Christopher Castro Killed, Two Injured in 18-Wheeler Accident on SH 249 in Upton County, TX
Upton County, TX -- On May 13, 2019, 47-year-old Christopher Castro was killed in an 18-wheeler accident on State Highway 249 in Upton County.
Authorities with Texas DPS say the incident happened around 4:45 p.m. in the northbound lanes of the highway, north of Rankin. Castro was reportedly driving a tractor-trailer at an unsafe speed for the wet road conditions on the highway and his truck jackknifed, skidding into oncoming traffic. The truck then crashed into a southbound 18-wheeler.
Castro was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. The driver and passenger in the other truck suffered non life-threatening injuries and were taken to the Rankin County Hospital.
News sources made it a point to say that Castro was traveling too fast for the wet roads. It's certainly believable that ambient conditions could have been a factor, and if the news is saying it we can bet the trucking firm that employs Castro may want to argue something similar in its own defense.
When trucking companies have to defend themselves against accusations of negligence, they sometimes invoke the Act of God defense. They often try this defense when they don't have anything else to blame. If they can sway a jury into believing that the weather was so bad that the truck driver shouldn't be blamed, they could walk away with no obligation to the crash victims.
At its most basic level Act of God blames natural conditions for causing a crash, but it's a little more complicated than that--and that's where it usually falls apart. To succeed, the weather in question must be both devastating in scale and completely unforeseeable. Wet roads, while hazardous, are not catastrophes and can be easily predicted and dealt with. A driver only has to slow down and keep his eyes on the road to avoid most risks associated with slick travel lanes.
The firm is currently working on a case that has some similarities to the situation in Upton County. In that case, the driver of a semi truck took a corner at too high a speed while the road was slick from a light rain in the area. The company that owned the truck tried to suggest an Act of God was responsible for the incident, not their driver speeding through the corner in the first place.
We were able to defeat that argument and we're waiting for the next ludicrous attempt to distract attention from the real cause, but if a trucking company will try something like that for a light mist they'll almost certainly attempt it for a puddle or two on the road. The ultimate message behind this is that holding a trucking company liable for a crash is almost never as simple as it seems, and it's best to be prepared for whatever gambit they may try.