Glenwood cop files complaint over February crash with truck driver; lawyer says will dispute state police’s report
By John Balch
A part-time Glenwood police officer has filed a civil lawsuit for a wreck the state police have determined the officer caused when he made a U-turn back in February.
Joshua A. Neel, 27, formerly of Langley and currently a resident of Garland County, filed a negligence complaint in Pike County Circuit Court on Friday, Nov. 9 against Javian Williams of Dallas, Texas and J&M Tank Lines, Inc.
Neel was hurt on the night of Feb. 2 when his patrol unit was hit by a semi-truck driven by Williams. The Arkansas State Police investigated the accident and reported Neel was “sitting stationary” in the eastbound lane of Highway 70 and was attempting to conduct a U-turn when his 2010 Dodge Charger patrol unit was hit in the middle of the roadway by a semi-truck driven by Williams.
The impact spun Neel’s vehicle 180 degrees in a clockwise rotation and it came to rest in the ditch, according to ASP Trooper Christopher Garner’s report. Neel was transported by ambulance to a Hot Springs hospital with a shoulder and collarbone injury. The patrol unit was totaled.
Trooper Garner reported the “contributing factor” in the accident was “due to Neel failing to yield to oncoming traffic.” An amendment to the report was made on Feb. 8 and states: “Entry to reflect, Operator Neel was traveling east on U.S. 70 when he braked suddenly, entered onto the south shoulder and attempted a U-turn from the shoulder entering into the path of Operator Williams.”
The report is unclear whether Neel was cited in the accident and does not indicate whether Neel had his unit’s emergency lights activated.
Williams wrote in a statement to the ASP that when Neel pulled into the highway in front of him that he swerved to the left and started braking to avoid the patrol unit. “I was on my horn and down-shifting. I could not avoid the accident,” Williams wrote.
The complaint was filed Friday on Neel’s behalf by Jessica Virden of the law offices of Peter A. Miller.
The negligence complaint states Neel was traveling on Highway 70 when he saw a vehicle traveling west at what looked like a high rate of speed.
“(Neel) then turned on his blue flashing lights to turn around and make a traffic stop. Plaintiff looked in his rear view mirror and saw (Williams’) vehicle at what appeared to be a safe distance away. After crossing Sweetwater Creek Bridge, Plaintiff began his turn-around in order to make the traffic stop. In the process of turning, Plaintiff observed Williams trying to pass the patrol unit in the left lane. Williams then struck Plaintiff’s vehicle so hard it forced the vehicle into the ditch, and did so much damage the jaws of life were required to extricate the Plaintiff.”
The complaint further states Williams caused the collision and was negligent for “failing to keep a lookout for other vehicles on the roadway; failing to keep the motor vehicle he was driving under proper control in order to avoid damage to himself and others on the road; failing to reduce his speed, stop, or change lanes to avoid a collision; failing to slow down or pull over for a law enforcement vehicle; and violating the applicable states of the State of Arkansas.”
Virden told The Nashville Leader Tuesday morning the Miller law firm does plan to dispute the inclusion in the state police’s report that Neel was stationary prior to making the U-turn.
“Our official position is that Officer Neel was executing a traffic stop according to protocol. The driver of the tractor trailer, Javian Williams, ignored the patrol unit’s flashing lights, and tried to pass Officer Neel in the left lane causing the collision,” Virden wrote in an email. “Had Mr. Williams kept a proper lookout for other vehicles on the roadway and slowed down or stopped for Officer Neel’s law enforcement vehicle, this collision would not have happened.”
As a result of the crash, Neel suffered “physical injury; pain and metal distress, incurred medical bills for treatment and care, lost wages, and will sustain pain, distress, and bills in the future,” according to the complaint.
Neel is demanding a jury trial for the complaint and is seeking “a sum which will reasonably compensate him for his past and future damages and for cost, interest, and attorney’s fees, and all other proper relief to which be may be entitled.”