As a St. Louis semi truck accident lawyer, I was disappointed to see that a Missourian is being criminally charged in connection with a crash that killed two people in Wisconsin. The Sheboygan Press reported Dec. 21 that trucker Curtis Hawkins of Dexter, Mo. is criminally charged in Wisconsin with the deaths of two people and injuries of two others in October of last year. Hawkins is accused of taking his eyes off the road too long and failing to stop for stopped traffic ahead, causing his big rig to hit at least two vehicles at 70 mph. He faces two counts of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle in the deaths of 80-year-old Mary J. Parker of Cedar Grove, Wis. and Donald J. Sherman, 78, of Stickney, Ill. He also faces two felony counts of reckless driving causing great bodily injury. In all, he could be sentenced to as many as 13 years in prison.
Wisconsin state police say Hawkins was driving even though he had already reached the limit for how long he could drive under federal safety laws. Rather than stay off the road, the article said, he falsified his logbook and kept driving. He was on Interstate 43 that day and had just reached traffic that was bottlenecked due to a construction-related detour, at Cedar Beach Road near Belgium, Wis. Investigators say he was driving a steady 70 mph despite three signs warning about the detour, then took his eyes off the road to reach for a snack. His 18-wheeler first plowed into a car driven by Jimmie Juhasz, 64 and of Cedar Grove, where Parker was a passenger. Their car was knocked over and into a ditch. The semi then rear-ended an SUV occupied by Sherman and his wife, Roberta Sherman, 75, pushing it 150 feet. Donald Sherman died at the scene and Parker died of her injuries five days later. Roberta Sherman and Juhasz were both seriously injured, but Hawkins suffered only minor injuries.
What struck me about this case, as a Missouri trucking accident attorney, was the inclusion of information about Hawkins falsifying his log. This is unfortunately a common practice in the trucking industry. Meeting deadlines helps determine the driver’s and trucking company’s compensation, so some drivers are willing to lie in order to stay on the road longer. In fact, some trucking companies actively encourage drivers to do this, even though it’s against federal law. More importantly, driving longer than the federal hours of service limits can mean driving while too tired to make good decisions. That seems to be what police believe happened with Hawkins. As this case shows, it’s a serious problem because it puts everyone on the road at risk — including people who just had the bad luck to be near the negligent trucker.
After a preventable accident, a criminal prosecution can dole out justice to a negligent driver and trucking company. But for victims and their families, the financial and physical effects of the accident can be permanent, and a criminal conviction can’t help. However, a southern Illinois big rig accident lawyer can help victims claim financial compensation through a lawsuit — regardless of whether there’s a parallel criminal case. In a lawsuit, victims and their families can claim compensation for their past and future medical bills, lost income, pain, suffering and any permanent disability or wrongful death. Carey, Danis & Lowe has represented numerous semi truck accident victims and understands how to approach these medically, legally and emotionally complicated cases in a way that maximizes our clients’ financial compensation.
If someone you love was injured by a trucker who simply wasn’t driving safely, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe for a free, confidential case evaluation. To learn more or set up a meeting, contact us through the Internet or call 1-877-678-3400.