Illinois and Indiana Personal Injury Lawyers and Attorneys Trial and Civil Litigation Law Firm.

Accident & Injury Law

Call 24/7 877-GO WITH KEN (877.469.4845)

Passion. Commitment. Excellence.

Those three words best describe the driving forces behind Kenneth J. Allen Law Group. Our firm is devoted exclusively to the practice of Accident and Injury Law, and exclusively to the people - not corporations - seriously hurt or killed in incidents as varied as on-the-job accidents, semi-truck crashes, injuries from a defective product, or loss of life because of a doctor's medical malpractice.

As the only multi-state law firm in Valparaiso Indiana, Merrillville Indiana, Indianapolis Indiana, Northwest Indiana, Chicagoland, Joliet Illinois, Tinley Park Illinois, Chicago Illinois accepting serious injury and wrongful death cases, exclusively, Kenneth J. Allen Law Group is experienced and knowledgeable in the details and procedures that can make or break a case.

phone (219)465-6292 fax (219)477-5181
1109 Glendale Boulevard Valparaiso, IN 46383

Monday-Friday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Saturday-Sunday: closed


Congress Nixed Raising 30 Year Old Insurance Limits for Truckers

posted by kjalaw on Jul 9th, 2014 at 9:06 am

The trucking industry, like other big commercial enterprises, has to carry insurance on its employees in case they hurt other people while they are working on the job. When big rig truck drivers are in crashes, that trucking company’s insurance policy comes into play to cover the damages and harmed caused in the semi truck crash.

However, there is a huge problem with the truck driver’s insurance coverage in these big rig wrecks. The insurance policy limits — how much the trucking companies had to buy as a minimum coverage in their insurance policy — has not been changed under federal law for THIRTY YEARS.

The minimum coverage limits for commercial motor vehicles right now is $750,000 for general freight carriers.

Think about that — and consider what things cost back in the mid-1980s. Think about the cost of gasoline, cars, tires, food, clothing, medical care, your insurance coverage for your car. Those have all risen, right?

So why hasn’t the trucking insurance coverage changed in all these years? Good question.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Report

FMCSA completed a report earlier this year and sent it over to Congress providing detailed analysis on why the trucker’s insurance coverage should be legally required to be higher. We provided details about that FMCSA report in an earlier post and you can read the details in “The Cost of Commercial Truck Accidents: FMCSA Pushes for Commercial Carriers to Take Greater Financial Responsibility for Big Rig, Semi Truck Crashes.”

Congress Votes Against Raising Liability Insurance Coverage Requirements for Truck Drivers

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives voted for HR Bill 4745 as part of 2015 funding and HR4745 blocked the federal agency, FMCSA, from taking action to increase the minimum insurance limits for both commercial trucking companies as well as bus companies like Greyhound and other bus operators.

What This Means to The Truck Crash Victim

By keeping the current minimum insurance limits for the commercial trucking and bus industries, accident victims and their families are facing medical expenses that in no way correlate to the 30-year old insurance coverage limits that remain in place.

Medical costs for doctors, hospitals, drugs, therapists, ambulance calls, long term care, rehabilitation, medical equipment, etc., are nowhere near their mid-1980s prices. This means that the truck driver’s insurance coverage may not be enough to cover the accident’s aftermath especially in catastrophic crashes involving wrongful death of bus passengers or traffic victims in semi tractor trailor big rig crashes.

The Trucking Alliance, for instance, has found that the current $750,000 limit is not enough to cover 42% of commercial truck crashes.

What Happens Now?

Right now, if the trucking company does not have sufficient insurance coverage, then it becomes responsible for providing financially out of its own resources (and victims must hope that the trucking company has sufficient assets to cover their long-term damage needs).

Collection of a judgment can be another huge fight after the courtroom battle over liability for the wreck has been won.

In Congress, there are continuing efforts underway to pass legislation that does allow for increasing the limits here. For instance, the American Association of Justice has supported an effort by one Congressman to increase the limits to $4.422 Million which reflects the present day medical costs in the same proportion that the $750,000 reflected when it was first established.

Eventually, this wrong will be righted.



The Cost of Commercial Truck Accidents: FMCSA Pushes for Commercial Carriers to Take Greater Financial Responsibility for Big Rig, Semi Truck Crashes

posted by kjalaw on May 3rd, 2014 at 4:07 am

This week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) filed an official agency report with Congress regarding the responsibility that the commercial trucking industry and insurance carriers that provide insurance coverage to commercial motor vehicle owners and operators, confirming that it’s not enough. FMCSA has informed Congress that the current regulatory minimum amounts required for these factions of the trucking industry need to be increased.

FMCSA Reporting to Congress That Trucking Industry Needs to Be Required to Handle Greater Financial Responsibility for Truck Crashes

The current financial minimums are not enough and FMCSA wants these monetary minimums to be raised. Why? FMCSA research shows that the current minimums simply are not enough to protect victims of these often fatal truck accidents. Huge commercial vehicles on the roads, when they are in accidents, are often the cause of serious injuries and wrongful deaths of innocent victims sharing the road with these heavy and powerful vehicles.

According to FMCSA, the financial reality of these major commercial vehicle crashes are costs over $1 million per crash. The present regulatory requirements for things like minimum insurance policy coverage limits are not high enough to cover this kind of expense. They were set years ago, and medical expenses and other costs have risen over time.

FMCSA therefore is reporting to Congress that the numbers need to be updated to reflect today’s realities. This would then be implemented by Congress in future transportation laws.

The result? Better coverage and compensation available for accident victims in these big trucking accidents which is a good thing.

Already, FMCSA is moving forward here to form new regulations to up the financial responsibilities for trucking companies, commercial motor vehicle operators, and other in the trucking industry to better protect those injured or killed in a major commercial motor vehicle accident or crash.

To read the FMCSA report to Congress, go here. From the Report’s Executive Summary:

On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21; P.L. 112-141). Section 32104 of MAP-21 directed the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue a report to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives on the appropriateness of the current minimum financial responsibility requirements for motor carriers of property and passengers, and the current bond and insurance requirements for freight forwarders and brokers.

Section 32104 also directed the Secretary to issue a report on the appropriateness of these requirements every 4 years starting April 1, 2013. The Secretary delegated the responsibility for this report to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Interstate motor carriers and transportation intermediaries, as well as certain intrastate hazardous materials carriers, are required by law to maintain minimum levels of financial responsibility. This report explains the history of these requirements, examines the current minimum insurance levels for the different sectors, provides background on the motor carrier industry, and summarizes the findings of a recent FMCSA-sponsored study on the adequacy of the Agency’s current required minimum levels of financial responsibility, as well as findings from other reports on minimums. The report does not examine the current bond and insurance requirements for freight forwarders and brokers since MAP-21 mandated these requirements to be $75,000 effective October 1, 2013, and the Agency will report on the appropriateness of these levels after it has had the opportunity to observe their impacts.

The legislative history of minimum insurance requirements for commercial motor vehicles (CMV) indicates that Congress recognized that crash costs would change over time and that DOT would periodically examine the levels and make adjustments as necessary. A variety of recent studies indicate that inflation has greatly increased medical claims costs and related expenses. In conclusion, FMCSA has determined that the current financial responsibility minimums are due for re-evaluation. The Agency has formed a rulemaking team to further evaluate the appropriate level of financial responsibility for the motor carrier industry and has placed this rulemaking among the Agency’s high priority rules. The FMCSA will continue to meet with the stakeholders, including impacted industries, safety advocacy groups, and private citizens, as it moves forward with developing a proposed rule.




posted by kjalaw on Oct 4th, 2011 at 8:08 am

Congress, via a formal letter sent by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to President Obama, is asking that the President not okay the revision of trucking industry HOS (hours of service) rules as proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The FMCSA proposal cuts the hours that big rig semi truck drivers can be on driving their huge trucks on American roadways.

The FMCSA proposed change to federal HOS regulations will be effective as federal law in October 2011, and many industry watchers believe that FMCSA will cut the hours to 10 hours of service as the maximum number of hours a driver can drive a commercial truck.

The letter from Congress argues that the change is not needed and that if the HOS is cut back, that it will result in more trucks “…on the road to deliver the same amount of freight,” which will mean more road congestion … and more shipping costs for trucking companies and the like.

This, despite the fact that driver fatigue is one of the main reasons for big rig semi truck accidents where death is usually the result.

READ THE LETTER HERE. As explained at the Committee’s website:

September 23, 2011

On September 23, 2011, Full Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL), Highways Subcommittee Chairman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) sent a letter to President Obama and DOT Secretary LaHood to express their concerns regarding DOT’s proposed changes to the hours of service rules for truck drivers. In the letter, they requested that the President withdraw his proposed changes, which would impose unnecessary and costly regulatory burdens on the trucking industry by making changes to the current rules. The changes were included in the President’s list of Proposed Regulations from Executive Agencies with Cost Estimates of $1 Billion or More and are scheduled to be made final at the end of October.

Since the implementation of the current rules, there has been a reduction in severe and fatal crashes involving large trucks, indicating that the current rules are having a positive impact on highway safety.



Trucking Companies – Learning More About Motor Carriers Involved In Fatal Big Rig Crashes

posted by kjalaw on Jun 16th, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Two weeks ago, this blog posted about the death of New Yorker Julie Stratton. Truck driver Thomas Wallace recently pled guilty to second degree manslaughter afteradmittedly driving 27 hours on 4 hours sleep (a blatant HOS violation) and crashing into Mrs. Stratton’s car as it sat disabled on the side of the road, awaiting roadside assistance.

Last week, there was a post on a tragedy much closer to home. Grovertown’s Adele Nielsen died in a tragic accident at Indiana 49 and Vale Park Road, where the truck driver has admitted to law enforcement investigators that he “dozed off” shortly before rear-ending Mrs. Nielsen’s sedan, shoving it over 450 yards before coming to a stop atop the car itself.

Within two weeks, two tragic examples of sleep deprivation and its impact upon commercial truck drivers and those who share the roadways with them. But what about the trucking companies?

Trucking Companies and Big Rig Crashes

News stories tend to focus upon the people involved in a crash. Media coverage barely mentions the carrier involved in the trucking accident. However, it’s clear that under the law and in the eyes of federal and state agencies, the carrier itself is a key player in any trucking accident – especially when the wreck involves the trucking company’s sleep deprived truck drivers.

So, what can we learn about the trucking companies involved in New York’s Julie Stratton big rig crash and Indiana’s Adele Nielsen semi truck fatality?

FMCSA Online — S & H Transportation

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides the following online information regarding S & H Transportation, Inc., which was reported to be the trucking company involved in the Indiana crash.

Headquartered at 475 Pearl Drive, O’Fallon, Missouri, S & H Transportation is an interstate motor carrier, operating since 1981. It operates 179 semi tractors and has 220 truck drivers. The company traveled 19,945,157 miles in 2008.

S & H Transportation Reported Violations and Fines

On May 7, 2009, an investigation into logging violations was closed and settled. S & H Transportation settled 62 counts relating to false record of duty status (driver logs). The settlement required S & H to pay $44,640.00 fine.

In the 30 months ending April 23, 2010, S & H Transportation:

a. was reported to have been involved in 40 crashes (8 were in Indiana; 13 in Illinois);
b. 30 of its drivers were found to be “Out of Service” during commercial driver inspections;
c. 173 moving violations (including 6 for failure to obey traffic control devices; 1 failure to yield right of way; 11 following too closely; and 149 for speeding); and
d. 42 of its vehicles were found to be “Out of Service” during commercial vehicle inspections (of those OOS inspections, 27 involved brake components).

FMCSA Online — Millis Transfer

FMCSA’s Company Snapshot of Millis Transfer provides the following online information regarding the trucking company involved in the New York crash.

Headquartered at 121 Gebhardt Rd, Black River Falls, Wisconsin, Millis Transfer is an interstate motor carrier, operating 724 semi trucks with 728 truck drivers. The company traveled 79,000,000 miles in 2008.

