Rockford Jury Returns $15M Damages Verdict in Wrongful Death Truck Accident Case

truckA grandmother of five was driving across a Northern Illinois highway in March 2013 when she encountered an accident ahead. An allegedly drunk driver had lost control, crossed the median, and hit a guardrail. The grandmother stopped. The truck driver traveling behind her in the same lane did not. Although the trucker was a considerable distance behind the woman, he nevertheless slammed into her vehicle at an alleged speed of around 60 mph. The crash killed the grandmother and triggered a lawsuit that recently ended with the jury finding for the plaintiff and assessing damages at $15 million, according to a National Law Review report. The case highlighted the massive damage that can arise in truck accidents and the potential usefulness of modern technological varieties of evidence, such as “dashcam” video footage, all of which are things that your Illinois truck accident attorney can help you compile and present as part of your case.

The woman’s daughter, who launched the wrongful death case against the trucker and his employer, pursued the case with multiple approaches. There was evidence, including the “dashcam” video of the driver and the accident, which potentially indicated that the truck driver was drowsy or asleep in the moments leading up to the fatal crash. That was one key thrust of the plaintiff’s case:  that the truck driver was negligent as a result of his decision to operate the vehicle while fatigued.

The plaintiff did not limit herself to arguing that the trucker was liable for driving while fatigued, however. The plaintiff also argued that the truck driver “did not allow enough time or distance to safely stop, did not keep a proper lookout, drove too fast for conditions, … and did not apply his brakes.” The defense in this case argued that the trucker was not asleep or drowsy. The plaintiff’s alternative arguments meant that she could proceed, even if she never proved drowsiness. The deceased grandmother stopped legally and properly in the travel lane, due to a wreck in front of her. The trucker allegedly came up behind and rear-ended her at 60 mph, which could potentially demonstrate negligence even if the driver wasn’t asleep or sleepy.

Ultimately, the plaintiff was allowed to use her dashcam video footage at trial. The plaintiff argued that the video showed a drowsy driver. The defense argued that the trucker was checking his gauges, rather than nodding off. The defense even had an expert witness who backed up the gauge-checking interpretation of the video.

Just because an opponent has an expert who opposes your theory of the case does not mean that you cannot win. The credibility of an expert’s testimony can be challenged and debunked just like an eyewitness’ testimony. Indeed, in this case, the National Law Review report stated that the “consensus of those who observed the trial was that the jury questioned the credibility of the human factors expert called by the defense.” In other words, the plaintiff’s ability to challenge and impeach the defense expert helped trigger a successful outcome.

The jury found the trucker and his employer 99% at fault and assessed damages at $15 million. That total included $5 million for loss of society (which compensates the plaintiff for the loss of the deceased person’s companionship) and $10 million for the daughter’s grief and mental anguish.

Terrible deaths like this highlight the massive damage that can arise in a truck accident. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a truck accident, you need counsel who understands how to handle and succeed in these types of cases. The skilled Chicago truck accident attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck have been helping injured drivers and passengers get what they deserve for many years. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Will Self-Driving Trucks Be Safer, Sooner?, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Dec. 30, 2016

New Electronic Logs May Help Prevent Truck Driver Fatigue, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, May 31, 2016