Broome County criminal courts may punish drivers who cause accident injuries or deaths. Criminal actions are not required for injured victims and surviving family members to pursue civil claims. In fact, criminal and civil cases concerning the same accident sometimes overlap.
A Jefferson County grand jury did not indict a truck driver on felony charges last year. Instead, the out-of-state trucker was charged with reckless driving and traffic infractions. An Antwerp jury recently returned a guilty verdict on slightly modified charges, after the traffic violations were downsized to a single speeding charge.
The case stemmed from a fatal truck accident in July 2012. Six people were killed, when the defendant's big rig slammed into a group of vehicles stopped in a Route 11 construction zone. Prosecutors argued the truck driver had plenty of time to notice posted signs, slow down and prevent the chain reaction crash from happening.
Four victims were members of the same North Lawrence family: a 42-year-old mother; her two daughters, ages 11 and 14, and the girls' 69-year-old grandmother. A friend of one of the daughters, a 14-year-old teen, and a second driver, a 59-year-old Dickinson Center woman, also died.
An attorney for the victims' families told the court the trucker had "a quarter mile of visibility." Prosecutors alleged the first of several construction warning signs was posted well before the semi-truck reached the site.
A state police investigator testified the trucker started to skid just 24 feet from the accident site, too late to avoid a crash. The 57,000-pound tractor-trailer was not speeding, but there was no way for it to stop by the time the driver noticed the cars ahead. Civil cases related to the fatality are ongoing.
Personal injury and wrongful death claims may be resolved through settlements or trials. Settlements spare the litigants added time and costs and the uncertainty of a jury's decision.
Source: Watertown Daily TImes, "Driver found guilty in the 2012 Route 11 Antwerp crash case" Gordon Block, Nov. 23, 2014