio Grande Valley, we are also citizens of Texas, and it is our job to know that this is not just a local problem. The total number of car wrecks involving commercial vehicles in 2015 was over 34,000 statewide.  

The number of car wrecks was larger in urban areas than rural areas. Bexar and Harris counties reported the largest number of car wrecks.  

These counties have San Antonio and Houston, respectively, as their county seats. These are cities that residents of the Rio Grande Valley visit regularly for travel or to see family. It is important to be aware of commercial vehicles when traveling out of town, especially on roads you may not be familiar with and in areas with higher instances of car wrecks involving these larger vehicles.

Being informed and vigilant is the best offense we have against misfortune on the road. However, there is always the possibility that circumstances arise that are beyond our control. Don’t let a car wreck become a tragedy.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident contact the offices of J. Gonzalez Law Firm today at (956) 630-6700.

Our team of personal injury lawyers will make sure you are able to take of any medical bills and car expenses. We will get you back on your feet and on the road. Let us put our energy and experience to work, so we can succeed for you.

Causes of 18-Wheeler Crashes: Brake Maintenance Safety

When brakes malfunction and a serious accident occurs, a variety of parties may be liable for the ensuing damage.

The federal government has set very strict standards and regulations on the braking systems of 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles. For instance, semi-trucks must meet specific requirements such as creating a certain braking force based on a percentage of their weight, as well as being able to decelerate at a rate relative to its size.

If these standards are not met, it could be because of poor manufacturing and design on part of the manufacturer. It could also mean the party(ies) responsible for properly maintaining the brakes – the driver or the company that loaded the truck –  are also to blame.

At J. Gonzalez Law Firm, we’ve handled a multitude of 18-wheeler accidents and our lawyers understand that an immediate response, and quick acquisition of evidence, is fundamental to developing a meaningful argument to secure your justice and damages. Our team is available to respond to a trucking accident at any time – day or night – and we’ll make sure to investigate all responsible parties for faulty brakes.

As tractor-trailers can require 50% more distance to effectively stop, it’s essential that the brakes, and the trucks themselves, are properly maintained. Unfortunately, truck brakes are only replaced once they are worn down to the nubs or in the event that the driver had a “close call”.  As brake failures are rarely spontaneous events, but rather performance problems stemming from maintenance problems, the parties responsible in an 18-wheeler crash involving faulty equipment can include:

The Driver

The driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring the semi-truck has proper brake settings and for driving safely. Additionally, truck drivers have also been known to purposely depower the front brakes and instead rely on the trailer brakes, as well as downshifting, which increases the risk of an accident.

The Company that Loaded the Truck

Because of the trucking industry’s emphasis on speed and “timeliness”, there can be a detrimental loss to protocols, which can ultimately have a negative effect on the vehicle. In the attempt to rush proper procedures, improper loading and overloading can occur, which can cause the brakes to malfunction.

The Party Responsible for Brake Maintenance

Depending on the specific situation, the party responsible for brake maintenance can either be the owner-operator of the truck or the leasing company. This party is responsible for conducting the mandatory inspection, keeping maintenance logs, and complying with federal recalls. Any missteps in these areas can lead to equipment malfunctioning.

The Manufacturer

If the brake malfunction is the result of an error in the manufacturing process, then it becomes a product liability issue. This is usually because the manufacturer did not design the brakes properly or there was a failure to meet federal standards during the process.

As trucking companies operate massive fleets of trucks – sometimes into the thousands – there is a tendency to overlook the necessary maintenance needs of so many vehicles. Also, truck brakes require special parts and skilled laborers to replace them. Considering that brake linings should be replaced every 60,000 – 70,000 miles, this maintenance should easily occur three to four times a year, if properly followed. However, companies may believe that the cost of performing this tasks four times a year to thousands of trucks utilizing a specialized mechanic is too high.

Yet, according to the American Trucking Associations, total trucking industry revenue in 2014 was $700.4 billion, which besides being an unbelievable number, was also the first time the industry had topped $700 billion. With so much income at their disposal, there is no excuse for these companies to dismiss vital maintenance needs that can lead to serious injuries, or even death.

