David Cole, a truck driver for Advanced Drainage Systems, crashed his tractor-trailer into a vehicle driven by Deanne Crews, who was severely injured. Crews was traveling in Logan Township, New Jersey, when her vehicle was impacted head-on, leading to severe brain injuries. A suit alleging negligence was filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas that led to a settlement agreement paying $9 million, with assistance in mediation from Former Philadelphia Judge Annette Rizzo.
The claim alleged that Cole was using a mobile device and dozing off into sleep prior to the collision. The plaintiff’s attorney explained that Crews was wearing a seat belt and traveling within the speed limit at the time of the accident. The lawyer hopes that the outcome will serve as a reminder of the importance of commercial vehicle safety.
Cole was 71 years old at the time and was taking medications for diabetes and hypertension, which may have led to his drowsiness. John Karpovich, who reconstructed the accident, confirmed that Cole was the cause of the accident and that the plaintiff was operating safely at the time. Crews, who was a 44-year-old phlebotomist, also endured fractures to her arm and a foot and required several surgical procedures. The defense did not challenge that Cole was at-fault in the collision; however, felt the plaintiff had partially contributed to the accident. In addition, the defense raised concerns about the true severity of the injuries that she suffered.
Apparently, the injuries sustained were such that she has moved in with relatives to assist her with daily activity. Dr. Lee Harris, a neurologist representing the defense, suggested that Crews was not exhibiting signs of a brain injury and felt that she would be able to work again. Dr. Terri Morris, an opposing neurologist, contends that Crews does have a severe brain injury. There were also conflicting views on calculating damages for lost wages.
Pennsylvania Distracting Driving Rules
The state law bans using Interactive Wireless Communication Device (IWCD) to compose, send or read messages while operating a vehicle. An IWCD may include a mobile phone, digital messaging device, mobile computer, or similar device. The current penalty is a $50 fine plus applicable court costs and fees. Global Positioning System (GPS) units and other systems that are integrated into the vehicle are excluded from this ban.
The PA House has a bill #1684 pending that seeks to prohibit adults from talking on mobile devices unless in a “hands-free” mode. In addition, all those under 18 years of age would be prohibited from using these devices in any way. Violators would have three points added to their driving record and face a $50 fine for a first offense, then $100 for a second offense.