The Root Causes Of Semi-Truck Accidents

Semi-trucks and other big industrial automobiles are a typical sight on Interstate Highways and also in rural areas. Almost 2 million semi-trucks function by distributing items throughout the USA which substantially contributes to the economy.

Semi-trucks are categorized as weighing more than 10,000 pounds. These trucks can be involved in crashes involving serious injuries and deaths. Accidents including big semi-trucks have a tendency to occur in rural areas or interstate freeways. While there are lots of root causes of vehicle mishaps, a collision with another vehicle is one of the most typical.

Because of their size, semi-trucks require a reasonably long time to stop. It is very easy to see just how the driver of a smaller automobile would suffer injuries in a semi-truck crash. Semi-truck mishaps happen for all the same reasons as passenger car crashes. Truck drivers are ten times more likely to be the root cause of a mishap. However, some factors for semi-truck crashes are a lot more common. The following are the most typical sources of truck crashes:

Accidents Triggered By Truck Driver:

Drive or Human Error

Driver error makes up the highest portion of semi-truck accidents, making it one of the most common root causes of crashes. According to the FMCSA, eighty-eight percent of truck associated collisions are because of the error of the driver. This can include accidents triggered by a speeding driver, a driver who fails to inspect his blind spot before switching over lanes, and driver error. Some of the mistakes truck drivers can make include anything from negligent driving( e.g., speeding), to distracted driving(e.g., texting), to substance usage and/or abuse. 

One more major contributor is driver exhaustion. While truck drivers are required to comply with hours of service plans that figure out the length of time they can be behind the wheel for a single stretch, a number of drivers still drive long term hours and travel long distances. This leads to sleep deprivation and tiredness, putting them at high danger for mistakes as well as collisions.

Overspeeding/ Overtaking

Truck owners usually demand that truck drivers reach particular destinations within a specific time period. This is not always achievable due to several concerns, including inadequate weather conditions and traffic snarl ups in some sections of the roadway. Nevertheless, due to the stress that the drivers are put under to satisfy these deadlines along with the threat they encounter of losing their jobs, the motorists normally drive over the speed limit. 

Overtaking by these huge vehicles at such astonishing speeds pressures approaching drivers in smaller sized automobiles to veer off the road resulting in accidents, the majority of which are fatal. Overtaking additionally has the result of significantly lower reaction time. When driving at high speeds, drivers might be needed to damage right away or instantly veer right into one or more lanes of the road. When at higher speeds, stopping is not always feasible.

Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue is also a major problem among the trucking community. While the hours that truck drivers work are determined and restricted by regulations, they still frequently have long hours and demanding schedules. Some truck drivers require themselves to remain awake through long haul drives when they need to be taking certain breaks and also relaxing. 

Truck drivers schedules are typically made up in a way that urges driving quicker and much longer than is secure. A vehicle may after that drive in potentially risky weather conditions to satisfy target dates. This can prompt drivers to lose focus, neglect secure driving methods, and trigger accidents. Exhaustion is the most typical reason for motorist error. Almost 40% of all vehicle crashes are attributed to tiredness.

Distracted Driver

Inattention and interruption can trigger crashes for truckers just like they cause issues for drivers of passenger vehicles. Driving for numerous hours cross country, truck drivers can become bored when driving and on a regular basis look for something to keep them occupied. This impulse to kill the boredom leads them to do one of numerous points. Is the driver consuming snacks, alcohol consumption, daydreaming or sending a text? 

The most typical one is using their phones to read or respond to a text message, make phone calls, or even see their preferred social networks websites. Changing the radio station while driving has also been attributed to distracted driving, resulting in mishaps. When traveling in the nation, the function of some radio terminals is poor in specific areas. This causes the drivers to get over to their radios and discover a station they can listen to. This happens when they get on the freeway driving at a high speed. Even a split second when a motorist takes his eyes off the roadway could be the distinction between safety and security, creating a crash.

Driving Under The Influence

It is illegal in every state to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Lots of truck drivers have actually been found guilty of using alcohol and non-medicinal drugs while on duty. Prescription and also non-prescription medications are a substantial problem as they typically hinder the capability of the driver to navigate such a big truck properly. Some just take these substances at stops in communities throughout the country while others go a step further and lug alcohol and drugs with them while driving. 

Regardless of how they use these substances, their driving ends up being impaired and they can easily create accidents. It is not only controlled substances that can lead to crashes when driving. Some prescription medicines that the drivers might be making use of likewise have the result of hindering their synchronization and reasoning, leading to road crashes. Industrial motorists are specifically held to a higher requirement than passenger vehicles and the public. 

They are only permitted a little alcohol in their system due to the fact that the dimension, weight as well as pressure of a semi-truck make them a fundamental risk to others when traveling. Security is of vital importance to drivers and because of enhanced danger of semi-trucks causing injury or death, they are held to greater requirements and standards. Intoxicated drivers can cause extreme threat to themselves and everybody else on the road.

Failing To Secure Loads

Whatever item the vehicle is lugging, it is critical that the claimed product is very carefully packed and also secured so weight is evenly distributed across the vehicle. Failing to correctly disperse the weight can make it more probable that a truck will certainly get involved in a crash. This is especially true when turning or attempting to stop. When an item is not properly tied down, it can possibly fly off the trailer onto the roadway right into the course of one more vehicle causing a potential road threat or auto crash.

