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Articles Posted in Trucking Accidents

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Collisions involving tractor trailers cannot be handled in the same manner as car wrecks since they involve laws and regulations implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) in addition to the rules of the road every other driver must follow. Truck drivers are professional drivers that are held to higher standards and these standards have been put in place for your protection on the roadway.

Hiring an attorney that’s able to turn over every stone is vital to reaching the maximum recovery for you. The attorneys at Varellas & Varellas have the knowledge and experience to aggressively pursue your claims following a collision with a tractor trailer along with a track record of results. These results put insurance companies on notice that your case will be effectively litigated to recover all the benefits due you.

In Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky alone there were 3,730 crashes involving heavy trucks between 2014 and 2018 while in Jefferson County there were 10,249. While Fayette and Jefferson Counties had the most accidents involving heavy trucks, the annual crash rate based upon each county’s population sheds light on which citizens of Kentucky are most at risk for being injured by a tractor trailer. Broken into five categories for increasing populations, the report determined Gallatin, Carroll, Hart, Scott, and Boone counties had the highest rates of collisions involving heavy trucks based on their populations.

The Kentucky Transportation Center (“KTC”) published the Kentucky Traffic Collision Facts Report analyzing crash data in Kentucky from collisions in 2019. For crashes involving trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds, which include tractor trailers, the KTC report found a recent increase in the number of crashes compared to the previous four-year average. Unfortunately, this increase in negligent driving has also increased the number of injuries and fatalities involving tractor-trailers crashes.

According to the KTC report, the most frequent contributing vehicular factors for tractor-trailer collisions in 2019 were as follows: Defective Brakes, Defective Headlights, Other Lighting Defects, Steering Failure, Tire Failure, Tow Hitch Failure, Overload/Improper Load, Oversized Load, and Load Securement. The top driver contributing factors leading to collisions were: Inattention, Misjudge Clearance, Not Under Proper Control, Failure to Yield Right of Way, Following Too Close, Too Fast for Conditions, and Distraction to name a few.

While this data focuses only on the tractor trailer and driver, it is often the negligent and sometimes intentional practices of the company that hired the driver and owns the truck which ultimately plays a major role in causing the collision. Unfortunately, the conduct of some companies frequently highlights practices aimed at earning higher profits rather than protecting your family’s safety. Inspections can be rushed and repairs can be pushed back – all aimed at making an extra few dollars while putting you at risk. Aggressively pursuing every trucking case is essential to your maximum recovery as punitive damages are often proper due to gross negligence and punitive damages can drastically increase the value of your claim.

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Sprinter limo bus

Comedian Tracy Morgan has filed suit against Walmart after he was critically injured in a multi-vehicle collision in New Jersey on June 7, 2014 that killed Morgan’s friend, James McNair, and injured several others. Police believe the truck driver, Kevin Roper of Georgia, dozed off while driving the Walmart tractor trailer, allowing his large rig to slam into the Sprinter limo bus Morgan and six others were riding in. Roper is charged with vehicular homicide and four counts of assault by auto, and the criminal complaint against Roper stated that he had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the trucking accident.

Morgan suffered multiple broken bones in the accident including broken ribs, a broken leg and a broken nose and was listed in critical condition after the accident. He has since been released from the hospital to continue his rehabilitation at home. McNair, a comedy writer, was fatally injured and three others were transported to the hospital with injuries of various severities.

Walmart truck

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the 6-car pileup caused by the driver of the Walmart tractor trailer. During its investigation, the NTSB will review the driver’s log and fuel receipts to determine the driver’s activities prior to the accident and investigate all available facts to determine whether the driver was in violation of the rules regarding hours of service. Under Federal law, drivers can work no more than 14 hours for any shift and only 11 of those hours can be spent driving. Read the preliminary report on the crash from the NTSB here.

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court in New Jersey against Walmart by Tracy Morgan and others, Roper commuted from his home in Georgia to the Walmart facility in Delaware to begin his shift driving the Peterbilt truck-tractor and semitrailer combination vehicle. The limo bus in which Morgan and others were riding had slowed on the New Jersey Turnpike due to construction work and closed lanes on the Turnpike. The driver of the Walmart commercial truck apparently did not slow down and struck the rear of the limo bus. The lawsuit seeks damages against Walmart since Roper was an employee of Walmart and was operating the truck in the regular course of his employment.

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A common scenario that arises in Kentucky and other states occurs when an insurance company for the person that injured you calls and asks you questions before you get a chance to talk to your own lawyer. We are commonly told by an injured person that an insurance company wants to settle a claim and asked whether he or she should settle the case without a lawyer.

You should absolutely consult an attorney before agreeing to settle a case. Whether the injuries were sustained in a car wreck, bicycle accident, trucking accident or other type of collision, and whether the injuries appear to be relatively minor or resulted in a fatality, broken bones, paralysis or other injuries, you should talk to an attorney before making any decisions regarding settlement and before talking to an insurance agent or adjuster about the facts of the case.

