The number of car accidents, particularly those involving big trucks, has increased dramatically in Kentucky in the last few years. Kentucky’s interstates, I-65, I-71, I-64, and I-75 see most the accidents, but lesser traveled Kentucky interstates like I-24 and I-69 are starting to see an increase as well.
The infamous Watterson expressway, I-264, has long been considered one of the most dangerous stretches of road in Louisville and in all of Kentucky. The amount of traffic it sees, especially at the interchange with I-65, causes multiple car and truck accidents on a weekly, if not, daily, basis.
I-265, known locally as the Gene Snyder, is no better. In the past year alone, our firm has handled over a dozen severe injury cases against trucking companies on I-65 and the Watterson and I-65 and the Gene Snyder. It’s an alarming trend and one that shows no sign of slowing down.
A Real Life Example of a Catastrophic Injury Case We Worked On
Our firm was hired by the family of a man that sustained catastrophic orthopedic injuries and a traumatic brain injury resulting from a wreck that occurred on the Gene Snyder near the I-65 ramp.
The wreck occurred during the afternoon rush hour when traffic was particularly heavy on I-65 South. There were two road construction crews repairing road surface damage in the southbound lanes and traffic had been diverted into a single lane heading south. There was no access to the emergency lane for almost a mile.
Many of the semi-trucks were exiting I-65 and attempting to by-pass the construction by using surface streets and reentering 3 miles later. Other trucks were exiting onto I-265 (Gene Snyder) and heading west towards Dixie Highway. As a result, traffic was bumper to bumper around our client’s car.
Our client was driving a Ford F-150 pick-up truck and had just taken the exit to merge onto I-265 west from I-65 south. His pick-up truck was in between two tractor trailers with a car to his left that was also in-between a flatbed tractor trailer and a large overweight dump truck. Traffic was moving at approximately 20-25 miles per hour and was bumper to bumper.
Less than two miles down the road a small fender bender had occurred and was causing traffic to be merged into the left-hand lane. A marked police car had stopped for the accident and was directing traffic to go around the accident. Our client slowly merged into the left-hand lane along with the rest of the vehicles. He was still between two large trucks but did have a retaining barrier on his left side and open road on the right due to the traffic being pushed into the left-hand lane.
After traveling less than 1,500 feet, the speed of the traffic started to pick up. Our client let the 18-wheeler in front of him gain approximately 10 car lengths of distance before he proceeded to catch-up with traffic. The large delivery truck behind our client did the same and allowed our client’s truck to gain approximately 10 car lengths of distance in front of him before he proceeded to catch up with traffic.
Less than a minute later our client was almost dead. Shortly after our client merged into the left-hand lane, an SUV that was nine cars behind our client’s truck became angry and frustrated about the slow-moving traffic and pulled out of the left-hand lane to speed down the right-hand lane and, according to his testimony, pull back into the left-hand lane closer to his exit. He was concerned he was going to be late to work and fired from his job. At that point he passed our client’s truck, when the semi-truck that was in front of our client abruptly pulled into the right-hand lane to block the SUV from cutting the line of traffic. The SUV driver panicked and steered into the left-hand lane hitting our client’s pick-up truck and pushing it into the barrier.
The delivery box truck behind our client was unable to stop in time and smashed into our client’s truck from behind, further pushing it into the barrier. The force of both impacts crushed the truck, and our client was pinned in the vehicle and knocked unconscious. Multiple drivers called 911 to report the accident. Due to the gridlock traffic on both major highways, it took EMS (both fire rescue and metro ambulance service) almost 20 minutes to reach our client despite being less than a few miles away. The police officer managing the fender bender was on the scene in less than two minutes but unable to reach our client due to the severity of the crash. Once fire rescue arrived, they used the jaws of life to extract our client from the car, so they were able to provide medical care. It took almost 30 minutes to free him using the jaws of life. Although unconscious and having sustained massive injuries, our client did not require resuscitation and was stabilized enough that he was transported to University of Louisville Hospital emergency department for trauma care.
