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Distracted driving is a serious concern affecting residents of Connecticut and throughout the nation. Many states have passed laws requiring motor vehicle operators to use hands-free devices to carry on cellphone conversations while driving. As shown by a recent and historically large award verdict, a jury may still find a motorist who is using a hands-free device liable for causing accidents and catastrophic injuries.

After a three-week trial which included 13 testimonies from experts, a Connecticut jury found that the operator of a tractor-trailer acted negligently and drove with reckless disregard for others. Even while he was within the law by using a hands-free device, the jury determined he was not driving safely enough for the road conditions. As reported by the Transportation Nation Network, the verdict resulted in a $15 million award that was split accordingly between both the victim and his wife. 

Background of the events

It was a rainy and early evening when the roads were steadily slick. While operating a tractor-trailer on Interstate 95, its 48-year-old driver was speaking to his wife through a Bluetooth hands-free device. He was in the center lane when he swerved his rig and rear-ended a vehicle whose driver had stopped for slow traffic in the right-hand lane. 

Emergency crews had to rescue the injured driver with the Jaws of Life. He suffered destructive nerve damage, and severe back and neck injuries. He may no longer work and cannot walk or dress himself without assistance.

The injured motorist filed a legal action against the driver and his trucking company to help pay for the substantial medical bills and lost wages. The jury’s award included compensation for the victim’s future pay and the quality of life that he lost. The jury allotted an additional amount for the victim’s wife for the permanent loss of his companionship.

The trucker’s legal defense team argued that he was not negligent and the truck driver denied he was on the phone. The call records, however, showed that he was speaking to his wife before the devastating crash occurred. It was enough to convince the jury that he lost control of his tractor-trailer.