Low Filled Liquid Loads

Lots of trucks transport liquids like gas and oil. These trucks were made to hold a specific amount of fluids before they are complete. It can be hazardous to maintain the truck partly full, due to the fact that the fluids can splash around in the trailer and consequently cause the vehicle to sway back and forth with turns and modifications in speed. Additionally, if a liquid makes an unexpected halt, a driver might cause a mishap.

Rear End Crashes

A rear end collision is among the most dangerous kinds of collisions. This sort of collision can happen when a semi-truck motorist fails to quit or slow their car in time to prevent a collision with an automobile before them. The vehicle strikes in the rear, usually with considerable pressure. A vehicle is not efficient in taking this heavy of an influence and will likely crumble. All vehicle occupants are in danger of injuries in the event of a rear-end collision. Back seat passengers in these situations have a more specifically high threat of injury.

Lack Of Training

There is a high need for truck drivers and also in some cases, the trucking companies rarely do sufficient training or work on their motorists’ skills. This subsequently can bring about harmful and also extreme mishaps, especially given that trucks are so hefty and large. 

Prior to truck drivers being able to drive substantial commercial lorries on public roads, they are required to put in a specific threshold of training hours and to satisfy. Nevertheless, not all truck drivers adhere to these guidelines. What you get subsequently is an improperly educated truck driver with little experience behind the wheel.

Lack Of Maintenance

Trucking companies are required by law to maintain their vehicles and also keep them in a condition that makes certain safety guidelines. Nevertheless, because there are prices and also time associated with preserving semi-trucks, this cuts into profits in making shipments. Similarly, vehicle owners are needed by law to ensure that their vehicles remain in top notch condition when hitting the roads. Nevertheless, they do not typically do this due to the costs involved and time it takes to maintain the trucks– time they might otherwise use to make shipments. Poorly preserved vehicles being driven by poorly trained drivers is just one of the biggest sources of truck mishaps.

Brakes 

According to the National Freeway Safety Management, at least 29% of vehicle crashes involve brake failure. This can be due to faulty evaluation, lack of upkeep, condensation or getting too hot. The federal government needs truck firms and drivers to remain on top of their brake conditions at all times. More than one situation can be responsible for brake failure. Manufacturers and developers can additionally be responsible. Badly maintained vehicles are among the largest root causes of truck mishaps.

Tires

Another typical problem found in huge truck accidents includes its tires. With so much riding on them, it is of the utmost value that they are constantly carrying out securely. Flaws in style, inadequate upkeep, and lack of appropriate examination can cause tire blowouts, which can cause significant devastation in the form of truck crashes.

Not Caused by Driver:

Issues With The Road Or Highway

Truckers invest a great deal of time taking a trip down random highways, generally in the evening. When roadways are not kept in exceptional maintenance, or when there are obstacles on them, they can perhaps cause accidents. If a trucker experiences climate problems on these highways( snow, heavy rainfall, etc.), the danger of a crash boosts. Even the most conscious vehicle driver can not entirely avoid the threat of a vehicle collision in certain roadway conditions.

Vehicle Malfunctions

Troubles with the truck itself can usually cause mishaps and collisions. Mechanical failures can happen when there is a defective design or installment of truck elements, such as when brakes fail to work properly. Trucks have to likewise be packed and maintained well. Failing to do so can cause rollovers, jackknifing, and different other hazardous scenarios that put other drivers in danger.

Accidents Caused By Passenger Vehicles:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) supplies ideas and also resources for commercial truck drivers as well as various other motorists. Common hazardous acts committed by car vehicle drivers at huge trucks, which typically result in truck accidents consist of:

  • Driving in the “No-Zones”– the areas behind and also beside a vehicle where the truck driver has actually limited or absolutely no exposure.
  • Changing lanes quickly before a truck.
  • Maneuvering to the right of a vehicle that is making a right turn.
  • Turning improperly right into traffic, creating a truck to maneuver or brake swiftly.
  • Failure to reduce or speed up when a truck begins to change lanes or merge.
  • Unsafe passing, especially passing with insufficient ground.
  • Passing a truck, after that being blown out of placement by air turbulence or cross-wind.
  • Pulling into website traffic from the roadside in front of a truck without accelerating completely.
  • Driving in between large vehicles.
  • Abandoning a car in a travel lane, or falling short to get a handicapped car entirely off the freeway as well as onto the shoulder.

Resources:

https://www.copleyroth.com/five-common-truck-accident-causes/

https://www.sidgilreath.com/learn/truck-accidents-causes.html

Types of Truck Accidents

Big truck accidents are the most dangerous sort of accident on U.S. highways. Five plus tons of steel colliding with you at any type of speed will leave your automobile and also those inside, at the very least, seriously harmed. Over the past decade, the number of large vehicle as well as 18-wheeler crashes have gradually climbed with 2017 culminating in 5,000 deaths, alone, and a lot more hurt.

But what is exactly considered a “large vehicle?” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines a big truck as, “Any truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds.”

It is very important to keep in mind that the body make-up and car makeup do not mark a truck as a “big vehicle.” Even if it does not look like your normal 18-wheeler or construction vehicle, does not mean it is not classified as a big truck. This distinction might entitle you to far more settlement money for injury and damage as trucking laws are much more strenuous than day-to-day civilian driving laws.

With a lot of weight, it is easy to see how the tiniest detail failing at moderate speeds can cause disaster for those operating the vehicle. Thankfully, vehicle behavior is relatively predictable if you understand what to look out for when traveling. If you are watchful of the caution signs, drivers around you, and the weather conditions, you can ensure your safety even when disaster strikes. 

