Jury awards crash victim $770,000; claims truck driver who caused crash had numerous violations

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DENVER -- A Denver jury has awarded a Littleton woman $770,000 for a collision with a tanker that sent her car into Clear Creek.  42-year-old Jennifer Martin of Littleton had a broken neck and a severe concussion as a result of the January 23, 2013 accident off of Highway 6.

“When I woke up it was completely dark and it was like a bomb went off and I realized I was in a car and the wind was blowing and it was freezing that night, freezing cold,” said Martin.  She survived the crash with three other people, all of whom she said probably would’ve died if the creek hadn’t been frozen over with ice.

Two cars and four people ended up in Clear Creek, a few miles west of Golden, after Colorado State Patrol troopers say a speeding tanker forced both cars off the road.

58-year old Sergio Silva of Thornton later pleaded guilty to careless driving.  Police say he rounded a curve at 1:47 a.m., lost control and tipped his tanker on its side, blocking both lanes of traffic.

Martin was in the backseat of the second car that bounced off the tanker and landed on a frozen Clear Creek.

“Innocent lives matter, my life mattered, our lives mattered, “ said Martin who was frustrated to learn Silva’s driving record included numerous safety violations.

“This driver should`ve never been hired,” said Martin’s attorney Jordan Levine.  The personal injury lawyer said the Department of Transportation requires trucking companies to go back three years when looking at an applicant’s driving record.

“This driver had about six violations in that period and if they looked back further they would`ve seen about 15 more violations all involving speeding, lane violations,” said Levine.

Brad Gasser is the manager for Valley Equipment Leasing, the trucking company that hired Silva and was ordered to pay Martin.

Gasser told FOX31 Denver his company did check Silva’s driving record but felt it wasn’t that bad because almost all of Silva’s citations were considered zero point violations. Gasser insisted his company does as good as or better than all of his competitors when it comes to its hiring practices.

Martin said the company is simply trying to downplay its liability. “They need workers, they need drivers so they`re going to look at these small little infractions like they`re nothing. But they should mean a lot.”

Martin remains frustrated that Silva never faced any criminal charges even though the black box inside his truck showed he was going 45 miles an hour as he passed a sign at the curve warning drivers to slow down to 30 miles an hour. “He`s (Silva) on the road and trucking companies, somebody`s hiring him, somebody`s putting him back on the road and there are innocent lives at risk, I`m proof of that,” said Martin.

Silva’s ticket cost him four points off his driver’s license but it wasn’t nearly enough to revoke his Commercial Driving License.  FOX31 Denver was unable to reach Silva for comment but Valley Equipment Leasing confirmed it stopped using Silva as a driver about a year ago.