After more than two years of litigation, we recently settled a case on behalf of a Georgia Department of Transportation HERO truck driver who was seriously injured when he was hit by a tractor-trailer while removing debris from I-85. Mr. M suffered a fractured knee, requiring surgery to repair, and will need at least one knee replacement as he gets older. His past and future medical bills and lost wages were over $183,000. The settlement amount is confidential at the request of the tractor-trailer’s insurance company.
The accident happened on June 21, 2011. There was a large tractor-trailer tire tread in the middle of I-85 that was disrupting traffic and causing cars to swerve around it. After several drivers called 911 to report the tread, Mr. M was dispatched to remove it. He turned on his HERO truck’s flashing lights and sign board and slowly came to a stop in the middle of I-85. He waited for traffic to stop behind him and then got out of his truck, picked up the tire tread and threw it on the side of the road. Here’s a news photograph showing an overhead shot of Mr. M’s HERO truck:
Mr. M was walking back to his HERO truck when the wreck happened. A tractor-trailer was driving down I-85 and saw traffic stopped for Mr. M’s HERO truck. The driver hit the brakes but the brakes malfunctioned and he was unable to stop the tractor-trailer. The tractor-trailer slammed into two cars stopped behind the HERO truck and then hit Mr. M as he was running back to the side of the road, throwing him to the shoulder and badly breaking his knee.
Officers from the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s Motor Carrier Unit inspected the tractor-trailer after the accident and found that its brakes malfunctioned because 60% of its brakes were out of adjustment. They placed the tractor-trailer “out of service” and cited the driver for multiple violations, including operating an unsafe vehicle. We’ve previously posted more about why the accident happened here.
An ambulance took Mr. M to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a tibial plateau fracture of his knee, a fractured wrist and strains and sprains of virtually his entire body. He had to have surgery to repair the knee fracture, which required inserting a metal plate and screws, and required months of physical therapy to recover. Mr. M’s doctor testified that he will have problems with his knee the rest of his life and will unfortunately need at least one and possibly two knee replacements as he gets older.
Mr. M had $86,000 in medical bills and over $12,000 in lost wages from missing several months of work. His doctor estimated the cost of a future knee replacement at $85,000, bringing the total amount of Mr. M’s damages to over $183,000.
The Lawsuit and Settlement
Our firm filed suit shortly after the June 2011 accident and litigated the case for over two years. The tractor-trailer company denied responsibility for the wreck, refused to admit that it had done anything wrong and even went so far as to blame the previous owner of the tractor-trailer for not properly maintaining the brakes. The tractor-trailer’s insurance company rejected multiple demands to settle the case, initially offering only a little more than Mr. M’s medical bills and lost wages.
We deposed multiple witnesses to the accident, the police officers who investigated the accident and inspected the tractor-trailer, the tractor-trailer driver, the owner and employees of the trucking company and hired expert witnesses to inspect the tractor-trailer and do a reconstruction of the wreck. When we deposed the “expert” witnesses that the tractor-trailer company had hired, they testified that the brakes malfunctioned due to dirt, grease and grime that had built up in the brakes and that the accident could have been prevented by regular inspections and maintenance of the brakes and simply keeping the cab of the tractor-trailer clean.
We were preparing the case for trial in early 2014 and took the case to a court-ordered mediation, where the trucking company finally admitted responsibility for the wreck and agreed to a confidential settlement. The settlement fairly compensates Mr. M for his injuries, future knee replacement and problems that he’ll experience with his knee the rest of his life. While he’ll never be able to return to his job as a HERO truck driver he’s back at work for the DOT in a different job and has gone back to school to get an IT degree and is looking forward to a new career.