Articles Posted in Semi Truck Accident

truck_yellow_toy_dump-768x1024It may not be uncommon to recover less than you had hoped in a personal injury lawsuit. However, challenging the amount of money you are awarded to get more is a challenging feat. A recent case out of the East Baton Rouge Parish explains why courts tend to defer to the jury when awarding damages. 

Stephen Gordon was driving his car on Interstate-10 with his wife, Melissa Gordon, in the passenger seat on the Mississippi River bridge in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. While Gordon was driving in the middle lane, a Mack dump truck was traveling eastbound in the left lane. The truck driver merged into the middle lane and hit Gordon’s car. The Gordons alleged that they were injured in the accident and filed suit. They sued Paul Wright, the driver of the dump truck; Vision Trucking, LLC, the owner of the dump truck; Joseph W. Wright, Jr, the driver’s employer; the owner of Vision Trucking, LLC; and the liability insurer of the driver and Vision Trucking, LLC. Ms. Gordon then settled all her claims against the defendants, and Mr. Gordon’s claims proceeded to trial. 

At trial, the court determined that Mr. Gordon lacked credibility and appeared to exaggerate the extent of his injuries because much of his testimony about his injuries and treatment was contradicted by other evidence. However, the trial court still noted that Mr. Gordon had extensive treatment to his back, neck, and right leg before the accident, which intensified his pre-existing condition. The court awarded Mr. Gordon $15,000 in general damages and $5,092.07 in special damages, and Mr. Gordon appealed. Mr. Gordon argued the trial court failed to award him the full amount he claimed in special damages for his past medical expenses, failed to award future medical expenses for recommended surgeries, and abused its discretion in awarding general damages that were “unreasonably low.” 

highway_jam_baustelle_jam-1024x769As the weather gets nicer across the country, millions will travel to destinations near or far. Unfortunately, with this increase in traffic, accidents will occur due to the negligence of drivers. But what happens when the roadway’s integrity and safety come into question? Can the state be held liable for a highway’s defects? – The following lawsuit out of Morgan City, Louisiana, helps answer that question.

Mariah Schouest and Nicole Smith were good friends who lived and worked in Houma, Louisiana. They enjoyed going on long drives where they would listen to music and talk for fun. Typically, they would drive on Highway 90 toward New Orleans, but on this particular road trip, they decided to go West toward Morgan City. 

Schouest was driving while Smith was sitting in the passenger seat. Having been on the road for some time, Schouest stopped at the gas station on the left since it was getting dark. To get there, she slowed her vehicle, flicked on her turn signal, and began to turn into the median. Unfortunately, before she could turn, the car was hit from behind by a pickup truck driven by Joshua Landry. Smith sustained a severe brain injury as a result of the crash.

larimer_sheriff_reserve-1024x683This scenario is not hard to imagine: you are driving along the road, and you get into an accident; however, the other vehicle is not just a regular car owned by a private citizen, but it is a dump truck owned by the local government. When suing a local governmental entity such as a sanitation department or police station, the injured party may face obstacles in naming precise owners of public vehicles or following procedural rules. A recent case out of St. Charles Parish demonstrates what kinds of procedural obstacles a plaintiff may face. It also helps answer the question; what happens if I name the wrong defendant in a lawsuit? Is my case over?

On January 13, 2010, three prisoners in the custody of the St. Charles Parish Sheriffs were being transported in a vehicle owned by the Sheriff’s office when it collided with a dump truck. As a result of the accident, the three alleged they had suffered “severe and grievous injury to body and mind.” On January 12, 2011, they filed a lawsuit against the Parish of St. Charles as the owner of the dump truck, the driver of the dump truck, and its liability insurer. Then the plaintiffs added the Parish of St. Charles Sheriff’s Office as the owner of the prisoner transportation vehicle and the employer of the dump truck driver. 

After discovery, St. Charles Parish filed for a motion of summary judgment, asking the court to decide the case in their favor because the allegations were legally insufficient because the Parish did not own the dump truck. In support of its motion, the Parish attached a Certificate of Ownership, demonstrating the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s office owned the dump truck. The trial judge granted the motion. Subsequently, Greg Champagne, the Sheriff of St. Charles Parish, filed exceptions of prescription, which essentially asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit because the plaintiff did not file the case on time or failed to follow procedural rules. The court also granted the exceptions of prescription, and the plaintiffs appealed.   

white-volvo-semi-truck-on-side-of-road-2199293-1024x684An occurrence such as a bad motor accident will almost likely aggravate any pre-existing injuries of an injured party. This, of course, depends on the seriousness of the accident in question. In this particular case, Mr. Urquhart and Mr. Nye were involved in a motor accident with a truck belonging to Sysco Food Services of New Orleans (“Sysco”), and driven by its employee, Mr. Spencer. This accident resulted in bodily injuries to Urquhart and Nye and further aggravated their already existing health challenges.

