Injured couple awarded $545,000 in truck accident lawsuit

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 | 8:00 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Seven years after a truck slammed into the car they were driving, Steven and Wanda Hartzler were awarded $545,000 Thursday after winning their personal injury case.

A Boone County jury ruled that the trucker's employer, Columbia-based Big K Enterprises, was liable for the July 2007 crash on Interstate 70that left the couple with long-term injuries that have since kept them from working, the Hartzlers' attorney Kevin Stanley said.

The Hartzlers were driving east on I-70 when debris in the road forced traffic to slow down near the exit to Centralia, according to the accident report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. A semitrailer then rear-ended the Hyundai Sonata, which the couple was renting, at about 45 to 50 mph.

The driver of the truck sustained no injuries, according to the accident report, but the accident aggravated pre-existing neck and back conditions for Wanda Hartzler. Steven Hartzler developed post-traumatic stress disorder, Stanley said. Both had worked as truck drivers before, but after the accident, neither got behind the wheel of a semi again.

"The reason Steven Hartzler never returned to work after the accident was because he never felt that he had emotionally recovered enough to safely return to work despite pressure from his employer," Stanley said. "The jury recognized he made the right decision. Had he forced himself to return, he posed a potential risk not just to himself but to other people."

The jury awarded $365,000 to Steven Hartzler and $180,000 to Wanda Hartzler, according to a news release from Stanley.

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.

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Richard Saunders August 27, 2014 | 1:20 p.m.

This is why we can't have nice things.

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