In what is reportedly one of the biggest personal injury settlements in Pennsylvania, a family that suffered death and injuries after being rear-ended by a tractor trailer received a $26.1 million settlement.
Back in July 2010, Kathryn aka Katie Sneeringer was driving a Toyota on I-80 in Central PA. Her father, David Cook, was sitting next to her. P.J. Sneeringer, her husband, was in the back seat with their two dogs.
Traffic had stalled due to construction work on the road, and her vehicle was stationary when a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of the car at more than 70 mph. Katie's father died instantly while her husband suffered a catastrophic TBA (traumatic brain injury). Both dogs also died in the accident. Katie escaped with relatively minor injuries.
The driver of the trailer was Spencer Chapman, driving for a cheese products company named GLC Transportation Inc. The Sneeringers and David Cook's widow Dori Cook filed a personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit. The defendants were Chapman, GLC Transportation and Great Lake Cheese companies in Ohio and New York.
The Great Lakes Cheese companies would have been excused from the lawsuit, but they happen to have a huge business selling cheese in Philadelphia County. The lawsuit was also filed in Philadelphia County so they could not be let off.
The main reason for the huge settlement was because the plaintiffs were able to prove reckless behavior on Chapman's part and get punitive damages awarded. Chapman apparently pushed the speed on his trailer to 72.5 mph half a minute prior to the accident. The plaintiffs were able to successfully contend that Chapman ignored construction signs where he should have slowed down, and instead increased the speed even more above the speed limit.
Huge medical expenses were racked up for P.J. Sneeringer's treatment. He was a motorcycle and ATV salesman, and was awarded $8 million for a life care plan.
Did you know?
No-fault coverage under automobile insurance covers medical expenses while a legal settlement is pending.
Defendants in a personal injury lawsuit often struggle to pay the medical bills while the legal outcome is pending. Those with no-fault coverage can escape this predicament since the insurance company pays for the medical expenses of the driver and passengers, regardless of who is at fault.