Chapter 9: What Makes Burger Law Unique

Gary Burger and the Burger Law Firm have won millions of dollars of judgments and settlements from truck accident claims. Gary has written a new book detailing some of his most notable cases.

With over 28 years of experience as a trial lawyer and 20+ of those years having run my small-to-medium-sized firm exclusively dedicated to helping injury victims and their families, I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful clients and have delivered life-changing stories on truck crash cases. This chapter will focus on some of my clients’ stories of the truck crashes they have experienced and how we have obtained recoveries for them.

$5 Million Tractor Trailer Death Settlement

Burger Law represented the family of a man killed in a wreck with a tractor-trailer in a wrongful death claim. In the early morning, our client was leaving a casino and went through an intersection on a green light. A tractor-trailer proceeded southbound on South Broadway in St. Louis, drove through a red light, and crashed into our client’s truck.

The impact was disastrous, causing both vehicles to travel in opposite directions. Sadly, both drivers were pronounced dead instantly. The tractor-trailer took out some light poles and its cargo was spilled all over the road. The crash also caused extreme property damage to the neighborhood and destroyed both vehicles completely.

We filed suit and proceeded with litigation on behalf of the family and conducted a quick and extensive investigation to identify some amazing liability evidence and to secure the evidence at the scene. We had an investigator at the location of the crash quickly and were able to show through the timing of the traffic lights that the tractor-trailer went through the red light. We also interviewed key witnesses.

Using skid marks, we were able to show that the tractor-trailer was over the center line and was on the wrong side of the road at the time of the impact. Witness accounts indicated the tractor-trailer was traveling at an excessive speed.

We were able to keep the venue in the City of St. Louis, where it was originally filed. The Defendant sought to remove the case to Federal Court. However, we opened an Estate for the deceased truck driver. Did you know that you can open an estate as a creditor? We did so. Residency is different between an individual and an Estate. A deceased individual does not have a residence, but his Estate is a residence of the State of Missouri. This destroyed diversity jurisdiction and enabled us to keep the case in State Court. We also conducted extensive litigation and matters in 4 probate filings (as part of our fee). This involved probate filing to ensure that our client’s son was his heir (he had not been declared his son prior to his death), a different suit to open the probate estate for his assets, and to establish conservatorship and guardianship on behalf of the child by his grandparents.

We put together strong exhibits for our mediation to prove to the trucking company and its insurer their driver’s gross negligence. We were aggressive in the mediation in this case and refused to settle. Later, when the defendant obtained additional authority from its Board of Directors, we settled the claim for $5 million a couple of years ago.

We were able to put a very large amount of money in a trust fund and structured settlement for the young child of the deceased. We continue to maintain and work with the Court and the Conservatorship proceedings to make sure that money is secured for him. We were happy to get such a great result in the case. For more details, see the Missouri Lawyers Weekly article pictured below.

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Homeowners Insurance Recovery In $2 Million Auto Accident Case

On November 18th, 2010, Concetta Wills was driving on Interstate 270 in St. Louis County when playground equipment fell from the back of a truck that was traveling ahead of her on Highway 270. Burger Law was able to collect $2 million from several sources for Concetta. We got money for Concetta from both the automobile and homeowners insurance policies of four people involved in the 2010 crash that left her severely injured.

Concetta was terribly injured when she unsuccessfully swerved to avoid running into the playground equipment and instead hit the equipment, the median wall, and then two other cars collided with her.

I sought and collected the policy limits on automobile and homeowner’s insurance policies from Darlene Strupp, the driver of the truck carrying the equipment. I also obtained a settlement from the homeowners' and auto policies of the truck’s passenger, who was the driver’s daughter and had tied down the equipment. I then recovered from the Auto Insurance policies for both of the cars that subsequently struck Concetta’s car. Ultimately, Concetta collected $1.96 million from the accident, including legal fees and expenses for her injuries which consisted of severe abdominal injuries and broken ankles.

