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$45 Million Verdict for Family of Med Student Killed in South Florida Truck Accident

Professional drivers – and truckers especially – have a responsibility to use great care because it’s well-known that larger vehicles have the potential for greater harm when they are involved in a collision. When they fail to use reasonable care, they may be held accountable. 

Jurors in Palm Beach County awarded $45 million to the parents of a medical student who was killed in a May 2015 crash involving a tractor-trailer in a construction zone. The construction company was ordered to pay $35 million in damages while the driver of the truck crash was ordered to pay an additional $10 million.

Another wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of a 17-year-old girl in that same crash is still pending. She had just graduated high school and was looking forward to attending the University of Miami on a full scholarship.

The truck driver who was operating the flatbed truck with an unsecured load of concrete barriers was charged earlier this year with one count of reckless driving causing serious bodily injury (the medical student’s 25-year-old passenger was badly hurt in the crash) and two counts of vehicular homicide. His criminal defense attorney called the incident a “tragic accident.” However, as injury attorneys in Fort Pierce, we find the term “accident” lacking – not because the driver intended harm, but because these are avoidable scenarios when drivers use reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm.

As far as road construction companies, there are not only standard guidelines but laws about how these zones are to be set up and the proper protocol for work crews and through traffic. When a company fails to implement those rules (i.e., not erecting appropriate warning signs, having ineffective barriers, failing to properly train or supervise workers) and the failure results in serious injury or death, the company can be held accountable.

In this case, the company had established a construction zone in the median of I-75 near Pines Boulevard.

According to news reports of the truck accident, the truck driver was attempting to haul the barriers out of the median construction zone, and in so doing, he blocked all highway lanes of traffic. Several motorists approached. The first was the medical student, accompanied by his 25-year-old passenger (who later settled with defendant out of court). Decedent had no time to stop. The impact flung his passenger car about a quarter mile down the road and completely sheered off his roof. He was pronounced dead at the scene, while his passenger lived.

Almost seconds after that happened, the 17-year-old approached and slammed into the back of the truck, causing several of the unsecured concrete barriers to topple onto her passenger car, killing her instantly. Seconds after that, a second tractor-trailer slammed into both the first truck, as well as a barrier wall that had toppled.

The construction company released a statement disagreeing with the verdict, saying the crash was the result of the actions of a single individual, who was not an employee of the company. (Employers can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of employees acting in the course and scope of employment under the doctrine of respondeat superior, Latin for “let the master answer.”

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Parents of med school student killed in wreck awarded $45 million, Oct. 27, 2017, By Erika Pesantes, The Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Pursuing Third-Party Liability in Drunk Driving Accidents, Oct. 30, 2017, Fort Pierce Truck Accident Lawyer Blog

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