Vehicular homicide – Understanding the I-70 Semi Accident
The Denver community is still reeling from the April 25 I-70 crash that killed four people and injured dozens of others. The driver is facing criminal charges that include 36 felony charges and sentence enhancements.
After bypassing multiple runaway truck ramps, the speeding truck driver slammed into standing traffic during the busy Denver evening commute. The impact caused a chain reaction that damaged or destroyed dozens of vehicles and changed lives forever. Those affected by the shocking crash may want to work with experienced Denver car accident lawyers to get the compensation they need to get back to a normal life.
I-70 Pile-Up Accident in Lakewood, Colorado
The pile-up accident in Lakewood sparked fires so severe that they melted the road. The crash caused structural damage to the Colorado Mills Bridge. The chain-reaction crash involved four other semi trucks in addition to the truck that caused the crash.
Who Caused the I-70 Pile-Up Accident?
Truck driver Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos caused the I-70 pile-up accident. Aguilera-Mederos was a professional truck driver for Castellano 03 Trucking LLC, a trucking company located in Houston. The trucking company had multiple maintenance violations leading up to the crash including ten inspection and maintenance failures on brake systems.
Aguilera-Mederos blames the accident on failed brakes. Although he had the opportunity to move his truck to a runaway truck ramp before the crash, he chose to continue on the road. He said that he feared his truck would roll if he attempted to use a runaway truck ramp. State prosecutors say that his excuses are unacceptable. Aguilera-Mederos was traveling at 85 miles per hour at the time of the crash.
What Charges Is the I-70 Accident Truck Driver Facing?
The I-70 accident truck driver, Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, is facing 36 felony charges, one misdemeanor charge, and three sentence enhancements. The charges include four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of first-degree assault, and 24 counts of attempted first-degree assault. He is charged in the First Judicial District and held on $400,000 bond in the Jefferson County Jail. State prosecutors say that the truck driver’s actions showed a reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Colorado Vehicular Homicide, Colorado Law 18-3-10
Colorado law 18-3-106 makes vehicular homicide a criminal offense. There are two kinds of vehicular homicide – reckless driving and drunk/drugged driving:
- Reckless driving vehicular homicide – A charged based on a disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk while driving. Reckless driving doesn’t mean intentionally causing an accident. It’s simply taking an action that’s so reckless that you should know that a crash is a possible result. The potential penalties are up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
- Drunk driving/drugged driving – A charge based on drunk driving or drugged driving that results in a crash. The possible penalties are up to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.
In all vehicular homicide cases, the crash must result in the death of one or more people.
Is Every Traffic Error Grounds for Vehicular Homicide Charges in Colorado?
No, not just any traffic error is grounds for vehicular homicide charges in Colorado. Only recklessness and drunk driving can be grounds for vehicular homicide charges. A simple driving error, without the intent of recklessness disregard for the safety of others, isn’t enough to face vehicular homicide charges.
For a simple driving error, the driver may face negligent driving charges, a violation of Colorado law 18-3-105. The difference is that a negligent driver only fails to use appropriate care and caution while driving while a reckless driver shows a conscious disregard for the safety of others. Reckless driving is more than just failing to perceive a risk; instead, it’s consciously disregarding a substantial risk of harm.
Is the Trucking Company Legally Liable for the I-70 Pile-Up Accident?
There’s a good chance that the truck company that employed the truck driver is responsible for the I-70 pile-up accident. Employers are generally responsible for the actions of their employees under the theory of vicarious liability. The employee acts on behalf of and in the name of the company.
The only exception to employer liability is when an employee acts intentionally to hurt others. Although the driver’s actions in the I-70 case are serious and egregious, they weren’t intentional. So it’s likely that the trucking company has legal liability to the victims of the I-70 pile-up.
I-70 Pile-Up Accident Lawsuits
To win the case, any accident victim has to show that the responsible driver acts negligently. Negligence is a failure to use reasonable care and caution for the safety of others. In the case of the I-70 pile-up accident, the responsible truck driver was speeding at the time of the crash.
The driver also failed to take multiple opportunities to exit the highway onto runaway truck ramps. State prosecutors believe that the driver’s actions are not only negligent but that they rise to the level of recklessness. Although victims must file formal claims and gather the evidence to prove each element, there’s a good chance that victims of the I-70 pile-up accident have a strong legal claim for compensation.
Are Criminal Charges in a Traffic Crash Case Sufficient to Protect the Interests of the I-70 Pile-Up Victims?
Although the criminal proceedings are an important part of seeking justice for the I-70 pile-up victims, criminal proceedings alone are inadequate for victims to truly receive justice. The criminal proceedings may result in jail time and fines for the responsible driver. In addition, the court may order the driver to pay for the financial losses of victims like medical bills.
However, the criminal proceeding can only order the driver himself to pay. The proceeding can’t hold the trucking company liable for their failures to maintain the truck properly. In addition, the criminal proceeding can’t award the victims compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish or emotional pain. If the defendant isn’t able to pay, victims may be left without any compensation at all.
Attorneys for the Denver I-70 Pile-Up Accident
Have you or a loved one been hurt in the I-70 pile-up accident? We can help. Our Denver car accident attorneys for I-70 pile-up victims can help you bring a civil claim for all of the compensation that you deserve. Your civil claim can include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, changed lifestyle, and more.
You can bring your claim against all responsible parties and businesses. When you work with us, we help you fully evaluate your claim to receive all of the compensation that you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.
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Attorney Kyle Bachus knows first-hand how difficult it can be to suddenly lose a loved one in an accident. It’s also devastating when you or a family member suffers severe injuries that forever change your lives.
Kyle wrote this book as a resource from his personal experience for families who have suffered a traumatic loss.