Although this sounds like a lot of money, Concetta is permanently disabled and has to live with her injuries for the rest of her life. Concetta suffered severe abdominal injuries and broken ankles from the crash. I’m proud to have represented her, and I’m glad I was able to help her recover the money she requires for her medical care. Pictured below is the Missouri Lawyers Weekly article covering the details of my truck crash case with Concetta.

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$1 Million Settlement in A Truck Driver V. Truck Driver Case

Burger Law represented the widow of a tractor-trailer driver who was killed in an accident with another tractor-trailer driver. The two drivers were traveling in opposite directions on Interstate 20 west of Dallas, Texas. The defendant truck-driver crossed the median into the westbound lane of Interstate 20 and was struck by our client. Our client had little to no time to react. The skid marks indicated that he moved a little to the left to try to avoid the trailer and smashed the front of his trailer into the back passenger side of the other driver’s trailer.

We hired an expert and the defendant did as well. I traveled to Dallas to inspect the vehicles. The black box or ECM data from both trucks did not provide any information about the crash. However, we learned through discovery that the defendant truck driver drove at an excessive speed for the circumstances and on the wrong side of the road. He may have also been driving too close to vehicles in front of him which may have prompted him to turn to the left.

The defendant’s attorney tested the brakes of our client’s truck and found them in disrepair. They tried to put the fault on our client for this. However, we were able to show repair reports indicating our client had his brakes repaired within a month before the crash in New Mexico.

We also made a strong claim against the defendant truck driver’s employer. They negligently hired the defendant driver. We learned through discovery that the defendant driver was involved in a similar incident the year before and killed someone else. The employer must have known their driver was negligent in the previous wreck because they settled that claim for $1.4 million four months before our client was killed in this case.

We were happy to get a great $1 million settlement for the widow of our client. Another part of this story is the hard work we did in resolving all the liens in this case. We insisted that any recovery in the case would not be reduced by property damage claims to the tow tractor and trailers, loss of cargo, and our client’s workers' compensation benefits. The extra work we do in reducing and eliminating liens does as much good for a family as the settlement. Below are a couple of photos from this case.

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$600,000 Settlement in Tragic Tractor-Trailer Crash Case

We represented our client who was seriously injured when a tractor-trailer driver negligently merged into her lane and struck her vehicle on I-70. Our client’s car spun out of control following the collision and she had to be extracted from her vehicle by medical personnel.

This was a violent and dangerous impact at highway speeds, causing serious injuries to our client’s neck and shoulder. She was treated conservatively for years but ultimately had a neck fusion 3.5 years after the accident and arthroscopic shoulder repair 4.5 years after the accident. We were still able to link these surgeries to her wreck.

We litigated the case and fought hard for our client. She did a great job in her deposition, describing how she was unable to work at her computer for several hours, reach or lift overhead, carry her daughter, or drive for more than a half-hour without experiencing pain. Despite years of physical therapy and injections, her symptoms were never fully resolved, which is why she ultimately received the surgeries. We wanted to make sure she got fairly compensated and were able to get a great settlement of $600,000 for her.

$305,000 Settlement in Southern Illinois Truck Accident Case

Burger Law settled a truck accident case for a husband, wife, and grandmother after they collided with a semi-truck in southern Illinois. They were traveling from a family dinner and proceeding northbound on Route 3 in Waterloo. As they approached the intersection, a truck was making a local delivery at night and made a left hand turn directly in front of them. Our client did not have time to stop his vehicle and skidded into the front of the tractor-trailer.

The truck driver did not get out of his vehicle, apologize, or even speak to our clients. Instead, he called his headquarters and within a half-hour, had a lawyer and a claim agent at the scene taking statements and pictures. The trucking company’s lawyer came to the scene and took photos of our clients being taken away in the ambulance.

Our clients suffered a variety of serious injuries in this accident. The husband and wife received treatment for soft tissue injuries while the grandmother broke a bone in her hand and suffered from reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Burger Law successfully settled all three cases after extensive litigation which included mediation. We were happy to get a total of $305,000 in compensation for a broken bone in a hand and soft tissue injuries. Additionally, we recovered $10,000 for each of the three clients in medical payment coverage from their own insurance company.

