A 50-year-old truck driver will serve between 48 and 60 months in prison after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter for his involvement in a fatal truck crash that killed five people in North Carolina. Family members of those victims protested the sentence, arguing that it was too light and constitutes a "miscarriage of justice." They could potentially file one or multiple wrongful death lawsuits against the man in order to seek justice in civil court and demand compensation for their relatives' deaths, though it is unclear whether they plan on doing so.
The truck accident at the center of the case, according to troopers with the North Carolina Highway Patrol, occurred in October of 2010 when the defendant slammed his truck into a line of nine stopped vehicles and a guardrail on Interstate 26. Investigators determined that the trucker never braked prior to the collision that left five people dead.
Witnesses said they saw him speeding and driving erratically immediately before the accident. The trucker reported to police that he was unable to stop, though they found nothing wrong with his truck. Although a toxicology test confirmed that he was not intoxicated at the time of the crash, investigators did discover his driving log and medical certificate to be falsified. They suspect the man fell asleep at the wheel.
The trucker pled guilty to five counts of manslaughter, but a judge consolidated those charges into just three counts. He was sentenced to between 16 and 20 months in prison for each charge, but received credit for 29 months already served leaving him only an additional 19 to 31 months.
The mother of one 22-year-old victim cried out at the hearing when the defendant's sentence was given. She told the man that he took everything from her and left her with nothing.
Family members and victims could consider a civil law suit. Criminal and civil law are two totally separate arenas. If negligence is proven in a civil court, it could grant the victims' families compensation for the pain and suffering they are no doubt experiencing.
Source: BlueRidgeNow.com, "Tearful family members object to Velkov's sentence," Mark Schulman, March 8, 2013