Driver in High-Speed Chase Through West Virginia Sentenced to 21 Years in Prison

truck_accident2.jpgThis story will serve as a precaution for every West Virginia driver: keep an eye on the road at all times, or you could become a casualty of those who have no concern about driving while intoxicated or on drugs.

A tractor trailer driver from Mississippi was recently sentenced in neighboring Maryland to 21 years in prison for going on a high-speed rampage through three states in December 2010, including West Virginia. A police pursuit of Thomas McNeel, 43, began in West Virginia and reached speeds of 80 miles per hour by the time they reached Maryland. While driving along Interstate 70 and Interstate 81, he damaged four vehicles of civilians unlucky enough to get out of the way in time. Police finally slowed McNeel down by shooting out McNeel’s tires — yet even that just slowed him down to 35 miles per hour. When McNeel reached Washington County, Maryland, he purposely swerved the tractor trailer toward a police cruiser. Because of police dashboard cameras, McNeel avoided being charged with first-degree assault, as police determined that McNeel was just trying to scare the officers in the cruiser rather than actually harm them.

Instead, McNeel was charged with four counts of second-degree assault. McNeel later testified that he tried a synthetic methamphetamine called “bath salts” that morning, which left him unable to remember the high-speed chase. His bench trial took place one year after the original offense and the verdict was handed down soon after.

Most people know that driving is a privilege and a responsibility. We might sometimes bend certain rules, but most people would never consider taking drugs before getting behind the wheel. It is almost miraculous that no one was killed in the incident. However, some civilians did pay a price. The people whose cars were damaged by McNeel’s tractor trailer have asked for $11,000 for repairs, and one woman reported suffering back injuries as a result.

If you or a loved one ever experiences such a situation, you should go out and hire a West Virginia car accident attorney as soon as possible. An experienced car accident attorney would quickly take evidence from the scene of the crime and gather the necessary witnesses. Your attorney would then help you build a case that the other driver was negligent or reckless. Even if the driver were not as obviously reckless as McNeel, it would be possible to get a sizeable award from the jury — known as “money damages,” or just “damages” — that could pay your medical expenses, for pain and suffering, and for any possible property damage. You might even be able to obtain punitive damages — in West Virginia, punitive damages may be awarded if the wrongdoer’s actions were intentional or grossly negligent. The burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, the lowest burden of proof in a trial.

We at the Wolfe Law Firm have been representing car accident victims for over 20 years. If you or your loved one were in a car accident that was not your fault, contact one of our attorneys today.