On May 9, 2012, along East Judge Perez Drive, Mr. Spencer collided with another vehicle containing two passengers, Mr. Urquhart and Mr. Nye. A witness to the accident, Mr. Straub, testified that both his vehicle and the vehicle containing Urquhart and Nye were in the right-hand lane when Mr. Spencer moved from the left lane of travel and collided with Urquhart and Nye’s vehicle. The difficulty in this lawsuit arises because  Urquhart and Nye had separately been involved in a series of accidents that left them with injuries still existing at the time of the May 2012 accident.

Mr. Urquhart and Mr. Nye filed an action in tort against Mr. Spencer, Sysco Food Services of New Orleans and Zurich American Insurance Company in January 2015 for this accident. Mr. Urquhart’s sons testified that he became a “couch potato” after the May 2012 accident and suffered on-going effects from the accident until his death. Mr. Nye’s sons also testified to his fitness and activities and stated that he had planned to go back to work prior to the accident. Mr. Nye’s neurosurgeon, a vocational rehabilitation expert, testified to the grievous effects the accident has on his health while his expert economist testified that his injuries and inability to return to work would result in his loss of wages and capacity to earn wages. Mr. Nye’s chiropractor also testified that the accident caused the most neurological damage to his lumbar spine.

pexels-photo-681335The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”) has a duty to maintain safe and accessible transportation infrastructure for the state. One might think that because the DOTD is such a large entity, no damages could be recovered from an accident due to unsafe conditions on transportation infrastructure. However, it is possible for a plaintiff to recover damages against the DOTD.

On April 24, 2014, Antonio White (“Plaintiff”) was working at night with a crew painting lane strips on the road. He was operating a crash attenuator truck when he was struck from behind by an 18-wheel tractor trailer driven by David Hornak (“Defendant”), who was operating the trailer as an employee of J.I.T. Distributing, LLC (“J.I.T.”). The Plaintiff suffered injuries from the accident and filed suit against multiple parties, including the defendant, J.I.T., and the DOTD. 

At the trial court level, DOTD filed a motion for summary judgment stating the reason for the accident was the Defendant had fallen asleep at the wheel. DOTD argued they could have done nothing else to prevent the accident from happening. The trial court found that the cause of the accident was solely due to the Defendant and J.I.T. and granted DOTD’s motion for summary judgment. DOTD was dismissed from the case with prejudice, and the Plaintiff appealed. 

73-Email-06-24-19-PHOTO-1024x685Cyclists must follow the rules of the road, not only for their own safety, but also because if an accident occurs the cyclist’s rule breaking could affect recovery. When a car hits a cyclist, the injured party can sue for negligence and recover damages as long as the other party was at fault. Outside of New Orleans, at the intersection of Jefferson Highway and North Causeway Boulevard, one cyclist failed to recover damages because he did not follow cycling rules.

 On September 24, 2012, Felix Palmisano was biking west on Jefferson Highway at 9:45 PM. At that time, Walter J. Ohler was driving a truck south on Causeway Boulevard. At the intersection of these two roads, Jefferson Highway is six lanes wide while Causeway Boulevard merges into one lane. As Mr. Ohler approached the southbound redlight, the signal turned green so Mr. Ohler coasted through the intersection. Mr. Palmisano saw the oncoming truck, but thought he could cross one lane before the truck could cross six. His intuition was wrong, and he was hit, suffering injuries. 

 On September 20, 2013, Mr. Palmisano sued Mr. Ohler in the Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court Parish of Jefferson, arguing that Mr. Ohler was at fault for causing the accident. The District Court ruled that Mr. Palmisano failed to prove this fault by the required “preponderance of the evidence,” which means there is a greater than 50% chance of it being true. Mr. Palmisano then appealed this decision to The Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal, which focused on the fault and obligations of both the driver and the cyclist.

action-business-cargo-2449454-1024x683Christmas is usually a busy time for families, especially those traveling to visit loved ones. For many businesses it is also a time for increased sales and higher profits. For this reason, it is common for companies to set strict targets and deadlines for employees to meet in order to capitalize on the opportunity. Such deadlines, however, can be dangerous if they push employees beyond their capacities for safety.

On the night of December 25, 2008, Tammy Westbrook, an employee of Western Star Transportation, was driving a truck carrying plants belonging to Nurserymen, Inc. on Interstate 10 near Laplace, Louisiana. Westbrook collided with a GMC Yukon, the impact of which caused the GMC to strike the rear of a Lincoln sedan. The occupants of the vehicles suffered major injuries and a fatality. At the time of the accident, Westbrook had been driving for 33 the prior 36 hours. 

