Philadelphia Family Recovers $26.1M Pre-Trial in a Motor Vehicle Negligence Action

February 9, 2017 by

On July 6, 2010, a woman was driving a Toyota Matrix eastbound on Interstate Route 80 with her father in the passenger seat, her husband in the back seat, with her two dogs. Shortly after 5:00 p.m. she was in stopped traffic near a construction zone. She stated that a tractor-trailer attempted to change lanes at the last minute, but struck her vehicle from behind at a speed of at least 71 mph. She also held that evidence from the truck’s on-board computer established that the truck driver had increased the speed, using cruise control to 72.5 mph just 34 seconds before the impact.

According to the National Traffic Safety Council, 2.5 million rear-end collisions are reported each year. The National Highway Safety Commission found that 28% of highway accidents are related to rear-end collisions. “Vehicle collision avoidance technologies can prevent these types of accidents. In fact, NHTSA found that electronic stability control systems could reduce loss-of-control accidents by 40 percent for cars and 70 percent for sport utility vehicles. If installed on the U.S. fleet of commercial tractor trailer combination units, these systems could prevent an estimated 4,659 crashes each year. “

The woman sought punitive, as well as compensatory damages. The truck driver said in court documents that his vision of stopped traffic was obscured by sun glare. He was eastbound; the sun sets in the west. If this case had proceeded to trial, admission of liability would have been expected.

The woman’s father was pronounced dead at the scene from injuries sustained. The woman’s husband suffered multiple head injuries and was hospitalized in a coma for more than a month. He was diagnosed with a permanent traumatic brain injury which will make him totally disabled from employment and necessitate attendant care for the remainder of his life. Both dogs died at the scene.

The woman’s injuries included multiple rib fractures, liver laceration, vertebral fractures, lacerations and contusions. She was 27 years old, and was a family counselor with a mental health service. She is now restricted to part-time employment because of her care responsibilities for her husband.

The compensatory aspects of this case were settled prior to trial for a combined total of $26,100,000.

The remaining issue is the punitive damages, which the court indicated would be permitted to go to the jury trial. The woman maintained that the truck driver’s increase of his cruise control speed to 72.5 mph 34-seconds before the collision, combined with his failure to slow down when entering the construction zone, constituted willful and wanton conduct warranting punitive damages. The tucking company stressed that the defendant had 36 years’ experience as a truck driver and a perfect driving record.