In the 24 months ending June 7, 2010, Millis Transfer:

a. was reported to have been involved in 75 crashes;
b. 73 of its drivers were found to be “Out of Service” during commercial driver inspections;
c. the company was cited for 173 moving violations; and
d. 42 of its vehicles were found to be “Out of Service” during commercial vehicle inspections.

Let’s hope these incidents are a wake-up call to these trucking companies and other motor carriers that safety must be a priority.


Five Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Drivers & the USA Trucking Industry

posted by kjalaw on Jun 16th, 2010 at 1:10 pm

1. How many trucks are on the roads today?

There are over 15,500,000 commercial trucks driving USA roadways today. Around 2,000,000 are tractor trailers.

2. How much money does the trucking industry make?

It’s estimated that the annual revenue for the entire trucking industry is around $255,500,000,000.00 ($255.5 billion). That’s the total. Common Carriers take up about $98 billion of that total; private trucking fleets make around $121 billion each year.

3. How many trucking companies are there?

There are around half a million (500,000) trucking companies in the United States today; most are very small (approximately 80% operate 1 – 6 trucks).

Trucking companies in Canada and Mexico also operate their semi rigs here in the United States. They are also expected to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations when operating within the United States.

4. How many professional truck drivers are there?

There are 3,500,000 estimated professional truck drivers; however, only 1 in 9 is an independent driver. Most work for companies.

5. What do professional truck drivers get paid?

In the trucking industry, pay is calculated by miles driven: the national average shows a truck driver getting around 30 cents per mile, tallying to around $32,000 annual gross income. For those that own their own trucks, there’s more profit. The majority of per-mile charge for transporting freight goes to the trucking company.

Sources: TruckingInfo.NetFMCSA



Asleep at the Wheel: Another Truck Driver Too Tired to Drive In State Route 49 (Indiana 49) Fatal Crash

posted by kjalaw on Jun 4th, 2010 at 8:55 am

Just as the Memorial Day holiday weekend was about to begin, tragedy hit our community as Adele Nielsen of Grovertown was fatally injured in a semi truck crash on State Route 49 (Indiana 49). 

This week, we’ve learned that police investigators have already discovered that the truck driver admits to “dozing off” at the wheel, shortly before the horrific accident.

Adele Nielsen Truck Crash: What Happened Last Friday Morning

Facts will continue coming to light, of course.  However, from eyewitnesses and police investigators we already know that Adele Nielsen was alone a bit before noon on Friday morning, awaiting a red light to change at the intersection of State Route 49 (Indiana 49) and Vale Park Road.  She was driving a gold, four door sedan.

Rumbling down State Route 49, a big rig driven by Jeffery Mokol, 47, of Hebron, rammed into Nielsen’s vehicle from behind. The truck collision was so violent that the semi truck actually thrust the sedan 150 yards (450 feet) down the Indiana 49 roadway before coming to a stop atop the car itself. That’s longer than any NFL football field by about 100 feet.

HOS Regulations Designed to Prevent Truck Drivers Asleep at the Wheel

The danger of a driver at the wheel of a vehicle that can weigh between 50,000 and 80,000 lbs is well known to those in the industry. Federal and state regulations are filled with requirements designed to protect against drivers too tired to drive these huge and heavy machines on American roadways.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is aggressive in this area. We’ve posted about the newly-revised HOS Regulations, CSA 2010, which are being implemented state-by-state across the country. Under CSA 2010, fatigued truck drivers are addressed in two sections of the new regulations: FMCSR Parts 392 and 395.

Of particular note is the language of FMCSR 392.3 ([35 FR 7800, May 21, 1970, as amended at 60 FR, 38746, July 28, 1995]):

§392.3 Ill or fatigued operator. No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle. However, in a case of grave emergency where the hazard to occupants of the commercial motor vehicle or other users of the highway would be increased by compliance with this section, the driver may continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle to the nearest place at which that hazard is removed.

Notice how the regulations address not only the truck driver but the motor carrier, as well. In the Nielsen crash, the carrier involved is S & H Transportation, which is headquartered in Missouri.

According to FMCSA, S& H Transportation, Inc., 475 Pearl Drive, O’Fallon, MO, is an interstate motor carrier, and first obtained motor carrier operating authority in 1981. The company reports that it primarily transports general freight, meat, fresh produce, refrigerated goods, beverages, and paper. S&H operates 179 semi tractors and has 220 truck drivers. The company reported that it traveled 19,945,157 miles in 2008.

Our Condolences to the Family and Friends of Adele Nielsen

Funeral services were earlier this week for Adele Nielsen. However, the Times of NW Indiana online obituary for Adele Nielsen is still active for those who would like to leave a message of condolence. Messages of comfort and support can also be left at the website guest book for Rannells Funeral Home.


What is Highway Hypnosis?

posted by kjalaw on Jun 4th, 2010 at 8:54 am

Highway Hypnosis is a dangerous and real driving hazard that occurs when someone has been driving a vehicle along a long stretch of roadway for an extended period of time. One state agency has described Highway Hypnosis as being caused by “the sameness of road and traffic.”  The driver becomes unaware and unable to respond due to a semi-hypnotic mental state brought about by the monotony of a long drive.

Sometimes, victims fall asleep at the wheel.  Sometimes, victims of Highway Hypnosis seem to be awake behind the wheel, but they’re not fully functional: they’ve zoned out, and aren’t alert or aware of what is going on around them.

Highway Hypnosis isn’t new.  Back in 1957, engineers designed the Indiana Toll Road with curves every two miles or so, in an effort to combat the problem.  Still, as long as drivers (including truckers) spend long stretches of time behind the wheel on America’s highways, highway hypnosis will be a problem.

Suggestions to avoid Highway Hypnosis include:

  • don’t eat a big meal before starting out on a long drive;
  • stop every couple of hours to stretch your legs;
  • don’t drive during the hours that you’re normally sleeping;
  • talk to your passengers; and
  • open the window, get fresh air circulating through the car.

And before you think that Highway Hypnosis sounds silly – or that it’s something that just doesn’t happen all that often, think again.

It happens much more often than people realize: in fact, within 24 hours of these words being written, a teenager crashed his SUV into the back of an 18-wheeler in San Antonio, Texas — witnesses said he made no effort to stop.  The boy’s lower body was wedged underneath the SUV’s dashboard, impaling him on the brake pedal.  Police at the scene have already labelled the boy another victim of Highway Hypnosis.

Be careful out there.


Bad Brakes Pull 282 Big Rigs Off Pennsylvania Roads – In One Day

posted by kjalaw on May 14th, 2010 at 7:59 am

Imagine 282 Semi Trucks parked end to end — that ribbon of big rigs would stretch a long, long, LONG way down the side of any road. If each truck averages 75 feet in length, then that’s FOUR MILES of trucks we’re talking about here.

Four Miles of Truck Stopped in Pennsylvania This Week

This week, that’s exactly the number of big rigs that Pennsylvania law enforcement authorities took off the roads when they decided to check air brakes of commercial trucks as they were moving down the Pennsylvania roadways. There were 282 trucks driving along with bad brakes.

Imagine how dangerous this is – those heavy vehicles with faulty brakes moving a high speeds. And, it’s a common problem: pro truck drivers know that brakes out of adjustment are the most common reason that big rig drivers get cited.

Operation Air Brake

Operation Air Brake is the brainchild of CVSA (Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance), and different states are participating by doing state-wide air brake checks at different times. Pennsylvania did its part. Wisconsin, for example, will be inspecting semi trucks on its roads during the week of May 5th.

It would be nice to assume that Pennsylvania is an anomaly, but the reality is that most big trucks haul loads across several state lines. Which means that there are a lot of trucks on the Indiana and Illinois roads right now that are dangerous because of bad brakes.

282 trucks probably isn’t a fluke — it’s probably a pretty good clue to the reality of the roads in America today.


Vehicle-to-Vehicle Auto-Communication: Life-Saver or Big Brother?

posted by kjalaw on May 14th, 2010 at 7:57 am

The U.S. Department of Transportation is very excited about a new technology that is already being tested on commercial trucks and other vehicles riding on America’s roadways: V2V communication.

Built by a team of U.S. DOT researchers and a private research group headed up by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), the techno-scientists and engineers have built and are currently field testing what they are calling an “integrated vehicle-based safety system.”

An Integrated Vehicle Based Safety System: V2V

IN V2V, the technology currently in place for OnStar and other similar services is being used to allow a vehicle on the road — say a big rig — to automatically notify other vehicles on the road when it’s about to change lanes, change speed, avoid something on the road, etc.  It’s not clear whether or not the drivers have input here, or whether or not they give permission for this communication exchange or even have knowledge that it’s happening.

What the V2V System Does - Right Now

Currently, the V2V technology is limited to providing forward collision warning (FCW), lane departure warning (LDW), lane change warning (LCW), and curve speed warning (CSW) functions. The system warns the driver of these dangers, enabling the driver to avoid an accident – in theory.

No word as yet on when (not if, but when – the technology is there) the system will be expanded to do things that take control from the driver: automatic breaking, for example, or automatically slowing the vehicle down – or even stopping it. OnStar can do this now, and does, when the vehicle is being driven without permission.

Optimistic Projections – V2V Will Stop 48%

USDOT studies are pointing to studies claiming that implementing V2V technology on the roadways will decrease accidents by 48%. That’s cutting the amount of trucking accidents and other motor vehicle accidents in half.

Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?

There’s something about having technology that is able to control traffic streams that gives one pause. And that’s what is being developed here.

Perhaps if more money and time were being placed into driver education and training, roadway maintenance, etc., this technology wouldn’t be engendering such excitement.


Porter County couple awarded $3.7 million for UP Mall ladder fall

posted by kjalaw on May 11th, 2010 at 9:30 am

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A federal jury has awarded a northern Indiana man and his wife $3.7 million for a brain injury the man suffered when he fell from a ladder at a shopping mall.

The jury in South Bend ruled in favor of the Porter County couple and against mall owner Simon Property Management and its maintenance company, Varsity Contractors.

Forty-six-year-old Richard Proctor and 42-year-old Sonia Proctor sued after Richard Proctor fell from a ladder at University Park Mall in Mishawaka in January 2007.

Proctor suffered a skull fracture, brain trauma and other injuries when he fell 19 feet from a roof hatch ladder while servicing heating/air conditioning equipment on the mall's roof.

Attorney Kenneth J. Allen says the ladder had failed to meet safety codes.


Truck Drivers – Who Are They? (Part One)

posted by kjalaw on May 7th, 2010 at 8:02 am

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 3,000,000 commercial truck drivers in the United States.  Over half of these professionals are responsible for driving the big rigs:  heavy trucks, tractor-trailers.  Around a third are driving delivery trucks, or trucks with loads under 25,000 lbs. – and the rest are on the road as driver/sales workers.

Truck drivers are based for the most part in big cities or near to major interstates – raising their families near places where trucking companies have their distribution centers.  Truck transport companies and wholesalers employ around half of the professional truck drivers on the roads.  Makes sense, right?

As for the American Dream — owning your own truck, driving the country as an independent professional — according to the BLR about 10% of American truckers have accomplished that goal.  These owner-operators make their way by leasing their services (including the use of their truck(s)) to a trucking company — or they build relationships with businesses to routinely haul that companies’ goods.

And while ten percent doesn’t sound like much, it still means that around 300,000 independent truckers are living their dream.


Toll Road Big Rig Crash Serves As Warning to Us All

posted by kjalaw on May 6th, 2010 at 7:12 am

Over on the Toll Road in LaPorte County, two semi trucks crashed into each other last Friday night. It’s being reported that a tire blew on a FedEx big rig, causing the truck driver to lose control and slam into a flat-bed semi truck. The FedEx semi then jackknived, blocking westbound traffic on the Toll Road bridge. Then, to make matters worse, the FedEx big rig burst into flames.

