New Jersey bus, truck drivers were negligent but not criminal
November 27, 2013
An accident liability claim is not dependent on the filing of criminal charges. Harmed Bergen County parties in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits may be disheartened when defendants escape arrest. Plaintiffs wonder whether a civil jury will feel damages are unwarranted.
A 2012 Burlington County crash between a dump truck and a school bus killed an 11-year-old girl. The truck accident also seriously injured the triplet’s two sisters, along with another student. The drivers were cited for traffic infractions, but neither was brought up on criminal charges.
The truck wreck drew the attention of the National Transportation Safety Board, which determined both drivers disregarded the safety of others. The NTSB reported the dump truck was overloaded and had bad brakes. The school bus driver drove in front of the truck, because he lacked sleep and took prescription sedatives.
Twenty-five children were on the Chesterfield Township school bus when it was hit by the truck and struck a utility pole. Several children on the bus, including the student who died, were not wearing state-mandated seat belts.
Yet, prosecutors determined there was “no basis” for criminal charges.
The parents of the triplets injured and killed in the accident filed a negligence lawsuit against the vehicle owners.
Criminal prosecutors go after law breakers. It’s possible for a driver to be negligent without being negligent enough to violate a law. Civil courts decide negligence by comparing the behaviors of a defendant with the actions of a “reasonable person,” placed in the same circumstances.
In criminal courts, the state takes up the public’s point of view. Civil actions are one-on-one disputes – a plaintiff who alleges harm by careless or reckless actions and a defendant who attempts to convince a jury otherwise.
A criminal investigation may not produce enough evidence to prosecute, but it can unearth proof of negligence needed by plaintiffs in civil actions to receive compensation.
articles.philly.com, “No charges in deadly Burlco school bus crash” Darran Simon, Nov. 22, 2013