Texas jury finds trucking companies pushed driver too hard, awards family $4.6 million over fatal accident

by Michael Heygood

Lorenzo Munoz and Roger Franceware were killed in a crash in 2010. They were traveling together in an 18-wheeler in Mitchell County, Texas, on Interstate 20 when the truck crashed into a concrete embankment and cement pillar and caught fire. Muñoz was driving at the time.

Muñoz’s wife and three children sued three trucking companies linked to the crash, Moore Freight Service Inc., XMex Transport LLC, and Trans Front Inc. The family alleged that Muñoz and Franceware had been given an unreasonable schedule that forced Muñoz to drive even though he was too tired to do so safely.

An El Paso jury has agreed with the Munoz family and found the trucking companies responsible for the man’s death. The jury awarded the family a $4.6 million verdict against the companies.

Federal Hours-of-Service Regulations

Professional trucking companies are required to follow the hours-of-service regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The purpose of the hours-of-service regulations is to keep fatigued drivers off the public roadways. The regulations put limits in place for when and how long a driver can drive in order to ensure that drivers are awake and alert while driving and help reduce the possibility of driver fatigue.

The hours-of-service regulations are found in Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The regulations focus on when and how long you a driver is allowed to drive by placing specific limits on the amount of time he can drive and how many total hours he can work before he is no longer permitted to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

Drivers must follow the maximum duty limits at all times. The regulations include a 14-hour “driving window” limit, 11-hour driving limit, and 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day duty limits. The 14-Hour driving window is usually thought of as a “daily” limit. A driver is allowed a period of 14 consecutive hours in which to drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours.

Last year the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced some changes to the regulations designed to reduce truck driver fatigue. One of the changes requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift. Although a driver may drive a total of 11 hours during the 14-hour period, driving is not permitted if more than 8 hours have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes. For example, if the driver started driving immediately after coming on duty, he could drive for 8 consecutive hours, take a half hour break, and then drive another 3 hours for a total of 11 hours. In addition, the regulations now limit the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the previous maximum of 82 hours.

Unfortunately, professional truck drivers are sometimes asked to drive an unreasonable number of hours. Driving while drowsy is extremely dangerous. Much like a drunk driver, a fatigued driver is less attentive to what is happening on the road and reacts much more slowly than a well-rested driver.

Need help with a claim against a trucking company?

While trucking company lawsuits serve many valuable purposes, they aren’t for the faint of heart. There are unique laws and regulations that are designed specifically to protect motorists from the negligent actions of truck drivers and trucking companies.

Trucking lawsuits can also be time-consuming and challenging. Many trucking companies and their insurers are well-funded and are willing to fight tooth and nail to avoid liability for their negligence. To even the playing field, victims need experienced, aggressive attorneys who will protect them in their time of need and force the trucking companies and their insurers to take responsibility for their actions.

HO&P has the resources and experiences to see your case through

Trucking lawsuits can be expensive. To properly prepare a case, an attorney may need to hire expert witnesses in the fields of trucking, trucking regulations, accident reconstruction and life care planning.

Given the complexities of this area of the law, the high costs associated with bringing such cases and the enormous damages often at stake, the last thing a victim of a trucking accident should do is entrust their 18-wheeler case to a lawyer with little or no experience with trucking accident litigation.

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, our attorneys have tried dozens of cases involving accidents with 18-wheelers and other large commercial vehicles. Our attorneys have helped achieve a $36 million verdict for the family of a teenager injured in a bus crash in East Texas. They have negotiated a $15 million settlement of a case involving an 18-wheeler accident that killed several members of the same family. And they achieved verdicts or settlements of $7.25 million, $5.2 million, $5 million, and $1.8 million in other 18-wheeler cases, just to name a few.

If you or a loved one has been injured or if you have lost someone in an accident involving a commercial truck, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering. Contact us today by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001 or by following the link to our website contact form to receive a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.

by Michael Heygood

Michael Heygood is a licensed attorney and partner at HO&P who focuses on insurance and corporate litigation, and other civil arenas. Michael has been named multiple times to the Super Lawyers List.