A truck driver from Tennessee pleaded guilty in July to criminal charges that he faced after driving drunk with abandon in his semi through the Prospect subdivision in Longmont. David Kent, a National Guardsman between deployments to Afghanistan, had been charged with 38 criminal counts after he caused considerable damage to residences, landscaping and fixtures during the March trucking rampage. One resident said the aftermath looked like the path of a tornado, but fortunately no one was injured.
The destruction included knocked over street signs and street lights, uprooted trees, rutted lawns, unearthed sprinkler systems, a destroyed carport and fence, and damage to 17 cars parked along the winding streets of the upscale neighborhood. “It was really easy to find him with the trees dangling from the rig,” a Longmont Police Commander told the Longmont Times-Call. Kent refused to submit to DUI testing after officers detected the smell of alcohol, and he was taken to a local hospital for a mental-health evaluation after his arrest.
The roster of criminal counts included careless driving, driving under the influence, multiple counts of failing to report or return to the scene of an accident, and multiple counts of striking an unattended vehicle. According to the prosecutor who handled the case, the convictions would add up to 424 points against a Colorado driver’s license. But prosecutors dismissed a felony criminal mischief charge, and the judge sentenced Kent to only 48 hours of community service, noting that he was scheduled for redeployment in September.
The Difference Between Criminal and Civil Liability
The rampaging trucker’s first brush with the law certainly could have had major consequences. Despite a reported prior record involving vandalism, driving on a suspended license, and criminal trespass, he will not spend time behind bars for his menacing behavior at the helm of his 18-wheeler. But as is the case in any trucking accident, the driver, as well as the owner of the rig and other parties, also faces the prospect of legal action in pursuit of compensation for the damage he caused. Early estimates suggested that Kent’s careening ride caused over $100,000 in property damage.
In Kent’s case, the extent of damages seems relatively straightforward, because he did not cause any personal injuries and the property damage left an obvious scar on the homes and yards of residents. From the individual homeowner’s standpoint, most losses will likely be covered under their own insurance policies after adjusters assess the damage. The insurance companies, in turn, will pursue subrogation claims for repayment from the policy or policies that covered Kent’s tractor and trailer.
But cases like these can easily become complex when valuation issues arise, or if residents allege harm such as the distress caused by watching a massive vehicle bear down on their homes. Individual homeowners may have to prod an insurance company to pay the full value of a mature tree that was destroyed, or consider the role of the trucking company in negligently hiring and putting behind the wheel a driver who may have shown a propensity for such outrage.
Seeking Experienced Advice After an Avoidable Tragedy
Accidents involving big rigs frequently result in catastrophic injuries or death as well as major property losses for one obvious reason: a fully loaded semi-trailer carries over 20 tons of freight. The severe impacts caused by these crashes require a keen assessment of the full extent of injuries and a thorough examination of all contributing factors. For instance, a poorly loaded trailer can cause a semi to swerve or tip unexpectedly, or a failure to perform regular maintenance on brakes or vehicle lights can reduce the likelihood of accident avoidance.
For serious injury victims and surviving family members, a dedicated personal injury attorney can explain these factors and others in depth during an initial consultation. Brain injuries, spinal injuries and other severe trauma must be fully assessed in light of the victim’s previous abilities and prospects for recovery. But even when an accident only results in vehicle damage or other property losses, a full exploration of one’s legal options often makes sense.