The westbound lanes were blocked by the truck itself, and the eastbound traffic was held up by all the FedEx debris scattered all over it. (So if you haven’t received that package from maybe this is why.) Both truck drivers were seriously injured. The Northern Indiana Public Service Company is checking for damage to the power lines.

Fortunately, no one was hurt other than these two truck drivers. This time, we’re not reading about families in passenger cars or minivans being killed in car-truck collisions. (Remember that horror from last month, where the family going to a wedding on I65 was killed in a truck crash?)

However, reading this story did cause discussion, and once again talk turned to how the trucking companies – and their insurance carriers – are always ready for a wreck.

Trucking Companies are Ready for a Wreck

“Trucking companies are experienced in dealing with accidents involving their tractor-trailers and drivers, which immediately puts the driver of a private auto at a disadvantage,” explains Bryan L. Bradley, senior partner here at Kenneth J. Allen & Associates.

Bradley is one of the two attorneys who handle all of the law firm’s trucking and tractor-trailer rig crashes. “Trucking companies start preparing their defense immediately following the crash. Their emergency response teams consisting of lawyers, accident reconstruction experts, and investigators are on-call twenty-four hours a day so that they can be on
the scene within minutes or hours of a tractor-trailer crash.”

Forewarned is Forearmed: Be Prepared to Defend Yourself and Your Loved Ones Immediately if There’s a Crash

“Victims of truck accidents should be aware it is vitally important to contact an attorney experienced in handling truck accidents as quickly as possible — for numerous reasons — if they want the best possible chance of recovering damages for all of the harms suffered in the crash,” Bradley said.

Lessons to be Learned

Talk around the water cooler for personal injury attorneys can be rather serious to some — but today, the Toll Road crash was somewhat of a blessing to be discussed. Things could have been so much worse, given the time and location of this crash.

Helping victims of serious injury is a difficult job, year after year — and knowing the antics of insurance adjusters and trucking company investigators doesn’t help if the injury victims aren’t aware of them, too.

So, from the morning discussion of the FedEx truck crash on Friday comes this warning — if you’re in a wreck involving a commercial truck, know that the defense started work almost at the moment of impact.


Wind Alone Can Cause Big Rig Wrecks – Semi Trucks Are Literally Flattened Onto the Roadways

posted by kjalaw on May 6th, 2010 at 7:11 am

Wind Alone Can Cause Big Rig Wrecks – Semi Trucks Are Literally Flattened Onto the Roadways

April 29th, 2010 by admin

Our part of the country knows about high wind – after all, Chicago is famous as being the “Windy City.

What lots of drivers on the road might not realize is how much truck drivers are wary of wind speeds, especially if they’re hauling an empty freight carrier. Just one more reason that truckers need to have lots of training before they hit the public roadways.

Why? Because a high wind can pick up that big rig and throw it to the ground. Just like this:


Truck Driver Shortage In Our Future, Which Means Rookies on the Road

posted by kjalaw on May 6th, 2010 at 7:08 am

Truck Driver Shortage In Our Future, Which Means Rookies on the Road

April 26th, 2010 by admin

Truck drivers are predicted to be in short supply soon — which is supposed to be a sign of a recovering economy.

The source of this reported prediction is freight transportation research consultancy firm FTR Associates, whose analyst Noel Perry spoke at an trucking industry forum earlier this month and forecasted a shortage of truck drivers in both 2010 and 2011. In fact, he’s seeing a shortage of commercial truck drivers of around half a million next year (2011).

Baby Boomers are Retiring, It’s Not Just Growing Market Demand

The idea that the economy is bouncing back is great news for us all. However, delving into the big rig truck driver shortage also reveals that the retirement of Baby Boomer truck drivers is a contributing factor here, not just increased market demand for transporting goods. Maybe these numbers aren’t predicting such a big bounce-back for the economy.

Rookies on the Road Might Not Be Good News

And, the idea of 500,000+ rookie drivers on the road in the next 18 months isn’t all that great, either. Newbie truck drivers make more mistakes. Makes sense, right?

Added to that is the reality that all too often, truck drivers are not given adequate training — and that’s in the best of times. With the pinch-penny budgets of today’s trucking companies, you gotta wonder how much training those new rookie truck drivers are going to get.

Maybe this isn’t the best bit of trucking news after all ….


Allen tops attorney list again

posted by kjalaw on Apr 20th, 2010 at 8:27 am


Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

VALPARAISO | Northwest Indiana injury attorney Kenneth J. Allen tops the list of attorneys in the state who have won million-dollar verdicts for their clients, according to the recently released 2009 Indiana Jury Verdict Reporter.

Kenneth J. Allen & Associates was the only law firm in Indiana with more than one multimillion-dollar jury verdict in 2009. The firm had two -- $5.22 million for a woman who suffered traumatic brain injury when here car was crushed by a tractor trailer that had encroached on her lane, and $5 million for the family of a boy who choked to death on a piece of corn dog in a school cafeteria.

There were only eight other million-dollar verdicts in the state during 2009.

According to the Verdict Reporter, Allen also tops the list for the decade with almost $150 million in judgments between 2000 and 2009. Allen had 14 verdicts of at least $1 million during the decade. The plaintiff attorneys with the next greatest number during the decade are David Conover (of Allen's office) and David Holub, of Hammond, with three. Holub's last one was in 2004.

In 2008, Allen won one of the largest jury verdicts ever in Indiana when a Lake County jury awarded $48 million to a Porter County steelworker who fell from a ladder and suffered spinal injuries that left him a paraplegic.

Allen believes the Verdict Reporter contains information that consumers need to know. Not only does the report show which attorneys are successful in obtaining jury verdicts, but those who are successful also get insurance companies to pay substantially more in settlements because they don't want to risk an even larger jury verdict.

Perhaps most important, Allen said, is that the verdicts encourage safety.

"Large jury verdicts are important for public safety," he said.

"By setting a high cost for careless behavior, substantial verdicts encourage companies to act safely and prevent harm. If it becomes cheaper for businesses to act negligently and pay whatever verdicts result rather than incur the expense needed for safety and preventative measures, then all of us are in danger."


Recalls of Cars, Trucks, SUVs Happening So Fast: How You Can Keep Up

posted by kjalaw on Apr 20th, 2010 at 8:24 am

Last month, there was more on the growing (huge) Toyota scare.

Now, we’re hearing about Lexus problems.

In February, there were Honda recalls.

In January, there were GM recalls of Pontiacs as well as the Chevy Cobalt.

How to keep up with all these recalls — are there any safe vehicles on the road these days?

Well, no one can predict the future here but one good source of information is thedatabase maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Updated frequently, and available for free online, this resource gives you information regarding:

Motor Vehicle Recalls

Child Safety Seat Recalls

Motor Vehicle Equipment Recalls

Tire Recalls

School Bus Recalls

It also gives you Monthly Recall Reports and lets you subscribe to monthly updates by email.

Remember, a Recall Does NOT remove the danger; it only warns of it.

A recall database is not giving you and your family protection in advance, but at least this NHTSA compilation is giving some warning of dangers that are out there — because a recall doesn’t mean that a faulty, unsafe product isn’t still being used in the marketplace.

As you and your loved ones drive the roadways of Illinois and Indiana today, odds are very, very high that you will share the road with many vehicles that have recalls attached to them or their components (tires, etc.).



97,000 lbs – The New Big Rig Weight Limit? Congress May Up Semi Truck Max Weight

posted by kjalaw on Apr 20th, 2010 at 8:21 am

Right now, there is a bill floating through Congress that will allow big rigs on the nation’s roadways to weigh 97,000 pounds, fully loaded.  That’s almost 100,000 pounds driving next to your car, your family’s minivan, your mother’s sedan. Think about that.

It’s just been recently that Illinois felt comfortable enough with raising truck weights up to 80,000 from 73,280 pounds.  Remember, the average sedan still weighs around 3500 lbs. — there’s no legislation about increasing weights of cars or SUVs out there.

It’s not news to anyone that commercial truck accidents involving other vehicles – cars, vans, SUVs, motorcycles – usually mean that people die in them. There are many contributing factors, but just the big difference in WEIGHT is a major reason for big rig crashes being so deadly.

This bill was stalled in the House of Representatives last year (March 2009), but H.R. 1799 has been given new life and its proponents are purportedly attaching it to another bill, which should allow H.R. 1799 to pass the House.  Meanwhile, over in the U.S. Senate, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo is ready to take the ball and run this legislation through the Senate, and he was reported to be expecting to start his drive right after the Easter holiday.

To watch the Congressional efforts to allow semi trucks weigh to top out at 90,000 pounds, just monitor the webpage that tracks the legislation.

This may mean that trucking companies can save money by throwing more cargo onto existing trucks (and not buy new ones), but this isn’t good news for those of us who are driving the roadways next to these monsters. Not good news at all.


April19- 23 is National Work Zone Awareness Week

posted by kjalaw on Apr 20th, 2010 at 8:19 am

For the 11th straight year, three federal agencies will sponsor National Work Zone Awareness Week.

Why should we care?

Well, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there are around 7000motor vehicle accidents in work zones each year throughout the state, with 2100 people injured and 29 deaths (2 being workers, most work zone fatalities are non-workers).Indiana’s Dept. of Transportation has compiled similar, scary statistics.

Sponsors are Three Federal Agencies

Through the coordinated efforts of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), theAmerican Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and theAmerican Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), various activities will be undertaken to draw attention to the need for everyone being safe and aware of safety issues in all sorts of work zones.

Theme is “Work Zones Need Your Undivided Attention”

The theme for 2010 National Work Zone Awareness Week is “Work Zones Need Your Undivided Attention.” All sorts of events are scheduled around the country during April 19-23, 2010, promoting this theme. One of the biggest will be the federal agency kickoff at Battery Park in NYC, and there are already several activities scheduled throughout the states of Illinois and Indiana throughout the Week.


New Study Shows Fewer Drunk Drivers on the Road – But It’s Missing the Point

posted by kjalaw on Apr 8th, 2010 at 10:12 am

The February issue of Status Report brought good news: a NHTSA study shows a big drop in the number of people driving drunk on the weekends, but drunk drivers are still a major cause of fatal motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. (”Drinking Continues to Decline Among Weekend Drivers,” Status Report, Vol. 45, No. 1, Feb. 6, 2010).

There’s a caveat or two about the study: today, people may be less likely to participate in a roadside study than they were when the research began back in the early 1970s. So, part of the drop in numbers may mean that lots of people that are driving with a buzz after a Friday happy hour aren’t talking about it now. And, the focus of the research results is totally about alcoholic beverages.

Impaired Drivers Are Doing More Than Drinking Alcohol

This is a key issue. Many drivers who are driving impaired may not be drinking alcohol. They may be taking pills or drinking liquid enhancers (or both) to stay on the road longer. Driving impairment that causes fatal crashes isn’t just about beer, wine, or mixed drinks.

A 1991 study by Monash University found that 25% of truck drivers took pills to stay awake on the job. There are other studies.

What are these Stay Awake Pills?

Heck, these pill manufacturers actually market to truck drivers: check out the online advertisement for “Stay Awake Pills” from T&M Distributing: they’re offering their “… legendary “Buy Two Get One Free” special, which means “stay awake pills” can be purchased at approximately a 75% savings over the major brands of alertness aids.” Clicking on their site today, you can buy 100 of their “357 Magnum Tablet” for $9.95.

They’re basically selling caffeine in tablet form.

Of course, other pills are out there to keep people from falling asleep: students across the country are taking Adderall and Ritalin to pull “all-nighters” — Adderal being one of newer versions of amphetamine.  Other forms of amphetamine (”speed”) on the market today include Dexadrine and Vyvance. Crystal Meth is an illegal form of speed, cheap and readily available (street names include “go fast,” and “crank”).

Was the School Bus Driver Impaired by Wake-Up Pills?

