$10.9 Million Settlement to Widow of Illinois Trooper Killed on Duty

Trooper James Sauter was sitting in his Illinois State Police patrol car on the left-hand shoulder of Interstate 294 on March 28, 2013, when his vehicle was hit in the rear by a tractor-trailer whose driver allegedly fell asleep.

The impact of the collision caused a fireball that killed the 28-year-old state trooper and devastated his family, according to a May 14 story in The Chicago Sun-Times. Sauter’s widow has now reached a $10.9 million settlement with the truck’s driver and with the household moving companies that employed him, the story reported.

Sauter’s wife, Elizabeth, had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver, Andrew Bokelman, who is now 26 years old, and United Van Lines LLC, Unigroup Inc., and Suddath Relocation Systems of Minnesota and Milwaukee (DBA Barrett Moving & Storage, the story reported.

The lawsuit alleged that Bokelman “was driving a 2005 Freightliner pulling a trailer loaded with household goods weighing more than 26,001 pounds and owned by United Van Lines,” the story reported. Bokelman had already been working for more than 12 hours loading the truck in Wisconsin, then drove it in two stints that night before smashing it into the back of Sauter’s patrol car at 11:03 p.m., the story reported.

“Sauter was engulfed in flames, according to the lawsuit, and the Cook County medical examiner determined Sauter died of thermal injuries from the fire that ensued,” the paper reported.

Prior to the civil settlement, Bokelman had been criminally charged in Cook County for violating federal safety laws meant to keep tired truck drivers off the road, according to the Sun-Times. “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records show Bokelman and United Van Lines were fined for breaking a federal rule prohibiting drivers on duty more than 14 hours from driving without getting 10 hours of rest. Bokelman, who worked for United Van Lines agent Barrett Moving and Storage, was fined $2,500. United Van Lines was fined $5,500.”

Bokelman is scheduled to appear May 28 in court in connection with three felony counts of violating of the Illinois motor carrier and motor safety laws in Cook County criminal court, according to a story in The Chicago Tribune. “Bokelman faces up to three years in prison on charges related to driving while fatigued and violating federal regulations limiting the number of hours commercial drivers can stay on the road without taking a mandatory break,” the Tribune reported. “Prosecutors in the criminal case have said Bokelman was two hours into an eight-hour trip from Waukesha, Wis., to Louisville, Ky., when he began to nod off at the wheel and his semitrailer veered onto the left shoulder of the interstate.”

Cases like this occur every day when innocent victims are hurt or killed in vehicle crashes through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

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) 352-4572 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.