Motor Vehicle Accident Settlement - $10,300,000
Prior to the collision of November 14, 2011, Petar Kuzmanov was a fun-loving, athletic, 23 year-old graduate of Willard High School. At the time, Petar was living with his family in Willard, Missouri while working full time at Alloy Fasteners in its warehouse. Like most young men, Petar enjoyed spending time with his friends and family, exercising, and playing soccer. He also attended Ozark Technical Community College following high school and planned to return in early 2012. Unfortunately, the November 14, 2011 collision robbed Petar of that opportunity and any possibility of a “normal” life to follow. As a result of the subject collision, Petar suffered a traumatic brain injury, along with a myriad of other injuries. Since that date, he has required months of hospitalization and hours of therapy and rehabilitation, which continues today.
THE INITIAL COLLISION
The subject collision occurred on November 11, 2011 at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Interstate 44 near the 56.2 mile marker in unincorporated Lawrence County, Missouri. At that location, the posted speed limit is 70 MPH, and the roadway was free of any defects. There is a clear and unobstructed view in excess of one mile for westbound traffic approaching the area of impact. 2 Hristo Hristov was operating a 2008 Toyota Scion westbound on Interstate 44 with Lauren Weiner in the front passenger seat and Petar Kuzmanov in the rear middle passenger seat. Mr. Hristov had been consuming alcohol for several hours prior to the collision, which impaired his ability to safely operate the vehicle. In addition, immediately prior to the incident, Ms. Weiner distracted Mr. Hristov by engaging in an inappropriate sexual act while he was driving.
During the sexual act, Mr. Hristov allowed the Scion to travel off the left shoulder onto the grassy median. The vehicle then began to rotate clockwise as it re-entered the roadway and entered a broad slide as it traveled across the left westbound lane of Interstate 44. As the Scion crossed the center line, it rolled to its left while traveling into the right lane of westbound Interstate 44. The Scion overturned onto its top and traveled onto the westbound right shoulder of Interstate 44. The vehicle continued to slide on its top when it struck a guard rail face with the passenger side of the vehicle. This impact then caused the Scion to be redirected back toward the driving lane of westbound Interstate 44. The vehicle came to rest on its top in the right westbound lane, just short of a bridge. Mr. Hristov and Ms. Weiner then exited the vehicle with only minor injuries, while Petar remained inside the vehicle. After the Scion came to rest, it was involved in collisions with three other vehicles while Petar was still inside.
THE SECOND AND THIRD COLLISIONS
Confidential Driver was operating a 2011 Dodge Ram pick-up truck owned by Confidential Company, the driver’s employer, with a passenger, the driver’s coworker, seated in the front passenger seat. According to data later retrieved from his vehicle, Confidential Driver was traveling with his cruise control set at 78 MPH, 8 MPH over the speed limit. Amy Rhoades, Confidential Driver’s girlfriend, was following in her own vehicle, a 2009 Dodge Caliber. She too was traveling at or near 78 MPH. At the time of this collision, Confidential Driver and Ms. Rhoades had been driving for at least five hours. When approaching the initial collision scene with his high/bright headlights engaged, Confidential Driver witnessed two people on the left (south) side of the road. Just over 2 seconds before colliding with the overturned Scion, Confidential Driver engaged his brakes and attempted to stop. Ms. Rhoades testified that after Confidential Driver collided with the Scion, it “bounced off the right-hand guard rail, and it came back and hit [her] in the front.” The vehicles then came to a rest. Confidential Driver and Ms. Rhoades quickly exited their vehicles and ran toward the west side of the bridge, while Confidential Passenger remained in the Ram pick-up.
THE FOURTH COLLISION
Larisa Morosanu was operating a fully-loaded 2007 Volvo tractor-trailer owned by Maktrans Logistics, Inc. (“Maktrans”). Approximately “400 meters” before the collision, Ms. Morosanu first saw Ms. Rhoades’ hazard lights from the Caliber and recognized that there was something in the roadway ahead. I saw flashing light on the left-hand shoulder on the bridge. And then approaching, I would say, another — I — I start slowing down, and approaching I saw — I saw something black in the middle of the highway, and I already could recognize two cars on the left-hand shoulder and a car blocking both — both lanes of the highway. So I just tried to slide it at an angle and bring it to — avoid the contact with the — the cars on sliding at angle. She was unable to stop the tractor-trailer, only slow down from her traveling speed of 65 MPH, before colliding with the overturned Scion. At the conclusion of the series of collisions, all four vehicles came to rest on the Interstate 44 bridge.
Immediately following the series of collisions, Confidential Driver, Confidential Passenger, Ms. Rhoades, and Ms. Morosanu hurried to the west side of the bridge. Ms. Rhoades then called 911 to request assistance while Mr. Hristov and Ms. Weiner were frantically searching for Petar. Ms. Rhoades later assisted their search with a flashlight found in her vehicle, finally locating Petar partially ejected from the front windshield of the Scion – his body was half in and half out of the vehicle. He was unresponsive and unconscious; however, witnesses reported that they could hear loud snoring noises with each respiration, a classic sign of brain trauma. Shortly thereafter, emergency personnel arrived at the scene, and Petar was transported via air ambulance to Mercy Hospital Springfield.
PETAR’S INJURIES AND DAMAGES
Upon arrival at Mercy Hospital Springfield, Petar was diagnosed with a closed head injury with subdural hematoma, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and 6 multiple punctuate hemorrhages. He also suffered a degloving of the right foot, traumatic amputation of the left index finger, and a right femur fracture requiring open reduction and internal fixation. Understandably, Petar also had serious abrasions and lacerations all over his body. The physicians quickly determined that intubation was necessary, and he remained comatose and unresponsive for several months, later being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Missouri Rehabilitation Center. Over the course of many months of recuperation and rehabilitation, Petar made significant progress. His cognition improved and speech became more intelligible. He was later able to ambulate with minimal assistance. Wendt Law Firm P.C. retained world-renowned experts to personally evaluate Petar and determine his future healthcare and personal economic needs. After reviewing all of Petar’s medical records and bills, in addition to their own personal evaluations, the experts determined that Petar was permanently disabled due to a traumatic brain injury. As a result, he requires assistance with activities of daily living, homemaking, and community activities.
After years of litigation, the case settled for a total of $10,300,000.00.