June 16, 2008
The semitruck and motor vehicle negligence lawyers at Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. represented family members following a tragic semitruck crash on the Indiana Toll Road on August 1, 2006. A semitractor-trailer weighing approximately 73,000 pounds and speeding in a 45 mile per hour construction zone crashed into the rear end of a minivan causing a chain reaction collision that ultimately ensnared six motor vehicles. The minivan was moving slowly in a well-marked road construction zone near a lane closure in Bristol, Indiana, when the semi tractor-trailer smashed into the rear of the minivan at approximately 55 miles per hour, crushing it into the rear of the trailer ahead.
A 39-year-old Illinois woman and her passengers, two sons aged 1 and 3, and her 73-year-old mother, all lost their lives in the collision. The driver of the semi truck that rear-ended them was also killed.
On October 12, 2006, Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. filed a triple wrongful death lawsuit in federal court in Chicago on behalf of the woman’s husband and boys’ father, the sole surviving member of the family. The Wisconsin-based interstate motor carrier whose driver caused the semi-truck crash was the only defendant.
The trucking company’s first defeat occurred when the federal judge denied a motion by the trucking company seeking to transfer the case from Chicago to the federal court in South Bend, Indiana. According to lead plaintiff’s counsel David E. Rapoport: “The trucking company’s motivation for filing this motion was apparent. They wanted the case transferred to Indiana because they hoped to limit their damages exposure through use of Indiana law and an Indiana jury.”
Next, the trucking company claimed it only had $5 million in liability insurance to cover the semitruck crash, all the while also trying to blame the crash on others, including the minivan driver, a toll-road pickup truck driver, and construction companies involved in the road work. However, with the help of a specially hired insurance coverage specialist, Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. unmasked an additional $6 million in insurance money that had not previously been revealed by the trucking company, bringing the total liability insurance coverage to $11 million. Moreover, through the use of thorough investigation, evidence preservation and development, depositions, and a carefully selected expert witness team, Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. defeated the effort to deflect blame on others, proving instead how the trucking company’s improper safety management was the only factor other than the semitruck driver’s negligence that caused the crash.
As trial approached, the full $11 million insurance policy limit was offered by the insurers to settle the case, after which the trucking company told a federal magistrate judge assisting with negotiations that the trucking company will never offer personal money. In response, the firm’s clients rejected the offer, insisting they would not settle without a substantial personal contribution from the trucking company. Just before trial, the trucking company offered $2 million from its personal coffers and the five wrongful death cases handled by Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. (by then the three surviving sons of the 73-year-old woman who died in the minivan and the driver of the truck ahead of the minivan joined the effort) settled for a total of $13 million: $5.376 million for the wrongful death of the 39-year-old woman, $2.75 million for the wrongful deaths of each of the boys, $1.344 million for the wrongful death of the 73-year-old woman and $780,000 for the injuries suffered by the driver of the other semitruck.
Mr. Rapoport commented after the case ended: “This horribly sad semitruck crash illustrates many of the problems with motor carrier safety. This driver had a bad driving record that the trucking company management knew about, but failed to reveal to the police, and attempted to hide from us. Because the driver’s string of previous accidents did not maim or kill anyone, he continued to be technically qualified to drive due to flaws in the regulations and the attitude of this management, which treated these regulations as if they were a ceiling instead of a floor when it comes to safety. We hope this lawsuit will be a wakeup call to the trucking industry nationwide, and inside a motor carrier’s management office, the example of a motor carrier paying millions out of its own pockets has to be good for safety.”
Attorney David Rapoport has been designated as a Leading Lawyer in the area of Transportation Law by the Law Bulletin Leading Lawyers Network.
Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. is a personal injury law firm based in Chicago, Illinois. The personal injury attorneys at Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. have achieved multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements for individuals with lawsuits arising from medical malpractice, product liability, semitruck and motor vehicle accidents, workplace injuries and construction accidents in Illinois and Wisconsin. Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C.’s premier aviation negligence lawyers represent victims of commercial and general aviation disasters nationwide.