MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) - A jury has sided with the victim in a school bus crash, pointing the blame on a driver who was distracted behind the wheel.
The victim, Michael Duey, hopes his ordeal leaves an impact on other drivers as he continues his length recovery.
Duey's life changed in a split second on January 16, 2013 when he collided with a school bus.
"I can't do anything I used to do. It's hard for me to get around," he said.
Duey, of Eufaula, was represented by Myron Penn and Shane Seaborn of Penn & Seaborn, LLC and Mark Andrews of Morris Cary Andrews Talmadge and Driggers, LLC. He sued the distracted driver and his company and this week, a jury found the other driver liable. Duey was awarded nearly $1.3 million.
On the day of the accident, Duey was driving on Highway 231 in Montgomery County, hauling building materials to Illinois for work.
Ahead of him, Gregory Moore was driving a rented box truck and was making calls for work and failed to stop for a bus that was unloading children with its lights flashing.
Onboard bus video provided by Duey's attorneys shows the accident sequence. Moore swerved at the last second in an effort to avoid a collision but clipped the rear of the bus.
Duey was behind Moore and unaware that there was a school bus stopped up ahead since he couldn't see around the truck. With nowhere to go and no time to react when Moore suddenly swerved, Duey hit the back of the stopped school bus. Photos of the wreckage are hard for him and his wife to look at, even three years later.
Duey's legal representation says cell phone records show that Moore, who was working for McKelvey Mechanical, an HVAC company in Tuscaloosa, was making calls to subcontractors for a government bid at Fort Rucker.
Mark Andrews says Moore's own expert testified that he had nine seconds and almost 1,000 feet of stopping distance.
Moore reportedly contended that the calls from his phone were inadvertent "butt dials."
Duey broke both of his knees in the crash, as well as his hip and his left arm in several places. He suffered permanent nerve damage in both legs.
"I spent 31 days in a coma, 47 in the hospital and I'm still having troubles," he said. "I had several more knee surgeries. It's just been hard."
He thanked the judge and jury for hearing his case and feels that the jurors sent a message with their verdict about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving.
Myron Penn called his client a hero since he avoided hitting other cars that were stopped for a school bus and children who were getting off the bus.
"In that moment, those children were exiting the bus. Their mother was waiting for them and no one else got hurt and I don't know how that happened. But unfortunately, Mr. Duey did suffer. The jury heard his cry for justice and they provided it to him," Penn said.
Duey hopes his story leaves an impact on other drivers when they hear what he's been through.
"Keep your eyes on the road and pay attention," he said. "If for whatever reason they can't, pull over. Don't mess up someone else's life for it."
Penn thinks the case should also send a message to businesses to create stricter policies for employees to deter and prevent them from using their phone when they're on the road.
"It can wait until they pull over. Lives are a lot more important than business," he said. "It does send a message to other drivers, not just in Montgomery County, but throughout the state and nationally that being distracted while driving, whether you're drinking or talking on the phone or texting, cannot be tolerated. This is a new day and age of technology and with those new forms of technology comes greater responsibility.
The money he received from the lawsuit will help Duey with medical bills.
"Over time, a lot of hospital bills have added up," he said. "I'm glad I can finally move on and take care of what I need to take care of."
We reached out to Moore's attorney for comment. We are waiting to hear back from him.