An Illinois state trooper was severely injured after a semitrailer crashed into emergency vehicles along an interstate highway, killing an Illinois Tollway worker. He filed a lawsuit last month against the truck driver and the company that employed him. Trooper Douglas Balder and his wife Kimberli Balder are both named as Plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Renato Velasquez and his employer, DND International, Inc.
The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges that the fiery crash on Jan. 27 fractured Trooper Balder’s clavicle, fractured his ribs and gave him multiple head and facial lacerations as well as second- and third-degree burns. The Plaintiffs are seeking damages for pain, suffering, disability and disfigurement, as well as economic damages. Balder, 38, has been a trooper since 2007 and patrols a five-mile stretch on the interstate where he was struck.
The accident happened after Trooper Balder’s vehicle, a towing cab and a Tollway vehicle stopped on the side of the interstate near Aurora to assist a semi tractor that became disabled in the far right lane of eastbound traffic. According to the lawsuit, the Tollway worker who died in the crash, Vincent Petrella, stopped directly behind the disabled vehicle and activated his emergency lights. Parked behind him, Trooper Balder also activated his emergency lights and turned on an arrow board on his car that directed traffic away from the disabled truck.
The driver, Velasquez, was charged with several felonies in the crash. According to DuPage County prosecutors, Velasquez had fallen asleep at the wheel near the end of a marathon shift of more than 36 hours and had falsified his paper logbook and skirted safety rules to stay on the road. The lawsuit accuses Velasquez of operating a commercial vehicle while fatigued, operating the commercial vehicle for more than 14 hours, failing to reduce his speed, failing to yield to a stationary emergency vehicle and failing to keep a proper lookout.
The lawsuit also alleges negligence on the part of DND International, Velasquez’s employer, which according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a history of poor compliance with safety regulations. The lawsuit said that DND International, Inc. failed to inspect Velasquez’ report of duty status and failed to ensure he was in compliance with federal and local transportation safety regulations. It added that the company failed to have a system in place to track and control their commercial vehicle drivers’ hours of service.
The Plaintiffs are represented by Elizabeth A. Kaveny, a lawyer with the Chicago-based firm Burke Wise Morrissey Kaveny. Hopefully, the Plaintiff will be successful in this case. It deals with several safety issues that cause serious problems on our nation’s roadways.
Source: Chicago Tribune
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