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Tractor-trailer hits vehicle on turnpike, injures worker – Defendant driver claimed strong winds a factor

$600,000 settlement

The plaintiff was working as a maintenance worker on the Massachusetts Turnpike doing snow removal work in the westbound direction when his vehicle was struck by the defendant’s tractor trailer.
The plaintiff’s truck was parked near the left median of the highway, and it was equipped with flashing emergency lights and had a flashing arrow board indicating to stay right.
The force of the impact pushed the plaintiff’s vehicle 234 feet west, with the plaintiff’s vehicle coming to rest facing north across the travel lane. The defendant’s truck disengaged from the plaintiff’s vehicle and continued west, coming to rest across the right travel lane, breakdown lane and exit ramp. The rear trailer unit of the defendant’s truck came to rest 45 feet west of the plaintiff’s truck.
The defendant’s truck was traveling 65 mph when it struck the plaintiff’s vehicle.
The police report quoted the defendant tractor trailer operator as stating that he “had been fighting strong crosswinds and had been blown into the left lane just prior to the accident.” The statement corresponded with the fact that the National Weather Service had issued a high wind warning that day.
The plaintiff was prepared to argue that the fact that the defendant driver was driving an empty load made his vehicle more susceptible to being blown out of its lane and that the driver should have taken precautions.
In his deposition testimony, the defendant had no memory of the accident and or of fighting strong winds prior to the accident.
The defendant operator had a history of speeding convictions prior to the accident, and his employer was aware of the convictions. The defendant operator had his driver’s license suspended in August 2001. During that time, it would have been within the sole discretion of the defendant employer to get rid of any driver who, in their opinion, had a pattern of speeding.
As a result of the accident, the plaintiff sustained facial lacerations, residual post-concussive syndrome, neck and back injuries which led to a restriction in range of motion, a nasal fracture and deviated nose, a corneal abrasion, the extraction of multiple teeth, post traumatic stress disorder and minimal facial scarring.
The defendants were prepared to argue that the defendant operator was traveling at the posted speed limit and that the operator had no independent memory of the accident. The defendants would have argued that a strong gust of wind pushed the defendant’s vehicle into the plaintiff’s vehicle and that it was beyond the control of the defendant operator.
The defendants also claimed that the plaintiff had recovered from his facial injuries, that his teeth had been cosmetically repaired, that any back or neck injuries had resolved and that the plaintiff was capable of returning to work soon after his accident.
The defendants were further prepared to use medical reports prepared on behalf of the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation carrier to substantiate that the plaintiff was not suffering from depression and post traumatic stress disorder, and that if either existed, it was not causally related to the accident.
After mediation, the parties settled the case for $600,000, inclusive of the spouse’s loss of consortium claim. The plaintiff settled his workers’ compensation claim and filed a claim for accidental retirement disability with his employer.
Type of action: Motor vehicle negligence
Injuries alleged: Facial lacerations, post-concussive syndrome, neck and back injuries, restriction in range of motion, nasal fracture and deviated nose, corneal abrasion, dental injuries, extraction of multiple teeth, post traumatic stress disorder, facial scarring
Tried before judge or jury: N/A (settled after mediation)
Name of mediator: David O. Burbank
Amount of settlement: $600,000
Attorneys: Brian C. Dever and Ernest J. Palazzalo, Keches & Mallen, Taunton (for the plaintiff)