Below are the most usual kinds of big truck accidents, just how they happen, and what you need to recognize the warning signs.

Jackknife Accidents

Designated “the jackknife” due to its obvious shape, the jackknife accident is one of the most typical big truck accidents you will see when traveling on a large highway.

The Jackknife takes place when a vehicle attempts to make a sudden and violent stop on a highway. The skidding halt creates the hitched trailers inertia to push forward on the cab and also begin to turn backward and forward wildly up until momentum takes control and also develops a 90-degree angle between the taxi and the trailer.

With any type of speed, the 18-wheeler is likely to roll over and spill whatever it is carrying across the highway and also right into the surrounding environment. Great if it is lugging a lifetime supply of Swedish fish, not so great if it is lugging jet fuel or hazardous chemicals.

Overlooking the cargo for a moment, the greatest risk in a jackknife truck accident is the swinging trailer. When the truck driver loses control of the truck’s momentum, that trailer will certainly be drifting from lane to lane until gravity brings it completely to one side. The trailer can possibly swing out as well and strike various other automobiles or swing throughout several lanes requiring drivers to make unexpected and immediate stops which can also cause a wreck.

So, we understand the appearance of a jackknife as well as the possible threats of a jackknife but why does it take place? There are a number of variables that can raise the opportunities of a big truck jackknifing:

First, extreme speeding. It takes a great deal of force to stop a large truck; the higher the speed the more pressure called for when stopping. When a driver needs to make a fast quit at high speeds, there is a bigger possibility they lose control of the truck.

Second, road problems and conditions. Anything that makes the wheels on a truck lose traction places the truck driver in extreme danger of losing control. Inclement weather conditions where roadways are slippery, excessively dry, or sleet see a three times rise in jackknife mishaps.

Third, is a light carrying load. As opposed to what you might think, having more weight in the trailer of a 18-wheeler is much safer in regard to a jackknife incident. The included weight stops the trailer from swerving back and forth.

Rollover

A rollover is just as the name suggests, a vehicle toppling over under the duress of its weight in an unexpected stop. Rollovers regularly occur when a driver attempts to overcorrect their mistakes — whether making a prompt stop or trying to recuperate after a tire slips off of the lip of the highway. When the tire spills off the lip of the pavement, the separation in between the pavement as well as the soft ground causes a rut and leaves the tire clutching at just air. When a driver tries to overcorrect too fast and jerks the wheel back on the road, the unexpected hold in grip triggers the big truck to change directions quicker and topple over.

Rollover collisions are additionally incredibly speed dependent– a lot more so than non-rollover accidents and even a low increase in rate can be the difference between a simple skid and a fatal collision. 40% of deadly rollover accidents include excessive speeding and almost 75% of deadly crashes took place where the speed limit was published at 55mph or greater.

What makes a rollover so frightening is that when it begins to tip there is absolutely no way for the driver to restore control of the big truck. As discussed in the previous area, the heavier the load, the less likely it is to jackknife, but that included weight can make a rollover more probable. Once an 18-wheeler starts to roll, there is just one area for that freight to go: out. Particles and cargo can be tossed out onto the roads as well as damage autos, hinder judgement, and pollute the surrounding setting.

The NHTSA reports that 35% of all traffic deaths result from rollovers. The most common causes of rollovers are: speeding, aggressive driving, and also slippery roads.

Tire Blowouts

Tire blowouts are one of the most avoidable mishaps on this list and, sadly, it 100% boils down to the negligence of the drivers and vehicle examiners.

It is essential to acknowledge that tire blowouts are not simply punctures; tire blowouts are the unexpected and explosive rupturing of a tire wall surface from excessive warmth and wear. The resulting surge can leave the tire rubber in shreds as well as catapulting right into nearby lanes. It can additionally obtain captured in the semi-trucks of other tires and trigger the motorist to overcorrect and result in among both mishaps currently detailed over.

We have all been driving along the freeway and seen the remains of such an event. The long, torn strips of rubber that lay swaying in the breeze from speeding by cars. Curving, black husks that a truck will leave behind like a cicada leaves behind a shell on a hot summer day. They can be so small you do not also register them, or they can be so large you are compelled to alter lanes.

Tire blowouts boil down to 2 primary corroborating factors: Failing to check tires frequently and also falling short to replace tires when needed.The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a strenuous set of rules that truckers and trucking companies must adhere to in respect to tire care and inspection. It is an exhaustive list of rules but for the sake of brevity, I will sum it up here:

Truckers have to methodically evaluate their truck and tires after each successful trip. The vehicle should go through a pre-inspection and post-inspection. While on the road, truckers must inspect their tires at the end of each day. If any tire does not look fit to execute the rest of the journey, the vehicle might not be driven until the tire is appropriately replaced.

Underride and Override Accidents

Underride and override accidents mishaps are incredibly terrifying mishaps that can leave the top of your car completely scissored off if severe enough.

First, the difference: Override accidents are when a huge vehicle fails to drop in time and rides up onto a car in front of it. An underride accident is when a passenger vehicle collides with the trailer of a big truck and slides itself under the trailer. Generally speaking, override crashes are the mistake of the truck driver and underride accidents are the fault of the traveler vehicle, yet, as we know, not everything is so black and white. Below are several of one of the most common events that cause override as well as underride accidents.

