Articles Posted in Verdicts and Settlements

Isaac Espinoza was helping a friend with his broken down car on a stretch of highway I-81 just outside Chambersburg, Pennsylvania when he was hit by a truck driver with a blood alcohol level more than 4x the legal limit. The driver, Ricky Hatfield, ran from the scene of the accident and was later found and arrested by Pennsylvania State Police. His employer, J.B. Hunt, a major transportation logistics company headquartered in Lowell, Arkansas, failed to screen Hatfield’s employment and driving records, which included a previous DUI arrest while operating a tractor-trailer, 2 charges for reckless driving, speeding in a construction zone while driving a tractor-trailer, and job termination for failure of a drug and alcohol test and attempting to bribe the test administrator. These charges and Mr. Hatfield’s firing from a previous employer all occurred within the past 5 years.

Jury Finds Both Driver and Employer Negligent

Ricky Hatfield was considered an independent operator, a trucker who ran his own company but contracted with J.B. Hunt under an Outsource Carriage Agreement. The agreement requires the contracted employee to self-certify their driving record, with the logical expectation that J.B. Hunt would conduct a background check to verify the information. The company never checked Hatfield’s record, arguing that Mr. Hatfield was technically self-employed and had a duty to screen his own record. The company also attempted to argue that Ricky Hatfield personally made the decision to become intoxicated and that he was technically driving on his day off. Mr. Espinoza’s attorneys quickly refuted these claims, proving that Hatfield had been contracted to drive for J.B. Hunt and was operating the tractor-trailer and not his personal vehicle because he was out on dispatch for the company.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious matter because not only is it against the law, but it creates a high likelihood of a motor vehicle collision and personal injury to other drivers. Driving after using drugs or alcohol impairs a driver’s capability to drive safely and to react to others on the road, which leads to a high probability of the occurrence of an accident. Such accidents more often than not include serious personal injuries, or even fatalities.

The Chicago Tribune reported that a Chicago truck driver was sentenced to four years in prison for such a crime. In a 2009 fatal crash, this truck driver was driving under the influence of marijuana and caused an accident leading to the death of the victim. At the time of the accident, the victim was stopped in a traffic jam at Interstate 90 and Illinois Highway 53. The truck driver, driving a semi-trailer, did not stop in time and rear-ended the car of the victim.

While the truck driver was quoted as saying he “wouldn’t wish that pain on anybody,” alcohol and drug related fatalities and injuries are always preventable. If one simply does not get behind the wheel of a truck or motor vehicle while impaired, such accidents and ultimate deaths would never occur in the first place. If you do not wish pain on anyone’s families, do not get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while impaired.

Punitive damages are court monetary awards to the plaintiff meant not only to punish the defendant for wrongdoing but to set an example to others. This example shows how serious the court takes particular illegalities and to deter future wrongdoers from committing them. When the court awards a large sum in a verdict, the public and media take note, and the example is set. In this way, not only is the wrongdoer punished, but this verdict prevents future wrongdoers from causing any future harm. As semi crashes and driver negligence can cause serious injuries and death, trucking accident lawsuits often involve large punitive damages.

Such was the case recently in South Texas, according to an article by the Insurance Journal. In this case, a company’s negligence resulted in the unfortunate death of someone simply driving on the highway. A year and a half after the accident, the jury awarded $281 million in a lawsuit to the family of a man who was killed due to a company’s negligence in not properly maintaining a truck. The victim was killed by a part breaking off of a truck that was doing oilfield work. The victim was struck by a drive shaft of a tractor-trailer truck belonging to the oil patch supplier. The victim was in his pickup truck, when the flying piece went through his windshield and killed him. The court ruled that the oil patch supplier was negligent and did not properly maintain the truck. Therefore, $100 million of the $281 million verdict included punitive damages.

Our Chicago accident attorneys understand and empathize that court monetary awards cannot bring a loved one back and that no dollar amount can ever measure the life of an individual. Even though no dollar amount can be placed on the value of a life, our firm also believes that negligence should not go unpunished and believes in using the law to prevent future harm and loss of loved ones. In the past, our firm has also successfully advocated for the injured victims and families, and won notable court verdicts and settlements for wrongful death and negligence in motor vehicle accidents, including a $6.5 million settlement in a Kane Country trucking accident suit for the family of a young woman who was killed when the vehicle she was in was rear-ended by the defendant’s semi. It was later found that the truck was overloaded and the driver was under the influence of marijuana. If you have experienced injury or a loved one has died due to the negligence of others, contact us for a free consultation so that we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve and to prevent hardship from happening to others like you.

