Articles Posted in Semi-Trailer Truck Accidents

Each year, 3,000 people on average die and 450,000 are injured in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers. Ten percent of all drivers who are 15 to 19 years of age involved in fatal crashes were distracted when the car, truck or motorcycle crash occurred. The significant safety problem of distracted driving has grown very rapidly over the past ten years.

Without regard to where it may rank on the list of the most distracting and dangerous activities drivers engage in, there is no dispute that using a cell phone, sending or receiving texts, or trying to use hand-held devices while driving are high on the list. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), at any given moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using or manipulating cell phones while driving.

There are three main types of distractions while driving:

  • Visual: The driver actually looks away from the roadway.
  • Manual: The driver temporarily removes his or her hands from the wheel.
  • Cognitive: The driver’s mind is taken off of driving and goes elsewhere.

 

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Kerry Hogland was 36 years old when driving her sedan on a highway near Fredericktown, Mo. An employee of Town & Country Grocers of Fredericktown drove onto the highway from an on-ramp. The driver of the Town & Country Grocers vehicle did not heed a stop sign at the end of the ramp and crashed broadside into Hogland’s sedan on the passenger side.

Hogland’s vehicle spun out of control and landed in a field next to the highway.

She suffered an intracranial hemorrhage, an epidural hematoma that necessitated a craniotomy and a skull fracture that left her deaf in her right ear. A craniotomy is a surgical procedure where a bone flap is removed from the skull to allow access to the brain. The surgery removes a part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain. The bone flap is temporarily removed and then replaced after the brain surgery is completed.  Obviously, this is a very serious and dangerous surgery.

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) concluded at an all-day conference that deadly truck underride crashes could be prevented when passenger vehicles crash into a tractor-trailer truck or straight struck from behind.

In underride crashes, a passenger car crashes into the rear of a tractor-trailer truck and the car ends up jammed under the truck, flattening the passenger compartment and injuring or killing the car’s driver and passengers. Underride crashes are extremely dangerous and many times lead to serious injuries and/or death. Underride incidents also can occur when bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists slide under the truck body.

There are federal rules and regulations that require trailers and some straight trucks to be equipped with rear underride guards, which are steel bars designed to prevent vehicles from sliding under the backs of trucks or trailers. The same rules and regulations imposed by the federal government have been in place since 1953. Now there is movement to amend rules of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is considering a new standard for the guards to make them stronger.

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Petar Kuzmanov, 23 at the time of a car accident, was a backseat passenger in a car driven by Hristo Hristov. Lauren Weiner was in the front seat passenger side allegedly engaged in a sexual act with Hristov while he was driving. Distracted, Hristov swerved onto a grassy median. As he moved the vehicle back onto the roadway, it overturned, struck a guardrail and was hit by 3 other vehicles including a fully loaded tractor-trailer and a pickup truck.

 

Kuzmanov was comatose for several months after the crash. He sustained a traumatic brain injury, which has affected his speech and cognitive abilities. He now requires therapy and assistance with daily living activities. He also suffered an amputation of his left index finger, degloving injuries to his right foot and a fractured right femur that required surgery. His medical bills were $530,000.

 

The guardian for Kuzmanov filed a lawsuit against Hristov and Weiner, the drivers involved in the subsequent collisions and the owner of the pickup truck, alleging negligent failure to safely operate their respective vehicles. It was also claimed that the defendants were traveling at an unsafe speed and made other claims of negligence. The lawsuit did claim lost income.

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A driver of a tractor-trailer owned by J.M. Leasing was traveling on an interstate roadway where the conditions were poor because of snow. The tractor-trailer driver passed a slow-moving vehicle in the right lane. When the truck driver attempted to return to the right lane at about 55 mph, he lost control of the vehicle and the truck jackknifed. The plaintiff in this case, Christopher Spunar, was driving a sedan on the highway and was able to stop in time in front of the jackknifed truck. However, another tractor-trailer operated by Arthur Medeiros for Medeiros Trucking Inc. crashed into the Spunar vehicle. Yet another tractor-trailer driven by L.W. Miller Transportation also collided with the Spunar sedan.

 

Hope Spunar, 70, a passenger in Christopher’s vehicle, suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a traumatic brain injury and fractures to her neck at C2, her coccyx and her sacrum.

 

Her medical expenses were $85,000. Christopher Spunar, who was in his 50s at the time, suffered a fractured sternum, a bulging disk at C5-6 and a fractured clavicle among other injuries. Another passenger in the Spunar vehicle was Nicholas Spunar, 18, who suffered a hematoma, a fractured rib and a closed-head injury resulting in post-concussion syndrome.

