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"Big accident" prediction predated death of Illinois trooper

The resolution of a liability claim against an out-of-state truck driver and his employer may not come any time soon. The trucker faces criminal and civil charges for the death of an Illinois state trooper in November. A bid to move the wrongful death case out of Madison County recently was denied.

The fatal accident outside Litchfield occurred while the trooper was performing a routine traffic stop. The officer was standing alongside Interstate 55 when a tractor-trailer driven by the defendant struck and killed him. The driver was booked on charges of reckless homicide and driving with an invalid commercial license.

A media investigation learned the accused man had been involved in 10 accidents while on the job. Many of the accidents were minor, although a few including a 2009 rear-end collision caused concern with at least one DTI official.

A DTI manager sent a memo to the truck driver that detailed offenses like falling asleep at the wheel, failure to attend safety meetings and false recordkeeping. The manager suggested termination and predicted the driver would "have a very big accident." Instead, DTI sent the driver for training.

The company's action may play heavily in the lawsuit filed by the victim's wife and children. The complaint alleges the company knowingly retained a driver who was dangerous.

It was three years before the trucker was involved in another crash, just months before the 32-year-old trooper's death. The driver told authorities after his arrest for homicide that he passed out at the wheel. The medical condition apparently was something the driver kept secret during a physical exam for a commercial driver's license.

A jury in civil claims court must review the evidence and degree of negligence. Proof of masking a medical condition, a history of safety violations and the company's dismissal of dangerous employee behavior could lead substantial compensation for a grieving Illinois family.

Source:  bnd.com, "Trucker accused in trooper's death was 'bound to have a very big accident,' manager says" Beth Hundsdorfer, Jul. 20, 2013

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