As a southern Illinois big rig accident attorney, I was saddened to read last week about the death of an Illinois state trooper who was struck by a commercial truck as he worked at the side of a road in Litchfield. So I was interested to see this week that the federal Department of Transportation has revoked the commercial driver’s license of the driver involved. The DOT issued an order Nov. 30 saying Johnny Felton Jr. of Georgia was “an imminent hazard” because of a medical condition that causes him to lose consciousness. Regulators believe Felton lost consciousness just before he struck Kyle Deatherage, a 32-year-old trooper who was talking to a stopped driver at the time. The state police and Mongomery County are conducting separate investigations.
Deatherage had recently switched to being a motorcycle officer so he could spend more time with his wife and two children, ages ten months and four years. It was just after 9 a.m. when he was hit as he stood on the side of Interstate 55. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Felton told officers at the scene that he suffers from a medical condition causing loss of consciousness; the condition was not named. However, the condition was the reason cited by federal authorities for ordering Felton off the road. Felton’s trucking company, Dot Transportation Inc., also took Felton off the road pending its own internal investigation. The Illinois State Police had no updates on its investigation, but a State’s Attorney for Montgomery County told the newspaper that criminal charges may result from its investigation.
This is a very interesting development for a St. Louis semi truck accident lawyer like me, because it appears that Felton was driving illegally. His trucking company notes that Felton had a valid medical card, but because he also had a condition that regulators say made him unsafe, I wonder if there are problems with that card. For example, the card could be outdated or Felton could have lied to get it, or the card could have been issued by a doctor paid to give his trucking company the answer it wanted to hear. In fact, there’s some evidence that it’s very easy for unsafe truck drivers to get medical cards. The list of disqualifying conditions includes many that could disrupt safe driving, including heart conditions, loss of a limb, epilepsy and alcoholism. As this case shows, lives can be lost when the trucking industry subverts safety rules.
At Carey, Danis & Lowe, our Missouri tractor-trailer accident attorneys represent families that have suffered a devastating loss because of a trucker’s or trucking company’s negligence. Crashes involving commercial trucks are often more serious than those involving two ordinary cars, because trucks bring so much force to the crash that the people in the other vehicle are likely to suffer death or catastrophic, permanent injuries. When bad decisions by the driver or the trucking company led to the crash, victims have the right to hold them legally responsible for the results. In a lawsuit, victims can claim compensation for their injuries and losses, including a death or disability, any lost income, ongoing medical costs and pain and trauma. That’s money that can help patients get the medical care they need, make ends meet and put their lives back together.
If you suffered an injury or death in the family because of a truck driver’s negligence behind the wheel, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe for a free consultation. You can reach us at 1-877-678-3400 or send us an email.
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