As a southern Illinois tractor-trailer accident attorney, I have followed the news about the death of Illinois state trooper Kyle Deatherage with interest. Deatherage, 32, was struck and killed by a semi truck on Nov. 26, as he stood by a car he had just pulled over. The truck driver involved, Johnny Felton of Georgia, was taken off the road four days later by federal authorities, who said Felton had a medical condition making him unfit to drive a large commercial truck. Felton has admitted to losing consciousness at the time of the accident. Now,
Deatherage’s widow, Sarah Deatherage, and two young children are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking damages from Felton as well as DOT Transportation, and its parent company, DOT Foods. They allege that DOT should not have hired Felton to drive a truck given his medical condition. In addition to the lawsuit, at least one criminal investigation is still underway.
Deatherage was a patrolman with the Illinois State Police who had recently switched to a day shift so he could spend more time with his young family. He was conducting a traffic stop around 9 a.m. at the side of Interstate 55 when he was hit by Felton’s truck. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Felton told police at the scene that he suffers from a medical condition causing loss of consciousness, although that condition was not named in the press. The federal Department of Transportation issued an order Nov. 30 taking Felton off the road, saying he was an imminent hazard because of his medical condition. Nonetheless, Felton had a valid medical card at the time of the crash. The family’s lawsuit argued that DOT’s choice to entrust Felton with a big rig endangered the public, and asks for compensation for their emotional and persona losses as well as the expenses incurred by the accident and death.
In my experience as a St. Louis semi truck accident lawyer, this is not an unusual pattern for this kind of lawsuit. Trucking companies do their best to distance themselves from accidents after they occur, but it’s not uncommon for lawsuits to uncover illegal or underhanded practices at the company. For example, when truck drivers need to re-qualify for their medical cards, some trucking companies will refer their drivers to a doctor who’s willing to ignore disqualifying medical problems. If the family can prove that happened in this accident, DOT Transportation could and should be held legally liable for its role in putting a medically unfit driver on the road. Felton certainly knew he had the problem and is likely liable in any case, but the trucking company can provide a larger recovery for the family—and with their husband and father gone, money may be a serious concern.
At Carey, Danis & Lowe, we represent clients across southern Illinois and Missouri who have suffered serious injuries because of a truck driver’s or trucking company’s negligence. Driving a commercial truck is a serious responsibility. Because they are many times the size and weight of a passenger car, large trucks are able to do substantially more damage in an accident. Unfortunately, not every truck driver or trucking company takes that responsibility seriously. Because they stand to make more money by bending the rules, some ignore requirements about driver fatigue, medical fitness, safety equipment, load limits and more. Our Missouri 18-wheeler accident attorneys represent families that have lost a loved one or suffered a catastrophic injury as a result of a crash caused by this kind of negligence. We help clients recover compensation for medical costs, lost income, loss of companionship and more.
If you believe a trucking company’s or trucker’s bad decisions hurt your family and you’d like to talk to an attorney about your rights and your options, call Carey, Danis & Lowe today for a free consultation. You can reach us online or call 1-877-678-3400.
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