As a Missouri semi truck crash attorney, I have continued following the stories about last year’s terrible trucking accident next door in Oklahoma. So I was interested to see an article about the settlement of a lawsuit brought by families of eight of the ten victims of a tractor-trailer accident in Oklahoma last summer. According to the Tulsa World, the victims’ families agreed to a total of $62.7 million as financial restitution for the suffering that they and their loved ones endured because of the crash. The families’ attorney said that the settlement helped to bring them closure after over a year of grieving for their lost loved ones. The other two families who lost loved ones in the crash reached their own confidential out-of-court settlements earlier.
According to the newspaper, the settlement was reached the day before jury selection would have begun for a trial in their wrongful death lawsuit. The suit was filed a year ago in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, by relatives of eight of the ten victims of the crash. The defendants were driver Donald Creed, 77, of Willard, Mo., whose semi trailer plowed into stopped traffic at 70 mph, killing the ten victims; Creed’s employer, Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc., of Kansas City, Kan.; two insurance companies; a California company; and Rajeev Sharma and Erin Alf, whose vehicles caused the original traffic stoppage when they collided. However, Creed was reportedly too upset to appear in court. In August, he pleaded guilty to ten counts of misdemeanor negligent homicide and was sentenced to a year of probation on each count. He also served 30 days in a county jail, will use an electronic monitoring device for his first year of probation, and can no longer obtain a commercial driver’s license, ending his trucking career.
In my work as a St. Louis tractor trailer accident lawyer, I often see people devastated by preventable accidents like this one — victims as well as at-fault truck drivers. It’s terrible to see what can happen when a truck driver makes what might seem like a small mistake. Because semi trucks are so large and heavy, a small mistake in a big rig can have much worse consequences than it would for a driver of an economy car or even an SUV. In Creed’s case, his mistakes are being attributed to driving while exhausted. The investigation after the crash showed that he didn’t even try to brake when he approached the stalled traffic on the interstate. He was apparently so tired from having been on the road since 3 a.m. that he didn’t notice what was going on around him. Associated Wholesale Grocers, Creed’s employer, told the victims’ relatives in court that the company had decided to pay “closer attention to fatigue when it comes to driving” and to examine its driver training and safety programs.
More attention to this deadly issue obviously is warranted. However, it’s sad that it took an accident that killed ten people to get the company to take it seriously, especially since driver fatigue has been one of the National Transportation Safety Board’s top concerns for years. The federal government has failed to follow through with strict regulations and steep penalties for violating them, showing how important civil suits like this one can be for public safety. The NTSB has been urging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to address driver fatigue for ten years, since 31 percent of all heavy truck crashes are caused by driver fatigue, but the FMCSA has not done so. Now that a serious accident has caused several defendants $62.7 million, those defendants are taking the issue more seriously. They don’t want to have to pay out settlements like this anymore, and they may finally do what’s necessary to prevent accidents.
Truckers and trucking companies that ignore this responsibility literally endanger other people’s lives. Victims of their negligence can’t turn back time, but they can hold the negligent truck driver, his or her employer, and any other responsible parties accountable with the help of an experienced southern Illinois eighteen-wheeler accident lawyer. Working together, victims and experienced attorneys can recover the costs that were imposed on the victims by the negligent truck driver — costs such as medical bills, replacement or repair of a damaged or totaled vehicle, past and future lost wages, plus compensation for lost quality of life and wrongful death. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a wreck caused by a truck driver, please call Carey, Danis & Lowe for a free consultation to learn how we can help you. You can call us at 877-678-3400, or contact us online.