In 2010, William Schlenker and his son Richard were traveling on a road near Meeteetse at approximately a rate of 50 mph. Defendant Terry Jones was driving a semi-truck pulling a secondary trailer that was overloaded with 30,000 lbs. of hay. Jones took a sharp turn which abruptly sent the load of hay crashing into the Schlenker's vehicle. Although they were wearing seat belts, William broke a rib and his wrist, while Richard suffered a broken neck. Jones acknowledged fault in the accident, yet courtroom legal battles lasted for several years.
Jury Rules of Evidence
Jones' insurance company, Colorado Casualty, fought the case in the District Court and Appeals Court. The jury in the case, because of rules of evidence, was not made aware that there was an insurance company involved. Making reference to the defendant's insurance coverage was strictly prohibited, a rule to limit juror bias. Ultimately, the insurer decided to settle with the Schlenkers for an undisclosed amount. Confidentiality in these settlements allows the insurance company to “quietly” conclude the litigation. A lower court jury had awarded them $2.3M earlier, which contained $1.32M allocated for Richard and $979,000 for William. Those familiar with the case speculate the value of the settlement was in that general range. Once a Wyoming jury issues a ruling with an amount for damages, the amount begins accruing interest at a 10% rate. If Colorado Casualty ultimately lost their appeal they likely would have had to pay roughly 20% in additional interest, so they had some motivation to close the case.
Severity of Large Truck Accidents
- In 2015, Colorado had 64 fatalities resulting from large truck crashes, which are those exceeding 10,000 lbs.
- The states with the highest number of large truck fatalities in 2015 were Texas (561) and California (296).
- Roughly 60% of large truck accidents occurred on rural roads, while 25% occurred on Interstate highways.
- 35% of fatal crashes occurred between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am (mostly after dark)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a central authority for regulation in the industry nationwide. States may add their own provisions, yet they must align with the FMCSA requirements.
- Commercial trucks weighing 10,000 lbs. are required to maintain $750,000 in vehicle liability insurance coverage
- Those vehicles which transport hazardous materials generally must have $5M in vehicle liability insurance coverage
- Vehicles with capacity to seat 16 passengers or more, including the driver, must have $5M in vehicle liability insurance coverage
- Vehicle with a capacity to seat 15 passengers or less, including the driver, must have $1.5M in vehicle liability insurance coverage
Vehicle accidents which involve large trucks are particularly dangerous, due to their size and weight. If a commercial driver's negligence or carelessness has resulted in a serious injury, it is best to seek experienced legal counsel. The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal pursues economic justice for Colorado accident victims. Contact the office today at (303) 825-2223 for a consultation.