But the real story lies in the lives of people out there on the roads. Like last week’s testimony in Canada, where a school bus driver took the stand in a case resulting from an October 2007 school bus crash, killing a 9-year-old girl. On the stand, she admitted to taking pills to stay awake, but denied taking a pep pill that morning. Evidence, however, already shows a package of “wake-up” pills was on the bus, discovered by Crime Scene Investigators after the fatal accident occurred.

What Does the NHTSA Study Really Tell Us?

So, getting back to the NHTSA study: its number sure sound good at first glance. However, reading closely you find that they sent out people to ask drivers on the roads about what they had been drinking, and they did it on Friday and Saturday nights, and on Friday during the day, as it led into the weekend. Times when they thought most people are out there, imbibing alcohol.

The report admits people may not have told them the truth (for privacy reasons, fear of liability or litigation, what have you), but the truth is that the real issue is driver IMPAIRMENT not just drivers who drink alcohol.

Impairment – that is the real issue.


Driver Fatigue: NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman Speaks

posted by kjalaw on Apr 2nd, 2010 at 8:18 am

While no one should be assuming that the horrific crash last weekend on I-65 was caused by big rig driver fatigue, that discussion does bring to mind the signs of driver fatigue — and how a semi truck driver may have signs that it’s time to pull off the road (besides the HOS requirements).

Research by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found that 52% of 107 commercial truck accidents involving only that vehicle were caused by truck driver fatigue. The Department of Transportation reports that fatigue is a contributing factor in around a THIRD of all fatal motor vehicle accidents.

Earlier this month, Deborah Hersman, Chairman of the NTSB spoke to the National Sleep Foundation about this very issue. Her speech can be read in its entirety on the NTSB website.

One of the key points made during her speech is that there are no scientific tests available to know when a driver is too tired to drive a big rig, plane, or train — like there are for impairments due to drugs or drinking alcohol (breathilyzers, blood tests). Currently, setting up procedures to prevent fatigue (HOS) and depending upon self-testing remain the only tools against driver fatigue. Therefore, employers and drivers must continue to work hard to get fatigued drivers off the road.

Signs of Driver Fatique include:

  • driver keeps yawning
  • driver is day-dreaming
  • vehicle is wandering over the lane marker or stripe
  • driver’s having trouble keeping his eyes open
  • driver cannot remember driving along the last few miles of road.

On I-65, semi truck and church van crash kills 11

posted by kjalaw on Apr 1st, 2010 at 10:00 am

It’s Monday morning, and the news is still reaching many of us about the devastating I-65 big rig crash that killed 11 people — most of them, family members traveling from their home in Kentucky to a wedding in Iowa.

It was before sun-up last Friday: coming one way was the van, where its occupants were happily riding along the interstate in their Mennonite church’s van, where victim John Esh served as assistant pastor.  Coming the opposite way on I-65, a fully-loaded tractor-trailer truck with a single occupant, the driver.

The deadly accident happened right around 5:30 a.m. (CST).  The family had been on the road for only 15 minutes.  Those who lost their lives in that church van on Friday morning were:

  • John Esh, his wife Sadie, and their children Anna, Rose, Rachel and Leroy.
  • Leroy’s wife, Naomi, and Leroy and Naomi’s adopted son Jalen.
  • Rachel Esh’s fiance, Joel Gingrich, died with his future wife in the crash.
  • Esh Family friend, Ashley Kramer, was also killed.

The truck driver, who hailed from Alabama, died as well.  In fact, the only survivors of this horror are two young Esh children, aged 4 and 5. Both were in car seats.

Another big rig crash that is deadly

According to eyewitnesses, the tractor-trailer just crossed the median and entered oncoming traffic – crashing head-on into the van and causing the minivan to spin out of control.  The big rig then slammed into a cliff, and the minivan came to rest on I-65, where traffic was block by the wreckage until late Friday afternoon.

There were cable barriers on that stretch of road — where I-65 turns into a two-lane roadway, a span of highway known to be dangerous — but those cables snapped like paper ribbons when the tractor-trailer (loaded to capacity with auto parts) plowed through the barrier.  The cables were worthless in this accident.

What Caused This Tragedy?  It’s Too Soon to Know

Undoubtedly, federal and state investigations have already begun looking into the cause of this horrific big rig crash, which has essentially wiped out the John Esh family line. Finger-pointing has already begun on the deceased truck driver, and whether or not he just fell asleep at the wheel after being on the road too long (HOS regulations notwithstanding).

However, while grief and anger do fuel a desire for quick answers here, the truth of the matter is that this is known to be a dangerous stretch of road (others have died here in accidents, before this crash) and a great many variables exist in any trucking accident.

  • Did that auto parts load suddenly shift, throwing that heavy monster over the median with the driver terrified and powerless?
  • Did the brakes on that big rig fail?
  • Was there a hazard on the road — a spill, a hole, a log?

Only time will tell the true story of what happened early last Friday morning on that Kentucky stretch of I-65.  We need to wait and learn the facts, before justice can prevail.

In the meantime, our sincerest condolences to the family members and loved ones who are grieving their tremendous loss.  Even in our position as trucking accident plaintiffs’ attorneys, where we have been exposed to many a tragic big rig crash, we are shocked by this enormously heartwrenching, horrific event.


The danger of driving and cell phones - will Oprah make a difference?

posted by kjalaw on Apr 1st, 2010 at 9:58 am

According to the National Safety Counsel, the following is true:

1.  It’s not up for debate:  driving and using a cell phone is very dangerous. There’s just too many studies already done that establish this.  Though more and more studies are being done, we’ve already got 50+ research studies giving the same exact research result.

2.  It’s proven that drivers using a cell phone are 4 (four) times more likely to be in a crash.  That’s 400% higher risk of an accident, folks.  (See, 1997 New England Journal of Medicine study; 2005 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study).

3.  The risk is JUST AS HIGH when you’re using a hands-free cell phone as holding it in your hand.  It’s the distraction that is the key here.   The number one source for driver distraction in a crash today is … yes … cell phones (Virginia Tech study).

4.  Still, most of us do use our cellphone while driving: 81 percent of those asked said they talk on their phone while driving (Nationwide Insurance study).

At the beginning of this year, Illinois law went into effect that bans the use of cellphones (including texting) while driving a motor vehicle.   Also in January 2010, Transportation Secretary LaHood issued a national ban for commercial truck drivers to use cell phones while driving their big rigs, buses, etc.  Penalties (civil and criminal) are included in the federal mandate.

All this got some news coverage, but perhaps the biggest thing to hit our area:  Oprah.

In January 2010, Oprah devoted her attention to this danger – not only by having one of her TV shows educate viewers on the issue (it was re-run this week), but also by lending her name (and her time) to national efforts attempting to ban cellphone usage by drivers.

Can Oprah make the difference? Have you used your cellphone in the car while driving lately — to call or to text?  Seen someone on their cell while you were driving to work this morning?

Then you know the answer.


Lawyer pursues 'nose doctor' in civil lawsuit

posted by kjalaw on Mar 18th, 2010 at 9:23 am

A civil case against former Merrillville nose doctor Mark Weinberger would go forward in the next few months if a local attorney has his way.

Kenneth Allen, who is representing the family of one of Weinberger's former clients, deposed the ex-fugitive Wednesday morning at the U.S. District Court building in Hammond. Allen said that with the deposition, which can be used as evidence in the civil case filed in Lake County, the suit can move forward even if Weinberger chooses not to participate.

"We deserve a speedy trial at this junction," he said.

Phyllis Barnes went to Weinberger when she began having a sore throat. However, he didn't look at her throat and never diagnosed that she had throat cancer at the time, Allen says. She ended up dying from the cancer shortly before Weinberger fled the country in 2004. As other patients started filing malpractice suits and the federal government started to investigate him for insurance fraud, Weinberger fled. He ended up being charged with 22 counts of malpractice.

He remained free until December, when Italian authorities discovered him camping at the base of a mountain in northern Italy, near the border with Switzerland. He was extradited to the United States earlier this year and is being held in the Porter County Jail, where is he awaits his federal trial.

Neither Allen nor Peggy Hood, Barnes' sister, could talk about what happened at the deposition because of a gag order, but Hood said she was pleased with how it went.

"I just hope it goes to court soon, and it ends," she said. "It's taken it's toll."

Hood said that her sister had complained about Weinberger, saying that he was "blase" about her concerns and laughed her off. Hood ended up taking her sister every week to the University of Chicago for treatments.

"She went through a horrible, horrible ending," Hood said.

About 350 civil lawsuits have been filed against Weinberger, but Allen said he thinks Barnes' case should get top priority because of the seriousness of what happened. While some other patients also had their cancer go undiagnosed, no one else died, Allen said.

He said that he does not expect the federal case to keep the civil lawsuit from proceeding.


Advocates for safety deserve praise

posted by kjalaw on Mar 16th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Originally posted March 16, 2010 at

Safety should always come first in the workplace.

But yet day in and day out we read or hear about workers being severely injured or killed while working.

Today was another unfortunate example of workplace dangers. This time it was on the Borman Expressway ( I-80/94 ) when a construction worker for Walsh Construction from Gary was hit and killed in a construction zone by a car at 1:30 in the morning.

The driver of the vehicle fled, and police are searching for him this morning.

Unfortunately most of us will forget about this in a day or so. We’ll feel sad for the victim’s family for a minute or two.

It won’t be long before we’ll read or hear about another worker killed in a tragic workplace accident. It could be a highway worker, such as this morning, or a steelworker, or a carpenter, or electrician, or just about anyone who has a job doing anything.

The only ones not at risk of workplace injury are people who are unemployed. Even office workers face some risk, albeit probably minimal.

And yet we also read or hear about jury verdicts to some poor soul who was somehow severely and permanently injured, or killed, in a workplace accident. Often these verdicts are in the millions of dollars. Often the public is outraged at the amounts of damages jury award to victims and/or their families. Unless of course it’s you, or your family member.

More often than not that perception spills over into negative perceptions of personal injury attorneys. They’re called ambulance chasers by some.

The connection people fail to make is that without personal injury attorneys, large penalties in the form of jury verdicts in the millions, companies would have no incentive to make a safer workplace.

For example, why should a company spend $5,000 or $10,000 for a railing around a catwalk? Sure, it would make it safer but they have a good safety record and no OSHA violations.

Boom! Next thing you know your husband, or father, or son just slipped and fell 30 feet and broken several bones. Or worse. Maybe paralyzed, or even killed.

What now?

One thing I’ve learned since my time working with Kenneth J. Allen is that a personal injury law practice is not about how much money can an attorney make, but rather incentivizing employers to routinely scrutinize its practices and equipment from a safety standpoint.

Without those PI attorneys out there to advocate for workers and safer workplaces, that poor soul who just fell 30 feet has little, if any recourse short of worker’s compensation.

So the next time you read or hear about a $10 million or $20 million injury verdict, think about the company that may have been negligent about workers’ safety, and not about that PI attorney, who rightfully should be commended not dissimilar to a physician who just saved the life of someone.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Wife Seriously Injured in Big Rig Crash

posted by kjalaw on Mar 16th, 2010 at 1:52 pm

One good thing to come out of Senator Harry Reid’s wife being seriously injured in her crash with a tractor-trailer would be more public awareness of the dangers of driving alongside semis on the highway. However, with the power of the trucking industry these days, we’re not hopeful that this is going to occur.

Senator Reid’s Wife was Rear-ended on the Interstate by an 18-Wheeler

There’s apparently no controversy about what happened here: a tractor-trailer truck hauling rolls of plastic was rolling down I-95 in Viriginia when it rear-ended a minivan.

Inside that minivan were the wife and daughter of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Landra Reid, 69, suffered a broken neck in the crash, as well as a broken back and a broken nose.

Think about this: most of us have been driving along the freeway only to look in our rearview mirror and see one of those semis rushing down on us. It’s very scary.

However, thankfully, usually we don’t get rear-ended like the Senator’s wife did.

The latest, as of this morning ….

