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$15M Award for Motorcyclist in Fatal Collision with Fatigued Trucker

Motorcyclist ended up under tractor trailer truck's rear axle after collision.

A Florida Jury awarded $15 million in the wrongful death of motorcyclist who was killed when he collided into the rear panel of a tractor trailer truck. The truck driver, Roger Wirick, and his employer, Landstar Ranger Inc., were found liable for negligence.

Motorcyclist Carl Simmons, 29, was heading westbound on Sand Lake Road in Orlando on June 2, 2011 at 10:40 p.m. At that moment Roger Wirick was was driving eastbound and violated Simmons' right of way by makng a left turn. Simmons crashed into the rear of Wirick’s tractor trailer and a nearby traffic pole.  Simmons was taken to Orlando Regional Medical center, where he was pronounced dead.

Simmons was found comparatively negligent by seven percent because the defense expert determined Simmons was riding at about 75 miles per hour at the time of impact, exceeding the 55 mph speed limit.

Attorney Thomas P. Schmitt of Goldstein, Schmitt & Cambron, PL, in Stuart, Florida, represented the widow, son and estate of the deceased motorcyclist.

Driver fatigue in large truck crashes

Wirick violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) 11 hour daily service limit, according to his truck’s black box.  In addition, he only had eight hours of sleep in the 30 hours prior to the accident.

Every year there are 73,000 large truck injury crashes and more than 104,000 persons injured in these crashes, according to a study by the FMCSA and U.S. Department of Safety. Action or inaction by a driver was the critical reason for 88% of the crashes studied.

The plaintiff also alleged Landstar Ranger failed to maintain their driving records adequately, by keeping paper instead of electronic logs. This enabled Wirick to falsify the number of hours he had been driving and resting.

In a study by FMCSA, scientists found that drivers who had just one nighttime period of rest prior to a work shift exhibited more lapses of attention, especially at night. The study also indicated that working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue and a high risk of crashes.

The defense counsel did not argue the issue of damages, but did assert comparative negligence because Simmons he was speeding at the time of the collision. The jury found that Simmons was seven percent liable and reduced Simmons’ wife and minor child’s award of $15,206,113 for loss of support and services, pain and suffering, and funeral expenses, to $14,141,685.

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