At-fault driver in a violent, fatal crash in Readfield last fall had used heroin earlier in the day, police now say.
Toxicology reports from the crash were recently returned as part of the ongoing investigation into the accident, which happened an hour north of Portland. The force of the crash was so intense, the speed so fast, the force of the impact sheered off the side of a tree and shifted a 7,000-pound rock as the vehicle careened off the road.
Three men were in the vehicle that night: A 21-year-old driver and two passengers, age 26 and 20. The 26-year-old was killed. The 20-year-old sustained life-threatening injuries that resulted in permanent disability. The two had been ejected from the vehicle.
Now, the driver of that vehicle, who survived without major injury to himself, has been arrested on charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and driving to endanger. His bail was set at $100,000, despite requests from the defense attorney to lower it. The judge cited the seriousness of the charges, defendant’s prior failure to appear for other court appearances, and the seriousness of the new charges.
Defendant faces a maximum 45 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Investigators say in addition to the new evidence revealing driver had been using heroin the day of the crash, there is also testimony from the surviving crash victim indicating both he and decedent told defendant driver to slow down just before the crash. By defendant’s own admission, he had a four-bag-a-day heroin habit in the months prior to the crash, though he insists he had reduced it to one-a-day around the time of the collision. He also insisted he wasn’t speeding and had only swerved because he had encountered a deer in the road.
Authorities, however, have said this fatal Maine car accident could have almost certainly been avoided if driver had been traveling the appropriate speed.
What is especially troubling from the perspective of a civil injury lawyer is the fact defendant driver reportedly had no insurance coverage.
In such a situation, the surviving passenger and survivors of the man who died may have the option of recovery through uninsured motorist coverage. This would be coverage through their own auto insurance provider and comes standard on most insurance plans. Such coverage (sometimes referred to as UM coverage) would be applicable even though they were not driving and not in their own vehicles.
Absent that, families could pursue action directly against defendant, though it’s unclear whether that approach would be worthwhile. It would depend on the amount of assets driver possesses. In the alternative, injury lawyers could explore the possibility of pursuing action against the owner of the vehicle. In impaired driving cases involving alcohol, there is sometimes potential for action under Maine’s dram shop law, which holds licensed establishments liable for damages caused as a result of serving alcohol to minors or individuals who are intoxicated. However, the law does not apply where drugs are involved.
The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated 9.9 million people over the age of 12 reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs. By comparison, an estimated 29 million people admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey indicated nearly a quarter of drivers tested positive for over-the-counter, prescription and illegal drugs. This was true regardless of time of day or week.
If you are the victim of a Portland car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Police say driver used heroin before fatal Readfield car crash, July 15, 2015, By Betty Adams, Kennebec Journal
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Maine Motorists Must be Cautious of Road and Weather Conditions, July 14, 2015, Portland Car Accident Lawyer Blog