A court has delivered a verdict for a 2009 crash in what one Montrose-LaCrescenta Patch article describes as what could be one of the largest verdicts of its kind. The driver of a big rig and his employer were found jointly liable for the SUV-big rig collision and death of three people. Now, a teenage girl has been awarded $150.75 million for the wrongful deaths of three of her family members. She, being 9 years old at the time of the crash, survived by crawling out of a window of the SUV, after it had hit the big rig parked on the shoulder of the freeway in the early morning dark.

According to reports, as a result of a truck driver knowingly and negligently violating highway rules, three people died. The highway had various warning signs that stopping on the shoulders was only allowed in emergencies. However, the driver of the truck had pulled over on the right shoulder to sleep. In court, the driver testified how he parked on the shoulder to relieve himself and to sleep due to a severe headache. As the shoulder is reserved for emergencies, the family tried to utilize this very shoulder after their SUV had been hit with debris on the road. Instead, they collided with the sleeping driver’s parked big rig. They never saw the truck due to the darkness and due to the fact that the truck driver failed to put out his emergency reflectors. Had he taken this precautionary measure, or had he not misused the shoulder of the road, the surviving girl may still have her family.

Truck drivers should be aware that the shoulders of the road intended for emergency use only, and trucking companies should stress the importance of following laws like this when they train their drivers. Had the driver’s fatigue been an emergency, he was only seconds away from an exit, where he could have left the freeway to find a place of rest and relief. Knowing that other options were available, and in a non-emergency, the driver chose the shoulder of the road instead, resulting in deaths and injuries to others in a true state of emergency.

On May 21st, 2011, a Chicago Streets and Sanitation worker drove under the influence of alcohol, lost control of his vehicle, and struck four pedestrians. One of these pedestrians, Stephen Dewart, a 27-year old formerly from Chicago suffered from multiple severe injuries that required hospitalization, various surgeries, and months of physical therapy. We filed an accident lawsuit for the victim in June of 2011, naming the negligent driver and the City of Chicago as defendants. Attorneys Susan Novosad and Jordan Powell from our office represented the Dewart in the case, and last Friday, just was served when he was awarded a $2.4 million verdict by a Cook County jury.

Our press release announcing the verdict notes that the accident took place at the corner of Rush and Cedar Streets when the 61-year old laborer driving a city-owned truck was traveling at a high rate of speed. The lawsuit alleged that the driver failed to yield to the victims or to slow his vehicle to prevent a collision. Police say he tested over twice the legal blood alcohol limit and an open bottle of brandy was found wedged beneath his gas pedal when the vehicle left the roadway. The City of Chicago was named as a defendant in this lawsuit because the negligent driver was an employee and therefore, the company was responsible for his actions.

Novosad stated that the victim was hospitalized for almost a week following the accident after suffering from several spinal fractures and a broken leg in two places, both injuries requiring three surgeries and months of physical therapy. The jury deliberated for less than two hours to determine how the victim should be compensated for his injuries and disabilities sustained as a result of the accident.

A drunk driver that killed a woman in a head-on collision pleaded guilty last week in Madison County Circuit Court. released that the driver’s trial began on multiple charges relating to driving under the influence of alcohol in a fatal accident. The 36-year old of Clinton County caused the accident in February of 2010 when his pickup truck crashed into the woman’s SUV on Illinois 160 near Highland Road.

The woman from Trenton was taken to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead. Her mother was a passenger in the truck and suffered critical injuries. The pickup truck driver pleaded guilty last Friday morning to two of the four DUI charges, which included aggravated DUI resulting in death, and aggravated DUI resulting in bodily harm. It was reported that he already had two DUI charges within seven years when the accident took place. He was sentenced to 42 months in prison on each count.

Cases similar to the one above are all too common in Illinois. 47% of Illinois motor vehicle fatalities are estimated to involve alcohol, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is also stated that nearly three of every ten Americans are involved in an alcohol-related traffic accident in their lifetime. Our truck accident attorneys represent individuals and families who have suffered due to a motor vehicle accident caused by a negligent motorist. We recently represented the family of a 32-year old woman who was killed by a semi-truck trailer driven by an impaired motorist.

According to an online news report by, bail has been set at $3 million for a West Side man charged with reckless homicide for the deadly hit-and-run accident that claimed the life of a man from Cook County. Our wrongful death lawyers read that the 38-year old was struck by a van while crossing California Avenue near 29th Street around 10pm. Authorities say the van hit him and threw him into the middle of the road, where he was then pinned by a sheriff’s squad car. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital and was later pronounced dead.

