A Mississippi trucking company has been ordered to pay $15 million in damages to a survivor of a devastating multi-car pileup that occurred nearly two years ago. Megan Richards, a nursing student at Georgia Southern University, was one of only two survivors of a trucking accident on Interstate 16 in Georgia that claimed the lives of five other women, also nursing students. Richards and the others were traveling to a hospital in Savannah for their last day of clinical rotations at the time of the accident.
According to reports, Richards and the others were stopped behind an unrelated wreck on Interstate 16 when a tractor trailer driven by John Wayne Johnson smashed into their vehicles. The crash totaled the vehicles in which the nursing students were traveling, killing five of the women on impact. Richards and another woman were the only survivors of the truck accident and were immediately transferred to a nearby hospital. Despite escaping alive, Richards suffered a traumatic brain injury.
At the time of the accident, John Wayne Johnson of Shreveport, Louisiana was employed by Total Transportation, a trucking company located in Richland, Mississippi. Prior to working for Total Transportation, Johnson had driven trucks commercially for another company but was fired for falling asleep at the wheel. Discovery revealed that Total Transportation was aware of this blemish on Johnson’s record but hired him anyway. Although Johnson pled guilty to five counts of first-degree vehicular homicide, he maintained that he was wide awake at the time of the crash.
Johnson’s truck was equipped with a collision warning system that was supposed to alert him if he got too close to other vehicles. Records also show that Johnson’s truck was set in cruise control at a speed of 68 miles per hour at the time of the crash. Despite all this, Johnson was unable to explain how the deadly crash occurred. With this information in mind, the jury deliberated for only four hours before awarding $15 million to Richards for damages associated with her traumatic brain injury.
Over half of reported traumatic brain injuries occur as the result of an automobile accident. Traumatic brain injuries are some of the most serious and life altering damages an individual can sustain. Unlike a broken bone or damaged organ, a traumatic brain injury affects an individual’s entire body, altering the way an individual thinks and functions. Further, brain injuries heal differently than most physical injuries. In non-permanent brain injuries, recovery is based on proactive and functional rehabilitation. However, many brain injuries are permanent, which means no amount of treatment can return a brain-damaged individual to their prior state. No two brain injuries are alike, and a form of treatment for some may not be the cure for others. It is due to the permanent and uncertain nature of most traumatic brain injuries that juries tend to arrive at larger verdicts.
Regardless of whether the truck driver was asleep or awake, the jury found that he failed to give his full attention to the road, and as a result five bright, young nursing students lost their lives. Families of the deceased students also filed suit against Johnson and Total Transportation. Per reports, Total Transportation settled these wrongful death suits one year prior to the jury verdict in Richards’ case. The wrongful death cases all settled for large sums, and at least one family received $14 million dollars from the trucking company.
The $15 million jury verdict and $14 million settlement reflect the serious nature of these truck accident cases. However, no amount of money can fully compensate for the loss of a loved one or the devastating long term effects of brain injuries. To discuss your case with a Mississippi truck accident lawyer, call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz at 1-800-LAW-4004.