$1.25 Million Verdict for Wrongful Death from Truck Partially Obstructing Right Lane

In a case we tried in federal court, the defendant truck driver was operating a tractor-trailer on Route 84. He started to notice brake problems, but continued to drive for over a mile, with his brakes smoking, trying to make it to the next exit. During this time, he passed several places where he could have pulled entirely off the road. When his brakes finally froze and he was forced to stop, he did not pull fully off the road and was partially blocking the right lane of the highway.

Making matters worse, after he stopped, he failed to put out his reflective safety triangles, as required by federal regulations. Rather than dragging his rig off the roadway and ruining his tires, he decided to leave his truck where it was. About 30 minutes later, our client's husband, driving a flower van, crashed into the rear of the truck and was killed.

An expert human factors engineer we hired testified about studies showing that, without reflective safety triangles, drivers have trouble perceiving that a tractor-trailer in front of them is actually stopped until it's too late. While many people can perceive that a vehicle is stopped from 400 feet away, this visual cue is not reliable for all drivers until they are 200 feet away. At highway speeds, this doesn't leave enough room to avoid a collision.

After a trial in federal court, we obtained a verdict of $1.25 million for the van driver's estate and widow.