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Articles Tagged with bicycle accident

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.

A recent fatal accident in western Massachusetts underscores some of the potential differences between criminal proceedings and claims for personal injury or wrongful death in our state. A fatal accident on our roadways often results in both criminal and wrongful death claims. In the aftermath of a collision that results in one or more deaths, authorities typically conduct a formal accident investigation and ultimately determine what happened and whether they believe any laws were broken. When it appears that criminal conduct is involved, formal charges are usually brought. Apart from any criminal proceedings, the surviving family of the deceased retains the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.

Occasionally, as evidenced by a fatal accident in May that involved a car and a bicycle, law enforcement personnel decide that criminal charges are not warranted. That, however, does not mean the surviving family is barred from bringing a civil lawsuit. Even when a collision is deemed to have not risen to the level of criminal conduct, a civil lawsuit may be commenced based upon evidence of negligence. In short, one can be negligent without committing a crime. The burden of proving negligence in a civil proceeding is less stringent than that required for a criminal conviction.

While the reported details are few, the fatal accident occurred in downtown Northampton. It is only known that a car struck an 18-year-old bicyclist, who died from the injuries sustained. Nevertheless, the office of the district attorney concluded the tragedy was an unfortunate accident and that no criminal charges would be filed. In effect the prosecutor’s office concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver of the car was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.