Mrs. Reid has been released from the hospital after having surgery and is not expect to suffer from any paralysis (which is not the usual result of these accidents from our experience, she’s been very lucky here).

Politico is reporting that the truck driver has been charged with reckless driving by the Virginia State Police.


$10 Million Judgement in Truck Accident

posted by kjalaw on Mar 12th, 2010 at 12:08 pm

MARKAM, Ill. --Bruce McIntosh 52, of Tinley Park, Ill. was awarded a $10 million judgment in Cook County Circuit Cook today against Rehmat Trucking Inc. from English Town, NJ and its driver for severe injuries he received when his car was broadsided by a Rehmat semi-tractor trailer. The accident occurred in the September, 2008 in Southern Illinois.

McIntosh was represented by Kenneth J. Allen & Associates in Valparaiso, Ind. Attorney Bryan L. Bradley, senior partner of the firm, said This award is recognition of the life-threatening and life-changing injuries Mr. McIntosh suffered due to the negligence of the truck driver and his company. After running a stop-sign, the truck hit Mr. McIntosh’s vehicle with such force the impact propelled the car completely off the road.”

McIntosh suffered several herniated discs in his back and neck and has had to undergo several surgeries to repair the major damage to his spine. To date he has had seven surgeries.

Judge Robert Clifford ordered the judgment today against the driver and the trucking company.


Radioactive Cargo on Indiana Big Rigs May Have More State Regulation – But Is This A Good Thing?

posted by kjalaw on Mar 5th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Right now, the Indiana legislature is working on legislation that — if it makes it through the House (it’s passed in the Senate) and gets Governor Mitch Daniels’ signature — would increase the state regulation of radioactive materials that are carried on Indiana roadways everyday.

Radioactive Materials Are Carried By Semis Along Indiana Roadways

That’s right:  as you drive home tonight, or along the interstate this weekend with your family, ponder the big rigs and semis driving the roads with you.  Think about their cargo — it could be radioactive material.

Glow in the dark, fast beeps on the Geiger counter, RADIOACTIVE NUCLEAR WASTE, right next to you as you both cruise along at 65 mph.  Sounds like a sci-fi/horror movie just waiting to happen, doesn’t it?

What Will the Proposed Law Do About Radioactive Truck Cargo?

Assuming that the legislation makes its way into law without significant alteration, Indiana would (1) increase fees on the truckers who are carrying this stuff and (2) up the regulatory requirements for hauling this dangerous material on Indiana’s public roads.

Trucking companies wanting to move radioactive material (i.e., nuclear waste) through Indiana would have to get a permit in advance, telling the State’s Homeland Security Department exactly what they planned to do. The trucking company would have to report not only what was being hauled, but when it was being moved and the routes that the trucker expected to take through the Indiana countryside.

How much more in fees? For trucks, there would be a fee of $2500/first cask of nuclear waste and $3000/all additional casks. Right now, Indiana’s fee is $1000/cask of nuke waste.

Sounds pretty cost-prohibitive, right? Maybe. Failure to obtain the proper permit could result in a maximum $1,000 fine. You do the math.

Assuming that this bill becomes law (and it probably will), then lots of different law enforcement folk should be watching out for these dangerous trucks: not only the Indiana State Police, but local cops as well as state motor carrier inspectors should be making inspections of the big rigs to verify compliance.

What happens if a wily trucker is found zipping through Indiana with a bunch of radioactive cargo that hasn’t been properly reported? Well, there are the fines, of course. And, the law would allow the big rigs to be detained for a bit or even legally seized and impounded.

Which is just what we want, right? To seize and HOLD radioactive materials in Indiana when we catch these guys? Right? Really??????

And, let’s ponder another possibility too: let’s hope that all those records of exactly where and when these Nuke Trucks are going through Indiana are kept very, very safe — as in, Top Secret — because there’s already concerns about terrorist attacks using radioactive material moving through urban financial centers. Let’s hope that the legislatures are considering this aspect of their new regulatory mandate, too.


Big Rig Crashes In the News – The Dangers of Semis On Our Roads

posted by kjalaw on Feb 22nd, 2010 at 8:14 am

News reports are covering two recent big accidents that closed highways in our area for a time — wrecks involving big rigs, crashes where people got seriously hurt.  Some were kids.

In Joliet Township on eastbound I-80, early in the morning of February 11th, a pick up truck ran into a guard rail.  One car accident, right?

Maybe.  Except two semis were traveling close by, and they both ended up crashing, too, along with another pick up truck. It took two hours to clear the roadway of the four vehicles, and get traffic moving smoothly again.

Then, over on the Dan Ryan Expressway this past weekend, a family minivan blew a tire and the driver lost control – according to news accounts, the Pontiac van spun around from its spot in the left hand lane and crashed into a nearby big rig, also traveling on the same high speed roadway.   Two children and one adult were thrown from the minivan, the forces were so great.

Now, no one in the media has suggested that the trucks were at fault here.  Nope, not at all.  All reports are that three semis were just cruising down the freeway.

In the first wreck, a pick up truck hit a guard rail.  In the second accident, a tire blew.

The question is: would these be such big, big accidents if semi trucks weren’t involved?  Probably NOT.  And that’s because it’s always very, very dangerous when machines weighing around 80,000 lbs. are driving along the same roads as sedans that weigh around 3500 lbs.  It’s a David and Goliath situation where David never wins.

There are many, many contributing factors to any serious big rig crash: weather conditions, road hazards, shifting loads, etc. and we aren’t given any details here.  We don’t know the whole story in either case.

But we do know this:  any time a semi collides with a family vehicle – be it pick up truck or minivan 0r regular old 4-car sedan – it’s usually very serious.

These monsters that drive on our roadways, rolling along next to our loved ones, should be taken a lot more seriously than they are.  By all of us.


Weinberger Press Conference by Attorney Ken Allen

posted by kjalaw on Dec 18th, 2009 at 11:00 am


Record $5.2 Million Verdict in Truck Crash

posted by kjalaw on Dec 11th, 2009 at 9:38 am

VALPARAISO | A woman who suffered a brain injury when her vehicle was crushed beneath a semi trailer three years ago on Interstate 94 was awarded $5.22 million by a jury following a two-week trial.

Wednesday's $5.22 million verdict is the highest ever reported in Indiana for mild traumatic brain injury unaccompanied by bone fractures, Kenneth J. Allen said. He represented the woman in the case.

"The case was quite complicated to prove because mild brain damage cannot be seen on MRI or CT scans," Allen said.

"Fortunately for Kim, several of her doctors were willing to come to court and testify."

The woman, Kimberly Harty, 30, of Crown Point, was off work for more than a year and incurred more than $123,000 in medical bills as a result of the crash. She returned to work, but her brain injury is permanent, Allen said. Harty, who is married, has memory problems, trouble sleeping and difficulty multitasking as a result of the crash, Allen said.

The crash occurred while Harty was driving on Interstate 94 in Portage on Feb. 17, 2006. Her car was struck by a semi owned by Hummer Transportation, of Ontario, Canada, and driven by Inderjeet Sekhon, 37. The truck was en route to Chicago when it veered into Harty's lane, crushing her car under the trailer.

Allen said the jury "understood the scientific evidence and concluded that Kim's injury, although invisible, is very real and its impact quite severe."


$5 million verdict for wrongful death of 9 year old

posted by kjalaw on Dec 11th, 2009 at 8:58 am

Mother wins lawsuit against LaPorte schools in son's death

By JOSEPH DITS, Tribune Staff Writer

In September 2006, 9-year-old Juan Loera choked on a turkey corn dog as he sat with classmates at LaPorte's Haillman Elementary School.

A custodian rushed over to help him. So did nine other staff members. They tried the Heimlich maneuver. Then a police officer arrived and tried the maneuver. Paramedics came and removed the obstruction, but Juan eventually died in a hospital.

On Friday, a jury in LaPorte Circuit Court awarded a $5 million lawsuit against the LaPorte Community School Corp. The attorneys who filed that suit in behalf of Juan's mother, Maria Rosales, claimed the staff was inadequately trained to deal with the emergency.

“We feel our staff did everything possible,” LaPorte Superintendent Judith A. DeMuth said Monday.

Calling the death a “most tragic event,” she said, “Our hearts and thoughts are with that family.”

Kenneth J. Allen, head of the law firm that filed the suit, said he doesn't fault the staff who tried to help the boy. Rather, he argues that the school had a plan for dealing with emergencies like this but didn't implement it. Specifically, he said, the staff lacked training in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.

The school district won't have to pay more than $500,000 because of the state's limit on what may be collected from a government entity, Allen said. The school district has 30 days in which to file an appeal, and DeMuth said it's too soon to talk about that.

But the money isn't the point, Allen said: “If we can prompt one school to implement these plans in the 92 counties of Indiana, then we will have done what we set out to do.”

Some local school districts report that they don't have a plan for cafeteria emergencies, but they do make training available to their staffs.

Juan's choking death in 2006 “increased our awareness,” said John Hutchings, director of student services for Elkhart Community Schools. It caused district officials to look and ensure that at least some of its food service employees were trained in the Heimlich maneuver in each cafeteria, he said.

“We think we're pretty well covered,” he said.

CPR training is required of Elkhart's night custodians, who are in the buildings when adults from the community play in basketball and volleyball leagues, he said. But training in CPR and use of a defibrillator is available to any other employees who want it, Hutchings said.

After the death, LaPorte school officials said they'd ensure there was someone in each school building who was trained in the Heimlich maneuver.

“We are going to continue to make student safety a top priority,” DeMuth said. “We've continued our training in life-saving techniques.”

In January, a kindergarten teacher and a program assistant helped a teacher's aide who was choking at Horizon Elementary School. The pair used their emergency training to dislodge whatever blocked the woman's breathing, said Teresa Carroll, spokeswoman for the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp.

About a year ago, the lead cook at Battell Elementary School did the Heimlich maneuver on a kindergartner who was choking on a chicken nugget, The Tribune reported. In the article, a School City of Mishawaka official said all food service workers attend a meeting where they see a demonstration of choking responses.

Since 2007, Indiana law has required that newly licensed teachers be certified in CPR and Heimlich maneuver, though it doesn't require that for license renewals. The training for both methods is typically done together. CPR certification lasts for two years.

Neither PHM nor the South Bend Community School Corp. require CPR or Heimlich maneuver training of their cafeteria staffs. With such large school districts, officials there had a hard time assessing how many staff at each school are trained.

But PHM trains about 60 staff members a year in the procedures, Carroll said. All child care workers are trained in CPR, Carroll said of the schools with child care. Each PHM school has a safety team, and several of their members are CPR trained, she said.

South Bend offers training twice a month to any staff who want it, said communications director Sue Coney; employees pay $10 for the four-hour class.

In the John Glenn school district, all five kitchen workers at Walkerton Elementary School are trained in CPR, along with the custodian and two secretaries, said Tim Davis, principal of the school with 480 students.


Donation funds purchase of child identification kits

posted by kjalaw on Dec 11th, 2009 at 8:32 am

VALPARAISO | Northwest Indiana injury attorney Kenneth Allen and wife Nina watched Thursday as children at Hilltop Child Daycare received Kinderprint Child Identification kits. The Allens funded the purchase of those kits for every kindergartner and first-grade student in Lake, LaPorte and Porter County schools with a $20,000 donation to the United Way serving those three counties.

Sharon Kish, president, United Way of Porter County, was thrilled with the Allens' gift.

"This is big," said Kish. "All three counties will benefit through this donation. It's very generous."

Through the donation, each school in those three counties will receive a Kinderprint kit, which contains tools and instructions for taking fingerprints, DNA samples, photos and dental records of children.

Bill Hanna, head of LaPorte County United Way, feels this was an important gift.

"This is an expensive item and we in LaPorte would not be able to provide this to the children without the help of the Allens," Hanna said. "I give the Allens a lot of credit for not only thinking about Porter County, but Lake and LaPorte, too."

Lou Martinez, president of Lake Area United Way was also on hand to thank the Allens for their generosity.

