Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Cambria County fatality tests Pennsylvania texting law

Drivers who cause traffic accident injuries and fatalities often show remorse in court. The burden of sorrow they feel is real enough. Defendants say they never meant to hurt anyone by the actions they did or did not take while driving.

A Pittsburgh criminal judge or jury may consider a softer penalty for a defendant who feels sorry for pain and suffering that he or she caused over a defendant without an apology. The approximation of an old expression sometimes fits: "The sorriest thieves are the ones who get caught."

Intent may be behind reckless driving but, many times, drivers who cause serious accidents are not consciously out to harm. When an inattentive or drunk driver dismisses his own safety, he also decides to make the safety of others unimportant. That disregard describes what personal injury and wrongful death juries assess, before awarding damages.

Cambria County is set to try its first texting while driving case. The defendant was a still a teenager last year when the pickup truck he was driving slammed into a Volkswagen truck near Johnstown. A man and his granddaughter were in the VW. The victims, ages 71 and 19, died when the defendant's truck drifted across the traffic dividing line and directly into the Volkswagen's path.

The now-20-year-old college student was accused of vehicular homicide, manslaughter and driving while drunk and texting.

The accused man chose to waive his right to a preliminary hearing in district court. Some people at the hearing thought the unsettling presence of the accident victims' family may have influenced the defendant's choice. The county will now hear the case.

Pennsylvania texting while driving fines can be less than a speeding ticket, but the warning is clear -- texting is inattentive driving. Wrongful death attorneys know proven distraction equals driver negligence, which results in compensation to injured accident victims or surviving family members.

Source:, "Driver waives hearing in double fatal wreck" Kathy Mellott, Oct. 16, 2013

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