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Vincenzo Petrella, a 39-year-old Park Ridge, Illinois, resident and tollway worker, was helping a disabled truck on Interstate 88 on January 27, 2014, when he was struck and killed by another truck. Both his vehicle and the disabled vehicle were parked on the east side of the interstate, both with their emergency lights on, when Renato V. Velasquez, a 46-year-old truck driver from Hanover Park, crashed into the vehicles, critically injuring Petrella.

Vincenzo’s wife, Sandra, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Velasquez and the company he was driving for, DND International.

Driver Thought to Be at Fault

When a large, commercial vehicle collides with other vehicles, the damages can be severe, as was the case in this accident. Though outside conditions like weather and road construction can be factors in some crashes, so far that doesn’t seem to be the case this time.

According to the Sun Times, Velasquez has been charged with “operating a commercial motor vehicle while impaired or fatigued, making a false report of a record and duty status, and driving beyond the 14- and 11-hour rules.” Prosecutors in the case have stated that the driver had been working for 37 hours on only about four hours of sleep. On January 29, 2014, he was released after paying $15,000 bail.

Illinois State Trooper Also Badly Injured

Sandra Petrella is seeking over $50,000 in damages in her lawsuit, claiming Velasquez was negligent in the operation of his truck and should be held liable. She has now been left to raise she and Vincenzo’s two young children on her own.

According to the Daily Herald, Illinois State Police Trooper Douglas J. Balder, who had also stopped to help the disabled vehicle, was severely injured in the crash as well. Balder is 38 years old, and has also filed suit against Velasquez and the trucking company, DND International. He was badly burned when the commercial truck crashed into the parked cars, sparking a fire, and remains hospitalized and sedated because of the pain. He has already undergone several surgeries to restore his skin, and is recovering from fractured ribs and a fractured clavicle.

New Regulations Strive to Improve Safety

Might the trucking company also be liable in this case? The plaintiffs think so. They have stated DND should have provided Velasquez with more thorough training, and should have done a better job validating his logbooks.

Sleep deprivation remains an issue for many truckers, as they are often encouraged by their employers to work long hours with little rest. According to the Department of Transportation, new federal regulations approved in July 2013 were designed to improve safety by reducing driver fatigue. Companies were given 18 months to adapt to these regulations, however.

New rules state that the average workweek for truck drivers will be limited to 70 hours, after which they must rest for 34 consecutive hours before resuming duty. They also require drivers to take 30-minute breaks during the first eight hours of a shift.

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