Mark T. Schneid of Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid obtained a $2,000,000 settlement recovery for the wrongful deaths of two children that were ejected and killed during a truck accident crash involving 2 semi-tractor trailers in Effingham, Illinois on November 3, 2013.
We alleged that the driver of “Truck 1” was in violation of the Federal Hours of Service Regulations when he was driving his truck 4 hours over the 11-hour limit that day. Around 8:30 p.m., the driver of “Truck 1” pulled his truck to the shoulder of I-57 and took a telephone call, allegedly in violation of Federal Regulations. When that driver began driving again 10 minutes later, he merged his truck from the shoulder onto the right through lane at 30-40 miles per hour allegedly without activating the hazards or turn signal, and without making sure the right lane was clear. The driver of “Truck 1” pulled his truck directly in front of our client’s truck, which was traveling at 62 miles per hour in the right lane.
In addition to transporting a load of cargo to the Chicago area, our client was driving with his wife, and their three children in the truck’s sleeper berth. Seconds prior to the crash, our clients’ 5-year old son and 8-year-old daughter jumped down from the sleeper bed and started walking towards the front of the cab. Some parties in the case alleged that this distracted our client from his driving.
Our client attempted to slow down and swerve to the left, but the right front corner of his truck impacted the back left of the other truck’s trailer. The speed difference between the trucks was significant, the impact was massive, and the entire right side of our clients’ tractor was sheared off.
As a result of the impact, our clients’ daughter (8 years old, but her 9th birthday was the next day) and son (5 years old) were ejected from the truck and died on the roadway.
The settlement was obtained after one year of litigation in Federal Court and after many contentious depositions. The recovery hinged on the accident reconstruction done by the Illinois State Police near Effingham. Since both drivers gave written statements saying they were both going 62 mph, the trucks’ data from the electronic control module (ECM), like a “black box” in an airplane crash, was critical in determining how the crash actually happened. Unfortunately, the State Police let the other driver take “Truck 1” away without downloading the ECM data, and the State Police were not able to successfully download the ECM data from our client’s truck. Nonetheless, the State Police blamed our client for the crash.
We hired 2 of the best truck accident reconstruction experts in the country to assist our investigation. An expert truck crash engineer was able to download our client’s ECM data which confirmed he was going 62 mph at the time of the crash. This put the other driver’s statement and the State Police conclusions in serious doubt. Our expert’s download of the other driver’s ECM weeks later did not show his crash data but showed evidence that the other driver was driving his truck well over the 11 hours per day allowed by Federal Law and introduced the issue of truck driver fatigue into the case.
All defendants deny any and all liability despite the settlement agreement. This was one of the most heartwrenching crashes imaginable for everybody involved. The case highlighted the issues of truck driver safety, including Federal Hours of Service regulations, truck electronic control module (ECM) data preservation, accident reconstruction, and the low Federal insurance requirements for truck drivers. Federal law requires a truck driver to have only a minimum of $750,000 of insurance coverage to drive legally on our roads. The damages for the wrongful deaths of these 2 children, including the family’s profound grief and loss, could have easily exceeded 10 times the Federal minimum requirements.
Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid continues to represent people and families whose lives have been devastated by personal injury or wrongful death from truck accidents, car accidents, and any other vehicle crash in Illinois and throughout the United States.