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Federal Truck Safety Regulations Ignored, Widow Pursues Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Truck Safety Regulations ignoredAfter Trooper James Sauter was killed March 28, 2013, his widow had to deal with the sudden loss of her husband. What might be even more infuriating to Elizabeth Sauter is the fact that her husband died because a truck driver from Wisconsin allegedly fell asleep while driving his semi-trailer truck. It was near the end of last year that Elizabeth Sauter decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit. She filed suit against not only the driver himself, but also the companies that the driver was working for that particular day.

The suit is against Suddath Relocation Systems of Minnesota and Milwaukee, Unigroup Inc., United Van Lines LLC, and Andrew Bokelman (the driver at the time). Bokelman himself is already facing criminal charges in Cook County because he violated federal safety laws that are in place to ensure that tired truck drivers do not continue on the road.

According to the prosecution, Bokelman dozed off behind the wheel of his semi near the Glenview Tri-State Tollway at approximately 11 pm, this after working a 12-hour shift. According to the records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, both United Van Lines and Bokelman received a fine for breaking a federal rule that mandates that drivers do not drive for more than 14 hours without getting a minimum of 10 hours of rest. United Van Lines received a fine of $5,500 while Bokelman (who works for Barrett Moving and Storage, an agent for United Van Lines) received a fine for $2,500.

The specifics of what the wrongful death lawsuit alleges

According to the lawsuit, the trooper was parked on the southbound Interstate 294 left-hand shoulder, near mile marker 48.5. Bokelman pulled a trailer that weighed in excess of 26,001 pounds. Bokelman was driving in the far left lane on I-294, traveling in a southward direction. According to the suit, Bokelman worked in Wisconsin to load the semi-trailer truck from 6:31 am until 6:32 pm. The suit also suggests that Bokelman drove the truck between 7:14 pm and 7:34 pm in Wisconsin, and started to drive again at 8:49 pm until the crash occurred at 11:03 pm. The lawsuit alleges that Bokelman veered off the road onto the left shoulder when he fell asleep behind the wheel, this led to the semi hitting the back of the squad car that the trooper was in at the time.

Why it is important to seek legal representation

Because of the size of tractor-trailers and semi-trucks, the injuries and loss of life because of these accidents is often either life altering or severe. With these types of accidents, it is important to understand what companies and what individuals can be taken to court in order to recoup the damages. One party may not have adequate insurance to cover the medical bills or account for other expenses. It is also vitally important to hold these large companies responsible for not following the federal guidelines that are in place for a reason.

In this particular event, Elizabeth Sauter had to hear from a Cook County coroner that her husband died after being engulfed in flames. It is important to let companies and commercial drivers know that while they may have an obligation to get their cargo at its destination quickly, they have an obligation to fellow road users to do safely.