The Acme employee arrived at the work site in a pickup truck with a front seat passenger. They were towing a large enclosed trailer behind it. Traffic in the eastbound side was shut down to avoid drivers continuing through the work site. Officer Jones and other officers were on scene to re-direct traffic away from the work area.
The Acme driver made his way through eastbound traffic and advised one of the officers that he was there to help with the work and needed to get into the closed off work zone on the other side of Officer Jones and his cruiser. The Acme driver drove through the left lane, past the officer’s cruiser, towards the work site, which was another hundred feet or so ahead. The Acme truck and trailer passed by Officer Jones and entered the closed off work zone. Officer Jones then stepped into the left lane to stop other cars who were trying to follow the Acme truck into the closed off work zone. While Officer Jones had his back to the work zone and directed his attention to the approaching traffic, the Acme driver put his truck and trailer into reverse. The back of the trailer, without warning, ran into Officer Jones’ left leg. The trailer continued to back up as Officer Jones pounded on the trailer to get its driver’s attention. Officer Jones’ back twisted under the torque of the trailer shoving his left side backwards and underneath it. He finally wrenched his leg free and went to the passenger side of the truck. According to Officer Jones, he exclaimed to the driver that the driver had run him over while the passenger in the truck sat silently.
On behalf of Officer Jones we claimed by virtually backing up blind, the Acme driver had violated driving safety rules when backing a truck. We claimed that the Acme truck was not equipped with a backup alarm and its rear-view mirror was blocked by the trailer it towed. Second, we claimed that Acme failed to use a spotter to direct the driver while he was backing up, even though a second Acme employee, who could have acted as a spotter, was sitting in the passenger seat right next to the driver.
Officer Jones also claimed that Acme violated the following Massachusetts regulation, and a federal OSHA regulation which is nearly identical:
No employer shall use any motor vehicle equipment having an obstructed view to the rear unless:
- The vehicle has a reverse signal alarm audible above the surrounding noise level, or
- The vehicle is backed up only when an observer signals that it is safe to do so.
Throughout the case Acme and its insurer denied all claims of negligence and wrongdoing.
Officer Jones, who was fifty-two years old at the time, had previous back problems, including two previous surgeries to repair herniated discs. The above incident caused Officer Jones to suffer another herniated disc in his lower back. Despite the prior back problems, Officer Jones was able to work full time up until this collision, including working long additional hours earning overtime and detail pay which he relied upon. However, after this collision, he was unable to return to work, even after physical therapy and steroid injections to his spine. He then had to undergo major surgery, to remove the herniated disc and fuse the adjoining vertebrae.
Officer Jones then returned to work roughly seven months after the collision. During this time, he had an unrelated heart attack. However, the damage was too severe for him to continue to work as a police officer. Officer Jones gave it his best shot, for almost a year, but the pain and limitations on his mobility were too much. He went back out of work, and was involuntarily retired due to his disability a few months later. His disability application stated that the above collision was the cause of the disability. His career as a police officer was over. As he was in his early fifties at the time, he had planned to work for another ten years before retirement.
We put Acme and its insurance company on notice of Officer Jones’ claim shortly after the incident. The investigation took some time. When the insurance company responded, we attempted to negotiate a resolution. This did not occur before suit was brought. The suit included claims for unfair insurance claim settlement practices by the insurance company.
The case went to mediation, and we were able to obtain a settlement of $1 million for Officer Jones.
This case had some hurdles, including the pre-existing back injuries sustained by Officer Jones, and his other medical issues. We were able to overcome these hurdles and obtain a favorable settlement for Officer Jones.
– Zachary Ballin, Esq.
The names of the those involved in this matter have been changed for privacy reasons. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended. The injured officer agreed to have this article published in order that police officers around the Commonwealth be better educated about their legal rights to compensation when injured-on-duty.