Local 179 Teamster’s Truck Flips Over ($934,000)

A Local 179 Union Teamster recovered a $934,000.00 settlement after suffering a concussion, a right ulnar nerve entrapment, and persistent ulnar neuropraxia, which resulted from a construction site accident.

The Case

The teamster was working near an excavation trench on the installation of underground piping at the City of Braidwood Water Treatment Facility. The union member drove a semi-tractor trailer for TKT, hired by the general contractor – DDD Construction. As the teamster was in the cab raising the trailer-bed to pour a load of dirt out, the trailer tipped over causing the cab to tip as well. The teamster was flung about the cab injuring his right arm and head.

In-Depth Look

The teamster had been building a ramp – a process that consisted of the teamster backing the trailer up the ramp, dumping it, and then a front-end loader would push the dirt up the ramp, spreading and compacting the dirt.

“The front-end loader spreading the dirt actually made the ramp more unstable. The problem is that when the trailer would back up the ramp, the tires would chew into the dirt and make ruts. Then, when the dirt was spread over the ruts the ramp would look even on the surface, but underneath was unevenly compacted dirt. Thus, our client was sitting on uneven soil,” stated Clifford Horwitz, the lead trial attorney for Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates.

It was shown that the front tires were spinning when back dragging – meaning they were actually eating into the dirt. This was consistent with the theory developed by the construction accident attorneys at Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates.

“This was an accident waiting to happen – making a ramp out of dirt and gravel, and pushing it up using a rubber tired front-end loader in order to elevate the ramp. A bulldozer should have been used because a rubber tired front-end loader is not sufficient to keep up with 12-14 trucks dumping dirt, gravel, and other debris throughout the day. The loader is a piece of equipment that is too small and does not have the capacity for this type of job,” stated construction accident attorney, Jay Luchsinger.

An end loader only has a bucket, whereas the bulldozer has a blade which is far better for pushing and compacting the dirt and gravel.

The cold temperatures – dropping into the single digits that day and the day before – exacerbated the problem, as the dirt would freeze to the back of the plaintiff’s trailer.

“Another problem was the low temperatures, sometimes reaching 3-4 degrees Fahrenheit. This compounds matters because the drop dirt/gravel dug up from below the surface level would freeze up because the box was so cold. In turn, frozen dirt would attach to the box at the lower level. When the dump came, the dirt would hang up creating an uneven level at the bottom of the box to dump out,” stated attorney Clifford Horwitz.

When the teamster lifted the trailer to dump the load, half the dirt came out and the trailer tipped, in turn, causing the cab to tip.

DDD Construction was also overloading the box, a major issue in itself. The accident happened later in the night around 11:00 PM, so it was difficult to discern whether the load in the box was overloaded to one side. In addition, the poor lighting made it difficult to see if the ramp was compact.

The main (general) foreman for DDD Construction was confronted about the dangerous working conditions the night before the accident occurred. The teamster had told the foreman that they needed a bulldozer and not the end loader that was currently being used for the construction and maintenance of the ramp. The teamster also mentioned the poor lighting. The foreman agreed with the teamster that these concerns needed to be addressed; however, no actions were taken to improve the unsafe working conditions.

As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered a concussion and right ulnar nerve entrapment. In addition to these injuries, the teamster was diagnosed with a contusion to the right elbow and persistent ulnar neuropraxia – there was also question of an underlying MUCL strain and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The defendant argued that the teamster knew of the danger and proceeded to take it. Further, they argued that the teamster said he was okay after the accident and therefore was not injured in the accident.