With the sheer weight and size of large commercial trucks, the risk of catastrophic, if not fatal, injuries is obvious. Hundreds of deaths occur each year as a result of trucking accidents. While there are many factors and circumstances that often contribute to trucking accidents, most of the time they are caused by negligence or even recklessness. However, in a few cases, trucking accidents lead to criminal charges.
Truck wreck in Chattanooga leads to criminal charges
In June of this year, a horrible accident on I-75 took the lives of six people. The truck driver involved is now facing criminal charges in Kentucky. Ben Brewer, after being on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Top 10 Most Wanted list for nearly a week, was arrested and charged with 13 counts of vehicular homicide. He was also charged with 4 counts of reckless aggravated assault, driving under the influence of narcotics, speeding and making false reports about his duty status.
Additional factors were involved in this wreck
Shortly after the crash, specific allegations regarding the Brewer’s drug use and poor driving history began to surface. Furthermore, records indicated that Brewer was on duty for approximately 50 consecutive hours in the three days prior to the crash. He had also been driving for 15 consecutive hours immediately before the crash. Further charges, including criminal mischief and trafficking a controlled substance, have been added to the list.
Common causes of truck accidents usually lead to civil cases
Most truck and auto accidents are caused by negligence, leading to civil lawsuits. For instance, driver error is probably the most common cause, such as distraction, failing to obey traffic laws or driving while exhausted. This type of conduct is not typically considered to be of a criminal nature, because of the level of culpability. This is more likely the case with truck accidents caused by weather and road conditions and mechanical problems or improper loading and load distribution. However, when more reckless or wanton conduct is involved, there is a potential for criminal charges.
Vehicular manslaughter charges in Missouri and Arkansas
When a driver unintentionally causes a crash, resulting in the death of passengers of their vehicle, occupants of other vehicles on the road, or pedestrians, they may be charged with vehicle homicide (or vehicular manslaughter). This is usually the case when the at-fault driver was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as in the case of Brewer in Chattanooga. .
Missouri’s involuntary manslaughter statute (Mo. Rev. Stat. §565.024. 1.) defines the crime as follows:
A person commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the first degree if he or she recklessly causes the death of another person. The offense of involuntary manslaughter in the first degree is a class C felony.
Ark. Code § 5-10-105, refers to this crime as “negligent homicide,” and states in part as follows:
A person commits negligent homicide if he or she negligently causes the death of another person, not constituting murder or manslaughter, as a result of operating a vehicle, an aircraft, or a watercraft: (A) While intoxicated . . . or . . . While passing a stopped school bus. . . .
In Arkansas, a conviction for vehicular homicide can result in 5-20 years in prison, and up to 15 years in Missouri.
If you have questions regarding trucking accidents, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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