As a St. Louis semi truck accident attorney, I’ve written several posts here about the fatal trucking accident that took place on Highway 40 here in St. Louis in July of 2008. Fourteen people were injured and three were killed when a tractor-trailer driven by Jeffrey R. Knight, 51, of Muscle Shoals, AL, plowed into stopped traffic at the beginning of rush hour. Knight said he had had been reaching for his cell phone and allegedly failed to notice traffic conditions in front of him. He was charged about a year ago with three counts of involuntary manslaughter. Now, almost two years after the crash, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Knight has pleaded guilty to three counts of involuntary manslaughter and was allowed to go free. He was sentenced to one year for each death, to be served concurrently, and freed because of credit for the 371 days he had already spent in jail.
The crash killed Lydia Miller, 55, of Canton, Alvin Mast, 88, of Kahoka, and Charles “Keith” Cason, 55, of Caseyville. Miller and Mast were members of the Amish community who were heading to a funeral with the help of a hired driver; Cason was a copier salesman. Four of Cason’s relatives attended Knight’s sentencing, and prosecutors say the one-year sentence was settled on with the agreement of victims’ families. One of the 14 people injured was Mark Tiburzi, who was severely brain damaged by the crash and is unable to walk or talk. His wife, Cheryl Tiburzi of St. Peters, said she didn’t know the sentencing was happening and didn’t know what to think. Mark Tiburzi now lives in a nursing home where he can get the 24-hour care he now needs. The Tiburzis were awarded $18 million in a lawsuit against Knight and his former trucking company, Holmes Transport, Inc., but Cheryl Tiburzi says she doesn’t expect to see any of that money. Other families had filed their own claims against Knight and Holmes Transport.
As a Missouri big rig accident lawyer, I know that avoidable accidents involving driver distraction and inattention like this one are unfortunately quite common. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study attributes 29% of fatal crashes in which truck drivers were at fault to driver distraction and inattention. This is true of smaller passenger cars as well; in fact, the federal Department of Transportation has made distracted driving a centerpiece of its traffic safety efforts over the past year. Sadly, it is all too common for any error by a truck driver to have terrible consequences for drivers of smaller vehicles, which cannot protect people from the tremendous force that large, heavy tractor-trailers wield in a crash. As a truck driver, Knight had a legal responsibility to live up to a higher standard than drivers of passenger cars do, because his mistakes had much worse repercussions.
After a serious large truck crash like this one, it’s not uncommon for victims to sustain very serious injuries like Mark Tiburzi’s, or lose their loved ones unexpectedly and permanently. When this happens to Missouri and southern Illinois families through no fault of their own, they have a legal right to pursue justice and financial compensation through the civil courts. The southern Illinois tractor-trailer crash attorneys at Carey, Danis & Lowe help victims of accidents like this put their lives back together, medically, financially and personally, by pursuing injury claims against irresponsible truckers and trucking companies. In addition to holding the at-fault parties legally responsible for their actions, families can recover the money they need to pay steep medical bills or funeral costs, replace a lost income and compensate them for the loss of a loved one or an ability.
If you or a loved one has been seriously hurt in an accident caused by a negligent truck driver, please set up a free consultation with our firm. You can call us toll-free at 1-877-678-3400, or contact us online.