Override accident can take place if a trucker is following too closely to an additional passenger vehicle that needs to make an abrupt stop, there is low visibility from rain or fog, the truck driver falling short to yield an access, a driver negligently altering lanes without inspecting his surroundings, brake failing, or a tire blowout.

Underride mishaps most commonly take place due to a driver following too closely to a big vehicle or bad visibility, but here are some examples of how a large truck can be liable for the accident. The vehicle does not have properly operating brake lights or tail lights, the mandated reflective tape on the trailer is unclean or otherwise visible, the underride guards are missing, the driver does not indicate altering lanes, or the vehicle driver parks on the shoulder without proper illumination.

All of these can lead to override and underride accidents and does not mean the truck driver is always liable. The trucking company can be held accountable if the mistake got on part of the large truck driver or there was a mechanical trouble with the vehicle. The passenger vehicle can be held accountable or partly accountable if it is located they were riding as well carefully or stopped as well unexpectedly.

Fatigue

The most common theme you will certainly see running through all these mishaps is the #1 cause in all vehicle accidents: Human error. Each crash might have a different classification or name but the unvarying variable in every crash is the individual behind the wheel. Carelessness to follow laws, neglect to evaluate cars, and also carelessness to listen to their very own body.

Exhaustion is one of the most typical sources of human error for truck drivers; about 40% of all truck crashes are attributed to exhaustion.

This, you would believe, would be the easiest to stay clear of or avoid. Who would voluntarily quit sleeping in order to drive a truck? The answer appears to be the trucking business. Trucking companies incentivize their drivers to abandon safety regulations and under sleep in order to finish deliveries much faster.

One of the most disregarded security guidelines for large truck drivers is the amount of hours for service guidelines. It mentions that a driver may only spend 10 successive hours driving and 11 overall hours on the road each day, with a minimum of 10 hours off in between shifts. Drivers can not go beyond 60 hours when driving in one week and are asked to take 34 successive hours off each week.

This break enables the drivers to sleep, gather themselves, and make the needed inspections before heading back when driving. The pressure to achieve target dates established by the trucking companies pressures these drivers to overlook many of the regulations in order to fulfill their goals to reach their incentives. Many driving pay incentives are determined by how many work you full and just how swiftly you complete them. This enhanced expectation also plays a large component in the opiate as well as prescription medicine abuse we see in the vehicle driving community. If you remain in a vehicle accident and tiredness or hrs of service policy breach are considered to be liable you can pursue the trucking firm also.

Conclusion

There are many different sorts of vehicle crashes. Understanding the signs can be the difference in between life and death in many cases. Observe your environments – take notice of the road problems, climate, as well as your fellow drivers. Always drive meticulously around a big vehicle and also do your ideal to remain well over or behind the truck.

If road conditions are wet or visibility is low, remember jackknife and rollover crashes and also stay well ahead or behind an associate at the very least one lane of separation. If you are alongside with a vehicle do your ideal to swiftly and also safely pass the automobile and also remember tire blowouts. If you see a huge truck swerving in between lanes or drifting off onto the lip of the roadway, promptly call the authorities; they will identify the vehicle and safely escort it off the road.

No person drives with the intent of getting into a crash and the very same is true for truck drivers. Mistakes happen and as long as you are vigilant and also conscious of your environments, you can significantly reduce your chances of finding yourself in an accident with a big vehicle.

At the Cochran Firm, our attorneys have extensive experience handling these cases.  We utilize the top trucking experts in the field as a resource to assist with and consult on these cases. And our results in these cases speak for themselves with millions of dollars recovered on behalf of our clients in verdicts and settlements.  

Let us use our proven record of success in these cases to help you recover for your injuries in an accident involving a large truck. Contact us today for your free consultation at 1-800-THE-FIRM or at https://cochranfirm.com/contact-us/

$2.6 Million Settlement for Woman Hit by Cement Truck

Plaintiff Attorney Thomas Brandi of San Francisco

Plaintiff Attorney Thomas Brandi of San Francisco

The husband of a California woman who was killed by a speeding cement truck without brakes recovered a $2,592,090 settlement from the cement company and equipment rental company.

San Francisco attorneys Thomas Brandi and Brian J. Malloy of The Brandi Law Firm, represented the plaintiff.  Brandi is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Attorneys and Malloy is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 and NTL Top 40 under 40.

The case is Peter Callaham v. Hanford Ready-Mix, Inc., Hanford Sand and Gravel, Inc., Garston Equipment Rental, Inc., Preston Hanford III and James Ennenga, case number 34-2015-00186933 in Sacramento County Superior Court.

Plaintiff Attorney Brian J. Malloy of San Francisco

Plaintiff Attorney Brian J. Malloy of San Francisco

No brakes

On Monday September 22, 2014, at about 4:12 p.m., Theresa Vargo, the wife of Peter Callaham, was making a left turn onto Rough and Ready Road across California State Route 20 in Nevada County, California.

At the same time, a 2003 Kenworth cement truck operated by James Ennenga of Hanford Ready-Mix, Inc., Hanford Sand and Gravel, Inc., and Garston Equipment Rental, Inc. came flying down the hill on State Route 20, its brakes no longer working.

According to the driver James Ennenga about one week before, the same thing happened: he was driving the same cement truck down the same hill, when the brakes stopped working.  That earlier time, however, Ennenga, unable to stop the cement truck as it came down the hill, had a green light and made it through the intersection without impact.

This time, as he came down the hill without any functioning brakes, he entered the intersection on a red light and destroyed the Vargo vehicle, resulting in her death.  Ms. Vargo, the longtime partner of and newly married to plaintiff Peter Callaham and mother of three.