After Being Removed From His Pick-Up, Our Client Was Transferred to the Hospital
Upon arrival at the ER, our client’s blood pressure was stabilized, and he was assessed by a trauma team to determine the extent of his injuries. MRI and CT scans revealed significant injuries including:
- Depressed skull fracture
- Fractured left tibia and fibula
- Fractured left radius
- Spiral fracture on left femur
- Traumatic brain injury / subdural hematoma
- Herniated disc T5, C3
- Fractured vertebrae C4
- Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)
- Lacerated spleen
- Fractured jaw
- Loss of teeth
- Broken ribs
- Multiple contusions and cuts
Trauma surgeons were able to place a chest tube to relieve the pressure in his chest cavity and stop the bleeding in his spleen. His injuries were so severe that he required a team of surgeons and physicians including a vascular surgeon, a cardiothoracic surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, a neurosurgeon, a neurologist, an oral-maxillofacial surgeon and a pulmonologist. It was touch and go for 24 hours but he managed to pull through, but he had a long road of recovery ahead.
How Our Louisville Truck Accident Law Firm Was Able to Help His Family
We were contacted by his wife and children two days after the accident. We immediately sent our accident investigation and reconstruction team to the wreck site to gather as much evidence as possible. Due to the severity of injuries, the police had performed a comprehensive assessment, but our team gathered all that was possible since the scene had been cleared and the roadway reopened to traffic for over two days.
To perform the scene investigation, we use drones and lidar technology to map the entire scene to determine topography issues. We also use digital cameras, OSCRs, drag sleds, accelerometers, total stations, forensic diagramming software and a variety of other state of the art technology to accurately capture the scene of the accident to allow for the best possible analysis. In addition, we use Event Data Recorder (EDR) software to analysis the black box data of the vehicles involved in the wreck. This includes crash force, crash duration, number of impacts, pre-crash vehicle operations dynamics, braking data, post impact speed, vehicle roll angle, position of the driver (front) seat, warning signals/system notifications, and deployment of supplemental restraint systems including airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners.
Vehicle Statistics Software is used to access the vehicles’ Electronic Control Units (ECUs) which collect data concerning multiple electronic functions in the car or truck. This includes GPS location, emergency calls, text, WIFI, entertainment system use, windows, door locks and information system use. This can be valuable information to formulate an opinion on distracted drivers.
Understanding What Went on During the Litigation Process for a Truck Accident in Kentucky
While we spent the next eight months litigating the case, our client and his family worked through very difficult rehabilitation. Our nurse was in constant contact with the family to help them navigate the complex medical situation (insurance, appointments, etc.) they were dealing with.
Once he was able, our client’s physiatrist ordered him to undergo PT (physical therapy), OT (occupation therapy), and ST (speech therapy). The traumatic brain injury had caused him to lose a great amount of his motor function including the ability to walk, fine motor skills with his hands and the ability to speak. He was moved to Frazier rehab at Jewish Hospital which was providing him with excellent care, and he was making slow but steady progress. He spent almost a year in the hospital until he was able to return home.
After a few months of adjusting to his life at home, he sustained an injury to his foot after accidently getting it caught between a piece of furniture and his wheelchair, and required surgery to repair a small broken bone. The surgery was an outpatient procedure, but out of an abundance of caution, his doctor wanted him to spend the night in the hospital due to his complex medical condition resulting from the wreck. He was admitted to the rehabilitation floor of the hospital to spend the night. His wife and children wanted to stay overnight with him, but the nurses convinced them to go home to get some rest. During the night, a nurse aid came into this room to gather linens and in the process caused a skin tear to the upper portion of the back of his leg.
Our client, having sustained severe nerve damage, was unaware of the injury. The nurse aid, despite yanking the linen out from under him, claimed to be unaware of causing the injury and did not check him. The next day he was discharged and went home with his family.