"It's nice to see leadership coming from the law profession," said Martinez. "Nice to see them step forward. This program is needed for families and children."

The Allens feel prevention is key to keeping kids safe and they feel this program is important.

"We have a lot to be grateful for and we want to do what we can for the children," said Kenneth Allen. "The key is prevention and when these kids bring the kits home I hope it sparks conversation between the parents and their children. Parents need to talk about this with their children."

blog tags: Semi-Truck Crashes, Auto Accidents, Motorcycle Injuries, Pedestrian Cases, Bus Accidents, Train Crashes, Aviation Cases, Rollovers, Bicycle Accidents, Construction & Jobsite Injuries, Mill Accidents, Railroad Workers (FELA), Asbestos, Workers Compensation, Machine Accidents, Explosions, Electrocutions, Falls, Medical Malpractice, Product Defects, Brain Injury, Paralysis, Wrongful Death, Electrocution, Amputation, Burns, Trips/Falls, Sports Accidents, Boating Accidents, Injury lawyer, injury attorney, crash attorney, accident lawyer, serious injury, motorcycle, work-accident, semi-truck crash, heavy-truck crash, truck, accident, work-related accident, jobsite injury, work accident, worker injury, free consultation, record verdicts, million dollar settlements, jury trial, experience, best injury lawyer, best accident lawyer, best crash lawyer, Indiana, Illinois, I-65, U.S. 41, U.S. 30, I-80, I-94, Toll Road, Lake County, Porter County, LaPorte Co, Newton Co, Jasper Co, Collision, jackknifed truck, trucking, trucker, construction accident, roof collapse, Semi-Truck Crashes, Auto Accidents, Motorcycle Injuries, Pedestrian Cases, Bus Accidents, Train Crashes, Aviation Cases, Rollovers, Bicycle Accidents, Construction & Jobsite Injuries, Mill Accidents, Railroad Workers (FELA), Asbestos, Workers Compensation, Machine Accidents, Explosions, Electrocutions, Falls, Medical Malpractice, Product Defects, Brain Injury, Paralysis, Wrongful Death, Electrocution, Amputation, Burns, Trips/Falls, Sports Accidents, Boating Accidents, Injury lawyer, injury attorney, crash attorney, accident lawyer, serious injury, motorcycle, work-accident, semi-truck crash, heavy-truck crash, truck, accident, work-related accident, jobsite injury, work accident, worker injury, free consultation, record verdicts, million dollar settlements, jury trial, experience, best injury lawyer, best accident lawyer, best crash lawyer, Indiana, Illinois, I-65, U.S. 41, U.S. 30, I-80, I-94, Toll Road, Lake County, Porter County, LaPorte Co, Newton Co, Jasper Co, Collision, jackknifed truck, trucking, trucker, construction accident, roof collapse

Kenneth J. Allen wins Editor’s Choice in “Best of Region” contest

posted by kjalaw on May 18th, 2009 at 11:48 am

Editor's Choice for Best Guy to Have on Your Side if You've Been Injured

Kenneth J. Allen & Associates isn't just the best personal injury law practice in Northwest Indiana—it's one of the best in the nation. The firm routinely tops lists of judgments won for its clients—$135 million and counting since 2000—and has won million-dollar verdicts every year since '03. Accolades such as being named among the 500 leading lawyers in America by national legal publications hang on the walls of founder Ken Allen's office.

“During my trial, there were a lot of out-of-town lawyers who I found out later came to watch him work,” recalls Brian Gulley, a former Kenneth J. Allen & Associates client who engaged the firm after suffering a severe head injury on the job. (Allen's specialty is trial presentation.) “I didn't realize just how good he was until then.”

Gulley describes Allen as “a blue-collar guy in a white-collar job,” an apt description as Allen grew up working in the steels mills and on the railroads of the region.

“I liked the work, I liked the people I worked with, and there was a great seduction to stay there,” Allen recalls, but his father, also a steelworker, made him promise to keep up with his education and escape the factory grind.

Allen kept his promise, but never forgot his roots, which helps to explain his continuing passion for helping people who have been hurt by corporate negligence. For Allen, it's about not only justice for the client, but also protecting future workers.

He recalls one case involving a young man who had been crushed in a piece of machinery at work. “We hired engineers who showed how, for a few hundred more dollars, the machine could have been designed so that it would have been impossible for the accident to have happened,” he says. After successfully arguing the case, the company turned around and asked for all those materials. “Now,” Allen says, “no one will ever get hurt that way again.

“A lot of lawyers lose sight of that,” he adds. “The whole point of this area of law is injury prevention. If those who do wrong are held accountable, they won't do it again.” The big judgments for which personal injury lawsuits are often criticized are key to this, Allen holds, pointing back to the previous example. “If it becomes more expensive to do wrong, people will do it right from the beginning,” he says.

If that should ever come to pass, Allen acknowledges he'd need to find a new line of work. “But that's the kind of problem you'd like to have,” he says.

Kenneth J. Allen & Associates only takes about one out of every ten cases that come through the door. “Our first priority is the client, and then, how can we align that with the best interests of others,” Allen explains. Those cases which are accepted get attention across the firm. “We have 7 a.m. meetings where we put one case on the table, and you have seven or eight smart people looking at one problem, so you will get a smart answer,” he says. “I've never seen an insurance company put eight lawyers on one matter. We do that every week.”

All the firm's lawyers are specialists in personal injury law, and often specialists in a particular branch of that law. “There's not one lawyer here who could write a will,” Allen says. “But my partner knows more about trucking than anyone—his dad was a trucker, he drove a truck—we have another partner who is interested specifically in medical negligence and so on. It gives us a much higher level of knowledge than our opponents.”

But perhaps the real secret to Allen's success is simply that he loves what he does. “You hear people say all the time, 'oh, I hate my job,'” he says. “There's not a part of this job I don't love. It's not work at all.”


Fugitive Doctor Found Guilty of Malpractice

posted by kjalaw on Mar 5th, 2009 at 8:53 am

By Network Indiana

A Merrillville surgeon who ran a sinus clinic and is now a fugitive has been found guilty of medical malpractice in the death of a patient.

50-year-old Phyllis Barnes died of throat cancer in 2004, but Dr. Mark Weinberger had diagnosed her as needing sinus surgery.

Shortly before she died, Weinberger abandoned his medical practice, deserted his wife and fled to Greece.

Malpractice claims in Indiana are judged first by a panel of three randomly selected physicians to hopefully avoid a jury trial.

In this case, attorney Kenneth Allen says the panel unanimously found Weinberger guilty of negligence in Barnes' death.

But Weinberger's insurance company refuses to pay the judgment since he's a fugitive and won't cooperate.

Allen maintains the Indiana Department of Insurance should pay the judgment instead so the Barnes family can avoid a jury trial.

Allen says there are hundreds of cases pending against Dr. Weinberger, but so far this is the first and only case to be decided.


Laws dampen malpractice victory

posted by kjalaw on Mar 4th, 2009 at 11:45 am

By Bob Kasarda
| Wednesday, March 04, 2009

VALPARAISO | Attorney Ken Allen and his client should be celebrating this week's news they won a malpractice judgment against a former Merrillville physician who gained national attention after disappearing five years ago.

But Allen said the victory is bittersweet in that Indiana law has allowed bankers to get to Dr. Mark Weinberger's assets before his client, who will now have to wage another costly and lengthy legal battle in hope of receiving a judgment capped at $1.25 million in the death of Valparaiso resident Phyllis Barnes, 50. She died after her cancer was misdiagnosed by Weinberger as a sinus condition, he said.

The delays and caps that were made part of the state's malpractice laws during tort reform in the late 1980s do a better job of protecting bad doctors and the insurance industry than the public, he said.

Allen said he won the first malpractice judgment against Weinberger from a panel of three physicians, which is the required first step when such cases are filed in Indiana.

There are other civil malpractice lawsuits pending against Weinberger, including other clients represented by Allen.

The panel review in the Barnes case was dragged out for five years as a result of the current system and Allen's failed attempt to lay claim to Weinberger's assets along with the creditors.

The Indiana Department of Insurance has the discretion to respond to the panel's finding by paying out up to $1.25 million to Barnes' family, Allen said. But with little confidence that will happen, Allen said he plans to file a malpractice lawsuit in Lake County. Any judgement against the doctor would be paid out of the state's patient compensation fund.

Allen said he is using the case to shed light on what he sees as injustices in the state's tort reform laws. He downplayed the perception the changes were needed to protect against "runaway verdicts" by saying there are plenty of opportunities to appeal rulings in the courts.

Weinberger, who was featured late last year on the "America's Most Wanted" television show, remains at large, Allen said.


Mr. Allen’s $48M Verdict in Nation’s Top 10

posted by kjalaw on Jan 19th, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Lawyers USA

By Sylvia Hsieh

A steelworker who was paralyzed from the waist down after falling from a ladder was awarded $48 million by an Indiana jury.

The plaintiff, 41-year-old Anthony Arciniega, worked for a steel mill where a contractor, Minteq International Inc., was hired to apply refractory, a bonding spray, to various metals.

Instead of suing the steel mill, which employed Arciniega and could not be sued under the exclusivity provision of the state workers' comp statute, plaintiff's attorney Kenneth J. Allen of Valparaiso, Ind. brought the case against the contractor.

The main allegation was that the contractor had misapplied the substance by overspraying and coating the ladder as well. When the plaintiff ascended the ladder, which was stationed about 17 feet above the ground over a platform, the refractory broke off, causing the fall.

The jury assigned 50 percent fault to the contractor, but also found that the steel mill, a non-party, was 50 percent at fault.

A key issue at trial was the steel mill's failure to install a handrail on the platform in violation of OSHA rules.

Another critical piece of evidence was videotape of improper spraying created by a defense expert. The videotape was valuable both for its contents and the sanctions that resulted from a discovery fight over its production.


OSHA rules

The defendant tried to put the blame on the steel mill by arguing that the mill failed to install a handrail on the platform underneath the ladder, in violation of OSHA regulations.

The defense argued that the handrail would have prevented the fall.

But Allen, whose case was focused on the contractor's fault, hired a biomechanical engineer who testified that had the handrail been installed, the accident would have been even worse because the plaintiff would have hit the rail during the fall.

"He concluded that if there had been a handrail on the platform, the injury would have been significantly worse, resulting in either paralysis from the neck down or death," Allen said.

He said the jury of five women and three men responded very positively to the plaintiff, who returned to work in a wheelchair within six months of the injury in a newly-created job.

"The jury saw that as a real testament to what kind of guy he is. He has three little kids and a wife and he responded accordingly," said Allen.


Videotape evidence

Another key piece of evidence was videotape taken by defense experts who taped the contractor applying refractory.

The tape showed that the defendant had oversprayed on other occasions.

"Their own evidence did them in. It showed they were chronically misapplying the refractory by spraying onto other things. The jury saw that, and it was pretty damning," said Allen.

But perhaps a bigger impact was the battle over the failure to produce the evidence.

During discovery, Allen argued that the videotape was taken without his knowledge and was not disclosed to him.

"It was done for the defendant, by the defendant by defense experts. It was not intended for us to see, but after a court battle we obtained production," said Allen.

The judge awarded sanctions and allowed Allen to name new experts on the eve of trial, according to John W. Patton, Jr., of Patton & Ryan in Chicago, who was hired to replace the sanctioned defense attorney.

By the time Patton stepped in as new defense counsel six weeks before trial, he already felt he had an uphill battle.

"The plaintiff had five liability experts and the defense had one. We were not in a position to rebut their opinions," said Patton.

He also complained that the state law requiring a jury to be told that an employer will not pay damages because of the workers' comp bar "puts a defendant at an extraordinary disadvantage."

But Allen said the reason the jury reached its verdict was the shifting arguments of the defendant.

"First they said the refractory wasn't their product. When we proved it was their product, they said 'We don't overspray.' Then when we proved they oversprayed on a regular basis, they argued the steel mill should have cleaned it up. That was how they defended the case," said Allen.

