$219,000 Cook County Jury Verdict in Rear-End Truck Collision in Construction Zone

On May 11, 2009, Manuel Banuelos was driving a dump truck through a construction zone on northbound Interstate 94 in Lake County, Ill., when he attempted to turn into a construction site a quarter-mile north of Illinois Route 176. At that point, Banuelos was rear-ended by a semi-tractor-trailer driven by the defendant Dezell Kelley, pushing Banuelos’ truck into a ditch causing his serious injuries.

Banuelos claimed that he had slowed down in advance of his turn, that his flashers were engaged and signs were present warning drivers of a flagger ahead and the trucks were entering and exiting this highway.

Two witnesses confirmed that Banuelos had slowed and his flashers were on. Banuelos was 39 years old at the time of the crash. He sustained a herniated L5-S1 disc that required a discectomy and fusion, a torn meniscus in his right knee that required arthroscopic surgery and a herniated C5-6 disc requiring treatment and future fusion surgery, all leaving him unable to return to work as a truck driver.

His medical expenses in the past were $441,467. His future surgery was expected to cost $250,000. It was also claimed at trial that his lifetime of lost time at his job ranged from $560,000 to $754,000.

Banuelos contended that the defendant driver Kelley saw the flagger but sped up and hit the back of Banuelos’ dump truck at 45 mph. Kelley is now retired. Kelley reportedly admitted to his employer that he was at fault in causing the crash, that he did see the flagger, but that he did not see the construction warning signs.

The defendants, Kelley and his trucking company employer, denied negligence, claimed that Banuelos did not utilize his flashers or his turn signal and that Banuelos was contributorily negligent for making a sudden turning maneuver without signaling or activating his hazard lights.

The defendants maintained that the warning signs were not correctly placed far enough in advance of the construction site opening and were not placed at a proper height to give adequate warning of construction vehicles entering or exiting the roadway.

The defendants filed a third-party claim against Walsh Construction, Plote Construction, Road Safe Traffic Systems and Teng & Associates relating to the improper configuration and installation of the road signage at the site of this crash. The third-party defendants settled with the plaintiff before trial for $185,000. The defendants had filed a motion to reduce the judgment to $34,000 based on a set-off from the award from the $185,000 settlement that was paid by the third-party defendants.

The jury’s verdict of $219,000 after it was reduced by 50% from $438,000 was made up of the following damages:

• $50,000 for pain and suffering;
• $113,000 for medical expenses; and
• $56,000 for lost wages.

The demand to settle the case before trial was $2.9 million. The jury was asked to return a verdict for the same amount. The offer to settle the case before trial made by the defendants was $300,000. The attorneys representing Banuelos were Christopher Bargione and Benjamin C. Butler.

Manuel A. Banuelos v. Dezell Kelley, Champion Logistics, LLC, 10 L 730 (Cook County, Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling truck crash cases, construction site accident cases and automobile 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 Prospect Heights, Mount Prospect, Riverside, Brookfield, Lincolnshire, Rosemont, River Grove, Richton Park, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Schiller Park, Chicago (Hyde Park, Bronzeville, Rogers Park, Jefferson Park), Lincolnwood, Lockport, Aurora and St. Charles, Ill.

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