Wyoming Current Legal & Law News

Sharing Wyoming roads with truck drivers and preventing an accident

With two major interstates running through Wyoming, you likely see many tractor-trailers traveling through the Cowboy State. Undoubtedly, you probably have a personal story to tell about a near-miss with a truck driver that was driving too fast or weaving in and out of lanes.

Recently, in June 2013, there was tragic Wyoming truck accident. The fatal accident occurred on I-25 in a construction zone when a semi owned by Cirque Du Soleil crashed into another commercial vehicle. In addition to the fatality, two individuals were transported to the hospital with injuries.

Unfortunately, big rig accidents such as this are all too common in Wyoming and across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were over 3,000 fatal accidents in 2011 involving large trucks, and 60,000 injuries from such accidents. Although the cause of the recent Wyoming accident has not been reported, common causes of truck accidents include distracted driving, driver fatigue and drivers being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Preventing an accident with a tractor-trailer

While it is important for truck drivers to operate their rigs in a safe manner there are some things that other motorists can do to prevent getting into an accident with a big rig. These include:

  • Give trucks four to six seconds of space at a minimum, especially in wet conditions: Semis require more time to stop then a car and they need that amount of space in order to drive safely.
  • Don't cut off a truck: Again, large vehicles need more time and distance to slow down and stop.
  • Stay out of the truck's blind spot: If you are unable to see a truck's side mirrors it is very likely that the truck driver is unable to see your vehicle.
  • When passing a semi you should be able to view the entire cab in your mirror prior to pulling back into the lane in front of the tractor-trailer.
  • Pay attention to a truck's turn signals and be aware of the fact that semis need to swing far out when making a turn.
  • Contact authorities if you witness a truck driver not driving safely.

Understanding the limits and challenges large trucks face can help drivers better share the road. Unfortunately, even the most vigilant motorists may be unable to avoid an accident with a large truck. If you or a loved one is injured because of a truck driver's negligence, consider meeting with a personal injury attorney experienced in handling these kinds of cases. A lawyer can discuss your available options and advocate on your behalf.

Verdict: $1,000,000, 100% non-economic damages. 10% fault assigned to Plaintiff by Jury

Facts: Omar Romero, the 21 year client, is an illegal immigrant, i.e., he does not have permission to be present or work in the United States. Omar is working for a highway contractor, near Bondurant, WY, in March 2010. Omar rigs up a one-ton load of steel rails to an excavator boom bucket to be lifted up and moved. Omar's rigging method is approved by his boss, who is operating the excavator. When the load is lifted, a piece of rail weighing at least 160 pounds flies out and strikes Omar in the chest, launching him up into the air and flying head first over a guard rail and down 10 feet, where he lands upon a cement slab. Omar is diagnosed with a broken wrist, which is surgically set, and, 17 months later, is diagnosed as having herniated lumbar discs by a physician arranged on a lien basis. Omar was in a significant MVA in 5/08, but denied having been injured in that event. Omar could not get work comp given his undocumented status, so the employer had no immunity from a common law lawsuit. Medical bills were unpaid at the time of trial. The trial court struck Omar's claims for future wage losses and economic expenses, given his undocumented status. Testimony from his immigration lawyer (that Omar was virtually certain to become a Permanent Resident), was also precluded, citing Daubert. Omar abandoned the claims for incurred medical bills, and submitted to the jury solely noneconomic damages claims: pain and suffering, impairment, and lost quality and enjoyment of life.
Omar claimed that various OSHA and construction/crane safety rules were violated. The Defendant denied negligence.

Verdict: $1,200,000 Jury Verdict

Facts: Bob Bush worked as a "heavy duty mechanic" for Wyoming Machinery for 7 years. He was a "valued employee" with stellar annual reviews. He gradually developed health problems which culminated in open heart surgery in the Fall of 2006. At the time of the surgery, WMC put him on Long Term Disability. Six months after the surgery he went back to work, but on the 2nd day back, he began having chest pain and pain running down into his left arm. He left work, and went immediately to his physician. The company kept him on Long Term Disability. Having decided that he could not return to the job of "heavy duty mechanic," Bob began looking for other positions with WMC that he could safely perform. He amplified for one new position in August of 2007, for which he was fully qualified, according to WMC. WMC gave the job to a younger, less qualified applicant. He applied for another position in April of 3008. Again, WMC admitted he was fully qualified for this position as well. There were actually multiple openings for this job, but WMC refused to put Bob in one of them. In July of 2008, WMC terminated Bob, stating in the termination letter that, "After several failed attempts to get you back to work...Wyoming Machinery ahs no further options but to terminate your employment..." Bob Bush then filed discrimination charges against WMC with the EEOC. The EEOC eventually determined that WMC was guilty of "Age Discrimination" and "Disability Discrimination" under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Judge Freudenthal refused to allow any information about the EEOC proceedings/findings to be presented to the jury. Judge Freudenthal also dismissed all of Bob Bush's claims, via summary judgment, except a "perceived or regarded as disabled" claim under the ADA.

Jury Awards $16M to Families of Crash Victims

A Minnesota jury has ordered an airplane manufacturer and the University of North Dakota to pay about $16 million to the families of two men who died in 2003 airplane crash. In the lawsuit, the families of pilot Gary Prokop and passenger Jim Kosak claimed that Cirrus airplanes and the University of North Dakota Aerospace Foundation failed to provide the required training necessary to sell the airplane to Prokop. Both the manufacturer and the university said they would consider appealing the verdict. Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune 06/08/2009

Mattel Fined for Lead in Toys

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a $2.3 million fine against Mattel Inc. and its Fisher-Price subsidiary for selling toys containing dangers levels of lead. The civil penalty stems from the recall of 21 million Chinese-made toys that were found to be tainted with lead or were otherwise dangerous to children. The fine is estimated to be the largest ever issued against a toymaker. Catherine Dodge and Allison Schwartz, Bloomberg 06/05/2009