Quite often, a defendant in a criminal case will enter a no contest plea to get their case resolved quickly. Such is the case in Northampton County Pennsylvania where a judge has accepted a no contest plea from the driver responsible for the deadly tractor trailer accident on I-78. The driver, who was sentenced to five years probation, states that he would like to put it all behind him. However, the fact that the criminal charges against him have been resolved does not necessarily end the matter.
When we drive on our highways, we like to think that the person behind the wheel of the semi truck next to us is well trained, alert and capable. Because of the size and weight of these mammoth vehicles, it is extremely important that the driver be aware of road conditions and also their own physical condition. A commercial truck accident can be quite destructive, closing down highways and sometimes even causing additional accidents in the wake of the initial collision.
The judge in the case of this driver stated that he did not find any evidence of gross negligence or reckless behavior. That, however, doesn’t mean that the driver may not be responsible in other ways. Some factors may be outside the scope of a criminal investigation. Further investigation may be warranted to determine if the accident was caused by other factors such as driving while texting, falling asleep, or engaging in some other form of negligence.
Although the criminal aspect of this terrible tractor trailer accident may have been resolved, there is still much work to do before the victim’s loved ones can even begin to attempt to move forward. Pennsylvania law provides for the right of surviving family members to pursue a wrongful death civil claim against any party deemed to have negligently caused or contributed to a fatality. In this case, both the now convicted truck driver as well as his employer could be named as defendants. Moreover, proof of the criminal conviction may be offered as evidence of liability in a related civil proceeding that seeks reimbursement of monetary damages sustained. Hopefully, it could serve to heighten the awareness of other drivers and prevent future commercial truck accidents.
Source: Easton, PA Patch, “Deadly I-78 Crash: ‘I Just Want to Put It Behind Me’,” Tom Coombe, April 30, 2013