In fact, Texas is one of the most dangerous states in the U.S. for fatal collisions involving tractor-trailers, with 553 fatalities occurring last year. This number does not include the thousands more that were seriously injured.

At J. Gonzalez Law Firm, our competent and experienced truck accident attorneys are dedicated to defending the rights of the injured and ensuring the truckers, companies, and manufacturers are held accountable for their negligence. If you or a loved one has suffered irreversible pain and suffering because of an accident involving an 18-wheeler, then contact our offices today at (956) 630-6700.

Get the quality legal representation you need to fight for your rights. Get J. Gonzalez Law Firm.

18-Wheeler Driver Sentenced to 20 Years for Bus Crash

In September 2014, Shannon Ford, now 37, slammed into the back of a school bus in Florida, injuring multiple students. Now, two years later, Ford has plead no contest to four counts of reckless driving with bodily injury. The judge gave Ford 20 years in prison as a result of the seven school students who were injured in this brutal crash.

Sadly, these sorts of events have become commonplace, and with more than 500,000 school buses transporting over 24 million kids between school and home each year (and increasing), the possibilities of a similar event happening are only continuing to grow. Here at J. Gonzalez Law Firm, we truly hope you’ll never have to go through the heartache and stress of dealing with a child, or loved one, involved in a 18-wheeler accident. But if that unfortunate day should ever come, we want you to know that we’re more than willing to fight for the justice you deserve.

No one should ever have to go through what these children and families have experienced. Even though it’s been two years since the incident, the event has continued to haunt the lives of the children and the bus driver; taking a toll on their emotional well being and their future.

On that fateful day, 911 operators had received several calls about a logging truck driving erratically on U.S. Highway 441 near Starke, Florida.

On that same road, bus driver Jennifer Lynn Swanson had just stopped, and was preparing to let a student exit the bus. That was when she intuitively glanced in the rearview mirror only to glimpse an 18-wheeler fast approaching, but not attempting to slow down in any manner. Immediately reacting to the situation, she released the break and punched the gas in an effort to move the bus out of harm’s way. But it was too late. Shannon Ford plowed into the back of the bus, forcing it into a nearby ditch.

At the time, 15 elementary aged students were on the bus. In total, 7 students, along with the bus driver, were injured and taken to various local hospitals. The impact of the accident crushed one student’s leg and caused another to suffer an open skull fracture and traumatic brain injury. One dreamt of becoming a cheerleader at the University of Florida. The other hoped to play football and become a Marine. Now neither one will be able to fulfill their childhood aspirations. Swanson claims that the images of that violent crash are etched into her memory and still cause her to cry when she thinks about the unsuspecting children being savagely tossed around.

Most tellingly, Ford has a lengthy history of traffic violations including five driving violations since 2007: two for driving with a suspended license, two for speeding, and one for operating a vehicle in an unsafe condition. On top of that, Ford also had numerous arrests including grand theft, domestic battery, burglary, theft, trespassing, and shoplifting.

Though he blamed the trucking company that owned the 18-wheeler for not properly maintaining the truck, evidence collected indicated that Ford was driving recklessly as he was distracted by his wife, who was also in the vehicle, and who was found naked when emergency responders reached the crash site.

An FHP trooper did testify that eight of the truck’s ten brakes were defective, making it a safety hazard to other drivers. This testimony could make the truck’s owners liable for the accident as well.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act has attempted to make trucking companies responsible for the maintenance of their vehicles, driver training, drug testing, and compliance with safety standards. However, there has been some changes in safety regulations, maintenance requirements, and the use of multiple vendors to spread liability amongst different companies and insurers in the event of an accident.

Regardless of the circumstances though, our experienced 18-wheeler and truck accident attorneys know how to deal with the responsible party – whether it’s a big corporation or negligent individual – J. Gonzalez Law Firm won’t back down. We can help you identify all potential sources of liability and fight for your compensation.

