• April 27, 2022

Danica Stout Injured in Truck Accident on TX-171 in Hood County

Hood County, TX -- April 12, 2022, 19-year-old Danica Stout was injured in a crash with a tractor-trailer on State Highway 171 in Hood County.

Authorities say the incident happened around 5:35 a.m. on TX-171 near Farm to Market Road 3450. Preliminary investigation suggests Stout was driving a Honda Civic southeast on the highway as a Kenworth semi-truck with an attached trailer was headed northwest in the same area. According to reports the truck turned left into a nearby private drive and was almost clear of the roadway when the Honda topped a nearby hill and crashed into the part of the semi-trailer still in the travel lane. Police noted the trailer had reflective tape and side-marker lamps.

Stout suffered serious injuries in the collision. The truck driver was unhurt.

No further information is currently available.

Commentary on Truck Accident on TX-171 in Hood County

Based on how police describe what happened some people may be inclined to say the damage, while unfortunate, seems to be largely the victim's doing. However, there are some points police didn't bother to clarify that I think might make a great deal of difference before jumping to any conclusions.

First of all there's the matter of the hill the victim supposedly topped just before the collision. How far away was it from the drive where the truck turned? How steep is the hill? Could the victim reasonably have been expected to see the truck at the top of it? Is there any warning signage on the hill about slowing down and/or keeping an eye out for vehicles at the top? That's just a handful of many questions that should be answered before anyone gets too eager to blame the victim.

One further thing that troubles me a little here is that the officer went out of their way to point out the semi-trailer had visibility enhancements. Clearly that's a good thing, but at the same time how can someone who arrived at the scene after the fact know for sure those marker lamps were active or the reflective tape was clean and easily visible as the car approached? I'm aware I also can't say they weren't, and to be clear I'm not making any accusations, but frankly it wouldn't take that much for someone to flick a switch and clean off the tape while police were on their way.

It may seem pretty rude to suggest that, but after decades of doing this I know the protocol after a truck crash may surprise many folks. For instance, many drivers have told us they're expected to call their companies for instructions first, then to call police if nobody has yet. Sometimes those instructions are surprising as well, so if the company told the driver to take quick action and change what the police saw that could change things considerably.

Danica Stout Injured in Truck Accident on TX-171 in Hood County

"Surely you're just being dramatic!" It's true that most companies would never do something like that, but it's also not impossible. I once worked on a case where a big rig crashed into a car in the middle of the night and caused fatal injuries. It seemed clear the truck driver caused that crash but his employer said the other car was basically invisible because its headlights had no bulbs. That was a bizarre claim, so we checked it at the junkyard and sure enough--no bulbs in the lamps. However, we also saw scratch marks all around the sockets. We checked security logs and footage at the yard and found the defense was there earlier the same day, prying out the bulbs with hand tools. That may sound crazy, but it really happened.

Not every defense attorney is willing to tamper with evidence like that, but it's an example of why careful and thorough investigation should always be done no matter what preliminary reports may say. Trucking companies have assets and their reputations to protect, and while most of them will at least be ethical about it they'll still fight like hell to keep what's theirs unless and until victims and their families show debate-ending proof. That's why I typically advise people caught in these situations not to lean on news or police reports, which can easily be disputed. Instead I recommend enlisting the aid of experienced accident reconstruction experts with the tools and know-how to find what's needed.

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