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Driver Charged With Manslaughter for Single-Car Accident that Killed One Passenger and Injured Two

320px-Route_35_northbound,_Kennebunk_ME.jpgProsecutors in Cumberland County have charged a teenager with manslaughter and other offenses arising out of an April car accident. The single-car accident, in which the teen was the driver, resulted in injuries to himself and two passengers, and the death of one passenger.

The accident occurred in the early morning of Saturday, April 14, 2012. A group of St. Joseph’s students were traveling north in a Mazda 626 sedan on Route 35 in Standish. They had reportedly just been involved in a game of “leapfrog” with other students, in which two or more cars repeatedly pass one another on the road. At least one car turned off Route 35, ending the game, and the Mazda continued ahead.

The driver reportedly lost control of the car further north on Route 35, at about 1:30 a.m. The Mazda went off the road, rolled several times, and got caught in a chain-link fence. Other cars in their group arrived on the scene within seconds, and other students tried to assist the injured in the Mazda. One passenger, a 20 year-old St. Joseph’s student, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. The 19 year-old driver and two passengers suffered injuries that were treated at a hospital in Portland.

Police took a blood sample from the driver, but later concluded that alcohol was not a factor in the crash. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office reported at the time that it was working with the district attorney’s office to determine if charges would be brought against the driver of the Mazda. Police arrested the driver on Friday, July 27. He faces charges for manslaughter, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, and leaving the scene of an accident involving injury. He is currently free on $1,000 bail.

Maine law generally defines manslaughter as causing the death of a person through recklessness or criminal negligence. This is different from the criminal offense of murder, which usually requires proof that the defendant intended to kill a person. Both manslaughter and murder are different from a civil claim for wrongful death, which is an attempt to hold a defendant financially liable for a person’s death in the civil court system. While the criminal justice system seeks to punish a defendant through imprisonment, fines, or probation, a civil wrongful death claim’s goal is to obtain compensation for the damages and losses resulting from a person’s death.

The burden of proof is lower in a civil claim, requiring a preponderance of the evidence rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A prosecutor in a criminal case must offer proof that overwhelms all but the most unlikely doubts in the mind of the judge or jury. A plaintiff in a civil claim for wrongful death must prove that it was more likely than not that the defendant caused the person’s death, and that the damages the plaintiff seeks were the direct result.

At Briggs & Wholey, we represent the rights of people who have been injured, or who have lost loved ones, in Maine car accidents caused by someone’s careless or negligent driving. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case, contact us online or call (888) 596-1099 today.

More Blog Posts:

Mainers: The Deadliest Form of Distracted Driving, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, January 23, 2012
The Maine Difference Between Wrongful Death and Manslaughter, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, April 11, 2011
Overweight Maine children more likely to sustain injuries in car crashes, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, January 6, 2009
Photo credit: ‘Route 35 northbound, Kennebunk ME’ by John Phelan (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.