The Illinois state trooper injured last month after a semitrailer plowed into emergency vehicles along Interstate 88, killing an Illinois Tollway worker, filed a lawsuit Monday against the truck driver and the company that employed him.
Trooper Douglas Balder and his wife, Kimberli Balder, are both named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Renato Velasquez and his employer, DND International, Inc.
The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, said the fiery Jan. 27 crash fractured Balderâ€™s clavicle, fractured his ribs and gave him multiple head and facial lacerations as well as second- and third-degree burns. Balder and his wife are seeking damages for pain, suffering, disability and disfigurement, as well as economic damages.
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- Raw video: I-88 crash kills tollway workerThe coupleâ€™s lawyer, Elizabeth Kaveny, said Balder remains in serious condition in the intensive care unit at Loyola University Medical Center, where he has undergone several surgeries. Balder, 38, has been a trooper since 2007 and patrols a five-mile stretch on I-88 where he was struck. He has two children, an 8-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter, Kaveny said.
â€œHeâ€™s intentionally kept under sedation and has not been awake since the accident,â€ Kaveny said.
The accident happened after Balderâ€™s vehicle, a towing cab and a Tollway vehicle stopped on the side of I-88 near Aurora to assist a semi tractor that became disabled in the far right lane of eastbound traffic.
According to the lawsuit, the Tollway worker who died in the crash, Vincent Petrella, stopped directly behind the disabled vehicle and activated his emergency lights. Parked behind him, Balder also activated his emergency lights and turned on an arrow board on his car that directed traffic away from the disabled truck.
Velasquez was charged with several felonies in the crash. DuPage County
prosecutors say he had fallen asleep at the wheel near the end of a marathon shift of more than 36 hours and had falsified his paper logbook and skirted safety rules to stay on the road. He has since been released on bail.
The lawsuit accuses Velasquez of operating a commercial vehicle while fatigued, operating the commercial vehicle for more than 14 hours, failing to reduce his speed, failing to yield to a stationary emergency vehicle and failing to keep a proper lookout.
The lawsuit also alleges negligence on the part of Velasquezâ€™s employer, DND International, which according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a history of poor compliance with safety regulations.
The lawsuit said that DND International, Inc. failed to inspect Velasquezâ€™ report of duty status and failed to ensure he was in compliance with federal and local transportation safety regulations. It added that the company failed to have a system in place to track and control their commercial vehicle driversâ€™ hours of service..
Kaveny said the Balder family will be seeking damages in excess of $1 million and will also explore if they can file for punitive damages. She will also investigate which company the driver was hauling for to see if they have any liability.
Officials with DND International couldnâ€™t immediately be reached for comment Monday night.