$1.4 Million Illinois Jury Verdict Resulting From Injuries to SUV Driver in Truck Crash

On May 8, 2009, Becky Lynch was driving her car eastbound on Route 9 in Fiatt, Ill., when the defendant truck driver, Myron Rachinski, pulling a flatbed trailer, was traveling southbound on Route 97

and chose not to stop at the stop sign. Rachinski and his truck proceeded into the intersection directly in front of Becky’s SUV. The intersection is known locally as Teddy Bear Junction.

Lynch’s SUV hit the middle of the trailer and became lodged underneath it causing it to be dragged 150 feet down the road.

Lynch, 50, suffered a broken left arm, which required surgery with plates and screws, pelvic fractures, left lateral tibial plateau fracture, bilateral pulmonary embolism and right knee replacement surgery three years later. She is expected to have a hip replacement and left knee surgery in the future.

She maintained that her injuries had prevented her from returning to her work as a secretary and left her unable to actively take part in the horse training business that she ran with her husband, Harry Lynch. Lynch claimed $260,000 in medical expenses and $80,000 in lost time from work. In addition, she claimed $300,000 in future lost time from her work.

Harry E. Lynch, the husband of Becky, claimed loss of consortium and services. She argued that the defendant truck driver, Rachinski, was negligent for running the stop sign and she asked the jury for punitive damages for violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The investigation by an Illinois state trooper had cited the truck driver for exceeding permissible driving hours and for deficient brakes on his truck.

The truck driver’s log book showed he had covered 102 miles in 75 minutes, but the tractor’s governor was set at 68 miles per hour, making an average speed of 82 mph unlikely. Rachinski conceded his log book entries were probably inaccurate.

The defendants admitted negligence, but contended that Lynch was contributorily negligent for driving at a speed of 55 mph, which was too fast for the dense fog conditions present that morning as she did not see defendants’ truck until she was 150 feet from the intersection.

Rachinski, 56, said he did not see the stop sign until it was too late to stop so he decided to accelerate into the intersection in an attempt to avoid Lynch’s approaching SUV.

The defendants conceded causation of the fractures, the embolism and $125,000 in medical expenses, but denied the knee replacement and any treatment after six months post-accident were related to the crash.The jury did not award punitive damages against the truck driver (the court had previously denied plaintiff’s request to amend her complaint to seek punitive damages against the trucking company, Diamond State Trucking Inc.). Defendants’ counsel noted that the plaintiff did not attend the trial other than when she testified. The attorneys for the Lynch family, Jay H. Janssen and Patrick S. O’Shaughnessy, reported that the last demand to settle the case was $1,350,000 and the last offer was $350,000. Defendants’ counsel reported that the last demand was $1,500,000 and the last offer was an indication of $850,000. Defendants’ counsel further noted that the judgment was reduced by $150,000 for a previous advanced payment.

The jury’s verdict of $1,453,500 versus defendants, Rachinski and the trucking company, Diamond State Trucking Inc., was made up of the following damages:

$1,192,250 after being reduced by 5% for the contributory negligence of Becky Lynch:

• $200,000 for past medical expenses;
• $92,500 for future medical expenses;
• $500,000 for loss of normal life;
• $400,000 for pain and suffering;
• $25,000 for disfigurement;
• $25,000 for past loss earnings; and
• $12,500 for future loss of earnings.

The jury also entered a verdict for $261,250 after a 5% reduction for contributory negligence to Harry Lynch (Becky’s husband) made up of the following damages:

• $200,000 for loss of consortium; and
• $75,000 for loss of services.

This case was tried in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Peoria, Ill.

Becky L. Lynch, Harry E. Lynch v. Myron Rachinski, Diamond State Trucking, Inc., No. 10 CV-1399 U.S. District Court for Central Illinois.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling truck accident cases, car accident cases and catastrophic accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Elgin, Frankfurt, St. Charles, Woodridge, Willowbrook, Winnetka, Wilmette, Woodstock, Crystal Lake, Rolling Meadows, Richton Park, Naperville, South Holland, Alsip, Worth, Lansing, Lincolnshire, Niles, Morton grove and Des Plaines, Ill.

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