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Self-employed trucker wins $3 million verdict after career-ending crash

TAMPA — A Hillsborough County jury has awarded $3.38 million to a self-employed commercial truck driver whose career ended in a crash that took place when an oncoming trucker drifted into his lane.

Joel Capote, 49, of Lutz suffered multiple fractures to his leg, spine and face, plus cuts to his face, lips and mouth, which have required multiple surgeries, intensive care and ongoing physical therapy, pain management and mental health support. His medical bills total nearly $520,000 and are growing.

Before the July 20, 2016, crash on State Road 674 in Wimauma, Capote owned and operated his own trucking company, according to his attorney, Jonathan Brozyna with the Tampa office of the Morgan & Morgan law firm.

Since then, he has been unable to work and lost his commercial driver's license because he couldn't complete the required physical examination.

"Mr. Capote's life was completely destroyed by this accident," Brozyna said in an announcement of the verdict. "A reckless driver robbed him of the life that he had worked so hard to create."

The day of the crash, Capote was heading east on SR 674 in his Mack dump truck near County Road 579 a little before noon, according to court records. The other driver, 49-year-old Charles Edward Brooks of Wesley Chapel, was driving in the opposite direction in a dump truck owned by JVS Contracting when he drifted into the eastbound lane. Brooks' truck collided with a pickup truck towing a trailer in front of Capote's truck, then crashed into Capote, pushing his truck off the road and into an embankment.

The Florida Highway Patrol cited Brooks for careless driving, which was later dismissed. In the civil case, Capote sued JVS and Brooks.

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times.

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