The case is currently on appeal on a number of issues, including whether sanctions were warranted.

Allen is also appealing whether the plaintiff is entitled to collect the full $48 million from the contractor because of how the non-party employer was named on the verdict form.


Verdict: $48 million in compensatory damages

State: Indiana

Type of case: Negligence

Status: On appeal

Case name: Arciniega v. Minteq

International Inc.

Date: Dec. 11, 2008

Plaintiff's attorney: Kenneth J. Allen of Kenneth J. Allen & Associates in Valparaiso, Ind.


Flood victims take time for turkey, thanks

posted by kjalaw on Dec 16th, 2008 at 10:08 am

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

VALPARAISO | From 200 to 300 victims of September's flooding across the region received a measure of help in the form of a turkey dinner with all the trimmings Monday at Strongbow Inn.

Lisa and Randy Dammarell, of Hobart, said they appreciated being able to go out for a nice meal with their children Colton and Nicole.

After 7 feet of water shut down their business, Lake George Bait and Tackle, they were hit with a Catch-22 in seeking assistance, Lisa Dammarell said.

They were turned down for a loan by the Small Business Administration because with their source of income gone, they were deemed a poor risk for being able to pay back the loan.

So as they work to reopen the business, the formal dinner was a very generous offer, she said.

The dinners, which will continue with two more seatings today, were the gift of Valparaiso attorney Kenneth Allen.

The event was an acknowledgement, Allen said, "that all of us suffer when some of us suffer." It was an attempt to show the flood victims that people care. "It's nice to do something for others when we can."

Allen attributed the idea for the dinners to his wife, Nina, and thanked the United Way for logistical help in publicizing the event and distributing tickets.

Theodis and Wallynda Clayborne lost furniture and appliances when 18 inches of water flooded their Gary basement. More painful was the loss of irreplaceable items such as baby photos, holiday decorations their three kids made and daughter Jailynn's christening dress.

"That can't be replaced," Wallynda Clayborne said. "You can't put a money amount on that."

The Strongbow dinner, Theodis Clayborne said, was "a blessing."

Maggie Valene, who also lost furnishings in the basement of her Gary house, also appreciated the dinner.

"It's wonderful. It make you feel nice," she said.

Valene saw homes worse off than hers in the disaster, so she chose to look on the positive side.

"We survived," she said. "It could be worse."


Kenneth Allen Sponsors Youth Summit for Chicago South Side Youth

posted by kjalaw on Sep 25th, 2008 at 9:36 am

Staff Report


CHICAGO - Injury Attorneys Kenneth J. Allen & Associates sponsored the Youth Summit 2008 in Chicago's Washington Park on Saturday, August 23rd. The firm underwrote about one-third of the event's total costs, which was held in conjunction with 35 Chicagoland churches, the United Churches for Christ and the International New Vision Outreach Ministries (INVOM). The Youth Summit is a yearly event geared toward helping disadvantaged youth on Chicago's South Side refocus their lives.


Chicagoland job placement, outreach and city officials came together at the event to offer young South Siders positive alternatives to the streets such as after-school programs, employment opportunities, counseling services and guidance. Entertainment included a concert by local recording artist, Platinum Souls, the Nubian ensemble dance team and a tumbling group, Tumbling for Success.


Kevin L. Tuggles of INVOM said, “The breakdown in family structure in the inner-city has left many youths void of true family structure, morals, and values, leaving them to retreat to the streets and gangs for a sense of 'family belonging.' We must get together as a community to instill the values, morals, and hope in our youth, while they are still in their most impressionable and formative years of life. We hope that these positive values will continue to be the driving factors in life as they mature.


Tuggles thanked Mr. Allen “for his sponsorship, contribution and support...your generosity will help us in our endeavors to help others.”





Burned ArcelorMittal worker seeks $55M

posted by kjalaw on Sep 2nd, 2008 at 3:27 am

| Saturday, August 30, 2008 |

One of the workers who was badly burned by flames in a molten steel accident a year ago at ArcelorMittal's Burns Harbor plant filed a lawsuit Friday seeking more than $55 million.

The worker, Jeremy Schoon, 31, of Valparaiso, filed the lawsuit before Chief Lake Superior Court Judge John Pera.

Attorney Kenneth J. Allen, whose firm is representing Schoon, said Schoon has incurred more than $1 million in medical bills and is physically and emotionally scarred for life as a result of being burned on 60 percent of his body. Allen seeks at least $5 million in personal and monetary damages and at least $50 million in punitive damages.

"As the mills make record profits, death and injury to steel workers continues to increase. Something needs to be done to stop it," Allen said. "The goal of our suit is to send a message to the steel mills and the contractors they hire: Change your business model. Put worker safety first, above increased profits, not the other way around. This is an especially important message on Labor Day."

The lawsuit targets ArcelorMittal; EQ Engineers, which did design work at the facility; and Graycor Industrial Constructors, Inc., which constructed EQ's design work.

Schoon was one of seven workers burned Aug. 28, 2007, when flames and molten steel shot out of a basic oxygen furnace. Although the victims were wearing protective clothing, the heat was so intense they were burned.

Allen said companies like ArcelorMittal should be using some of their record profits to increase safety, but he said safety is actually decreasing.

Schoon's wife, Veronica Schoon, said her husband's life is forever changed, as daily stretching, medication and therapeutic baths consume his time.

She said the hardest thing for her husband is "not being able to do with the children what he's always done."

The Schoons have three children, ages 2, 7 and 10. Veronica Schoon said her husband, who was hospitalized for about a month, is back to work, but in an office because he must be in a temperature controlled environment for the rest of his life.

"It's been hard," Veronica Schoon said, crying.

Allen said Schoon is the first of the seven injured men to file suit, but he expects others to follow.

A spokesperson for ArcelorMittal did not return calls seeking comment.


Injured Man Gets $2.2 Million Settlement

posted by kjalaw on Aug 1st, 2008 at 8:26 am

| Friday, August 01, 2008 |

VALPARAISO | A Valparaiso construction worker -- paralyzed when an "untrained" and "incompetent" heavy equipment operator struck him in the head with an excavator shovel and knocked him into a hole -- will get a handicapped-accessible van, a scooter and perhaps a home.

Bruce Johnson, who is in his mid-60s and currently being cared for by his sister in Florida, is getting a $2.2 million settlement from the responsible parties.

Attorney Kenneth J. Allen negotiated the settlement for Johnson after another Porter County attorney and some Chicago attorneys were unable to help him and declined the case.

"I'm very thankful to (Allen's law firm) for winning my case, especially after the Chicago lawyers all said it couldn't be won," Johnson said.

"This settlement is going to make my life easier and give me some freedom."

Allen said, "It's nice to be able to help somebody."

"It (the settlement) was all he could possibly get, and coming into it he was looking at getting nothing essentially."

Allen said injury victims generally can't sue their own employer, but rather just get workmen's compensation. Johnson and the heavy equipment operator both worked for companies owned by the same individual.

"There are exceptions to that rule (that employers can't be sued)," Allen said.

The defendants in the case were Local Service LLC; Roger Tomlinson, who controlled the job site; M.T. Broviak LLC; Roland Machinery Co.; Mark Fisher, equipment operator; and Komatsu America Corp.

Although the terms of the settlement were sealed, the facts were spelled out in court documents Allen filed Thursday to protect his client from a previous attorney. One of the attorneys is trying to collect more than $10,000 in attorney's fees even though he ended up not helping Johnson.

Johnson was struck April 14, 2004, by a 16-ton excavator operated by a man with no special training, who didn't know standard hand signals for operating heavy equipment, who was an accountant by education and who had a history of embezzlement and forgery, according to court documents. Documents also say the excavator had a broken, missing or defective side mirror.

As a result of the accident, which occurred at a residential construction site at 4407 Goodrich Road in Valparaiso, Johnson became paralyzed. He has limited use of his upper extremities.

Allen said the settlement will pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and pay for Johnson's continuing care. Before becoming a construction worker, Johnson worked at Bethlehem Steel for 36 years until it went bankrupt.

"At least this (settlement) gives him some mobility, some ability to engage in life again," Allen said.


Fatal crash trial to begin today

posted by kjalaw on Jun 23rd, 2008 at 11:05 am

Monday, June 23, 2008

VALPARAISO | A jury is expected to be chosen this afternoon to hear the case against an Ohio truck driver accused of running a red light on Ind. 49 and killing a 91-year-old driver.

Sampson Boadi, 42, of Columbus, is charged with felony counts of reckless homicide and criminal recklessness and misdemeanor counts of criminal recklessness and reckless driving in connection with the crash at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 8, 2006, at the highway's intersection with County Road 400 North, or Vale Park Road.

Boadi is accused of running a red light while traveling north on Ind. 49 and striking a westbound car driven by Earl Eaton, of Liberty Township.

Eaton died as a result of chest injuries, according to emergency officials.

The case will be heard in the courtroom of Porter County Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa.

Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Bennett will pursue the case, and Eaton will be defended by attorney Gary Germann.

Surviving family members of the accident victim filed a wrongful death civil suit against Boadi and trucking firms Q.S. of Illinois, Quality Services and Hub Group.

The suit accuses the trucking companies of negligence for hiring and retaining Eaton, who had prior violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, according to attorney Kenneth J. Allen.

The offenses include logbook violations, Allen has said.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money.


Kenneth J. Allen selected as Distinguished Barrister

posted by kjalaw on May 8th, 2008 at 11:12 am

| Wednesday, April 30, 2008 |


Kenneth J. Allen Attorney and Principal, Kenneth J. Allen & Associates, Valparaiso

Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington


Kenneth J. Allen is recognized as a foremost plaintiff lawyer in personal injury and wrongful-death cases, leading Indiana in million dollar verdicts for the last several years. He often speaks at continuing legal education seminars about personal injury and accident litigation. But Allen is also known in the community for his success outside of the practice of law. 

He has made financial contributions to various programs and organizations, such as Unite 2 Fight Paralysis and the Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Walk; Pro Bono Volunteer Recognition Night of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Committee; and Hilltop Neighborhood House, which helps families and children in Porter County. Allen sponsors "Teachers of Excellence:' which recognizes outstanding local teachers. 

For the past 10 years, Allen and his wife have donated tens of thousands of dollars to buy Christmas gifts for northwest Indiana children. Last year, according to a news report, the Allens gave $50 to every child living in area shelters during the holidays, which was distributed by the United Way partner agency shelters in the form of gift certificates.

It's Allen's generous work with the United Way that has positively impacted the community the most.  Through his donation to the agency, every kindergarten-age child in Lake, LaPorte, and Porter counties' public and private schools received a child identification kit, which included identification bracelets and instructions for taking fingerprints. 

The United Way of Porter County has recognized Allen and his wife as leading contributors to its annual campaign. He's also been a recipient of the Child Safety Advocate Award given by the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Indiana Safe Kids Coalition.




Verdicts and Cases

posted by kjalaw on Apr 7th, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Results are important, but Indiana lawyers are prohibited from advertising statistical data or other information based on past performance.

Feel free to contact us by telephone or in person at our office and we will be happy to discuss our prior cases with you. In the interim, feel free to browse our website for related stories to our cases.



Attorney playing Santa to kids in shelters

posted by kjalaw on Feb 26th, 2008 at 9:10 am

| Wednesday, December 06, 2006

VALPARAISO | Northwest Indiana attorney Kenneth J. Allen and his wife, Nina, have played Santa for several years by buying hundreds of Christmas gifts for needy children.

But this year, they are trying something different -- giving away $50 gift cards for children who will spend this Christmas in a homeless shelter or domestic violence shelter in Lake and Porter counties.

Allen said the change will accomplish the goal of making sure children in need have presents, but also will give parents a good feeling by letting them pick out gifts they know their children will like.

"This way parents in shelter can play Santa Claus for their own children," Allen said.

