$6.7 Million Jury Verdict Alert
The Hughes and Coleman team successfully represented a Western Kentucky client who was injured in Ohio due to the negligence of a corporate defendant.
When working for (or with) a corporation, there should be minimum safety standards in place to keep all parties safe. Employees should feel a sense of comfort at their workplace; good working conditions, policies, and procedures. This also goes for any customers who use a corporation’s products or services.
Typically, there are policies and procedures in place to help employees maintain a safe workspace, especially when dealing with dangerous materials. Whether it be step-by step-procedures or general safety precautions, employees are expected to follow those guidelines to help them and the people around them avoid any type of injury. When safety standards are inadequate or altogether ignored, the consequences can be catastrophic. Unfortunately, this was the case for our client.
The individual who eventually became our client was a hard-working and dedicated truck driver for most of his life – following in the footsteps of his father whom he always admired.
He was also newly married and starting to build a life with his wife. They were very much in love, and they looked forward to starting a family one day.
As a truck driver, our client was able to provide for himself and his wife, as well as provide goods to companies that were counting on him to safely transport and deliver them the items they needed. He was also an avid volunteer for disaster relief projects; he delivered goods all across the country to people and cities who were in need of them.
Our client’s job gave him a sense of strength and independence. He took great pride in his work, and he was good at what he did. Although the hours were long, being a truck driver was a big part of who he was – and the people around him knew that.
The man his wife fell in love with was an outgoing and carefree person. They enjoyed hunting, camping, and traveling together. Overall, he liked to live life to the fullest every chance he got. He was young, happy, and, like so many of our clients, completely unaware that his life was about to be turned upside down.
Prior to the Explosion
On the day our client was injured, he was going about his work duties as he normally would. While driving along the highway of one of his routes headed to Ohio, a tire on his semi-truck went flat. He immediately pulled off and called for help from a towing company to get the tire fixed. Upon arrival, one of the employees from the towing company went to work fixing the tire so that our client could get back on the road.
The process of fixing and replacing a flat tire on a semi-truck has strict safety protocols that must be followed. These commercial tires are much bigger (in size and weight) than those on smaller vehicles. On a smaller vehicle, getting a tire replaced can be a very quick and easy process. However, due to the safety concerns of inflating a large semi-truck tire, this process typically takes longer and requires strict protocols in order to prevent injury. When steps are skipped and the process is rushed, the consequences are severe, and the tire can explode – as our client would soon find out.
The Safety Protocol Steps
Prior to inflating a semi-truck tire, the tire needs to be properly inspected. The person working on the tire is required to conduct a thorough examination, checking for any perforations, gashes, or defects along the tire and wheel. They also inspect the rim to ensure it can handle the intense pressure it undergoes while the tire is being inflated.
Once the tire has been examined, but still prior to inflating, it must be placed in a safety cage. This cage helps to keep the tire in place and stable as it begins to fill with air. The safety cage is also used as a way to contain any explosion that may occur, to hopefully limit the damage.
Finally, the person working on the tire is expected to clear the “danger zone.” The danger zone is the physical space around the tire that cannot be occupied while the tire fills with air. No one is allowed to stand over the tire or anywhere in the danger zone as it inflates. Due to the risk of a large explosion from inflating a commercial tire, being in close range could cause severe injuries or even death.
Only after all of these crucial steps are followed completely and correctly can the tire be inflated.
Failure to Follow Safety Guidelines
When the employee of the towing company arrived and quickly started to get to work, he was able to easily identify that one of the inside tires was flat and needed to be inflated.
After briefly looking over the vehicle, he went ahead and mounted the tire. Failing to properly inspect the wheel, and also failing to put it in the safety cage, the towing company’s employee then proceeded to inflate it.
Our client, although he is a truck driver, was not responsible for following the guidelines – nor was he aware such a process existed.
As the tire filled with air, the employee noticed some gashes on the rim and wheel, so he cut off the air supply to go over and look at them. He then asked our client if he knew what caused the damage and invited him over to look at the tire as well. After observing for a minute, the employee walked back over to the air supply, away from the tire, and – without warning – turned it back on to continue inflating the tire. Our client was still standing right over the tire, very much so still in the ‘danger zone’ that is required to be cleared before activating the air – and he was not told to move.
The towing company’s employee failed to inspect the tire, failed to secure the tire in a safety cage, and then he completely failed to clear the danger zone – putting himself and our client at risk.