Plaintiff Callaham brought an action for the wrongful death of his longtime partner and wife. During discovery, defendants admitted that at the time of the accident James Ennenga was driving within the course and scope of his employment with Hanford Sand and Gravel Inc. and that the negligence of defendants were the substantial contributing factors to Ms. Vargo’s death.  Defendants successfully precluded the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages as the court found there was an insufficient basis to find malice.

The total available insurance was $3 million from which funds were expended for the toxic scene clean up costs and related expenses. The matter resolved for Plaintiff Callaham for $2,592,090.73, the available policy limits after payment to the three adult children and remedial clean-up costs.

 

Texas Driver with TBI from Auto Crash Recovers $26 Million Settlement

attorney Brent Goudarzi

Plaintiff attorney Brent Goudarzi

A 30-year old house painter who suffered a traumatic brain injury and aortic injury when his car was struck at a Texas intersection by another vehicle that negligently ran a red light has recovered a $26 million settlement.

Bessy Rodriguez filed suit on behalf of herself, her incapacitated husband Jose Lara Sanchez and their two children in connection with the 2010 crash in Mt. Pleasant, TX. The defendants are Jonathan Cunningham, driver of a pickup truck, and his employer Troy Construction, LLC, which owned the truck. It is Case No. 38,742 in 276th Judicial District Court of Titus County, TX.

The plaintiff’s attorney is Brent Goudarzi of Goudarzi & Young, LLP in Gilmer, TX. The case involved 34 depositions taken all over the US as well as more than 20 highly contested court hearings prior to the insurance company Berkshire-Hathaway offered is $26 million insurance policy limit, about five weeks before a jury trial.

Extensive injuries

Mr. Lara was transported by ambulance to a local emergency room, with a Glasgow Coma Score of 3 and from there, airlifted to a second hospital for more comprehensive evaluation and care.  A CT scan revealed a fracture of the right temporal bone and right-sided epidural hematoma, with underlying subarachnoid hemorrhage.

He underwent an emergent right triple craniotomy, and two days later, underwent endovascular repair of a traumatic transection of the descending thoracic aorta.  For the next three weeks, Lara was weaned off sedation and managed for rib fractures, scapula fracture, left acetabular fracture, bilateral pulmonary contusions and pneumonia.

He was discharged to a skilled nursing facility, where he got aggressive physical, occupational and speech therapies for five months before being discharged home to his family.  Lara continued to receive physical and speech therapies through outpatient rehabilitation. Altogether, he incurred $1.3 million in medical expenses.

While the plaintiffs alleged the need for lifetime medical care and the inability to return to any level of employment, the defendants alleged that a short course of appropriate outpatient therapy at an accredited rehabilitation facility would provide Lara with independence, including the potential to return to driving and return to working. This allegation was supported by surveillance video conducted over the course of multiple days, which showed Mr. Lara walking unassisted and unsupervised outside of his home, engaging in family outings, communicating with neighbors and even assisting with automotive maintenance.

The defendants also claimed contributory negligence on the part of Lara for the alleged failure to use a seatbelt, which caused his ejection and the right temporal bone fracture, hematoma and hemorrhage and most, if not all, of his residual physical symptoms, which were primarily left-sided (and controlled by the right side of the brain). Had Lara not been ejected, defendants alleged, he would have sustained no brain injury.

$12 Million Jury Verdict Against Alabama Transit System

Passengers injured in a 2015 bus crash in Fairfield, Alabama recovered a $12 million jury verdict against MAX Transit – Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority and its driver.

As part of their verdict, the jury also assessed $6 million in punitive damages.

With more than 20 passengers on a MAX Transit bus route, the bus driver lost consciousness, causing the bus to overturn and land in a ravine.

The lawsuit involved 15 of the crash victims, 10 of whom were represented by Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. attorneys Brandon Bishop and Sara Williams.

The case is Charlsye Williams, et al. v. Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, Reginald D. Thomas; 68-CV-2015-900100, before Jefferson County, Alabama Circuit Court Judge Annetta Verin.

“For almost three years, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority has failed to take responsibility for this wreck. We hope they will see this verdict as the rejection of that position by the people of Jefferson County and implement the necessary safety policies to ensure this never happens again,” stated Sara Williams, Managing Attorney of Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C.

Driver passed out twice

During the trial, there was evidence that the MAX Transit bus driver had passed out twice prior to this collision while operating a MAX bus through the greater Birmingham area. The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, which operates the MAX Transit system, had failed to take action after these two prior fainting occurrences.

The injuries of the passengers ranged in severity, with the most severe injury resulting in Charlyse Williams losing her leg. Upon recognizing that the driver was losing consciousness, Williams rushed to the front of the bus in an attempt to prevent the collision. As a result of her selfless act, Williams’ right foot and ankle were so severely mangled that doctors were forced to amputate her leg below the knee.

“We applaud the jury for banding together and taking ownership of this community. Even though none of the jurors rely on MAX bus for their means of transportation, their verdict makes clear that everyone, including those less fortunate than them, are worthy of protection,” said attorney Brandon Bishop.

“We are thankful to this jury for holding MAX Transit and its driver accountable for their failure to avoid what was a very preventable collision. I am proud of Brandon and Sara for the hard work they have put into the case for nearly three years. We as a firm will continue to fight for the safety of not only our clients, but all of those in our community who share the roads with these buses,” stated Alexander Shunnarah, President & CEO of Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C.

