• February 08, 2017

Roy, Cathleen Signor Killed, Roger Jermeay Injured in Jonesville, MI, Accident

-- January 30, 2017, an 18-wheeler accident in Jonesville, MI, injured Roger Jermeay and caused the deaths of Roy Russell & Cathleen Laverne Signor.

The Hillsdale County Sheriff's Department responded to the three vehicle accident scene at around 2:15 p.m. near the intersection is US Highway 12 and Half Moon Lake Road.

According to reports, 50-year-old Jermeay was on eastbound US 12 in a vehicle waiting to turn left into a private driveway. Behind him, an 18-wheeler was coming over a hill and somehow failed to see Jermeay's vehicle in time. The 18-wheeler slammed into the back of the car and pushed it into oncoming traffic.

Jermeay's vehicle went into westbound lanes where it crossed paths with 44-year-old Cathleen and 56-year-old Roy Signor's oncoming vehicle. The two cars crashed head-on. Jermeay's car continue off-road before finally coming to a stop.

Following the crash, Cathleen was fatally injured and died at the scene. Roy was said to have critical injuries and was taken to a hospital for treatment. Reports say he died from his injuries on Sunday, February 6. Jermeay was taken to the hospital following the crash with unspecified injuries. The truck driver was not injured.

Authorities did not say if any citations or charges were filed after the crash. They say the fatal accident remains under investigation.

Map of the Area

Commentary

Looking at the details surrounding this accident, I can't help but look back on the countless truck accidents that almost exactly match this fact pattern. We've got a truck hitting one vehicle and causing it to strike a third vehicle. One thing any experienced truck accident attorney is going to notice is that a situation like this is just ripe with targets at which the trucking company can point the finger of blame. If there's even an inkling of hope for the trucking company to avoid liability for an accident, they're going to take it.

You might see this and think, "Well the truck rear-ended the first car, so isn't it obvious they're at fault?" Things are rarely that simple, and trucking companies typically exert a lot of effort trying to make it as complicated as possible. Let me be clear, I'm not saying that any of these theories are what happened. Heck, I'm not even saying they're plausible, but a theory that blames someone other than the truck driver only needs to have a kernel of possible truth for a defense attorney to run with it.

First, you have the Mr. Jermeay's vehicle, the one that was rear-ended. The first possible excuse a trucking company could make is that the car was making an illegal turn. They could also say that vehicle wasn't using the proper signals or perhaps didn't have working brake lights. Since the vehicle was rear-ended and probably sustained significant damage to the rear portion, it's very possible these details could be lost and hard to disprove.

Second, we have the Signors' vehicle, which was hit head-on by the rear-ended car. One of the most common accusations trucking companies use in all accidents is that the victim was speeding, therefore contributing to the accident. A detail like this is relatively simple to disprove by checking the Electronic Control Module which will tell investigators how fast the vehicle was going at the time of the accident. Trucking companies also tend to use the argument that the victim, "failed to take proper evasive actions." This is possible to disprove through careful investigations of the scene, but it can be difficult depending on the situation.

We've also seen instances where trucking companies blame the design of the roadway itself. This is particularly relevant in any accident that occurs near a hill. Defense attorneys can argue that their driver was doing everything correctly, maintaining proper speed, keeping on the lookout for other vehicles, but despite doing their absolute best to drive responsibly, they still ran into the back of another vehicle. To prevent these types of arguments and save lives, many municipalities install black and yellow caution signs to alert drivers of areas of the road that are problematic.

These examples might seem ridiculous to most people, but trucking companies have gone to great lengths in the past to minimize their losses as much as possible. Here's an example of what I mean. We had a case where an 18-wheeler crashed into another car and killed the driver. When asked about the accident, the trucking company claimed that the car had no headlights, making it impossible to see the car in time. We had an investigator go out to the impound lot to check the car out. Lo and behold, the headlights were gone. Not broken, not burned out. Gone.

This seemed incredibly strange, so we decided to check the surveillance tapes at the yard. In a million year I would not have guessed that what happened was an insurance adjuster for the trucking company came to assess the vehicle. On the footage, he could be seen removing and stealing the headlights from the car. It was such a blatantly slimy effort to avoid compensating a grieving family that I still to this day can't believe I saw it.

This is an extreme example, but things like this have happened many times in the past, and I guarantee tactics like this of all degrees will happen in the future. If the trucking company sees an out, they take it. If the result is that they can compensate victims and their families for less than what they deserve, or even avoid liability altogether, then that's what they're going to do. In cases where it seems like an open and shut case, always keep in mind that trucking companies are not in the business of losing money. From blaming the victims to lying to investigators to tampering with evidence, some unscrupulous trucking companies are capable of sabotaging victims in an attempt to tip the scales in their favor.

This isn't to spread some sense of doom and gloom, and this certainly isn't a slight against all trucking companies. Our firm has dealt with plenty of trucking companies that were very professional during the time following an accident. The problem is that many people affected by truck accidents don't know they're dealing with one of these companies until the damage has already been done. By the time they decide to seek out the assistance of an experienced truck accident attorney, investigations and evidence may have already been damaged beyond repair.

This is why I always tell people that if they're ever in a truck accident to seek experienced representation as soon as possible. Professional help protects those affected by the accident from the possibility of a combative trucking company and preserve any evidence necessary to getting victims the compensation they deserve. By doing this, the scales between the trucking companies and the victims of negligent truck drivers can be leveled and justice can be done.

--Grossman Law Offices

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