An 82 year-old, Riverside, Utah man by the name of Ted Macfarlane was seriously injured this past Wednesday, February 10, 2010, when the Chevrolet Suburban he was in was rear-ended by a semi-truck on the I-15 freeway, in an area just north of Ogden, Utah. According to The Leader, the driver of the car, Paul Forsberg, had just merged onto the freeway at Riverside when Forsberg’s Chevy Suburban was rear ended by a semi truck. This trucking accident happened at mile marker 384, which is just one mile south of Riverside, Utah. According to reports, the driver of the big rig, Lucas Butler, 31 years-old of Salt Lake City, Utah, had looked down at his radio when the crash happened. It was estimated that the Suburban had been going 55 mile per hour compared to the semi’s estimated 69 miles per hour. Butler’s employer, Empire Warehouse Inc., is based out of Colorado. The impact caused the driver of the Suburban to loose control, and the truck veered to the right and flipped roughly five times before it came to a rest on its top.
Emergency crews responded and transported Ted Macfarlane to McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden, where he was operated on. Family members are encouraged because their father, grandfather (and great grandfather) has been taken off of his breathing tube and can now breathe on his own. Unfortunately, his daughter, Kristi Kent, said that he is only able to make small movement in his left arm.
My condolences go out to Ted Macfarlane and his family. From the article, it sounds like he suffered a spinal cord injury, or SCI, among other injuries that he no doubt experienced from this Utah truck accident. Having had clients with spinal cord injuries myself, I know how serious and life-changing they can be, and that the period following the injury is most critical in terms of what functions Mr. Macfarlane may be able to recover. It seems that a patient’s will and desire can play a large part in the recovery process. I would encourage Ted Macfarlane and his family not to give up hope but to work diligently with rehabilitation professionals to get back as much function as he can, knowing that results from his injuries can take a long while.
As I see it, the trucking company, Empire Warehouse Inc., based in Erie, Colorado, has a lot to answer for. First, the truck driver rear-ended the Suburban. This is evidence that the driver failed to keep a proper lookout for vehicles merging onto the highway. From the report, it sounds as if the Suburban merged safely onto the freeway but that it was shortly thereafter rear-ended by the driver of the semi. Another violation that jumps out is the failure to keep a proper distance between one vehicle and the vehicle in front. Third, it seems from the news report that there is already an admission from the driver that he was looking at his radio at the time of the crash. This is a violation of Utah Code section 41-6a-1715, which defines “careless driving” as committing a moving violation (following too close) while using an electronic device.
Finally, truckers are considered “professional drivers” and are held to a higher set of rules than normal drivers are. A reason for this is because a fully-loaded semi truck weighing around 80,000 pounds can inflict horrible damage and injury if it is driven negligently. The rules that govern semi truck drivers are found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and require, among many other things, that truck drivers get enough sleep so that they are alert at the wheel. This is why one of the first things that should be looked at in reviewing a case like this is the driver’s log. Unfortunately, the law states that the trucking company can destroy this log after six months. It is therefore critical to request these items from the trucking company as soon as possible.
There are a number of other things that should be done to properly investigate the claim against the trucking company, including sending out a “preservation letter” to the trucking company, which asks them to preserve all evidence related to this claim. Because of the complexity of it all, I would recommend that the family contact an experienced Utah trucking accident attorney who can help them navigate the minefields that can be present in these kinds of cases.