Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on January 30th, 2014,
by Zane Cagle

Driver Charged in Interstate 88 Truck Accident Near Chicago, Illinois-Updated

Posted on January 30th, 2014 by Zane Cagle

An update to the blog post of Tuesday regarding a Wheeling man’s death, and serious injuries to a Illinois State Trooper

According to the story, a toll road worker and a patrol man were assisting a semi-truck on the side of Interstate 88 when another truck struck them from behind.  Authorities have reported that the truck driver charged in the I-88 inferno that killed a toll way employee and critically injured a state trooper has several previous moving violations on his record and was convicted in 2001 for delivering a kilo of cocaine.

Because the drug felony did not occur in a commercial vehicle, state officials said the conviction did not prohibit the driver, Velasquez, age 46, from obtaining an Illinois Commercial Drivers License in 2007.  Since Velasquez did serve prison time for the cocaine delivery and later received his CDL, he has had a few additional problems according to the state driving records obtained by authorities.  His record induces previous truck driving violations, although none as serious as the four felony charges he now faces following the truck accident on I-88, this last week’s high-speed crash on the Reagon Tollway.

In March of 2010, Velasquez was convicted of highway speeding while driving a truck in Michigan; in June of 2010, he was convicted of improperly backing up his truck on a one-way street and his driving abstract reveals he has involved in an accident resulting in property damage. However, in that accident, he was driving a car

Response from Truck Driver’s Employer

DND International owner, Natasha Dimitrievski answered questions after federal and state inspectors had departed the transportation company. Reportedly, DND International is working with an outside contractor. The owner said that her drivers’ logs were “all good”. It is unknown whether DND International was aware of Velasquez’ speeding, accident history and drug conviction when he was hired.  “You can’t be in the truck with the drivers, so as much as we can do, we control them,”Dimitrievski remarked in Naperville. “I’m not there, in there, so I don’t know what they do. Only thing I know, my drivers’ logs that I receive. It’s all good”

Authorities say Velasquez was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol Monday when his tractor-trailer plowed into a squad car, causing a chain reaction collision. However, the DuPage County State Attorney says Velasquez had been on duty 38 hours with 3.5 hours of sleep. Those times are not documented facts as of yet. Velasquez’ lawyer says it is just an allegation that the trucker didn’t get the required ten hours of sleep after 14 hours on the road.

Many reading these articles will naturally wonder how a truck driver with a record such as this was driving a tractor trailer.  According to the information released thus far, it is hard to really determine.  I will be very interested in the updated investigation that comes from this accident as well as the recovery process for the Illinois State trooper who was seriously injured.  Was the truck driver inattentive? Where roadside warnings not placed behind the stranded vehicle?  What other factors occurred leading to Velasquez crashing into the patrol car and causing a chain-reaction multi-vehicle accident?  Stranded cars on the roadside are extremely dangerous situations especially at night.  The loss of life of the toll way worker is extremely tragic as well as the injuries to the trooper while both men were just trying to give aide to a stranded motorist–just doing their jobs.

Federal Requirements?

Illinois Secretary of State spokesperson Elizabeth Kaufman said, “The only Federal Requirement for criminal background checks is for CDL drivers who are wanting to haul hazardous materials. That just happened in the Patriot Act, under (President) Bush. Prior to that no requirement from the States. Employers generally run that check prior to hiring.”

We all have traveled down the interstates at night and we all know taking your eyes off of the road for a few seconds can end tragically.  If, in fact, Velasquez was inattentive or violated a safe driving practice as instructed by his employer and caused this death and the trooper’s serious injuries, then he and or the trucking company may be found negligent and liable.  If the trucking company did not properly screen Velasquaz before hiring or condoned unsafe driving times, they too may be found liable. Looking at the required criminal screenings a trucking company must do, the question of liability will continue to be asked in this scenario.  But more importantly, should Federal requirements for screenings be more thorough?

While Velasquaz is facing four felony charge , Velasquaz and the trucking company DND International may or may not  be found liable for negligence depending on the outcome of the investigation and potential cases. And if he is convicted of any of these felonies, compensation to the victims/families is not guaranteed.  Right now, all reports from authorities are allegations. True liability can only be determined by a jury.  Without a doubt, the family of the toll way worker and the Illinois trooper will need legal representation because whether or not someone is convicted or found at fault, compensation is not automatically awarded to the victims.  Most often, a third party case, or personal injury claim has to be filed by the victim or on behalf of the victim in order to obtain compensation.  The family of the deceased and the trooper will have to consult personal injury attorneys and possibly bring a wrongful death claim and/or personal injury claim to get the compensation they deserve. Our attorneys are experts in trucking accidents and we know the Federal guidelines under which trucking companies must operate.  Truck drivers are held to a standard of care because of the serious impact their vehicles can have when involved in a collision.

This death and serious injury to the Illinois State Trooper are tragic and if the allegations are true, possibly avoidable. We all know that one decision made in just a few seconds can be the difference between an accident happening or not happening……Only time will tell as the investigation continues. As I have discussed before, trucking accidents can often be very complex cases because the factors that go into the causation of the crash can be put into motion weeks and months before the actual crash. Certainly, investigators will have to examine log books, schedules and all other pertinent evidence.  In many trucks, event recorders are installed so investigators can see “hard braking” times and speeds.  A large amount of information can be taken from these event recorders that indicate the drivers’ behavior and time on the road for comparison to log books the driver keeps.  Dispatch communication as well as witnesses to the crash are also important in reconstructing the accident and all causation factors.

Our attorneys are experienced trucking attorneys, we know that time is of the essence.  Securing the vehicles involved is critical.  As well, all physical evidence including road marks and wheel marks at the scene are critical for accident reconstruction experts to recreate the accident to discover as many causation factors as possible

If you have been involved in a truck accident in the state of Illinois or Missouri, it is critical to consult a personal injury attorney right away to be certain all steps of the investigation are carried out thoroughly.  Our attorneys are available seven days a week and consultations are always free. Locally, (314) 276-1681 or toll free (800)685-3302

Source: Goudie, C. & Weidner, Ross. Truck driver charged in I-88 fatal has traffic, drug convictions.  WLS-TV/DT 1/29/14

Cagle, Z. Wheeling, Illinois Man Killed After Fiery Crash on Interstate 88, Allinjuryattorney.com 1/28/14