The tire exploded within seconds. The blast caused it to fly off the ground and up into the air about 20 to 30 feet, striking our client directly in the face and body on its way up.
The Bodily Damages
Our client sustained many severe injuries that could have been avoided if the towing company employee had followed the correct safety guidelines. His injuries included but were not limited to:
He lost most of his front teeth, had a deep laceration on his chin, and sustained a maxillary (upper jaw) fracture – for which he had to undergo plastic reconstruction surgery. He continues to experience chronic sinus problems, neck pain, and constant pain in his mouth.
He sustained multiple broken ribs and has chronic pain in his neck and back. In addition, he experiences intense symptoms of his cervical radiculopathy condition (pinched nerve on the cervical spine) which continues to cause tingling and numbness in all of his upper and lower extremities.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Our client was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury that has since majorly altered his life. Due to the TBI, he has been diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder and a cognitive impairment, which has affected his verbal skills, his memory, and his ability to understand certain situations. He also suffers from chronic ringing in his ear, constant nausea and dizziness, and severe headaches. He experiences vertigo and impaired sleep – unable to fall asleep and/or maintain sleep. His memory has diminished, and he is unable to remember short-term conversations and instructions. His hearing is impaired, and he is very sensitive to light.
The TBI has also changed his overall mood and personality, which is due in part to the cognitive impairment he was diagnosed with. He is constantly anxious, gets easily agitated and frustrated, and feels consistent sadness due to his life being completely altered.
Due to the constant dizziness and trouble focusing, our client has significant difficulty walking, getting up, and riding in a vehicle. He is unable to physically lift or carry any heavy objects, and he has trouble completing most of what used to be his daily tasks. He also cannot drive.
His Life is Completely Changed
Before his injuries, our client was an active and carefree man with a loving wife. Now, he needs assistance with most daily activities and has completely lost his independence. He can’t drive or focus, leaving him unable to work. He can’t hunt, he can’t fish, and he can no longer provide for his family. The life he loved was stolen from him due to the complete negligence and recklessness of another individual.
He Called Us
Soon after the accident, the wife of our soon-to-be client called us and explained the incident. We immediately signed him up as a client. Our team of dedicated attorneys was determined to get him nothing short of what he deserved for his injuries, lost wages, and extensive pain and suffering.
Gathering documents, investigating the incident, holding depositions, and drafting multiple demand letters – our attorneys continued to fight for him. His medical expenses were already extreme and were continuing to add up. He was unable to work since the incident and would continue to be unable to work due to the injuries he sustained. He needed constant medical care, supervision, and treatment. Overall, he was suffering every day following the incident – financially, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Pre-litigation, our team turned down $1.7 million; we knew this individual required much more for his future projected medical care. Beyond that, he deserved more for everything that had been stolen from him.
We prepped for trial and worked closely with the client to get as many details as we could. We knew the defense was going to fight – but we were prepared to fight harder.
During trial, the defense tried to argue that they should only pay our client $280,000, a complete insult to our client and the suffering he endured.
After multiple arguments on both sides and much deliberation by the jury, our client received a jury verdict of $6.7 million.
We Help Injured People
Our client put his trust in another company to uphold safety standards, believing they had the knowledge and experience to fix his tire safely. He was a truck driver; however, this doesn’t mean he was equipped to change a large, commercial tire himself. Our client was unaware of the safety guidelines for inflating commercial tires – nor was it his duty to know this. That responsibility laid solely with the tow truck company, a company that had an obligation to safely perform services for their customers.
The tow truck company’s negligence and failure to follow basic safety protocols ultimately stole many aspects of our client’s life. However, following the $6.7 million verdict we obtained, he shared his upmost gratitude and appreciation. In an interview following the verdict, our client had the following to say regarding the level of care he received from our team:
“Everything’s been more that I could ever imagine or dream of. Everyone that I’ve talked to or dealt with has been above and beyond any expectations I could have ever imagined… I had the best attorney that I could ever have on my team working for me – representing me. I had no concerns.”
We can’t undo the trauma that our client has been through, and we can’t go back and change what happened to him. However, we can at least ensure that he will be able to live a more comfortable life and take away some of the burdens his injuries have caused. Without intervention, this company would have gotten away with offering him far less than what he deserved. Our team is dedicated to helping everyday people like this client who have been wronged by negligent and greedy corporations. We were honored to help this individual obtain a successful verdict and move forward from this tragic event.