Devastating Truck-Car Crashes in Indiana and Texas Lead to $18.5M, $8.7M and $3M Settlements

Three crashes involving loaded tractor-trailers that have tangled with smaller cars on highways with devastating results in Indiana and Texas were recently settled for millions of dollars each, providing money that the victims’ families can use to continue their healing.

In Indiana, an $18.5 million settlement was reached in the deaths of two Michigan men who died in February 2011 when the car in which they were traveling was struck by a tractor-trailer operating at high speed on an icy section of Interstate 94 near Portage, Ind., according to a July 24 story in The (Northwest Indiana) Times.

The crash occurred when another car lost control and spun in the roadway in front of a car being driven by Richard Hannah, 47, of Stevensville, Mich., on the morning of Feb. 3, 2011, the story said. Hannah slowed his car safely, but was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer owned by Johnson and Celadon Trucking Services of Indianapolis. Hannah, and his passenger in the car, Daniel Van Dyke, 44, of Benton Harbor, Mich., died following the crash.

The force of the tractor-trailer hitting Hannah’s 2010 Nissan Altima pushed the car into the driver’s door of the car that had spun out, and then forced the Altima off the road and into an embankment of snow, according to a story from CBS Channel 2 Chicago. After striking the Altima, the tractor-trailer “went left, began to jack-knife, hit the concrete median barrier wall and bounced back.” The trailer then hit the rear of the car that had spun out. The tractor-trailer came to rest blocking all three three lanes of I-94, according to the report.

The truck driver, Ernest L. Johnson, 30, of Detroit, wasn’t injured in the crash but was cited for speeding too fast for conditions, the TV station reported.

During the trial, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that “a device from the semitrailer revealed the truck driver was using cruise control at 65 mph on an icy stretch of the road,” and showed that the truck driver hit his brakes one second before the crash, The Times reported. The truck was transporting 21 tons of crushed marble when it struck the car.

Under the settlement, the trucking company agreed to pay $18.5 million to Melanie Hannah and Robyn Van Dyke, the survivors of the two victims, the paper reported. A jury had decided the case in favor of the plaintiffs in December 2012 but the trucking company was appealing that decision when the settlement was announced, according to The Times.

In Texas, two separate tractor-trailer crashes involving cars were settled in June after the drivers of the cars were critically injured in incidents in 2011, according to a news release.

In the first incident, driver Mike Allen’s vehicle crashed into a truck that was stopped on a state highway near Carthage, Texas, according to the press release. The truck didn’t have any turn signals or flashing lights in use at the time of the crash on June 22, 2011. The truck was owned by Coraopolis, Penn.-based Heckmann Water Resources, a fracking company. Under a settlement approved by a court in June 2013, the trucking company is paying Allen and his family $8.7 million for his serious injuries sustained in the crash.

The second incident occurred near Weatherford, Texas, on Sept. 11, 2011, when driver Arron Gomas, 32, “broadsided a tractor-trailer owned by Weatherford-based Bob Phillips Trucking (also called Phillips Water Hauling) as the truck’s driver attempted to make an illegal U-turn shortly before midnight,” the press release stated. Gomas, who suffered brain damage due to the crash, is receiving a $3 million settlement in the case, which was the maximum payout available from the trucking firm’s insurance carrier, according to the press release.

In Indiana, an investigation into these kinds of truck-car crashes was conducted by television station  WRTV Channel 6 ABC in Indianapolis, and found that in 2012 the “Indiana State Police found more than 6,000 trucks with mechanical issues so dangerous that officers immediately pulled them off the road.”

Federal inspection reports revealed that in central Indiana, the State Police “found issues such as unsafe tires, defective turn signals, brake issues and unsecured loads,” according to the report.

Robin Van Dyke, whose husband, Dan, died in the I-94 crash in Portage, Ind., told the TV station that she wants to see more police resources focused on better enforcement of safely laws and inspections for heavy trucks on the nation’s roads.

“There’s not enough inspectors qualified to make sure these trucks are safe, and that needs to happen,” she told the TV station. “My entire life was ripped away. He was a great guy. We had a wonderful relationship.”

For the victims of these tragedies, and for their families, the resulting crash settlements will no doubt help them continue to heal and get on with their lives following these incidents.

These kinds of incidents and injuries happen every day when innocent victims are hurt in vehicle accidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others.

That’s where having a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award is key.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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