A trucking accident in New Hampshire today reminds me of one of the first interstate trucking personal injury cases I handled as a young lawyer roughly 25 years ago, before I gained much knowledge about things as crucial as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
In the New Hampshire accident this morning, a state snow plow truck was parked in the emergency lane on the side of I-89 when it was struck in the rear by a tractor trailer. Apparently the big rig driver was the most seriously hurt person, with an apparent head injury.
It was a rare Georgia snow storm just about this time of year in approximately 1982 or 1983. A Georgia DOT dump truck was outfitted for snow removal, with a blade on the front and a salt spreader in back. Two workers were moving along slowly while clearing snow next to the median barrier on I-20 in Rockdale County. A flatbed tractor trailer running empty on the way home Texas was moving way too fast, skidded on an icy spot, and slammed into the DOT truck. The Texas trucker obviously was not exercising the ‘extreme caution" required by the regulations in hazardous weather conditions.
The guy who later became my client wasn’t hurt significantly in the initial impact, but was trapped in the DOT truck, wedged between the median barrier and the 18 wheeler, when the DOT truck caught fire.By the time a coworker broken out the windshield and pulled him to safety, he had second and third degree burns over a large portion of his body. However, due to his fear of becoming a drug addict, he refused pain medication through his month in the hospital for burn therapy and skin grafts. The case was a learning experience for me in that it was my first case involving a serious burn injury, treatment in a Burn Center, etc.
That was also the first case in which I was involved with a structured settlement annuity. The client was a simple country fellow who had sense enough not to let anyone know he had money. He had the annuity payments deposited directly to an account he opened at a bank two counties away from his home on a farm his family had settled long before the Civil War. He returned to light duty work at DOT for a couple of years until he became eligible for retirement. The structured settlement annuity paid him a good, steady income every month until he passed away a couple of decades later in his late seventies.
Ken Shigley is an Atlanta, Georgia trial attorney with a practice is focused on cases of catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death arising from commercial truck and bus accidents. He is a former chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute, and is a frequent speaker at national continuing legal education programs on trucking liability cases. Mr. Shigley is currently Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia. He has been rated as a "Super Lawyer" (Atlanta Magazine), one of the "Legal Elite" (Georgia Trend Magazine), and a Certified Civil Trial Advocate (National Board of Trial Advocacy). To increase capacity for handling more and larger cases, he recently became "of counsel" with the law firm of Chambers, Aholt & Rickard which has an extensive trucking liability practice. He is available for free consultation about cases of serious injury or wrongful death in Georgia.