Driver Facing Charges After Four Are Killed in Fiery Crash
Mississippi truck driver, Timothy Thomas Poppen, is facing four counts of negligent homicide in Texas after he initiated a crash that killed Chelsea Standberry and her three children aged six to ten. The crash involved at least eight other vehicles and police and first responders noted that some of the vehicles had caught on fire. To make matters worse, hazardous chemicals were spilled on the scene require hazmat units to clear the area. Several other drivers were treated for minor injuries.
The Standberry family has filed a federal lawsuit as Poppen awaits charges in connection with the crash. It is unclear what caused the crash, but police and prosecutors must have reason to believe that it was Poppen’s negligence to bring criminal charges against the driver.
When Do Truck Drivers Face Criminal Charges?
Truck drivers can face criminal charges when their negligence severely injures or kills another person. This negligence is almost always related to some violation of federal regulations. The most likely reasons that Poppen would be charged with a crime in this accident include:
- He was drunk at the time of the accident
- He fell asleep at the wheel
- A mechanical failure on his vehicle caused the accident
Criminal charges are unlikely if the driver committed some ordinary form of negligence, such as a traffic violation. However, the trucking industry is heavily regulated for a good reason. Large commercial trucks are several times larger than even the largest commuter vehicles. They’re more difficult to maneuver, they’re difficult to see from, and the stop slower. Truck drivers are therefore held to higher standard than normal drivers. Instead of a .08 blood alcohol concentration, truck drivers are only allowed to have a .04. Truck drivers are required to take rest breaks every eight hours to ensure that they aren’t mentally fatigued on the road, which could impair their reaction time. And the safety standards of their vehicles are considerably higher as well.
Trucking companies are required to perform inspections on their vehicles prior to going out on delivery. Additionally, truck drivers are required to perform inspections after every 24 hours out on the road. For this reason, truck drivers who suffer some kind of mechanical failure such as a tire blowout while they are out on delivery, can be charged with a crime when someone is injured or killed.
How Do Criminal Charges Affect a Civil Lawsuit?
A pending criminal case is a mixed bag for a plaintiff in a lawsuit. The civil case will have to wait until the criminal case is settled, which can impact the plaintiff’s timeline for recovery. On the other hand, criminal courts have a higher standard of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) than civil cases, so the verdict can be applied toward the civil case and potentially same time and money.
Talk to a Houston, TX Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you’ve been injured by a large commercial truck, the Houston truck accident attorneys at Livingston & Flowers can file a claim on your behalf and recover damages related to your injuries, missed work, and reduced quality of life. Schedule a free consultation today.