"Hopefully, this will strengthen the bonds between parents and children and bring happiness to these families in need this Christmas."

Allen said there are more than 150 children housed in shelters now, and he said an additional 100 could land in shelters by the end of the year. The Allens gave $12,500 -- enough for 250 children -- to the United Way for distribution to children in its partner shelters.

Allen said he and his wife will make an additional contribution if additional children are in need. If the $12,500 contribution proves to be too large, the shelters can keep the money for birthday presents, Allen said.


$24 Million Settlement in Semi-Truck Crash

posted by kjalaw on Feb 15th, 2008 at 9:43 am

| Friday, October 12, 2007 |

VALPARAISO | A young woman who was rendered a paraplegic when the car she was riding in was struck by a semitrailer five years ago will receive a $24 million settlement from the semi's owner and its insurance carrier.

Lisa Keppen, of Porter County, will receive payments for the remainder of her life, according to the settlement her attorney, Kenneth J. Allen, negotiated for her.

Allen said the money will ensure Keppen's health care will be taken care of for life.

"She would give that money back in a heartbeat if she could erase the tragedy," Allen said.

Keppen, 20, suffered a spinal injury on June 19, 2002 when a USF Holland semitrailer eastbound on U.S. 12 turned in front of the car Keppen was riding in. The crash occurred at U.S. 12 and Kansas Avenue in the Pine Township section of Porter County.

The crash caused Keppen to lose her ability to walk and control her bowel and bladder functions, according to court documents. The documents state she suffers chronic pain and depression, and will require assistance from others for the rest of her life -- an estimated 61 more years. Her medical care will cost an estimated $5.7 million.

"Apart from her economic damages, Lisa has suffered enormous human loss as a result of her injury including: the permanent loss of a normal life, constant and intractable physical pain, emotional suffering and, of course, disfigurement," Allen states in court documents.

Allen alleged USF failed to properly train, test and supervise its drivers. USF didn't admit negligence, but offered a settlement, according to court documents.


Record Verdict in Foot Injury Case

posted by kjalaw on Feb 15th, 2008 at 9:38 am

| Saturday, October 06, 2007

PORTAGE | A Portage jury on Thursday awarded $1.25 million to an area resident whose foot was run over and badly crushed during an accident four years ago.

The injured man's attorney, Kenneth J. Allen, said the verdict appears to be an Indiana record for this type of injury and the highest ever awarded in a courtroom at the North Porter County Government Center in Portage.

"The jury worked hard to do the right thing, deciding that this injury will have life-long consequences to Aaron (Jones, the injured man), whose life expectancy is 57.8 more years," Allen said.

"The jury took into account the fact that he can't come back to court 10 years from now when his condition becomes more disabling, so the verdict included money for future problems. The jury's verdict was fair and just."

Jones, 23, who lived in Valparaiso but who now lives in Hammond, was struck Dec. 13, 2003, on Interstate 65 in DeMotte. Jones was a student returning from Indiana University Bloomington in a pickup truck driven by Ray Ramirez III, 25, of Valparaiso. Ramirez spun out on the black ice he encountered on a northbound bridge. He truck hit a guardrail and became disabled, blocking the northbound passing lane.

While Jones attempted to move the truck off the road, Mark Franciose, 19, lost control of his car and hit the guardrail and disabled pickup truck, running over Jones' foot and crushing bones.

"My passion is geology and this injury makes it difficult for me to do my job and complete my doctorate," said Jones, who is working for the Indiana Geological Survey and who is pursuing a doctoral degree in geology.

"The jury's verdict will help me focus on my career goals without worrying over medical bills I can't afford."

The jury served under Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Thode.


Poisoned Peter Pan Peanut Butter Ravages 11 year-old Girl's Kidneys; Lawsuit Filed By Family

posted by kjalaw on Feb 15th, 2008 at 9:32 am

| Friday, June 15, 2007

VALPARAISO | Tainted Peter Pan peanut butter led to the salmonella poisoning and kidney failure of 11-year-old Krystina Brugh of Lowell, her family alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday against ConAgra Foods in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

The suit claims the nation's food supply is at risk due to inadequate oversight and calls for overhaul of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

The girl will undergo a kidney transplant Monday, receiving a new organ from her father, the family said at a morning news conference at the Valparaiso office of attorney Kenneth Allen.

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The family wants changes in the nation's "broken system" of food inspection that allow food manufacturers to be self-policing, Allen said.

The FDA cannot force plant shutdowns or force recalls and has no subpoena power, Allen said as he called for the agency's food safety functions to be dismantled and replaced by single agency responsible for food safety.

The February salmonella outbreak and recall of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter manufactured at a ConAgra plant in Georgia, Allen said, resulted from inadequate inspection, questionable testing and unsanitary procedures.

Krystina, a cheerleader, gymnast and Girl Scout, was first diagnosed with stomach flu, Allen said. When salmonella poisoning was discovered, it "ravaged her kidneys" and led to months of kidney dialysis and the upcoming transplant.

The lawsuit was brought to protect other consumers and families, Allen said.

"We're not in this for a settlement," Allen said. "We're in this for some change."

Krystina's parents, John and Christina Brugh, said Krystina fell ill in late January after eating peanut butter, her favorite food, two weeks before the FDA announced a recall of the ConAgra product for suspected salmonella contamination.

Stephanie Childs, a spokesperson for ConAgra Foods, said she couldn't comment on the lawsuit, as the company had not seen it yet.

On Feb. 14, ConAgra initiated a voluntary recall of Peter Pan peanut butter based on information from the FDA drawn from a report of the Centers for Disease Control, Childs said.

"It is of deep concern to us that any consumer may have been harmed" by a ConAgra product, Childs said. The company is addressing each complaint of illness from tainted food as appropriate, she said.


Wrongful death lawsuit filed over fatal truck crash

posted by kjalaw on Feb 14th, 2008 at 1:13 pm

| Wednesday, December 06, 2006

VALPARAISO | An Ohio truck driver, already facing criminal charges for a fatal crash along Ind. 49, has been named in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Surviving family members of accident victim Earl Eaton filed the civil lawsuit Monday against driver Sampson Boadi, and trucking firms Q.S. of Illinois, Quality Services and Hub Group.

The suit accuses the trucking companies of negligence for hiring and retaining Eaton, who had prior violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, according to attorney Kenneth J. Allen.

The offenses include logbook violations, he said.

"That kind of person should not be on the road, at least as a professional driver," Allen said.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money.

Boadi, 41, of Columbus, made an initial court appearance last month and pleaded not guilty to felony counts of reckless homicide and criminal recklessness, and misdemeanor charges of criminal recklessness and reckless driving.

He is accused of running a red light Oct. 8 at County Road 400 North (Vale Park Road) while driving north on Ind. 49 and striking a car driven west by Eaton, 91, of Liberty Township.

Eaton died as a result of chest injuries, according to emergency officials.

If found guilty, Boadi faces between two and eight years behind bars on the reckless homicide charge and up to three years on the criminal recklessness count.


$20 Million Verdict Won Against Allstate

posted by kjalaw on Feb 14th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

| Friday, October 06, 2006

A jury on Thursday decided that Ted K. Fields was in bad hands with Allstate and awarded the Valparaiso man $20 million.

Fields' attorney, Kenneth J. Allen, said the jury's decision supports his contention that Allstate acted in bad faith against its customers, and he hopes the verdict sends a message to Allstate and other insurers to treat their customers fairly.

Allen said Allstate has had a policy for the past decade that gives its policyholders two choices -- accept a poor settlement or face a long, drawn out legal fight. He said insurers traditionally pay out 70 cents on the dollar for claims, but Allstate began paying 52 cents on the dollar in order to return millions to shareholders.

Allstate disagrees with Allen's assessment and the decision of the jury in Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias-Schneider's court.

"We disagree with the jury's verdict and we're disappointed in the resulting damages award," said Karen Spica, senior corporate relations manager.

"Allstate believes the decision in the case by the Appellate Court in Allstate's favor was correct and we will pursue a further appeal to the court. Allstate's claim processes are sound. Our goal is to investigate, evaluate and promptly resolve each claim fairly and on its merits."

The case against Allstate almost didn't go to trial because of an Appellate Court ruling, but the Indiana Supreme Court vacated that decision.

Allen said Fields, 50, who is now retired on disability from his job as a steelworker, suffered spinal injuries in a 1995 crash. After the insolvency of the insurer for Jimmie Woodley, 57, of Gary, the driver who caused the crash, Allstate became responsible under the uninsured motorist coverage it sold Fields.

Fields suffered $7,000 in medical bills and $18,000 in lost wages, but Allen said Allstate forced Fields into a nearly 10-year battle. Allen said many people yield to Allstate's tactics, but Fields would not.

Allen said a doctor and psychiatrist testified during the two-week trial that the stress caused by Allstate's actions contributed to Fields' rise in blood pressure, which led to heart problems and a stroke.

"All I ever wanted was to get my car fixed and my bills paid, but Allstate turned my claim into World War III," Fields said in a statement.

Allen said he believes the $20 million verdict is the largest bad faith verdict ever rendered against an auto insurer in Indiana.

"When Ted was hurt by an uninsured motorist, he believed he was in good hands...," Allen said.

"He soon realized Allstate's good hands were in reality boxing gloves."

Allen said insurance customers have a right to having their claims paid in full and anything less "is flat wrong."


Ambulance Breakdown Provokes Lawsuit

posted by kjalaw on Feb 14th, 2008 at 12:23 pm

August 17, 2006

Tona Kunz, Daily Herald Staff Writer

An Aurora family is suing the city and its fire department claiming slow ambulance service led to the death of the family's patriarch.


Sheri Myers filed the lawsuit this month on behalf of herself and her three brothers over the death of their father, Vernon Panega.


"It really is everyone's worst nightmare," said Kenneth J. Allen, the Chicago attorney hired by the family. "Ambulances should run. We think a message needs to be sent that this is not the way to run a fire department or emergency service."


According to the lawsuit, Panega experienced breathing difficulty March 9

and an ambulance was called to take him to the hospital. The ambulance arrived, but was unable to leave with Panega because of an undisclosed problem, likely mechanical or fuel related, Allen said. Panega waited about 45 minutes before he was taken in an ambulance, and during that time he suffered a heart attack and brain injury due to reduced oxygen, Allen said.


The 82-year-old who had been in good health prior to the ambulance call never recovered and died July 1, Allen added.


The lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount of money for negligence and wrongful death, claiming the fire department failed to maintain its vehicles and lacked a plan for when vehicles do not operate. The suit says the ambulance was parked in such a way that it blocked other vehicles, prohibiting someone from moving Panega to another vehicle to get him to the hospital.


Aurora fire officials and the city attorney could not be reached for comment.


Sheri Myers, who serves as executor of her father's estate, declined comment.


© 2006 Daily Herald Record Number:










Daily Herald


$30 Million Dollar Lawsuit After Fatal Crash

posted by kjalaw on Feb 14th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

| Sunday, August 13, 2006

The family of a Valparaiso motorcyclist killed when a truck smashed into him filed a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit Friday in LaPorte Superior Court.

The crash that killed Larry Davis, 43, occurred June 15 at U.S. 421 and County Road 300 North in LaPorte County. Davis, who is survived by his wife, Darcie, two daughters and four step-children, was operations manager at National Intermodal Services in Chicago.

Police reports state 20-year-old Adam Deutscher, of Michigan City, was driving a Suburban and may have fallen asleep before driving into Davis, who was stopped waiting to turn. A witness told police Deutscher continued driving "with a person on the front of the truck with arms in the air."

Deutscher's vehicle, with Davis still on it, ended up swerving into the opposite lane and striking another vehicle.

"This is one of the most horrific deaths I've come across," said the family's attorney, Kenneth J. Allen.

The lawsuit names Deutscher and his family's company, The Masonry Stop Inc., as defendants. Allen said Deutscher was working for the company at the time of the accident.


send to mobile
share bizblog

blog history