 

Florida Jury Awards $1.25 Million in Scooter Crash

Plaintiff attorney Adam T. Dougherty.

Plaintiff attorney Adam T. Dougherty.

A jury in Miami-Dade Circuit Court awarded $1.25 million to a Vespa rider who was severely injured when he swerved and fell avoiding a car that cut him off. The pre-suit settlement offer from Liberty Mutual was $25,000.

Attorneys Adam Dougherty of the Dougherty Law Firm in Hollywood, FL, and Gregory Ward of the Ward Law Group in Miami Lakes, FL, successfully represented the 38-year old scooter rider.

Plaintiff Oswaldo Rojas Perez, a construction manager and student, was riding on Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami at 6 pm on April 9, 2014, on his way to an evening class. Defendant Richard Wolfson pulled out of an office building driveway, turned into the right lane in front of Rojas and forced him to swerve left and lay his scooter down.

The car didn’t hit him but he was thrown more than 30 feet and the scooter slid another 80 feet. He injured his neck, shoulders, and back. Rojas had surgeries on both shoulders and a cervical fusion and discectomy. His surgeon testified he will need another cervical fusion and a lumbar fusion as his lower back worsens.

Rojas Perez’ expert in accident reconstruction opined that he was proceeding at about 35 mph in a reasonable and safe manner when Wolfson suddenly emerged in front of him, cutting him off.

Defense attorneys argued that his injuries were pre-existing and not related to the crash, and that Rojas was speeding and caused the crash.

The jury found the defendant liable and awarded $2.5 million, but allocated the fault at 50-50 between the parties.

The case is Oswaldo Rojas Perez v. Richard Wolfson, Case No. 14-14468-CA01.

Driver Struck from Behind Recovers $202,824 Verdict

Nicholas L. Ottaviano

Attorney Nicholas L. Ottaviano

A Florida woman who was stopped at a red light and struck from behind by another driver recovered a $202,824 jury award in Pasco County Circuit Court (near Tampa).

The plaintiff attorney is Nicholas L. Ottaviano, of Law Offices of Lucas Magazine, PLLP in New Port Richey, FL. He is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100.

The case is Kathy Hardy-Ellzey v. Chantal Lefebvre, Case No. 51-2015-CA-001512-WS before Judge Declan Mansfield.

Plaintiff Hardy-Ellzey, a 58-year-old hair stylist, stopped at a traffic light on August 24, 2012. The jury found that defendant Lefebvre, also a hair stylist,  failed to observe the stopped car and negligently struck the hear of the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The plaintiff went to an emergency room, and was subsequently treated by a chiropractor and orthopedic spine surgeon, although no surgery was performed. She has continuing neck, shoulder and low back pain and pain, numbness and tingling that radiates to her arms and legs. She has been able to continue working but has faced restrictions in activities of daily living, where her husband has had to assist her.

The jury awarded $40,824.96 for total past medical expenses, future medicals of $85,000, past pain and suffering of $12,000 and future pain and suffering of $65,000.

 

$15.57 Million Verdict Against Driver and Broker in Trucking Accident Case

A Philadelphia jury awarded $15.57 million to a pedestrian who was struck by a drunken commercial truck driver, who had a history of drunk and reckless driving that the company failed to discover.

Following a three-week trial, attorneys Alan M. FeldmanDaniel J. Mann and Edward S. Goldis of Feldman Shepherd in Philadelphia, secured the verdict against J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. and driver Ricky Hatfield, finding Hatfield 60% responsible for the accident, and J.B. Hunt’s 40% responsible.

“Had J.B. Hunt performed even the most cursory background check, it would have discovered Hatfield’s terrible driving history that included a prior DUI while operating a tractor-trailer, and a prior reckless driving charge,” Feldman said.

The case is Isaac and Graciela Cerda de Espinoza v. J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., Ricky Hatfield and Hatfield Trucking, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, June Term, 2015, No. 2656.

Over 4X the legal alcohol limit

On November 19, 2013, plaintiff Isaac Espinoza was standing on the shoulder of I-81 in Gilford Township near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, assisting a friend whose vehicle had become disabled.

While lawfully on the shoulder of the roadway, a truck-tractor operated by defendant  Hatfield left the travel lanes of the road and crashed into Espinoza and his friend. Hatfield fled the scene but was later apprehended and arrested by the Pennsylvania State Police.

His blood alcohol content measured .171, more than four times the legal limit for operators of commercial vehicles. Hatfield was convicted of DUI, assault with a commercial vehicle while intoxicated and other offenses, and is presently incarcerated.

In March 2013, Hatfield received motor carrier operating authority from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to have his own trucking company. He was recruited to haul freight as a contract motor carrier by J.B. Hunt’s brokerage division, which entered into contracts called “Outsource Carriage Agreements” with motor carriers, who were often one-driver, one-truck operations like Ricky Hatfield’s.

While the contract required the motor carrier applicant to certify that its drivers had no DUIs or reckless driving citations in the past 5 years, no effort was made by J.B. Hunt to conduct a background check to corroborate Hatfield’s claim of a clean record, or to otherwise obtain references or information about the safety history of Hatfield.

Had J.B. Hunt checked, it would have learned that Hatfield had in the preceding 5
years had a conviction for DUI while driving a tractor-trailer, two reckless driving violations, a speeding citation for driving a commercial vehicle in a construction zone, and had been dismissed from prior employment with a trucking company for failing a drug and alcohol test during which he tried to bribe the person who was administering the test to him.