Two nights later he complained of not feeling well. His wife took his temperature, and he had a mild fever of 101. It was near midnight, so his wife called his doctor, rather than taking him in, and they told her to bring him in the next morning for the first appointment. The next morning, he was feeling much worse when they left to go to the doctor’s office. When he arrived at the doctor’s office, he had a fever of 103 and his blood pressure was crashing. The doctor’s office was located within the hospital complex and the nurses rushed him down to the ER. By the time they arrived he had a faint pulse and shallow breathing. He was intubated and an IV started to improve his blood pressure. After a very tense few hours he was stabilized.
Initially it was unclear what had caused this but after reviewing the labs, they were able to determine that he was septic when he arrived at the hospital. The doctor’s determined he had developed an infection from the skin tear and had rapidly developed sepsis and went into septic shock which caused his kidneys to fail, which affected his blood pressure and strained his heart to the point that he nearly coded and died. It was a sad and unnecessary insult to a man that had worked so hard to get where he was since the wreck.
The staff member that removed the linens was not supposed to do a linen change that night but was rushing to leave early and decided to grab the linens at that time rather than wait until the morning when two people would be in the room to assist her. This was the policy of the rehabilitation clinic to ensure that there were two sets of eyes on the patient while this was being performed because patients like our client are at risk of sustaining a skin tear without being aware due to their nerve damage. It was a simple safety precaution that may not have prevented the skin tear, but it would have caused it to be recognized and treated appropriately. Thankfully, he survived this ordeal and after a week was discharged home to continue with his recovery.
As always, we pushed the case to trial as quickly as possible without sacrificing its strength.
What Does a Kentucky Truck Accident Lawyer Do to Prepare for Trial?
The first thing we needed to do was to determine what happened. After an exhaustive analysis and reconstruction at the scene, and speaking with multiple eyewitnesses and responding police, fire and EMS workers, our team was able to reconstruct this complex accident scene with tremendous accuracy.
The liability of both the driver of the SUV that attempted to gain an advantage in the line of traffic and the inattentive driver of the large truck behind our client’s truck became abundantly clear and indefensible. Due to the diligence of our team’s work, we were also able to prove what specific injuries were caused by each impact.
As it turns out, the SUV’s impact caused great damage to our client’s truck by pushing it into the barrier and crushing the left side, but caused only minor injury to our client due to the angle of impact and his position within the vehicle. However, the position at which it placed the truck, the damage it did to the integrity of the structural cage and the deployment of side impact airbags set our client up for catastrophic injuries from the second, rear-ender, impact caused by the truck behind our client.
The vehicle our client had managed to remain safe in was destroyed by the impact literally crushing him. The truck driver’s reaction time was so poor that he hit his brakes less than .05 seconds before impact. The truck was overloaded upon impact and was traveling at almost 40 mph. The mass and speed of the truck created a devastating force upon impact. Because our client’s truck was already pinned against the concrete and rebar reinforced barrier there the full brunt of the impact was absorbed by the truck since it was not able to travel but a small distance upon the second impact.
This was pure driver negligence on both the drivers. The reckless act of attempting to beat traffic in such a congested area by the SUV and the inattention of the driver of the truck that hit our client’s truck second were entirely preventable.
Operators of heavy trucks, like all Kentucky drivers, are taught the importance of maintaining a proper lookout, especially in heavy traffic and high danger situations.
Developing a Life Care Plan for Those With Catastrophic Injuries After a Truck Collision
At the same time as our team was reconstructing the accident scene, we were also developing a life care plan for our client that considered what his current and future needs would be. This included an exhaustive review of his medical records and multiple meetings with his doctors and therapist to determine the best care available. Once we formulated a plan, we presented it to his medical team to have them add their input or make any revisions they believed were appropriate for his care. The life care plan was massive because of the severity of his injuries.
For example, he required a motorized wheelchair that had to be replaced every several years due to the daily wear on its parts, a Clinitron bed to prevent him from developing pressure ulcers (aka bed sores), extensive retro-fitting of his house to accommodate his wheelchair such as widening doorways, installing ramps, lowering countertops, drawers and light switches, a complete redo of his bathroom to accommodate his wheelchair and installation of an accessible shower, installation of an elevator/ lift to access his lower level walkout basement and multiple other safety and accessibility installations.
