After one attorney decided to drop the case, Alfred Bell of the highly-regarded Steinger, Greene, & Feiner law firm recently obtained a $4,775,000 settlement on behalf of an injured person by proving that the crash was the result of defendant’s decisions not to look into, let alone comply with, minimum federal safety regulations or Florida traffic safety laws.
The crash occurred as the plaintiff was driving home on a rainy morning prior to dawn. He struck and under rode a trailer that was left in the road in front of him. The deck of the trailer hit the victim in the face.
The trailer and the work-truck to which it was attached were stopped in the roadway because the work-truck operator rear-ended another vehicle that had stopped for a school bus. Mr. Bell learned that the unlicensed passenger of the vehicle told the driver to move the truck and trailer out of the road, but the driver refused in violation of Florida law. Instead, the driver decided to call his employer rather than police. At the same time, the passenger stood idly by instead of putting out the available emergency triangles. Mr. Bell proved that there was more than enough time to prevent this crash by moving the vehicles out of the road or putting on available reflective vests and out reflective triangles.
When the plaintiff approached the trailer, he was driving at or below the speed limit. His airbags did deploy indicating that the impact was at least 12 mph. However, the impact was not severe enough to push the truck and trailer. So, he did brake and less than a second made the difference between an airbag and a trailer in the face.
Investigations showed that the homemade trailer did not meet federal safety lighting and conspicuity standards. It had only two of its five lights illuminated when it left the office but was required to have four more lights plus retro reflective tape. In addition, it did not have any under-ride protection which would have stopped the plaintiff’s automobile before it went underneath the trailer.
After recovering from his physical injuries, the plaintiff continues to have problems functioning in real world situations including the inability to act in socially appropriate ways with empathy or to plan for and appreciate the consequences of his actions. “It is obvious that our client will continue to battle the aftereffects of this accident for years to come and will need ongoing treatment. I am glad we were able to secure this settlement to help him put his life back in some semblance of order,” says firm founding partner Michael Steinger.
Initially, the defendant’s insurance company denied any liability, claiming that the plaintiff should have seen the vehicle in the road and stopped to avoid the crash. The defendant hired an engineer to say that the rear-end crash was avoidable by the plaintiff and since the company’s trailer was homemade, it did not have to comply with any federal safety regulations. Plaintiff’s trucking expert who was also an instructor at two of the colleges where the engineer went for training, explained how the federal regulations applied and how they were violated. A Visual Psychologist determined that given the conditions – pre-dawn hours, rainy conditions – and the in conspicuity of the trailer — unusually shaped and improperly lit, the plaintiff acted as a reasonable person would under the circumstances.
Ignoring federal safety regulations and Florida law in “Operating inadequate equipment on our roadways is a danger to everyone, can cause irreparable damage, and cannot be tolerated,” says Steinger. He continues, “This case shows the importance of meeting and striving to exceed, minimum safety standards and the devastation that can occur when one fails to do so.”