$290,000 Settlement In A Tanker V. Tractor-Trailer Crash

In the afternoon of January 28, 2013, our client was doing his regular route as a tractor-trailer driver. He has been driving tractor-trailers for 30 plus years. As he was coming up to a curve in Gasconade County, Missouri, a tanker trailer truck came around the curve going at an excessive rate of speed. The tanker on the back of the truck literally turned over in the middle of the curve into our client’s lane and came straight at him. Our client had no time to react and there was nothing he could do. His tractor-trailer slammed right into the tanker and stopped.

This case made it to the front page of the local newspaper. Our client was taken via ambulance from the scene. A good lawyer and friend of Gary Burger did a great job for our client in his Workers Compensation claim. Aside from bruises and contusions, our client had a lingering injury to his knee. He got a great recovery in the Illinois Workers Compensation case and then asked me to assist in the civil case.

We filed suit and litigated the case. We took the deposition of the Defendant. We scored a lot of points with the Defendant truck driver who admitted to a pretty significant speeding and criminal history, and was ysubg his phone at the time of the accident. However, he did deny going too fast at the time of the wreck. He was in a line with his boss of three tanker trucks going into the turn. He was very familiar with the turn. The only way the tipping of the load could have happened was if he took the curve too quickly, although he did not admit to that.

The main challenge in resolving this case was the fact that our client had prior knee injuries and a knee replacement surgery. Every doctor will tell you that knee replacement surgeries are typically not done for acute injuries like our client had, but for degenerative changes over time. Our client had a long work history of pretty heavy-duty labor and significant degenerative changes to his knee. The risk in these types of cases is that the jury will think the knee replacement was because of the degenerative changes over time and not the acute accident in the instant case. However, doctors usually testify that the accident at issue contributed to the need for knee replacement, or was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Balancing these challenges, we were able to get a great settlement of $290,000 for our client.

$225,000 Settlement In Truck Crash Case

On April 24, 2017, our client was traveling southbound in the right lane on U.S. 67 when a truck driver attempted to change lanes. The truck driver steered into the right lane and struck our client’s vehicle. Our client attempted to steer away, but his car became hooked onto the truck driver’s vehicle and our client lost control. Both vehicles eventually came to a stop in the median of the highway.

Our client suffered serious injuries to his neck and upper back, resulting in a disc replacement surgery. He went to countless physical therapy visits, but he may never fully recover from his injuries.

Instead of admitting fault, the defendants denied the events that took place. Therefore, we had to aggressively fight this case and filed a lawsuit to fight for justice for our client. After three years of litigation and mediation, the defendant and his insurance company decided to do the right thing and offered to settle the case. We were able to obtain a $225,000 settlement for our client, just shy of the $250,000 policy limit.

This case is a classic example of why it is very important to hire an attorney when you’re seriously injured in a car accident as our client was. Without the assistance of our office, our client may not have been able to settle this case or get this great settlement, as the other driver tried to deny the events that took place. We also had to work through and reduce liens for our client. We are proud to have represented our client in this case, and Burger Law is always willing to file suit and use the law to obtain the best results for our clients. Check out the photo from this case below.

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From No Offer to A $205,000 Settlement

Our client was driving his vehicle southbound on a street in southern Illinois when another driver failed to stop at a stop sign and entered the intersection right in front of our client’s car. The police report indicated our client had the right-of-way at the intersection. The client had back injuries and complained of back pain at the scene of the wreck, but chose to seek medical attention on his own.

Burger Law settled the client’s claim with the liable truck driver for policy limits of $25,000 with the consent of our client’s insurance company. We then asserted a claim against our client’s insurance company for med pay and underinsured coverage.

Before the crash our client had no neck or back problems or any treatment for those types of injuries. Two hours after the crash our client went to the hospital with complaints of neck pain, upper back pain, lower back pain, and left leg pain. He underwent CT scans of his cervical and lumbar spine, which revealed a “prominent bulging disk at L5-S1.” He was discharged that same night, prescribed Percocet for his pain, and told to follow up with a doctor for his complaints.