Often, people don’t realize that the friendly insurance adjuster that asks them questions is not on their side. An insurance adjuster for a primary liability policy owes a duty to the insurance company’s insured customer, an excess policy if there is one, and shareholders. They do not owe duties to you after you have been injured.

In fact, an insurer’s goal is to pay an injured person that is not insured under its policy as little as possible. To that end, an adjuster may be excessively friendly to try to cajole you into making an admission they can use against you should you bring a lawsuit. Alternatively, an adjuster may use threats, bullying and misstatements to try to convince you and make you agree that the other person was not at fault or make another damaging statement. An adjuster may ask you to make a recorded statement. Continue reading

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Semi tractor-trailer accidents in Kentucky can lead to some of the most serious personal injuries or death. A semi can weigh more than 80,000 pounds; compare this to the average automobile that weighs only about 3,000 pounds. Although there are fewer semi accidents than car accidents, accidents involving semis are much more dangerous and can lead to catastrophic results.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, conducted a Truck Causation Study  to determine the top 10 common causes of tractor trailer accidents. These are: issues with brakes, traffic congestion, prescription drug use, speed, unfamiliarity with a road, road problems, required stops, over the counter medication use, inadequate sight, and driver fatigue.

Just this summer, a woman was killed in a crashwith a semi near Louisa, Kentucky. She crossed over the center dividing line and collided head-on with a semi tractor-trailer. The driver claimed to have hit the brakes as soon as he saw her, but it was too late.

Because of accidents like this one, driving a semi tractor-trailer is covered by more restrictive laws than driving a car. For example, drivers of semi tractor-trailers cannot drive for more than a set number of hours before being required to stop for a rest. If you get into an accident with a semi tractor-trailer, the trucking company may have a team of lawyers already working on the case before you get a chance to consult an attorney. You may even get a tempting quick offer to settle.

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Some people find the name Varellas difficult to pronounce and spell. The name of our law firm is pronounced Va-Rel-iss (rhymes with trellis) and is sometimes misspelled as Varella, Varela, Varelas, Verallas, Varallas, Varillas, Varilla, Valera or Varallis. The misspellings are understandable since reports periodically appear in the news concerning people with names similar to ours but with various spellings.

In recent news, there was a report concerning Rosella Varela, the mother of four children who were on a school bus on April 9, 2013 that drove over an embankment in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.  The driver of the school bus was killed and two of the Varela children were seriously injured. Derrick Varela, 9, suffered a broken hip and Rusti Dawn Varela, 16, lost several teeth and was taken to surgery to repair broken bones in her face. The other two Varela children sustained minor bruising and a chipped heel.

Monica Varillas, 21, was injured in an Anaheim, California car wreck in December 2011, when a driver made an unsafe left turn and fled the scene. Police reported that Varillas was driving a Honda Civic with her 1-year-old child when the wreck occurred. Donta J. Lewis and Heather M. Varalli, were slightly injured in August, 2012 in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in a two-vehicle accident when Lewis turned left in front of Varalli’s vehicle, and he was struck by her vehicle, police said.

Victoriano Varelas and Bartolo Santos filed a lawsuit in 2009 against a truck driver and his employer, a Texas corporation, after the employee drove the truck into the rear of their vehicle. Varelas was driving his motor vehicle in Harris County, Texas with Santos as his passenger, and Brandon L. Dover was driving the truck behind them. The men alleged in their lawsuit that the trucking accident happened after Dover fell asleep, failed to control his speed, and crashed into the back of the vehicle in which the men were riding

In August, 2010, 18-year-old Anthony “Nini” Varela died in a car accident in Pleasant Grove, Texas when a drunken driver ran a red light. After he was declared brain dead, however, his parents donated his organs, bones and tissues thereby improving the lives of 114 people. One year later, the anniversary of his death was marked by a gathering at Grove Hill Memorial Park in Dallas by family, friends and those whose lives were touched by the generous donation of Nini’s parents. Continue reading

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Georgetown, Scott County, Kentucky

The Georgetown News-Graphic reports that Anthony Scott Ryman, 30, from Cocoa, Florida, the driver of a car on U.S. 25 in Scott County, Kentucky, lost control of his car on July 14, 2013 and struck a culvert, killing his passenger. Ryman was driving northbound on U.S. 25 (known also as Cincinnati Pike), just north of Georgetown, when he apparently was unable to negotiate a curve. The car left the road and overturned several times after hitting a light pole. The passenger in the car, identified by Scott County Coroner John Goble, was Brian D. Armstrong, 48, from Etowah, Tennessee. Armstrong was killed in the crash and pronounced dead at the scene. Ryman survived and was transported to Lexington, Kentucky, to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital with serious injuries. High speed and alcohol are believed by state police to have been contributing factors in the accident and charges are pending against the driver. Armstrong’s death raises the total traffic fatalities in Scott County to six in just four weeks.

Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

In Lexington, Kentucky on July 14, 2013, a woman working on a road crew was struck by a hit-and-run driver. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that the road crew was working for a private company on Sunday night restriping the road near Nicholasville Road and Reynolds Road when the victim was struck by a vehicle described as possibly a blue Toyota Camry. The worker sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was transported to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. Police are looking for the driver and the car which appeared to sustain damage on the left side. The driver was believed to be a man with a white beard.

Liberty, Casey County, Kentucky

Late Sunday, July 14, 2013, James L. Baugh of Liberty lost control of his vehicle while driving on U.S. 27 just south of Liberty according to a report by the Lexington Herald-Leader. Baugh was driving a 2004 Saturn and overcorrected when he tried to regain control. The vehicle overturned and Baugh was killed. Samantha Dilbeck of Liberty was Baugh’s passenger and sustained injuries in the wreck. Dilbeck was treated and released at the Casey County Hospital. Kentucky State Police report that alcohol is suspected as a contributing factor in the fatal accident.

Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky

The driver of a 1996 Chevrolet Blazer that rear ended a tractor trailer in Franklin County on July 10, 2013 had to be extricated from his vehicle by the Franklin County Fire Department. Charles Bates was driving on U.S. 127 in Franklin County when the wreck occurred. Witnesses told Franklin County Sheriff Department deputies that Bates of Frankfort, Kentucky didn’t apply his brakes and was driving erratically before crashing into the rear of the tractor trailer. The State Journal reports that the driver was taken to Frankfort Regional Medical Center and then transported to University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center where he was listed in serious condition.

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In Kentucky, as in other states, personal injury lawsuits may seek compensation for another person’s negligence that causes injury. However, these compensatory damages are not meant to punish the negligent person. Punitive damages may be awarded only where a party is found to have acted with “gross negligence.” It is not sufficient to show merely that someone failed to exercise reasonable care. It must also be shown that the person displayed gross negligence or reckless disregard for other peoples’ lives, safety or property.

In a recent case involving a fatal accident, the Supreme Court of Kentucky considered punitive damages in the context of a coal trucking accident. A coal truck flipped over in 2004 while it was being driven on Highway 80. From the opposite direction, a man was driving a pickup truck with a seventy-eight year old passenger. Because coal had spilled all over the highway, the man was not able to stop and crashed into the coal truck. His passenger was injured and died.

The man driving the pickup and the passenger’s estate sued the employee who had been driving the coal truck and its employer for ordinary negligence. They also sued the employer for gross negligence in failing to properly maintain the coal truck. The pickup driver settled his claims, but the estate went to trial against the employer and employee. The employer asked for a directed verdict from the trial court, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to find it had conducted itself with gross negligence. The trial court denied the motion for directed verdict. The jury awarded the estate $2,121,371.31 in compensatory damages, as well as $2 million in punitive damages against the employer for the wrongful death of the passenger.

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A “statute of limitations” is a law which sets a specific deadline for filing legal proceedings. Statutes of limitations can apply to civil cases or criminal cases and are adopted primarily to prevent the filing of claims or criminal charges after evidence has been lost and witnesses have disappeared. Statutes of limitations vary by state and can be very complicated to interpret and apply to a particular set of facts.  As with all statutes of limitations, the statute of limitations for lawsuits involving injury cases in Kentucky is strictly enforced by Kentucky courts. As with all legal issues, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to determine how the statute of limitations applies to your particular case.

The statute of limitations for many types of injury cases in Kentucky is 1 year from the time of the injury. KRS 413.140. This 1-year time limit for settling the claim or bringing a lawsuit generally applies to dog bites or other animal attacks, slip and fall, assault, medical malpractice, and nursing home neglect and abuse cases, among others, although in some cases, such as medical malpractice, the 1-year statute of limitations may not begin to run until the injury is discovered or until you quit treating with the professional who has committed negligence or malpractice. Since cases must be properly investigated before suit can be filed and evidence must be gathered and preserved as quickly as possible, it is imperative to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the injury has occurred or been discovered.

Some of the personal injury claims resulting from car wrecks, truck wrecks or other motor vehicle accidents must generally be settled or filed in court no later than 2 years after the date of the injury, death, or the last payment of basic or added reparation benefits was made to the injured party. KRS 304.39-230. Basic or added reparation benefits are also known as personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits or no-fault benefits. However, many factors will have an effect on the statute of limitations that will be applied to a particular case, such as whether PIP benefits have been paid or not paid after the injury, and whether the injury resulted in death. Furthermore, there are numerous exceptions to the 2-year statute of limitations for motor vehicle accidents which will reduce the statute of limitations to 1 year, so care must be taken in relying on the 2-year time limit. An experienced personal injury lawyer must review all the facts and details of the case to determine the deadline for filing suit. Continue reading

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