We understand that when your or a loved one (especially a child) is involved in a accident with a massive commercial vehicle, your primary focus should undoubtedly be on getting healthy.  But while you are regaining your strength and recovering, let J. Gonzalez Law Firm fight you legal battles. Give us a call at (956) 630-6700 to get the right team on your side.

Driver and Company Records as Evidence in a 18-Wheeler Lawsuit

We all feel a little nervous when that behemoth of an 18-wheeler comes barreling down the expressway.  We’ve all seen these juggernauts in the news for causing some sort of major, and tragic, accident.

Because commercial trucks consistently weigh up to 80,000 pounds, their involvement in any sort of accident often tend to be serious, and frequently result in life-threatening injuries.  In fact, there were over 34,00 Commercial Motor Vehicle crashes for 2015 in the state of Texas with thousands of injuries and hundreds of fatalities occurring as a result.  If you or your loved ones have been negatively affected by a 18-wheeler accident, then it’s vital that you immediately contact a competent and experienced legal representative, like J. Gonzalez Law Firm, to begin the process of procuring you the justice and judgment you deserve.

In a previous installment, we provided readers with a few tips on how to successfully prepare for your 18-wheeler lawsuit should your situation require arbitration.

Now we’ll be offering you some additional advice on how to utilize driver and company records as evidence in an 18-wheeler lawsuit.

Employee Records

So to begin, just as our employers maintain records about our work history and job performance, so do the companies who employ commercial truck drivers.  These records should contain evaluation reviews, any instances of write-ups as a result of breaking company policies, driving records, and any history of tickets for speeding or other traffic violations.  Employer records are a critical element in an 18-wheeler accident investigation and can provide substantial evidence to prove that the driver was in the wrong.  By reviewing employee records, your lawyer can help you to get a better understanding of the individual responsible for the accident.  Alongside the previously mentioned information, employee records can also show:

  • Drug/alcohol test results.
  • Whether they had been reprimanded or terminated elsewhere.
  • History of prior accidents.
  • Complaints received from other drivers on the road.

If any noticeable issues can be found in these files, then it can be concluded that the trucking company already knew they had employed a dangerous driver, and thus bear responsibility as well.

Employer Records

Furthermore, the employer’s records should be examined as well.  Trucking companies will likely combat you on this particular subject, but with the support of a legal team like J. Gonzalez Law Firm, we’ll be able to help you obtain these documents.

Routinely, commercial trucking companies will provide handbooks and training manual to their new employees (drivers) so as to provide them with up-to-date company policies and expectancies.  Often times, these companies will also require employees to take additional training courses and sign a form proving they attended the class, or at the very least, that they thoroughly read through the training guides and have accepted the responsibilities written therein.

As these courses will traditionally cover everything about the particular job, as well as the safety requirements, being able to obtain this documentation can help to reveal a plethora of information including:

  • The type of training the driver received.
  • If they were properly utilizing the training taught to them during the time of the accident.
  • When the driver received safety training.
  • If the safety training was sufficient to address the issue at hand.

Looking at the training manuals given to the employee can help you lawyer to decide whether or not sufficient training and tools were given to the employee to conduct their work in a safe manner.  The reality is that employers essentially send off their drivers hoping that they driver will be responsible, but sadly, there is no guarantee.

Another great tool that can be utilized for these investigations is the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System (SAFER), which is maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation.  This particular database can provide valuable information, especially about a company who has a history of unsafe practices, and includes data about crash information, safety ratings, and the company’s safety record.

Truck Records

Alongside state and federal laws that require Commercial Motor Vehicles inspection, truck companies should also be keeping record of maintenance on their trucks.  Regular maintenance and repair should also be handled appropriately to prevent equipment failure that can lead to accidents.  If this is occurring on a consistent basis, then the companies should have records of the efforts.

If there is a lack of maintenance records, then this can help to demonstrate that there was a lack of adequate care and repair.  Naturally, all automobiles require maintenance on a fairly consistent basis, and a deficit of this nature can show that this may have played a part in causing the accident, which will help to build your case.