Our client went to an orthopedic surgeon, a physical therapist, and a chiropractor. He had injections to try to help control the pain. Eventually, he underwent a micro lumbar discectomy L5-S1 procedure. However, in his post-surgical follow up he still had pain in his left leg and neck. He stopped getting medical treatment for his injuries though and continued going to work and school. His doctor released him from all restrictions and told him to follow up if necessary. Our client’s medical bills were around $46,000.

The client’s insurance company totally denied his claim initially. Since they refused to offer any money, we filed suit for an underinsured claim. We kept up the pressure throughout the litigation and obtained the medical payment benefits from our client’s insurance policy. Illinois law enforces mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts, and every insurance policy contains a mandatory arbitration clause. So, we picked arbitrators and set the case for arbitration. We then did additional discovery and depositions in the case.

Shortly before arbitration, we settled our client’s case for $130,000 in new money. We effectively obtained a $205,000 recovery for our client when his insurance company was unwilling to offer any money at the start of the case. Burger Law was happy to get this great recovery for our client after keeping up the pressure on his insurance company.

$212,000 Truck Crash Settlement

Our office was able to get a great settlement for our client Matthew, an over the road truck driver. Matt was driving out of state in Texas when this crash occurred. Another tractor-trailer did not secure his trailer load which caused a jack that weighed approximately 200 pounds to fall off. Matt was following in his rig and hit the jack with his tractor. This destroyed his steering axle and he could not control his truck. Matt did the best he could in a truly emergent situation.

His tractor-trailer traveled across the highway, into the center median, and through the cabal barrier. Although he did strike one other vehicle, he was able to stop his truck in the center median and avoided catastrophic injury to others. But, during the incident, a metal bar from under the truck broke through the floorboard into Matt’s foot. Matthew was transported via ambulance to the emergency room where he required substantial medical care. Due to the severity of his injuries and the higher level of care needed, it was determined that Matthew needed to be transferred to a different hospital for surgery. Doctors operated on him and he was discharged after 7 days and was able to return to Missouri.

Matt did a great job documenting the crash scene. Here's a picture of the metal bar that went into his foot.

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Since Matthew was working at the time of this accident, he had not only a civil claim but also a worker’s compensation claim. but because the accident happened in Texas, Matthew's employer is in Indiana, and Matthew lives in Missouri, his workers' compensation claim was in Indiana. Our office obtained worker’s compensation lawyers in Indiana to help get Matthew the treatment and benefits he needed during his recovery.

Once Matthew was released from treatment and settled his worker's compensation claim, our office was able to proceed with the civil claim against the at-fault trucking company and driver. We usually try to resolve the comp claim before the civil claim for lien purposes. We were able to settle the civil claim for Matthew for $212,500.

However, since Matthew had a worker’s compensation claim, there was a lien on the civil claim for the benefits paid for Matthew's weekly benefit payment while he was off work and the medical bills paid through the workers' compensation claim.

Our office was able to get a 50% reduction on that lien to ensure that our client received the most money possible in his pocket for the injuries and suffering he sustained in this accident.

We are always happy to help truck driver clients as well as clients who are in accidents out of state. It’s good to be able to help Matt navigate the different claims and legal hurdles.

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$200,000 settlement

I obtained a great $200,000 settlement for our client in a contested liability truck accident case. Despite strong evidence in our favor, the trucking company failed to make any settlement offer whatsoever until the day of mediation, when the case ultimately settled.

The defendant truck driver crossed into our client’s lane on Interstate 70 and crashed into her with his tractor-trailer. The impact caused our client’s car to careen into the median, flip over repeatedly, and come to rest on the driver’s side, causing her serious injuries necessitating surgery. The truck driver fled the scene of the accident while our client was suspended upside-down and had to be extracted by emergency personnel forty-five minutes later.

