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Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on February 12th, 2014,
by Zane Cagle

Lawsuit Filed by Trooper Hurt in I-88 Illinois Semi-Truck Crash

Posted on February 12th, 2014 by Zane Cagle

I-88 semi-truck accident

Todd Sherman/Network Video Productions, Inc

In an updated story following our January blog about a Illinois State Trooper who was injured and a Wheeling man who was killed in a January 27, 2013 semi-truck accident, it was released that the Illinois trooper and his wife filed suit yesterday in Cook County, Illinois. The trooper was seriously injured and a toll way worker was killed in a semi-truck accident on Interstate 88 when the semi-truck crashed into a vehicle that was being assisted on the side of the road on Interstate 88.

In today’s news, details about the trooper’s condition and the circumstances around the accident were revealed.  The trooper has been in the hospital in intensive care since the crash where he fractured his clavicle, fractured his ribs and gave him multiple head and facial lacerations as well as second and third degree burns.   The trooper and his wife are named as plaintiff’s and are seeking damages for pain, suffering, disability  and disfigurement as well as economic damages. The suit is filed against the truck driver and the driver’s employer, DND International, Inc.

The Accident

The accident happened after the trooper had stopped his vehicle as well as a Tollway vehicle were stopped on the side of I-88 near Aurora to assist a semi-tractor that had become disabled in the far right lane of eastbound traffic.  According to the lawsuit, the Tollway worker who died in the crash stopped directly behind the disabled vehicle and activated his emergency lights. Then, parked behind him was the trooper who also had activated his emergency lights and turned on an arrow board on his car that directed traffic away from the disabled truck.

Valeaquez, the driver of the semi-truck that crashed into the group was charged with several felonies in the crash. DuPage County prosecutors say he had fallen asleep at the wheel near the end a “marathon shift of more than 36 hours and had falsified his paper logbook and skirted safety rules to stay on the road”.  Driver fatigue is an enormous issue in this country. Studies have shown that truck driver fatigue can be as dangerous as the use of alcohol and/or drugs.  In January, just days after the crash, Velasquez’s employer stated that the log books were correct.

The lawsuit accuses Velasquez of operating a commercial vehicle while fatigued, operating the commercial vehicle for more than 14 hours, failing to reduce his speed, failing to yield to a stationary emergency vehicle and failure to keep a proper lookout.  The lawsuit also alleges that Velasquez’e employer, DND International was negligent. According to the FMCSA, the company has a history of poor compliance with safety regulations.  The lawsuit says DND International, Inc. failed to inspect Velasquez’ report of duty status and failed to ensure he was in compliance with federal and local transportation safety regulations. It added that the company failed to have a system in place to track and control their commercial vehicle drivers’ hours of service.

The  38 year-old injured trooper has been a trooper since 2007 and patrols a five-mile stretch on I-88 where he was struck. He has two children, ages 8 and 3.  “He’s intentionally kept under sedation and has not been away since the accident”, said Elizabeth Kaveny, the attorney for the trooper and his wife.  He has undergone several surgeries while in the hospital.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours of Service (HOS)

The FMCSA has specific requirements about the Hours of Service a driver may do in a given time period.  There is a 11 hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off and a there is a 15 hour limit following 8 consecutive hours off duty.  Off-duty time is not included in the 15 hour period of time.  There are a number of restrictions about the length of time a driver may actually drive. These regulations are given and enforced to reduce such accidents as the one above.  If, in fact, Velasquez was doing a 36 hour drive, that would clearly be in violation of the FMCSA’s HOS requirements.  Truck drivers are required to keep log books to show their hours on and off the road.  Transportation companies all over the country must enforce such hours of operation with their drivers. More importantly, transportation companies must not only require that their drivers keep accurate log books and take the necessary breaks, but when scheduling trips, they must allow for rest for drivers.  If unreasonable deadlines are made for drivers, they have few options but to push ahead and try to get the job done.  Driving while fatigued is dangerous for any driver, but even more so for drivers of vehicles that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.

As I practice truck accident law in the state of Illinois, I will be most interested in this case. As well, I will be interested to see if there is an additional wrongful death lawsuit brought about by the family of the man who was killed. While I do not know the results of the entire investigation and likely, it is not truly complete; I will be interested in the many facts of this case. Seemingly from just what we read in the news, it seems this tragic accident may have been completely avoidable which makes it all the more tragic.  Frequently, in truck accidents, the variable and factors that contribute to a crash occur hours and days before the actual crash. If, in fact, the driver was on a 36 hour run, then the lack of compliance to HOS by the driver and the transportation company would have started before.  If the driver did fall asleep, again, a choice made much earlier in the day or week prompted that behavior. At our firm, we believe that we all must be held accountable for our choices whether they are good or bad.

If you have been injured in a truck accident, you may need legal representation. FMCSA regulations are rules and regulations that we are very knowledgeable about. Truck accidents are different than car accidents as they are far more complex and can be more serious and fatal.  We hope the best for the Illinois State Trooper and wish him a full recovery. As well, we are saddened by the death of the toll-way worker, a Wheeling man who was simply doing his job. Our attorneys are available seven days a week toll free (314) 276-1681 or locally (314) 276-1681

Additional Source: Rodriguez, M. Lawsuit filed by trooper hurt in crash that killed worker.  Chicago Tribune. 2/11/14