In the modern era of online shopping and one day deliveries, the number of big trucks on the roadway has skyrocketed. The increase in sheer numbers of trucks, coupled with ever-increasing pressure to get deliveries to their destinations quickly, has resulted in an increase in crashes and carelessness. Add in other distractions, like cell phones, and the results can be disastrous.
Driver distraction and carelessness is not limited to one’s actions behind the wheel. Truck drivers also have a duty to inspect their loads and make sure that they are hauling their cargo safely and securely, and when they fail to do so, the results can be deadly. A recent, tragic Butler County accident shows exactly why securing cargo is so critical.
On September 15 2021, Keith Blackwell was driving a tractor trailer northbound on Hamilton Eaton Road. His truck was carrying two massive steel coils, each weighing more than 22,000 pounds. Blackwell made a sudden erratic maneuver, causing one of the steel coils to come loose, fly off the trailer, and smash into an oncoming car. The car was obliterated by the coil, and its driver, Blake Mulder, was killed instantly.
Police investigators found that the truck driver, in violation of state law, failed to properly strap or chain the steel coil to the inside of the trailer. Additionally, another truck driver stated that he saw Blackwell operating his semi in a reckless fashion. Blackwell’s carelessness in both the preparation of his cargo and the operation of his vehicle led to the senseless, preventable death of a young man who leaves behind two little children.
The trucking law team at Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima got to work right away and helped the family pursue a wrongful death claim against the truck driver and his employer. Although their loved one can never be brought back, the civil justice system was there for Mr. Mulder’s family, to make sure his kids were provided for even after the loss of their father.
But there was still more justice to be served for the mourning family, on the criminal side of the case. By carefully and meticulously processing the crash scene, police investigators were able to gather evidence that county prosecutors then used to pursue criminal charges against Blackwell. This month, Blackwell was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and driving with an unsecured load.
Criminal prosecution is a completely separate and distinct process from what the truck crash attorneys at Rittgers do. Just as we take on the tough battles against corporate interests and the powerful insurance industry, police and prosecutors work tirelessly to help ensure that the drivers who cause these terrible accidents are also held criminally liable for their actions.