A 54-year-old truck driver is on trial on an accusation that he caused the death of a 2-year-old boy. He claims that he had barely a second, however, to slam on his brakes and try to prevent his 67,000 pound semi-truck from traveling the 52 foot distance and ramming into a car driven by the boy's father who he says suddenly cut him off while attempting to enter an interstate highway.
Defense and prosecution in the criminal trial are presenting differing experts on the question of who was responsible for the truck accident. At issue is whether the trucker or the father was responsible for the accident. The accident inflicted fatal injuries on the boy, while leaving his 1-year-old sister, seated beside him in the family car, uninjured. Both parents were in the car, with the father driving. The charge in the current trial is misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide, which can result, upon conviction, in a $1,000 fine and a one year jail sentence.
Prosecutors also say that the trucker was driving at too high a rate of speed, rolling along at approximately 69 mph despite a 55 mph posted construction zone. Additionally snow was falling on the road on the day of the accident, further mandating caution as to the speed of travel. A state trooper said that factors such as these really caused the accident.
Many truck accidents in Missouri are caused by some combination of speeding, driver fatigue, driver distraction from texting or cell phone use behind the wheel, or drug and alcohol abuse. Criminal prosecution requires proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It is tougher to prove. Civil lawsuits for damages for wrongful death or personal injury only require a lesser standard of proof by a preponderance of the evidence—in other words that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused the accident and should be held responsible for it. Personal injury attorneys understand this distinction and can often achieve recovery of damages in a civil lawsuit, regardless of whether or not there was a criminal conviction, or even any criminal prosecution.
Source: Lincoln Journal Star, "Experts disagree about crash that killed toddler" Jonathan Edwards, Jan. 27, 2014