A federal jury award against trucking behemoth Swift Transportation for nearly $15.3 million is likely the largest single personal injury award in the history of the Kansas court system. The verdict came at the end of a lengthy trial arising from a 2006 collision between a vehicle of the Swift Transportation tractor-trailer fleet and an 18-wheeler belonging to the Yellow Freight company.

This headline-grabbing accident occurred at the entrance to a rest stop on busy U.S. Highway 54 in New Mexico. According to the court’s findings, a female truck driver working for Swift (whose name has not been released) was actually backing her rig into highway traffic to enter a rest area when she was struck from behind by a Yellow Freight vehicle. The driver of the Yellow Freight truck was killed, and his co-driver, napping in the sleeper berth of the truck’s cab, suffered debilitating injuries.

The at-fault Swift driver was found to be too inexperienced to handle the grueling transcontinental route she had just been assigned, was performing an illegal maneuver at the time of the crash, had lied about prior experience and criminal matters, was unable to pass several portions of the commercial driving license exam and (based on a urine drug test performed by investigators from the United States Department of Transportation) was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the accident.
In spite of seemingly overwhelming evidence against the driver (and Swift, by virtue of her acting within the scope of her employment with the company at the time of the accident), the jury found that the Yellow Freight driver who lost his life in the accident was partially at fault, perhaps for not taking adequate evasive maneuvers. As a result of fault apportionment between the two drivers, a verdict originally in the amount of around $24 million was reduced to the $15.3 million upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the 10 th Circuit.

This case illustrates an oft-forgotten and relatively rare result of an accident involving a big rig — it is entirely possible for the driver or passenger of an 18-wheeler or other large commercial vehicle to be seriously injured or killed. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a collision with a semi truck — regardless of whether you were in a large commercial vehicle or a passenger car — contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.