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Family of Massachusetts bicyclist pursues wrongful death action

Despite the efforts of local and state police, as well as the Norfolk County District Attorney, a Massachusetts grand jury refused to indict the driver of a tractor trailer on proposed charges stemming from a fatal accident in Wellesley. The crash occurred on a Friday in late Aug. 2012. The victim, a 41-year-old father of a 6-year-old son, was struck down and killed by the truck near a local intersection. The trucker then fled the scene. Though the grand jury did not return an indictment, the family of the deceased man has moved forward with a wrongful death civil lawsuit against the trucker.

The victim was training for a triathlon and was apparently equipped with appropriate safety gear. He pedaled through an intersection ahead of the semi. The truck subsequently turned in the same direction as the biker and struck the cyclist from the rear. The 51-year-old truck driver did not stop at the scene of the fatal accident, though police located him several days after the tragedy. When emergency responders arrived at the scene of the crash, the cyclist was lying unresponsive and was later declared dead at a local hospital.

After what appears to have been an extensive investigation, the office of the Norfolk District Attorney agreed with the conclusions of the police investigation. Charges were sought for negligent vehicular manslaughter and related accusations. Though no explanation was offered for its decision, the grand jury decided against further criminal proceedings.

In cases like these, it is important to note the distinction between criminal and civil cases. The legal issues and burden of proof in criminal proceedings are different and far more stringent than in civil proceedings. As the wrongful death lawsuit now makes its way through the Massachusetts civil court system, the victim’s surviving family will have the opportunity to prove the trucker’s actions were negligent and proximately caused the death of the cyclist. If the family is successful in establishing this, a court will proceed to adjudicate claims for monetary damages alleged to have accrued as a result of the negligent conduct.

Source: necn.com, “Broadside: Wellesley, Mass. bike fatality,” Feb. 27, 2013