Criminal and Civil Penalties May Come from Fatal Truck Accident
On May 23, 2012, a semi-truck driver was convicted by a Minnesota judge on one count of misdemeanor careless driving and three counts of criminal vehicular homicide that all stemmed from a fatal accident that had occurred two years earlier almost to the day. Two women were killed in the accident and one of those women was pregnant.
This is a case that shows how a truck accident can result in both criminal charges and a civil lawsuit.
The 38-year-old driver worked for Reinhart Foodservice and began his shift at 10 p.m. on May 23, 2010. This was the evening before the LaCrosse Wisconsin accident that killed the women. He drove all night long, making stops in Owatanna and Austin, Minnesota. At 11:30 a.m., he was northbound on Interstate 35 when he reached down to grab an energy drink from the passenger side floor of the truck. In his testimony, he stated that he took his eyes off the road for no more than 10 seconds when he looked up and saw that traffic was stopped due to road construction delays.
He was traveling at 68mph when his semi-truck slammed into the back of one of the victims’ vehicles, sending her vehicle into the rear of the other victims’ vehicle. The second victim’s car then slammed into the back of another semi-truck that was hauling 12 million bees. The bees were released at the scene of the accident because of the impact and this delayed the rescue efforts.
The judge came to the conclusion that the driver’s testimony regarding how long he took his eyes off of the road was not credible and that he operated his truck in a grossly negligent manner.
In addition to the criminal charges resulting from the accident, the families of the victims brought civil claims against the driver and his employer. The families settled early in 2012.