SETTLEMENT: 73-year-old truck driver burned to death after another trucker collided with him at an intersection.
On January 4, 2013, Plutarco Perez, 73, was driving a tractor trailer on a two-lane rural road in Kern County in the same direction as another tractor trailer being driven by Andrew Mateut. Perez was further ahead of Mateut and beginning to make a left turn at an intersection when the two trucks collided. The collision quickly ignited a fire and the two trucks were quickly engulfed. While Mateut was able to exit his truck, Perez was unable to escape his cab and tragically burned to death.
Perez’s widow and four adult sons hired Roger E. Booth of the Law Offices of Booth & Koskoff to represent them in a wrongful death lawsuit against Mateut and his insurance company.
While there were no independent witnesses to the fatal accident, based on the evidence of the scene, the Plaintiffs alleged that Mateut must have tried to pass Perez as he prepared to turn left at the intersection. This illegal maneuver impeded Perez’s path and directly caused the collision. This version of the events was supported by the location in which the vehicles came to rest, visible skid marks on the road, and the physical damage done to both trucks.
In addition to the driver, the Plaintiffs contended that Roland Transport and Aquila Motor Freight were similarly liable for Perez’s death as they employed Mateut and were responsible for the tractor-trailer Mateut was driving at the time of the incident.
Mateut claimed that the decedent was parked along the shoulder of the road near the intersection when he suddenly pulled out directly in front of Mateut, and this sudden change of movement forced him to take evasive action.
Booth and his team were able to obtain a significant settlement. They were limited, however, by Perez’s semi-retired state and reduced earnings at the time of the accident. The case settled for the defendant’s $1 million insurance policy limits. Of this amount, the Plaintiffs received $780,000, California Insurance Company received $200,000 as reimbursement paid out the family in form of workers’ compensation death benefits, and $20,000 went to the decedent’s employer to resolve a property damage claim.