In addition, the life care plan outlined in tremendous detail the physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy sessions and projected goals. It also included all his future medications and durable medical equipment needs such as catheters, colostomy bags, padding devices, therapy boards, Hoyer lifts, wheelchair accessible vans, ramps for the home, elevator lifts for the home and many other expensive necessities to make living with his injuries less painful. We also now include mental health treatment which consists of therapy appointments and any required medications.
An economist expert was retained to analyze his work history and calculate not only his lost wages but the loss of his ability to made money in the future. This considers job advancements, fringe benefits, and the value of his services to his wife and children. This measurement requires not just a review of his financial documents, but also his friends, co-workers, neighbors, and church members to gain a picture of what type of person he was to everyone.
Dealing With Insurance and Medical Bills After a Catastrophic Truck Crash in Kentucky
Once the medical bills started mounting, our clients began having difficulty getting their health insurance to pay for upgrades to the wheelchair, replacing damaged or worn-out equipment. They did not have a wheelchair accessible van and were transporting their dad out of the house with a self-modified 15-year-old van. Their house was not equipped to compensate for someone in a wheelchair and they were constantly reminded of things they needed to help their dad. Family and friends did what they could to help modify the home and make life better while we were pursuing the case.
Another major issue in this case were the massive medical liens. Most people are unaware that buried deep in their health insurance policy is a clause that allows the insurance company to recoup money they have paid for your health care if the care is the result of a third party. So, in a situation where a truck causes you to be severely injured and you have medical bills for those injuries that your health insurance pays, they are entitled to make a claim against you for any money you receive from a lawsuit concerning those injuries.
Due to the severity of his injuries, his health insurance company had paid over a million dollars in medical bills associated with the wreck. In addition, they were on the hook for more medical bills in the future that would total in the millions of dollars. Because of the mounting bills, they started to push back on some of the therapies, equipment, and medicals his doctors had prescribed. This was an added unnecessary stress on our client and his family that only compounded the difficulty and anxiety they faced dealing with his injuries. The family was worried that his health and progress would be compromised by the insurance companies’ increasingly aggressive attitude regarding paying for his medical needs.
What Compensation We Look to Recover for Our Truck Accident Victims and Why
When we presented our damages to the defendants, we demanded several million dollars for our client and his family. In civil lawsuits, we seek money damages for our clients for two reasons. First, to attempt to compensate them for their losses since this is the only way the law allows. Second, to cause the defendant to take notice of the damages they have caused to force them to change their behavior and operate in a safe manner in the future to prevent them from harming someone else.
After receiving our demand (and with trial only a few months away) the defendants requested a settlement conference. The main issue in the case was the division of fault between the two vehicles that struck our client. While this is understandable in a situation where the amount of insurance coverage available is far more than the injuries, that was not the circumstance in this lawsuit. Although we were able to determine which truck caused which injuries, we believed that both truck companies and their respective insurance carrier needed to pay the full value of their insurance policies to resolve the case. Otherwise, we would let a jury decide it for them at trial. After two mediations, we were able to settle his lawsuit for the full insurance policy amounts of the SUV, the semi-truck as well as our client’s underinsured insurance policy. The amount of money we were able to recover was enough to provide our client with the best therapy available (PT, OT, and ST), the best medical equipment available (motorized wheelchair, pressure reducing electronic bed, digital therapy boards, etc.) a wheelchair accessible van and extensive home modifications to accommodate his physical limitations. In addition, we were successful in our fight with his insurance company to reach an agreement on their claimed reimbursement for past and projected future medical care. This was a hard-working family that had their lives derailed due to the senseless negligent actions of a few impatient drivers. We were honored to handle their case.
Need Legal Help After a Truck Crash in Kentucky? Contact Gray & White for a Free Consult Today
If you or your loved one was involved in a truck crash in Kentucky, our experienced and proven personal injury lawyers can make sure you and your family are fairly compensated.
To schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with our Louisville truck accident lawyer, fill out our online contact form or call 502.210.8942 today!