Truck Accident Case Results
Semi-Truck Rear Ends Police Officer Causing Injuries
Smithtown Police Officer Huck was traveling from the Smithtown Police Station to a remote post for official target practice. There were three officers in the vehicle. His seat was in the rear, with a metal cage separating the top of the seat from the rear of the vehicle. He always wears a seat belt, however, on this occasion he did not. The reason was because police vehicles, of necessity, transport criminals. Criminals often discard contraband, including hypodermic needles, down into the crack between the seat and the seatback. When Officer Huck entered the vehicle, the seatbelt was not visible. Rather than risk injury and disease by sticking his finger on a hypodermic needle or other unsafe instrument, he assumed a lower risk – being struck while in a marked police vehicle driven by a police officer driving safely. Unfortunately, that risk was to prove unsafe as well on this date.
While on Route 95 heading south, an eighteen (18) wheel tractor-trailer was also heading south, behind the marked police vehicle. The tractor-trailer was driven by Tom S. Mr. S estimated the tractor-trailer weighed 63,000 pounds at that time. It was carrying a full load – bottled water from Maine.
According to the testimony of the defendant, he was in stop and go traffic during rush hour. He was behind the police vehicle for approximately 100 feet. Stopping and going. Immediately prior to the collision, he shifted from first, to second, to third and then to fourth gear, all in a matter of 20 feet. Then the police vehicle stopped for traffic.
The defendant “hit the brakes hard” and he “felt the load push me, and then the collision.” At the time of the collision he estimates that the speed of the fully loaded semi-truck truck was “20, 25 miles an hour.” He braked so hard the brakes locked and the truck stalled out. In fact, the braking was so abrupt that when Mr. S unloaded the trailer the next day he had to “straighten everything out” using an “electric jack.” “It took me three hours to unload. It usually takes me 20 minutes to unload a trailer,” according to his testimony.
The force of the impact thrust the police vehicle into the vehicle in front of it, resulting in a chain reaction with five total vehicles impacted.
Officer Huck, sitting in the back of the police vehicle was thrown forward from the immense force of the impact. His body hit the front seat. He testified that his head came “real close” to hitting the front windshield. When the police vehicle was forced into the vehicle in front of it, Officer Huck’s body was abruptly thrown backward, into the seat, with his head whipping backward into the metal cage. He felt immediate pain in “my chest and my head.” He also suffered a laceration to the back of his head. As a result of the pain, and in shock, Officer Huck was unable to exit the vehicle on his own; the EMTs had to extract him from the vehicle.
Medical Treatment and Injuries
Officer Huck was taken to the Emergency Room and treated for multiple injuries, including neck and back injuries, a laceration on the back of his head from striking the metal, cage and hand pain. Officer Huck suffered severe and prolonged neck, head, and back pain as a result of this accident necessitating 64 weeks of treatment. He had additional pain associated with the resulting cervical herniation involving his left elbow, hand, and wrist. This required Officer Huck to undergo two separate cortisone injections in an attempt to relieve his pain.
With loss of function and numbness to his hand, he underwent an MRI, which demonstrated a moderate size central left disc herniation of C6-7 with flattening of the spinal cord. The doctor informed Officer Huck that this was a chronic residual change and a permanent impairment.
Lost Earning Capacity
Police officers injured in work related accidents must of course clear several hurdles before going back to full time duty. Officer Huck was out of work for approximately four (4) months. While he was paid, Smithtown had a statutory “lien” on any settlement. This lien, of necessity, had to be negotiated when there were settlement offers by the truck insurance company.
Settlement at Mediation
After all discovery against the trucking company was complete, and the case was set for trial, the parties agreed to a Mediation. The mediator, with extensive experience in law enforcement, was able to help both sides work out an amiable resolution, pay off the liens, and give Officer Huck a very fair result.