We investigated and filed suit quickly in the case. It was removed to federal court in the Southern District of Illinois. Defendants often remove cases to federal court if they can--they force us to win a unanimous jury at trial there instead of 9 of 12 in state court.

As a result of the accident, our client incurred significant medical charges. She injured her head, neck, left side, and left shoulder. She tried to treat conservatively with months of physical therapy, injections, and chiropractic treatment. However, when that failed, she ultimately underwent successful shoulder surgery.

The police investigated the scene of the accident and interviewed two witnesses who both stated they saw the truck driver cross into our client’s lane. In his report, the officer corroborated these statements based upon tire tracks and markings on the road. The officer wrote that the truck driver initially blamed our client, but then “once faced with the evidence, stopped denying responsibility.” The officer issued the defendant driver a traffic citation for “improper lane usage.”

Subsequently, the truck driver’s employer terminated him. We obtained the Separation Report through discovery, and the reason for termination stated, “Driver was terminated for having an at-fault accident and then falsifying the details of events.”

At first glance, this seemed like a clear liability accident. Based on the police report, witness statements, and the Separation Report, you would think that the defendant would make a settlement offer. However, during depositions, both the truck driver and his employer’s corporate representative changed their stories and surprisingly blamed our client for the accident, saying she swerved into his lane. The corporate representative was a young safety manager who had never been deposed before.

The owner of the national truck company flew in to observe the deposition and stared down the representative as he futilely tried to explain away the incriminating Separation Report, which he claimed was just an internal document. In their depositions, the defendant’s witnesses lacked credibility or remorse, which we did not think would bode well for them in front of a jury. They refused to take any responsibility whatsoever and did not offer our client a dime until mediation.

At the mediation, we reiterated that the defendant was an unlikeable corporate truck driver who slammed into our client with a tractor-trailer, lied to police, and was fired for “having an at-fault accident and then falsifying the details of events.” After a few hours of negotiating, the defendants finally made the $200,000 offer that our client and I were pleased with. Sometimes, even when all the evidence is in your favor, you still have to fight to get a reasonable offer.

Tom’s Story

This case centered around a crazy wreck involving four vehicles, two of which were tractor-trailers. One of the defendants initiated the wreck by driving their jeep at excessive speeds in wet road conditions on Highway 70 in Missouri. When they tried to slow down, the jeep slid on the wet roadway towards the median wall of the highway. The jeep then struck the left side of another vehicle, which then struck the front side of a tractor-trailer. Following this impact, the tractor-trailer traveled off the left side of the road into the median, struck and went through the median cable barrier, rolled over, and continued onto the westbound interstate 70 highway.

My client, Tom, was driving a tractor-trailer westbound on Highway 70. Without sufficient warning, his vehicle crashed into the tractor-trailer which had traveled perpendicular to Tom’s vehicle. Tom decided to veer his tractor-trailer to the left to avoid the other tractor-trailer, and his tractor ended up traveling into the other trailer. Then, another vehicle rear-ended Tom’s tractor, sending it further forward and deeper into the trailer and compressing Tom’s body in his own tractor. Consequently, Tom was pinned in his vehicle for approximately four hours before the police found him.

Tom suffered serious injuries, including tension pneumothorax, a traumatic brain injury, sternal fracture, and multiple rib fractures. He underwent extensive medical care and surgeries for his injuries. He also experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety related to being pinned in his vehicle for such a long period of time. We were able to obtain a great settlement for Tom and were happy that we could help him in his recovery. Below are a couple of photos from this horrendous wreck.

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Amman’s Story

Amman’s case stems from the same wreck as Tom’s, discussed above. The same tractor-trailer that struck and drove through the median and into oncoming westbound traffic on Interstate 70 collided with Amman’s pickup truck. Our client’s vehicle rotated counterclockwise and continued in a westerly direction. It sustained heavy damage and the driver-side airbag deployed. The data from the accident indicated that Amman’s vehicle was going 58 mph at the time of the collision.

