At 12:20 a. m. on Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014, a Kenworth truck traveling through Austin, TX, northbound in the 9000 Block of North HWY 183 frontage road at the Mopac flyover struck a guardrail, then a cement wall, and then went over the cement wall. The truck landed on North HWY 183 and caught on fire, resulting in the death of the driver.
Big truck accidents are common, and the outcome of such collisions often leaves serious injury, emotional distress, or death in its wake. ‘Driver fatigue’, characterized by a lack of alertness and reduced mental or physical performance, is one of the leading culprits in big rig related casualties. These casualties? An estimated 4,000 deaths, and 100,000 accident related injuries every year. (TruckSafety.org)
One such casualty, Tracy Morgan, comedian and actor, continues the legal battle against Wal-Mart for injuries sustained in a June 7th car crash.
Morgan was traveling on a New Jersey turnpike when a Wal Mart truck rear-ended his limousine. The collision caused a six-car accident; Morgan was hospitalized, passenger and friend Jimmy McNair was pronounced dead at the scene. It was reported that Wal-Mart’s driver had been awake for 24 hours prior to the wreck, commuting 700 miles from his home in Georgia to work in Delaware.
So what causes ‘driver fatigue’? Sleep deprivation may be the primary cause. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) attributes sleep deprivation to an erratic sleep schedule – i.e., being awake or working during hours the body normally is sleeping. This coupled with congested highways and increased traffic during peak driving time – disaster.
Federal regulations that govern long-haul trucking are lobbied heavily by the American Trucking Associations and the Department of Transportation. A ’34-Hour Restart’ was implemented to give drivers pause between 60/7 or 70/8 shifts. Big rig drivers are often paid by the mile and clock lengthy hours before their ‘rest period’.
What does this mean for motorist sharing the road? At what point will corporate entities claim responsibility for the auto casualties of their big rig drivers?
Following the accident, Morgan filed suit against Wal-Mart for “punitive and compensatory damages.” The retail giant countered liability, stating that if the passengers had been wearing safety restraints, “all or a portion of the injuries could have been diminished or minimized.” (ABCNews) Five months later, Morgan is still in a wheelchair and continues medical treatment.
If you or a family member, or someone you know, has been hurt by a truck accident through no fault of their own, it’s important to talk with an austin truck accident lawyer. Justin McMinn and Jason McMinn are seasoned in settling auto accidents and personal injury cases, and want to help you win the compensation you deserve.