A truck driver has been charged with three separate crimes stemming from an accident that claimed the life of a toll worker and severely injured a state trooper, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Renato Velasquez, a 46-year-old resident of Hanover Park, was arrested the evening of January 27th after the semi-truck he was driving collided with the squad car of Illinois State Trooper Douglas Balder, pushing it into the parked truck of Vincent Petrella, a worker for the Illinois Tollway. The initial collision started a fire that killed Petrella and injured Balder. Both Balder and Petrella had stopped by the side of I-88 near Aurora to aid a stalled truck.
Balder, 38, remains in critical condition. A veteran of the US Navy Reserves, he served in the Middle East until last June, where he was feted locally by Operation Welcome You Home. A resident of Wheeling, Petrella, 39, is survived by his wife and two school-aged children. He had been with the Illinois Tollway since 2005. To honor his passing, Governor Pat Quinn ordered flags to be flown at half mast.
The three crimes that Velasquez has been charged with are “operating a commercial vehicle while impaired/fatigued, filing a false report of record and duty status, [and] driving more than 14 hours and driving beyond the 11 hour rule.” During Velasquez’s bond hearing, State’s Attorneys alleged that he had been working for 36 hours, with only three-and-a-half hours of sleep during that time. The accident occurred mere weeks after a lawsuit was filed in Cook County alleging negligence in both driving and hiring stemming from a similar accident. Last March, a semi driver, after working for 14 hours straight, and subsequently falling asleep at the wheel, caused an accident, killing Illinois State Trooper James Sauter.
Issues Common in Truck Accidents
When truck drivers get into accidents, the impact is often enormous. The massive trucks often weigh dozens of tons, and most vehicles on the road simply cannot withstand a collision with one. One must also take distracted driving into consideration. Truck drivers, under increasing pressure to meet deadlines, often go without sleep to haul more goods across the country, and often into Canada or Mexico as well. In order to stay awake on the road, many will resort to drugs to stimulate their senses. However, this can result in impaired judgment and an increased willingness to take unreasonable risks.
When pursuing a lawsuit for an accident negligently caused by a truck driver, vicarious liability becomes paramount. A truck driver is rarely hauling goods for his own benefit; he almost always is employed by a company. Often, the employer is a trucking company. Sometimes, the employer is the company that makes the product being hauled. Regardless, if the truck driver causes an accident while hauling goods for an employer, that employer can likely be sued for the driver’s negligence.