A sad side-effect of the sheer weight of numbers of large trucks on the roads is the inevitability that accidents involving big rigs will continue to injure and kill Californians for as long as humans make mistakes, tires blow out and unexpected ice storms turn interstate highways into Olympic skating rinks.
Injuries caused by big rigs to people in smaller, lighter vehicles are often catastrophic and life changing. In one recent northern California case of note, a couple from India were awarded $36.5 million for injuries sustained in a 2010 accident involving an 18-wheeler tha t left the wife needing 24-hour advanced medical care. The award was made by a Riverside County jury to Prakash Sheth and his wife, Jaishree, of Mumbai.
The Plaintiff’s Case
The Sheths were visiting relatives in 2010, and both were passengers in a car that was hit by a big rig being owned by Schneider National Carriers, Inc. The lawsuit contended that:
The Schneider National truck was attempting an improper overtaking maneuvre.
Rather than successfully completing the pass, the truck struck the car in which the Sheths were passengers .
The collision caused the passenger car to go out of control, spin and then smash into the center divider, as well as another vehicle.
Jaishree Sheth, 58 was in a quadriplegic state immediately after the accident. The formerly active woman has now lost the normal use of her bowels and bladder, and she will be confined to a wheel chair for the rest of her life. She will also require more surgery, and the Sheths will be facing considerable medical bills and treatment costs for the rest of their lives.
The driver of the big rig was working for Schneider National Carriers at the time of the accident, making the company liable for the injuries sustained in the crash.
The Case For The Defense
Schneider National Carriers objected to the jury’s verdict and said they plan to seek a new trial. If the new trial is refused, Schneider says they plan to file an immediate appeal. According to their statement:
The award isn’t supported by the evidence presented in court.
They said the driver involved in the accident has an impeccable safety record, and they noted that the driver involved in the accident wasn’t even cited for his part in the tragedy.
Schneider spokesperson Erin Elliott also defended the company’s safety record, saying the trucking company has an outstanding safety record and employs “some of the safest drivers in the industry.”
The judge and the jury clearly disagreed, noting that Jaishree Sheth’s life will never be the same. At the end of the proceedings, the $36.5 million award is the largest personal injury verdict ever handed down in Riverside County.
For their part, the Sheths complimented the American justice system after the hearing and thanked the jury for listening to their story.
While the award in this case may raise some eyebrows, the fact is, California experiences more than its share of big rig accidents every year. In fact, while overall motor vehicle deaths and serious injuries are at their lowest levels nationwide, two of the categories moving in the wrong direction are motorcycle fatalities and accidents involving big rigs. In recent years, an average of more than one person every day has been killed on California roads in accidents involving large trucks, and more than 100 people per week have been injured.
The problem is, accidents involving relatively tiny cars that have been in a collision with an 18-wheel truck all too frequently produce devastating results for the smaller vehicle’s occupants. If someone is fortunate enough to survive such a collision, they still may be faced with life-changing injuries such as those suffered by Jaishree Sheth.
As well as the mountain of medical bills, there are other things to consider, including lost wages, ongoing treatment, pain and suffering and the overall affect on your family, both financially and psychologically. If you’ve been involved in this kind of accident, you could very well be entitled to make a claim against both the at-fault driver and the company that owns the big rig.
If you do proceed with a claim, things can get complicated in a hurry, which is why anyone considering filing a personal injury lawsuit involving a big rig should first of all contact a Sacramento accident attorney for a free consultation. They can explain the entire process to you in detail and answer all your questions. Then, if you decide to proceed with your claim, a good personal injury attorney will guide you through the entire process and help you get the compensation you and your family both need and deserve.