Defense: driver should have screened himself

J.B. Hunt maintained that it had no responsibility to screen or vet Ricky Hatfield, who was doing business as Hatfield Trucking. J.B. Hunt contended that under applicable federal regulations, motor carriers were responsible for screening their own drivers, and that accordingly, Ricky Hatfield should have screened himself.

The plaintiff needed to establish that Hatfield was actually performing work under the contract at the time of the accident. Hatfield, testifying by video deposition taken at the prison where he is incarcerated, stated that he was not working for J.B. Hunt or anyone else at the time of the accident, but rather had the day off, and had made a personal decision to become intoxicated. Another issue was that when the accident occurred, Hatfield was 125 miles away from the location he had been dispatched to and was headed in the opposite direction.

To counter this testimony, Plaintiff introduced evidence that on the day of the accident:

• Hatfield was under dispatch by J.B. Hunt to pick up a trailer in Fredericksburg, Virginia the following day, and remained under dispatch at the time of the accident.
• The dispatch had been confirmed by a load tender form sent to Hatfield by J.B. Hunt.
• Hatfield had used his J.B. Hunt debit card to purchase nearly $500 worth of diesel fuel in preparation for picking up the load the following day.
• Hatfield had also used his J.B. Hunt debit card to obtain a $100 cash advance, which he used to buy the bottle of liquor found outside his truck after the accident
• Hatfield was operating his tractor, rather than his personal vehicle, because he needed the tractor to hook up to trailers in his work for J.B. Hunt.

Espinoza sustained serious and permanent injuries which left him with a completely non-functional right upper extremity, limited use of the left upper extremity, multiple pelvic fractures, rupture of the diaphragm, multiple cervical fractures requiring cervical fusion surgery and a traumatic brain injury.

He requires attendant care 24/7, which is provided by his family at his home. Espinoza suffers chronic pain unrelieved by medication, and he will never be able to engage in gainful employment or recreational activities for the rest of his life.

Florida Jury Awards $45 Million in Truck Crash that Killed Medical Student

Plaintiff Raymond Astaphan’s was killed when his car struck a truck that was making a U-turn across four lanes of traffic in the dark.

After a four-week trial, a Broward County, Florida, jury returned a $45 million verdict against a construction company whose truck driver caused a multiple-vehicle crash that killed a 29-year-old medical student.

Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. had a contract with the state of Florida for construction along Interstate 75, most of which was in the highway median. One of its truck drivers, Juan C. Calero, attempted to make a U-turn in Pembroke Pines, FL, crossing all four southbound lanes of I-75 into oncoming traffic at 11:35 pm on May 28, 2015.

Plaintiff Raymond Astaphan’s car struck the trailer, shearing off this roof and killing him on impact. Patrissia Rolle, 26, a doctor, was a passenger in his vehicle and she suffered multiple orthopedic injuries and a brain injury. A 17-year old woman in another care was also killed, and an 18-wheel tractor-trailer also collided with the construction truck.

The plaintiff argued that the only safe way off of the I-75 median construction site that night was with a lane closure, proper supervision, lighting, and the assistance of Florida Highway Patrol. Instead, Ranger Construction and its supervisor left truck driver Calero unsupervised in an area he had never been to before, in complete darkness.  Ranger loaded up the flatbed tractor-trailer with an 80,000-pound load of concrete barrier wall and instructed Calero to drive about one mile south, to the Miramar Parkway Bridge, for unloading.

Based on e-mails uncovered by the plaintiff’s legal team, Ranger Construction supervisors and managers simply blamed the truck drivers and the motoring public for the problems construction vehicles were having entering and exiting the medians. Ranger Construction allegedly did nothing to fix the danger it was imposing on the roadways. 

At trial, the plaintiff argued that Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. not only put lives at risk of harm and death, but also violated the terms of its contract with the Florida Department of Transportation requiring it to give construction vehicles a safe means of exiting median construction sites on I-75.

The jury found Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. violated its contract with the FDOT and found Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. negligent in causing the death of Raymond Astaphan

The jury found the defendants responsible and entered a $20 million verdict for compensatory damages.  The jury also awarded punitive damages of $25 million against Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. and $5,000 against the truck driver. The jury also found that Calero was Ranger Construction Industries, Inc.’s agent and that Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. was engaged in an inherently dangerous activity.  The jury apportioned fault equally between the two defendants.   The entire verdict was for $45,005,000.

“This case is a reminder of how powerful and important our third branch of government is for enforcing safety and protecting everyone from harm,” said Stuart Ratzan, lead trial counsel for the plaintiff.  “Through its verdict, the jury, a cross-section of our community, with humility, discipline, and order understood that highway construction companies must follow the rules, not just in Broward County, but all over the country,” Ratzan said.

Raymond Astaphan is survived by his parents, Jennifer and Reginald.  “They are heroes…heroes for our community and for us all,” said Ratzan and Weissman.

The Plaintiff was represented by Stuart N. RatzanStuart J. Weissman, and Evan Gilead of Ratzan Law Group, P.A.Miami, Florida.  Ratzan Law Group was assisted by Lincoln Connolly of Lincoln J. Connolly Trials & Appeals, P.A. 

Family of Victim of Drunk Driver Recovers $1.26 Million Settlement

Plaintiff attorney Roger Booth of Booth & Koskoff in Torrance, CA.

Plaintiff attorney Roger Booth of Booth & Koskoff in Torrance, CA.

