Proposed bill would cap the amount families can sue for in trucking accidents

Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 10:41 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - “There is no other area of the law in Iowa where there’s a limit like this; it’s a carve-out for the trucking industry,” said Semelroth of RSH Legal.

A bill in the Iowa Senate would cap how much victims of truck crashes could get in lawsuits. A change that would benefit the trucking industry. The bill was voted down Wednesday, but could be brought back.

One grieving family said the bill makes it worse for other families going through similar situations.

Dan Heeren loaded trucks at the company formally known as Dupont in Cedar Rapids. He was working when a semi-truck struck and killed him.

“I still can’t wrap my head around it today,” said Bo Heeren, Dan’s son.

Bo was one of four children left without a father in 2017 after the accident. On that day they lost a father, husband, and role model.

“He was the best father you could ever ask for,” he said. “He would do anything for anybody.”

The semi-driver survived and was found responsible for the crash. The family sued, and the company settled with them last month. Had the bill in consideration been law, the family would have received a fraction of the settlement; $150,000 per family member. The total cap per victim in a crash where the driver is at fault, $1 million.

“Typically, a jury would be awarded millions of dollars for a lifetime of care, treatment, and loss of function,” said Semelroth.

Semelroth represents plaintiffs in wrongful death cases. While his industry stands to lose with this kind of tort reform, he said the protection it offers to trucking companies is unfair to victims.

“It’s not like they are proposing a cap if one of us made a mistake and seriously injured or killed somebody,” he said. “This is a specific piece of legislation to remove responsibility from one single industry.”

Taking responsibility for the loss of someone who meant so much.

“I don’t think you should ever put a dollar mount on a life,” said Heeren.

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