The victims of the accident filed a lawsuit for personal injuries and wrongful death against Westbrook, Westerm Star, and Nurserymen. After the jury concluded that Westbrook was not within the scope of a master-servant relationship with Nurserymen at the time of the accident, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded damages against Westbrook and Western Star. The plaintiffs appealed the judgment to Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

accident-action-auto-220996-1024x683Car accidents are always stressful, even if they are minor accidents and no one gets hurt. However, when you have multiple accidents within moments of each other and someone is seriously injured, or killed, things turn serious. And when things turn serious, you will want an experienced attorney at your side.

Mr. Davis was operating a tractor-trailer on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge when he noticed a collision that had recently occurred between a Ford pickup truck and a U.S. Xpress, Inc. tractor-trailer. There were no emergency personnel, signs, or warnings of the accident. As Davis came to a stop he was struck from behind by the defendant, Mr. Scott, who was driving a vehicle owned by Service Transport. After being struck by Scott, Davis’ vehicle thrust forward and hit the Ford pickup. Scott then exited his vehicle and found the driver of the pickup, Jonas Richmond, deceased near Davis’ trailer axle. 

Davis filed suit, naming Scott, Service Transport, and the insurer of Service Transport, National Interstate Insurance Company, as defendants. Davis claimed he was entitled to damages from mental anguish and emotional distress due to the death of Mr. Richmond. The defendants argued that Davis is not entitled to damages because he was not directly involved in the incident that caused the injury and resulting death of Mr. Richmond.

logistics-lorry-mountains-93398-1024x683A car accident is difficult to manage even when it is just a simple fender-bender. Imagine a situation where the accident is  so complex that multiple companies are involved, and those companies begin filing crossclaims amongst each other. The suit can quickly get bogged down and complicated. This is exactly what happened to a family driving in St. Tammany Parish.

Mrs. Tarrah Willis was driving in St. Tammany Parish while her husband, Bruce, was in the passenger seat and their three children were in the backseat. Behind the Willis family was a semi-truck owned by Frozen Water and driven by Mr. Johnson. As traffic slowed, Mr. Johnson failed to apply his brakes and violently struck the rear of the Willis vehicle. As a result, the Willis vehicle collided with the vehicle immediately in front of it. Mrs. Willis, her husband, and their three children were all severely injured due to the accident. Mr. and Mrs. Willis bring this suit to recover damages for themselves and for their children.

After filing suit against Frozen Water and the Insurer of Frozen Water, the Willis family filed an amendment to add Reddy Ice and its insurer as additional defendants. The Willis family claimed that Reddy Ice was vicariously liable due to the level of control Reddy Ice had over Frozen Water’s operations. In response, Reddy Ice filed a crossclaim against Frozen Water. Frozen Water filed an objection, but the trial court dismissed the objection. This appeal followed, with Frozen Water contending that Reddy Ice’s claim for defense and indemnity is premature.

45-Picutre-05-22-2019-1024x512Most people are extra cautious when driving near an 18-wheeler truck, but accidents can happen in ways a person cannot always anticipate. That is what happened to Evelyn J. Menard in Baton Rouge in May of 2004, when an 18-wheeler in front of her snagged a wire above the road, which snapped and hit her car. Evelyn’s car went into a spin, and the truck did not stop. As a result, Evelyn had serious injuries to her lower back 

Because neither the owner nor the operator of the truck were identified, Evelyn filed a lawsuit against several defendants associated with the wire, including the Parish of East Baton Rouge, communications companies, contracting companies, her insurance company, and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. This is a strategy that is often used in personal injury cases, because in many cases, the fault for an accident cannot be attributed to a single party, and multiple parties can be liable for an injury. In these situations, plaintiffs join multiple defendants in a single suit, and the court will decide whether, based on the facts, the lawsuit should proceed or whether some of these defendants should be dismissed. In this case, the other defendants were dismissed, except for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (“The Department”).

The case went to trial in 2015. The jury found the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development 100% liable for Evelyn’s injuries. The jury awarded Evelyn a total of $1,642,000, including $500,000 for past and future physical pain and suffering, $150,000 for past and future mental pain and suffering, $327,000 for past medical expenses, $100,000 for future medical expenses, $165,000 for lost wages, $330,000 for future loss of wages, and $70,000 for loss of enjoyment of life. The court signed a final judgment on March 12, 2015 and awarded Evelyn a total of $1,322,000 in damages, including the full $500,000 for general damages. The defendant made a timely filing of judgement notwithstanding the verdict (“JNOV”), which allows a judge to overrule a jury’s decision. However, the court did not grant it.  

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