Amman’s case stems from the same wreck as Tom’s, discussed above. The same tractor-trailer that struck and drove through the median and into oncoming westbound traffic on Interstate 70 collided with Amman’s pickup truck. Our client’s vehicle rotated counterclockwise and continued in a westerly direction. It sustained heavy damage and the driver-side airbag deployed. The data from the accident indicated that Amman’s vehicle was going 58 mph at the time of the collision.

Amman’s case stems from the same wreck as Tom’s, discussed above. The same tractor-trailer that struck and drove through the median and into oncoming westbound traffic on Interstate 70 collided with Amman’s pickup truck. Our client’s vehicle rotated counterclockwise and continued in a westerly direction. It sustained heavy damage and the driver-side airbag deployed. The data from the accident indicated that Amman’s vehicle was going 58 mph at the time of the collision.

Amman was taken by ambulance to the closest hospital but was then transported to another hospital to have multiple surgeries performed. He suffered significant injuries to his chest, head, left arm, left foot, right leg, and abdomen. He also ruptured his Brachiocephalic Artery. He had several surgical procedures, including Exploratory Laparotomy, Small Bowel Resection, Tube Thoracostomy, and Left Elbow Arthrotomy, Irrigation and Debridement, among others.

We kept the pressure on with Amman’s case and engaged in extensive litigation. We conducted several depositions of Amman, his treating physicians, and expert witnesses. At the conclusion of the case, we were able to get a great settlement for Amman. Below are photos from this case.

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Mediation Case

In another successful case, our client Tonya was commuting to work on a Friday and a truck changed lanes, causing her vehicle to roll into the median. The negligent driver fled the scene of the accident.

When apprehended, the driver did admit fault in the police report but later changed his story during the deposition. The case entered mediation in the Southern Illinois District and a settlement was reached.

This was a new experience for Tonya, but she found the process to be easy due in part to the communication from her legal representation.

“You guys always listened,” she said. “I had multiple questions, and I called multiple times.” We were happy to be there for our client and reach a settlement that our client was pleased with. Check out the photo below of her vehicle following the wreck.

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Chris’s Story

Our client Chris was injured on February 29, 2016. The car crash occurred when foam from a truck owned by Ragsdale Construction came out of its truck bed on Interstate 55. This caused another car to swerve and strike a vehicle, pushing it into Chris’s vehicle. Chris then crashed into the median.

We took depositions and showed that folks on the highway saw a metal plate vertical in the back and thought it was about to come off. The defendant truck driver (Tucker) agreed that the people who were stopping did not know what was coming out of his truck-a piece of Styrofoam or a chunk of metal. The truck driver never looked to see why the Styrofoam was getting out onto the road. He did not inspect it.

Tucker admitted to me in a deposition that:

  • The lady in the car behind him said that the metal panel stood up and thought it was going to flip out of the back of the truck.
  • “Everything was up in the air.”
  • Drivers thought it was going to fall out for at least 5 seconds.
  • It is not safe to carry a load without visually being able to see it.
  • He could not see his load through the windows or the mirrors.
  • Had he known what was going on he would have not continued and would have pulled over and put another strap on.
  • He had additional straps that he did not use.
  • He could have put 3 or 4 on rather just the 1.
  • After the incident, he didn’t do anything but change the way he drove with that load.
  • There had been no change with Ragsdale.
  • State law required him to secure the load.
  • He could have put plywood over the whole top of the load to avoid the incident.
  • Five vehicles were involved in the accident

Chris sustained injuries to his left leg, neck, back, and head – the more severe injuries were to his head and neck. He had an MRI which showed a small brain hemorrhage. He received chiropractic care for his neck and back. His neck MRI showed disc bulges. Chris did physical therapy and had four neck injections. His brain and neck injury also caused him to experience dental issues, as clenching his neck and jaw caused him to grind his teeth. He saw Dr. Nikodem multiple times for broken teeth and dental implants.

Additionally, Chris experienced severe headaches for four to five months. He had cognitive difficulties, including memory loss and difficulties with focus and concentration. Although his symptoms have improved, Chris still has an occasional headache, cognitive difficulties, and neck pain.