The family of a California tow truck driver who was hit and killed by a drunk driver settled their wrongful death claim for $1,265,000. The defendant California Highway Patrol (CHP) had called him to a crime scene, but left, leaving him exposed to traffic as he loaded a vehicle in traffic on Freeway 10.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys Roger E. Booth, a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100, and Carly L. Sanchez, both of Booth & Koskoff in Torrance, CA, achieved the settlement.

On Jan. 28, 2014 at 1 a.m., two California Highway Patrol officers pulled over a motorist on Cedar Avenue near the 10 Freeway in Bloomington, CA, and arrested him for driving under the influence.

The officers called for a tow truck to impound the vehicle, and Ricardo Valdez, 39, responded to that call. The vehicle was located in a lane of traffic, and Valdez had to load the vehicle onto his flatbed tow truck in that location.

While loading and securing the vehicle, a second drunk driver, defendant Maria Ochoa, struck Valdez who suffered fatal injuries. (Ochoa later pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter.)

The plaintiffs are the decedent’s mother (age 66 at the time of the settlement) and two daughters, are 10 and 15 years old. The case is Vianey Valdez, Aylen Valdez, Josefina Santoyo v. State of California, (CIVDS1416659) before San Bernardino Superior Court Judge John M. Pacheco.

Officers leave after 3 minutes

The video footage from the CHP vehicle showed that, about three minutes after Valdez arrived on the scene, the officers left with the suspect. Valdez had to finish loading and securing the suspect’s vehicle with no traffic control in place.

Approximately 10 minutes after the officers left, Ochoa traveled down Cedar Avenue towards Valdez’ location. At that moment, Valdez was at the rear of the tow truck, performing the final steps of securing the car to the bed of the truck.

Ochoa testified that she was following another car in front of her, that the other car suddenly swerved to the left and that she applied her brakes, but she could not stop in time. Valdez was crushed between the front of Ochoa’s car and the rear of the tow truck and was declared dead a few hours later.

Plaintiffs contended that because the CHP officers called Valdez to the scene and placed him in harm’s way, as he was in the middle of an active traffic lane, they had a special relationship with him and owed him a duty to provide reasonable protection.

The officers breached that duty by leaving the scene promptly after Valdez’ arrival. The CHP’s own procedures regarding special relationships allow the officers to leave only if there is an emergency elsewhere, they have been relieved by other law enforcement officers or they have been ordered to leave by a superior officer.

Plaintiffs contended that had the officers stayed on scene, with their vehicle parked behind the suspect’s vehicle, the drunk driver would have, at worst, struck the rear of the CHP vehicle and caused some property damage. Valdez would have been uninjured.

Defense: no special relationship

The defendants contended that there was no special relationship between the officers and Valdez and that getting struck by a motorist is simply an inherent risk of working as a tow truck driver.

Defendants also contended that most or all the fault for the crash rested with Ochoa, the drunk driver, who had consumed two shots of tequila and four to five beers at the bar where she worked. Ochoa fled the scene after the crash, and when the police finally tested her blood alcohol level about eight hours later, it was .08 percent.

Defendants’ toxicologist opined that her BAC would have been approximately .21 percent at the time of the crash. Defendants argued that it was Ochoa’s intoxicated condition that prevented her from seeing and avoiding the bright, flashing lights of the tow truck, which were visible from 350 feet away.

Further, the defendants contended that the officers had a legitimate reason to leave the scene because Valdez allegedly told them he did not need their assistance and because their CHP office was shorthanded that night. Defendants argued that Valdez’ employer bore a significant share of the fault because he allowed Valdez to perform towing operations for the CHP without having obtained CHP certification.

The defendants’ tow truck expert opined that it was unsafe for Valdez to stand at the rear of his truck to secure the suspect’s car and that the safer practice was to perform that task from the side of the truck.

Mother depended on Valdez

Valdez lived with his mother at the time of the incident. Plaintiffs contended that the mother was financially dependent on her son, on account of the $300 per month that he contributed towards the mortgage payment, and that this established her wrongful death standing under CCP 377.60(b). Defendants disputed that there was financial dependence, and this likely would have been an issue for the jury at trial.

Valdez had not lived with his daughters since 2008 and was never married to their mother. However, he did see his daughters almost every day. Because Valdez earned just over minimum wage and because it would have been extremely difficult to estimate the amount of money that he contributed to his daughters, plaintiffs chose not to seek economic damages. The only damages sought at trial would have been non-economic damages for the loss of plaintiffs’ relationship with the decedent.

A total settlement of $1,265,000 was reached with retired judge Joe W. Hilberman, ADR Services, serving as mediator.

At the mediation, the CHP agreed to pay $1,250,000 to settle the case, and plaintiffs agreed to dismiss the individual officers. Of the total settlement amount, $100,000 was allocated to decedent’s mother and $575,000 each to decedent’s two daughters. The children’s money is being placed into annuities, which will pay out $670,000 to the elder daughter and $707,000 to the younger daughter over the course of the next 30 years. Prior to the mediation, the insurance carrier for the drunk driver, Ochoa, agreed to pay its $15,000 policy limits. This money was used to resolve the entire workers’ compensation lien, which totaled $278,438.

The plaintiff’s expert witnesses were Charles Dickerson, accident reconstruction, Mesa, Ariz.; Jesse Enriquez, tow truck standards, Los Angeles; Mark S. Sanders, Ph.D., human factors, Encino; Alvin Yamaguchi, law enforcement practices, Chino Hills.