Major Big Rig Semi Crash in Illinois: Criminal Charges, Civil Actions, Federal Agency Orders in Semi Truck Accidents


Major Big Rig Semi Crash in Illinois: Criminal Charges, Civil Actions, Federal Agency Orders in Semi Truck Accidents

Truck accidents are often catastrophic, the heavy big rig semi trucks colliding with smaller, lighter cars, trucks, vans, etc., can result in serious, fatal crashes.  On January 27, 2014, there was one more example of how dangerous these big commercial trucks can be on the road as a truck driven by Renato V. Velasquez crashed into two cars sitting on the side of the road near Naperville, killing a tollway worker and seriously injuring an Illinois State Police Trooper.

The two crash victims had their vehicles on the side of the road because they were helping another semi-truck driver out as his semi had conked out as he was driving on Interstate 88; Velasquez told police that he didn’t see the people or the vehicles on the side of the road. Others maintain that the stopped vehicles all had their emergency flasher lights on and they could be seen. (The crash happened at approximately 9:45 p.m.)

Now, two Good Samaritans are victims of a deadly crash and the truck driver, Renato Velasquez, faces lots of legal issues.

In fact, this case exemplifies how complicated these big rig semi crashes can become, as several different regulatory authorities, law enforcement agencies, and state and federal laws (civil and criminal) all impact the situation.

1. Criminal Prosecution of the Truck Driver

The truck driver is facing criminal prosecution under Illinois criminal law by the DuPage County State’s Attorney as prosecutors there pursue felony driving charges against Velasquez. Specifically, the truck driver has been charged with (1) operating a commercial vehicle while impaired/fatigued, (2) filing a false report of record and duty status, (3) driving more than 14 hours and (4) driving beyond the 11 hour rule. Reports are that the truck driver must also defend against charges of failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, and failure to yield to stationary emergency vehicles.

His bail was set at $150,000 earlier this week.

2. Civil Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims to Help the Families

Undoubtedly, he and possibly his trucking company will face personal injury and wrongful death civil actions. It is through state personal injury law that the loved ones of those hurt in this crash will be helped with everything from covering funeral costs to long term medical care, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. For more on how these civil claims work, check out our resource pages on semi-truck crashes and wrongful death claims.  These will be civil matters, proceeding independently from the criminal case and from any federal actions.

3. Federal Orders Regarding Truck Driver Ability to Work

Finally, the truck driver here has lost his livelihood as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued its agency ruling that the truck driver, licensed by the State of Illinois, is an “imminent hazard to public safety” and is ordered by the federal government not to drive a big rig semi truck or commercial rig in any kind of interstate commerce.

From the FMCSA:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared Illinois-licensed truck driver Renato V. Velasquez to be an imminent hazard to public safety and ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce following a Jan. 27 crash that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and seriously injured an Illinois State Police trooper.

“Safety for all travelers is our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Willfully reckless commercial drivers that jeopardize the safety of everyone on our highways and roads will not be tolerated.”

FMCSA safety investigators found that prior to the crash, Velasquez violated federal hours-of-service regulations designed to prevent fatigue and falsified his logbooks with the intent of concealing the number of hours he worked.

The investigators concluded that for a period of 26-hours during Jan. 26-27, Velasquez operated a tractor-trailer for approximately 1,000 miles, only resting between 3-1/2 to 5-1/2 hours – well short of the federally required rest period. Before reaching his last scheduled stop, Velasquez crashed into two fully illuminated stationary vehicles, an Illinois State Police car with its emergency lights activated and an Illinois Tollway vehicle with an activated warning arrow, outside of Naperville, Ill., causing the fatality and life-threatening injury.

“This heart-breaking and senseless crash has forever changed the lives of many families,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Commercial drivers that knowingly jeopardize innocent lives by violating safety standards and attempt to cover up their illegal behavior should have no doubt that we will vigorously enforce all federal safety regulations to the fullest extent possible by law.”

Velasquez has been charged by Illinois authorities with multiple felony violations. The investigation remains open.

Federal safety regulations prohibit commercial truck drivers from driving for more than 11 hours each shift and/or remaining on duty after 14 hours of work.

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