We understand that after a brutal accident with a massive commercial vehicle, the last thing you may have is energy to fight. Your primary focus should undoubtedly be on getting back to your healthy-self.  But while you are regaining your strength and recovering let J. Gonzalez Law Firm fight your legal battles.  Together we can win the compensation your pain merits.

Call us at (956) 630-6700.

Be Aware: The Dangers of 18 Wheelers

“In 2014, 3,660 people died in crashes involving commercial trucks. 16% of those deaths were truck occupants, 68% were passenger vehicle occupants, and 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.”

Every day thousands of commercial trucks drive along highways and rural roads all across the United States, transporting an enormous amount of goods and materials for large corporations; at times even carrying hazardous material.  Naturally, because of the sheer size of an 18-wheeler, accidents involving commercial trucks can be much more disastrous than those between two regularly sized vehicles.  In fact, a fully loaded commercial truck can weigh 25 times as much as a traditionally sized vehicle.

With this in mind, drivers sharing the road with these large trucks should be aware at all times of their surroundings, and the actions of the other drivers.  If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. J. Gonzalez Law Firm is dedicated to assisting victims of commercial truck collisions and helping them achieve justice for their injuries.

Understandably, because of the “heavyweight” structure of these trucks, they can be quite intimidating to other drivers on the road, especially inexperienced ones. The operation of 18-wheelers can be a bit intricate, and many truck companies tend to expect unreasonably quick delivery of shipments.  Nor do companies consider the pressures they bestow on the drivers to meet their demands.

Unfortunately, the driver’s physical well-being, the number of hours they’ve slept, and even the weather, all tend to be background noise in comparison to the importance of the shipment’s delivery.  Truck drivers must – despite consequences to attention span, reaction time, or fatigue – put the shipment before their own safety.  Sadly, accidents caused by tired truck drivers are very common.

Also, considering that these commercial vehicles do not have the same maneuverability in traffic as ordinary automobiles, it’s no wonder that they are involved in various forms of accidents that traditional vehicles are not susceptible to.  The drivers of 18-wheelers must deal with numerous blind spots because of their large size and may unknowingly drive into occupied lanes.  That’s why it is exceedingly important to be on full alert whenever you are driving alongside these commercial vehicles.  Remember, just because you are driving safely and responsibly does not necessarily mean the other drive is doing the same, and the data speaks for itself.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration claims that in recent years, accidents involving commercial vehicles have cost the American public approximately $83 billion.  Furthermore, between 2002 and 2011 there were over 45,000 deaths due to accidents involving large trucks, and more than a million injuries occurred in these incidents. In 2013 alone, Texas reported 359 deaths in collisions involving large trailers, with hundreds of other people requiring medical attention due to severe injuries.

To determine who the responsible party is in a commercial truck collision, it is vital to carefully investigate and consider all individuals and companies who may be at fault, as well as the various factors that may have led to the accident.  Realistically, the driver of the 18-wheeler is not always to blame.  The J. Gonzalez Law Firm takes into consideration a myriad of possibilities and thoroughly analyzes all factors including: the owner of the truck, the company or individual who was leasing the vehicle, the truck manufacturer, the company or individual responsible for the shipment, road conditions, and other such variables.  By intensively investigating all these various aspects, J. Gonzalez can help you discover the party at fault and get you the justice you deserve.

Remember, if you have been involved in a commercial truck collision, it is especially crucial that you obtain information and details about the collision immediately.  Victims should obtain the police report as quickly as possible, as this form provides critical information, such as the identity of the truck driver, the company for which they work for, and other such relevant details about the accident.  All medical documents, professional diagnoses, and medical bills are also important when seeking compensation for injuries.

We understand that after a brutal accident with a massive commercial vehicle, the last thing you may have energy to do is fight. Your primary focus should undoubtedly be on getting back to your healthy-self.  But while you are regaining your strength and recovering, let J. Gonzalez Law Firm fight you legal battles.  Together we can win the compensation your pain merits.