A Florida man lost his entire family – his 36, year-old wife, two young stepsons and 17-year-old stepdaughter, after they were struck by a truck driver on the Buckman Bridge in Jacksonville. Now, he is suing the driver, alleging distraction and speed, and the trucking company, for negligent hiring and retention, failure to supervise and vicarious liability. His also suing the service shop that serviced his wife’s SUV the week before it broke down on the side of that bridge.highway1

The 26-year-old Navy corpsman says he was on the phone with his wife, whose vehicle had stalled out, when the last thing he heard her say was, “There’s a big truck coming.” Then there were screams. Then the phone cut out. Plaintiff raced to the scene, and had to be restrained by officers on the bridge when he saw the crumpled vehicle on the side of the highway.

That truck, decorated with fangs on the grill, was operated by a driver who allegedly had only been working for the company 10 days. The driver wa

s technically unqualified because he previously tested positive for a controlled substance and had failed to meet the requirement to complete a substance abuse program before he could work again. The trucking company hadn’t completed its background check on him when they sent him out onto the road in an older truck, with the ECM modules turned completely off. That means there is no data with respect to lane deviation, braking or speed.

Plaintiff alleges that while the trucker wasn’t intoxicated, he was distracted and he was traveling too fast. He was allegedly texting on his phone while his truck was on cruise control. These facts could be proven by matching phone records with the time of accident, and with the aid of an accident reconstructionist who could estimate speed based on the force of the collision and the fact victims’ vehicle as at a complete stop.

Plaintiff is seeking at least $10 million for his losses related to this horrific large truck accident.

The announcement of the civil lawsuit came just days after the local state attorney’s office decided not to press criminal charges against the driver, following review of the final report from the Florida Highway Patrol. The review indicated there was no evidence of criminal intent, criminal negligence or alcohol or drug impairment on the part of the driver. The trucker was, however, cited for careless driving and failure to slow.

Decedents’ vehicle did have its hazards on. The drivetrain had unexpectedly failed, forcing her to the roadside. Plaintiff’s wife had contacted On-star, but neither she nor her children could safely get out of the car due to heavy traffic. She felt it best to wait on the shoulder. It was a clear afternoon. There was no fog or rain or any other reason any driver approaching wouldn’t have seen that vehicle, plaintiff alleges.

In a statement made to the press after that announcement, plaintiff said that while he “respected” the prosecutors’ decision, he planned to move forward with his litigation and stated it was important to point out the investigation had found the truck driver to be at-fault.

Plaintiff says the lawsuit is not about the money. Although tort reform activists would have the public believe otherwise, it rarely is. Yes, people deserve to be compensated for such awful losses. But more than that, like many plaintiffs, this widower wants justice. He wants improvement in collision-avoidance systems in trucks. He wants other truck drivers to be aware of the enormous responsibility they have. And he wants those who could have prevented this horrific accident to be accountable for it.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

$10 million lawsuit says truck driver speeding and distracted as he hits SUV in March Buckman Bridge crash that kills 4, Nov. 3, 2015, By Dan Scanlan, The Florida Times-Union

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Florida 1st DCA: Insurer Must Pay $2.3 Million Verdict to Seriously Injured Crash Victim, Oct. 22, 2015, Fort Myers Truck Accident Lawyer Blog