Police say the driver of the van, a 57 year-old man of the 2900 block of West 25th Street, was taken into custody the following day after police found his van, which matched the description of the vehicle that hit the victim. He admitted to driving on California Avenue the night of the accident and “admitted to hitting something.” Police also talked to someone who told them he had seen the driver drinking alcohol last Wednesday night prior to the accident. A judge later set the $3 million bail and ordered the driver to return to court on Monday for a preliminary hearing. Dozens of the victim’s family members packed into court for the hearing, saddened by death of the husband and father of a 5 year-old girl.

Illinois Secretary of State records show that the driver’s license was revoked in 2010 from a DUI arrest the previous year. After finally becoming eligible to appear at an administrative hearing to attempt getting his license back, he never applied, according to an office spokesman. Thus, he continued to drive despite the fact that his license had been revoked. He had received court supervision for a 2002 DUI from LaSalle County, was issued a speeding ticket in 2008, and received a ticket for running a traffic light in 1999. The victim’s wife stated that the driver going behind the wheel with a revoked license added to her pain because he should not have been driving in the first place. recently released that the trial of a truck driver charged with killing an entire family in a multiple-vehicle accident has been scheduled for September. Our accident lawyers learned that the 36-year old driver’s arraignment hearing took place in January, in which a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf on four counts of manslaughter, four counts of motor vehicle homicide by willful reckless driving, and one count of motor vehicle homicide of an unborn child by driving recklessly.

The report states that the family consisted of a 30-year old man from Maryland, his 28-year old wife, and the couple’s two and three-year old children. The family had been among other drivers stopped on Interstate 80 as emergency crews were responding to a previous accident. The couple was driving separate vehicles at the time. Allegedly, the truck driver drove onto the scene, failing to notice the emergency lights or slow down for the stopped vehicles, and struck the husband’s vehicle. The force of this collision pushed his vehicle into his wife’s car, which was forced underneath a semi-tractor trailer. All family members were killed upon impact. The woman was pregnant at the time of the crash and her unborn child also died.

State police say that when the accident occurred, the truck driver had been driving for more than fifteen hours, violating commercial motor vehicle federal regulations. He also failed to observe radio traffic and other warnings that would have alerted him about the accidents on the interstate. He remains in a local jail on a $1 million bond, and a pre-trial conference is scheduled for late-May. recently released a report detailing the death of a 64-year old woman this weekend in Mount Prospect, Illinois after she was struck by a privately owned bus. The woman, who lived in Des Plaines, was struck on Elmhurst Road north of Algonquin Road at about 7pm on Saturday. The report does not specify whether she was driving or walking alongside the road, only that she was declared dead at 1:30am Sunday at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital due to her injuries, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

After the accident, police questioned a 25-year old Chicago man who was driving the bus. Mount Prospect police have not yet released any information on any charges or citations. They are, however, asking for any witnesses to the accident to come forward with further information.

Although it is not confirmed who was specifically responsible for causing the accident, wrongful death cases similar to the one described above are common throughout Illinois and have been seen numerous times by our law firm. In relation to bus accidents, we have handled many cases for injured or killed victims due to these accidents, including CTA, shuttle, and school bus accidents. We also represent injured bus passengers, motorists, and pedestrians involved in bus accidents in Illinois lawsuits. Bus drivers are expected to follow all rules and regulation necessary to protect the safety of passengers and pedestrians on the roadway, including owning a proper license, properly maintaining their vehicle, and ensuring they can operate the bus attentively and responsibly. However, bus accidents do occur, and oftentimes it is the result of driver negligence.

A West Chicago man has recently been convicted for severely injuring a pedestrian in a DUI accident that occurred in 2010. released that the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office announced a jury convicted the 49-year old of one count of aggravated driving under the influence on Tuesday, a Class 4 felony.

The release states that around 2 a.m. on January 31st, 2010, the man was driving a pickup truck south on Route 31 in St. Charles, Illinois when he made a left turn to travel eastbound on Route 64. He then lost control of his truck and drove onto the sidewalk, striking a pedestrian. Authorities say investigation revealed his blood-alcohol concentration was .170, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

Our Chicago truck accident attorneys learned that the pedestrian from Geneva, Illinois suffered several severe injuries as a result of the accident, including bleeding on her brain, a torn ligament in her right knee a cracked sternum, and a broken finger. The victim testified during trial that she is still recovering from these injuries, stating she continues to experience short-term memory loss and limited mobility and now has to refrain from taking part in a number of activities such as running and skiing. An associate judge at the trial set the driver’s next court appearance for October 12th for post-trial motions and sentencing, which may include probation or between one and twelve years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. The driver currently remains free on $3,000 bond and thus must refrain from possessing or consuming alcohol.

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