Winter driving is dangerous to begin with. But as individual motorists we also have to share the roads and highways with heavy tractor-trailer combinations driven by what we hopefully assume are "professional" drivers. Unfortunately, sometimes these drivers aren't nearly as "professional" as they would have us or even their own trucking companies believe.
On December 17, 2008, two Russian immigrant professional drivers operating a FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. semi-tractor trailer combination lost control of the rig west of Missoula, Montana, and jackknifed the combination. They hit a a volunteer firefighter's emergency truck which was parked on the shoulder of the interstate. The firefighter had parked the truck there with its emergency lights on to protect and warn oncoming motorists of an earlier accident ahead. The impact trapped the firefighter in his truck. He died at the scene of injuries suffered in the collision.
The FedEx driver, Sergey Buslayev, was a Russian national who didn't read English and could barely speak it. Buslayev admitted he saw the firefighters and emergency vehicles ahead from nearly a mile away. But Buslayev said he wasn't driving very fast and that the firefighter's truck was partially on the interstate traffic lane.
We sued on behalf of the firefighter's estate and heirs. Aggressive pretrial investigation and discovery revealed that Buslayev was driving the FedEx rig between 62 and 73 mph on snowpack and icy conditions. The maximum speed for trucks on I-90 at that location was 65 mph. Pretrial investigation and expert witness discovery proved that the firefighter's truck was completely on the shoulder and not in either of the traffic lanes.
Investigation and discovery revealed the FedEx driver had several previous driving infractions, including driving while intoxicated (DWI), careless driving in a commercial motor vehicle, failure to yield to emergency vehicle while operating a commercial motor vehicle, and speeding in a commercial motor vehicle.
Investigation and discovery revealed multiple violations by FedEx, Buslayev, and the other Russian driver of Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations including both drivers' inability to speak and write English (we had to take their depositions with the aid of Russian/English translators), numerous log book violations, and inadequate truck and trailer inspections.
On behalf of the estate and heirs we reached a confidential out of court settlement with the defendants shortly before trial. David Paoli of our firm then volunteered to help with the State of Montana's criminal prosecution of Buslayev.