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Daniel DiNardi was a State Department of Transportation supervisor who was pulling his orange Department of Transportation pickup truck onto the right shoulder of a highway to remove debris. Before getting out of his truck, he activated the emergency lights and yellow strobe lights on his truck. After he placed the debris into the pickup truck bed and was walking to get back into his truck, Gina Davis, driving a tractor-trailer for PTX Services LLC, drifted off the road and struck DiNardi. He suffered multiple blunt-force trauma injuries and died shortly thereafter. DiNardi was survived by his parents and two minor children.

Davis pleaded guilty of misconduct with a motor vehicle and was sentenced to five years in prison, which was suspended after two years.

DiNardi’s family sued Davis and PTX Services claiming that Davis was negligent in choosing not to pay proper attention to her driving, keep a proper lookout and remain in her lane of traffic. The family also made a claim that Davis was fatigued from driving and had falsified her truck’s log book. The family presented evidence, including Davis’s own admission, that she had falsified her logs for the two days leading up to the collision. Davis also admitted at deposition and at trial that she drove onto the shoulder.

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Sandra Gibbs hired the defendant Blu-Sky Industries to do work on a septic tank on her property at 30658 S. Ashland Ave. in Beecher, Ill. The Village of Beecher is located in Chicago-area suburbs in Will County, Ill. On Dec. 8, 2009, Gibbs, 31 years old at the time, stood in her driveway supervising the work as the defendant Blu-Sky Industries’ workers completed the project. She was walking back toward her house when a Blu-Sky employee, Jacob Courtney, began backing up his truck, which was attached to a trailer.

Courtney did not see Gibbs and hit her twice, causing her to fall onto the trailer with a direct blow to her outstretched right arm. The truck continued in reverse with Gibbs halfway on the trailer and halfway on the ground for 10 additional feet before the truck finally stopped.

Gibbs suffered a right shoulder impingement with a partial thickness tear of the supraspinatus tendon in the rotator cuff, requiring injections and eventually surgery that consisted of arthroscopic distal clavicle excision and subacromial decompression. A subacromial decompression of the shoulder is a surgery designed to increase the size of the subacromial, which is designed to reduce the pressure on the muscle. In order to make room, the surgery involves cutting the ligament and shaving away the bone spur on the subacromial bone. This permits the muscle in that space to heal.

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The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed a defense verdict in a multi-vehicle crash on an icy Indiana highway that caused severe injuries to motorists. The big issue in the case was which state’s law should be applied at a Cook County Circuit Court jury trial.

On Dec. 26, 2007, Clifford Ruse, a truck driver for Harvey, Ill.-based Envirite of Illinois Inc. was driving eastbound on Interstate 80/94 in Hammond, Ind., when he was struck by an SUV whose driver had lost control on a patch of black ice.

Ruse swerved his truck to the left and hit the highway’s median wall. On impact, the container of mill dust in tow was detached from his truck and that container crossed into the westbound lanes of the interstate highway. The plaintiff in the case, Daniel Kovera, was one of several drivers injured when the container landed on their cars. In March 2008, Kovera and his wife filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill.

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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.

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On Sept. 10, 2007, Paul Ermel was driving a semi-tractor northbound on Route 47 in Sugar Grove, Ill., when the defendant, Zachary McVeigh, who was approaching in his car from the southbound, attempted a left turn. He was trying to turn on at Waubansee Drive, which is the entry for the Waubonsee Community College. McVeigh misjudged Ermel’s truck, thinking it was stuck and stopped as part of the construction work that was going on at the area. McVeigh turned his vehicle into the front driver’s side of Ermel’s semi-truck.

Ermel, 38, alleged that the impact of the crash caused him to sustain bulging discs or aggravation of pre-existing degenerative conditions in his cervical and thoracic spine, damage to neck ligaments, cervical instability and a cervical fistula. He required two cervical fusion surgeries. The first was at the level C6-7, and the second was at the level C4-6. His alleged medical expenses were $326,136. He also lost 10 weeks of work as a Teamsters union truck driver.

The defendant McVeigh admitted negligence but contested the nature and extent of Ermel’s injuries. The defendant contended that Ermel suffered only soft tissue strains, which resolved within 4 months. It was also argued that there was a 9-month treatment gap before Ermel sought further medical care, that he continued working full time and raced a stock car during this 9-month period and that there were no recorded complaints of neurological symptoms in his medical records until 1½ years after the accident.

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