UPDATE, January 11 2019: The injured driver of the pickup truck involved in this crash has been identified as 59-year-old Daniel Sweeten. The uninjured semi-truck driver was 44-year-old Teresa Ramirez.
Navasota, TX — On January 9, 2019, a fiery crash between a dually pickup truck and a tractor-trailer caused serious injury to the pickup’s driver.
According to Navasota police, the crash happened early Wednesday afternoon on Texas Route 6 near FM 2154. A tractor-trailer hauling pipes reportedly pulled off the highway so the driver could check on the security of the load, then attempted to re-enter traffic a short time later at the FM2154 entrance ramp. As the truck started to merge back in, a pickup truck hauling a trailer crashed into the rear of the rear of the big rig. After the collision, diesel fuel from the pickup caught fire, engulfing the truck.
Bystanders managed to pull the pickup driver out of the vehicle before the fire could reach him. The driver was then airlifted to CHI St. Joseph Hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the tractor-trailer was reportedly uninjured.
No citations have been issued, but law enforcement continues to investigate the incident.
Map of the Area
UPDATE, February 21 2019: The official TxDOT police report about this crash seems to put the truck driver, Teresa Ramirez, at fault for the crash.
Now that the official report says so, the trucking company has no choice but to step up and do the right thing for the victim’s family, right?
The family of the victim still faces the burden of proving that the truck driver’s negligence is the proximate cause of the victim’s death. The officers’ determination that the driver caused the crash is not the same as definitive proof that negligence caused injury. The driver’s employer and its insurer are still free to dispute the facts posed by the police report, which at the end of the day is only an officer’s professional assessment–his “best guess”–about what happened.
Without evidence to counteract them, the company can blame inclement weather, road conditions, or any number of other elements for being the proximate cause of the accident. Without clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, many victims and their families have lost the chance to hold the truck driver and by proxy his or her employer accountable for their negligent behaviors.
ORIGINAL: Determining who’s to blame in this crash is largely going to depend on the timing of events. How far away was the pickup truck when the 18-wheeler tried to merge back into traffic? Did the pickup have time to stop or take evasive maneuvers, or did the big rig’s driver try to squeeze into traffic at a dangerous moment?
Until we know the answers to these questions, it’s hard to say who may have been in the wrong, and while I’m not trying to blame the truck driver, her sole testimony about what occurred must be taken with a grain of salt. That’s not a dig at her or truck drivers, but it’s unavoidable that most people try to paint themselves in the best possible light when explaining an accident.
The only way the real facts are going to be found out is with thorough investigation. Accident reconstruction will probably be necessary to determine the timing involved, and exactly where the pickup was before the 18-wheeler slid into its lane. I’m not sure what kind of resources the Navasota police department has, but it’s possible they’re not quite up to the challenge of scene reconstruction, which is why I generally recommend that victims work with an independent accident reconstruction expert to learn the facts of a crash.
These experts have the time, training, and resources to map a crash site, run simulations, and determine the timing of events. If they determine that the truck driver took a dangerous risk when re-entering traffic, the driver’s employer may owe the pickup driver more than an apology.
–Grossman Law Offices