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It was a cold day in Odessa, TX, with freezing rain and black ice on the pavement. The National Weather Service warned drivers of the treacherous roads, and many chose to avoid them that day. But not everyone. Jennifer Blake of Houston was driving down I-20 in a borrowed pickup truck along with her three children. She lost control of the vehicle on the slippery roads, crossed over the grassy median and collided with a tractor-trailer owned by Werner Enterprises Inc.

Jennifer and her 12-year-old daughter both suffered severe brain injuries from the accident. Her 14-year-old son was also injured. And sadly, her 7-year-old son Zachary did not survive the crash. The driver of the Werner semi-truck, Zaragoza Salinas, was not cited by the Odessa police for the accident. And neither was the company he worked for.

Yet, Blake pursued legal action against Salinas and Werner – and a jury awarded her $89.7 million for the accident – but why?

Let’s start with her reason to sue. In many cases a trucking company’s insurance offers a low amount of compensation to cover medical bills and expenses related to the accident. These insurance companies are notorious for trying to pay as little as possible to accident victims who genuinely need help. It’s all about the bottom line.

However, Blake sought advice from an experienced attorney. Werner insisted that they were not at fault, and since the two parties could not agree, the case went to trial.

Going into the trial, Werner felt confident it would come out victorious. Throughout the duration, the company maintained that its driver did nothing wrong. According to Werner’s Chief Legal Officer, Salinas was traveling at speeds below the speed limit and never lost control of the vehicle.

But what Werner didn’t reveal was that Salinas was a student driver and his trainer was in the back of the cab sleeping at the time of the accident.  Or that Salinas had passed by five other wrecks caused by ice before his  own collision with Blake. And although he may have been traveling under the speed limit on I-20 that tragic day, he was still purportedly going 50 miles an hour.  Salina was on an expedited delivery schedule that required him to make his delivery in California the very next day.

If he was not in such a rush, would he have pressed on with dangerous road conditions? Would a more experienced driver have made a different decision? Could little Zachary Blake still be alive today if Salinas chose to avoid the icy highway?

Blake was wise to seek out legal help for her case. On the surface, it appears that the accident was her fault, but with an experienced attorney on her side, she was able to prove her case in court.

While no amount of compensation can ever make up for the loss of life this family suffered, it will help Blake pay for medical bills. And it will help her provide for her children if she is unable to go back to work due to the brain injuries she suffered.

DeSouza Law Firm is a leading personal injury firm representing accident victims throughout Texas.

If you’ve been injured by a car, truck, 18 wheeler, company vehicle, or in the oilfield, call DeSouza Injury Lawyers today at 361-799-2222 or visit the firm online at

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