On September 04th 2009 14-year-old William Beaulieau and a class mate 15-year-old Jacob Murray were go-carting when the go-cart they were riding in collided with a Ford truck driven by Chad Stange. The accident occurred at the intersection of 300th Street and Stanley Road near Fredericksburg at about 5 p.m. Mr. Beaulieau was driving the go cart and both boys were ejected on impact and both died as a result of the injuries sustained in the crash.

First of all the report isn't clear but appears to say they were driving the go-cart on the public’s right-of-way; the road or street. If so, our first thought is to ask what are they doing riding on the street? And why at 5:00 p.m. when commuter traffic is likely to be increased due to people coming home from work? No license, no registration, no tags and no reason to be there. Was there a moped type flag on the go-cart? Go-carts are too low to be seen by normal drivers, so it's an accident waiting to happen.

The next question that always comes up is about supervision. Where were the adults who should be supervising them and why did they think it permissible to be driving a motorized go-cart on the public streets? What were they taught about riding it on the streets? Was someone home watching Oprah when they should have watching the kids? These are the types of questions that would need to be answered.

I've got experience with this in my neighborhood. I see my neighbor's children and adult children running an unlicensed ATV on the streets while trying to pull wheelies. When I see them out there my first thoughts are when the accident is going happen; you know the one that is inevitable. You see I live on a corner and I know my neighbors driving habits; probably too well. Here is my one neighbor who is also a lawyer and he drives way too fast through that intersection and now we are adding kids and young adults on an unlicensed vehicle. And then there are the neighborhood teen drivers going through that intersection as if they owned it. I’m shaking my head as I ponder the sound of metal to metal as the crash unfolds in my head; that's what happens to aging personal injury lawyers; we dream of all the crashes we've had cases about. Maybe I should move to the end of the cul-de-sac; then I wouldn’t know so much about the intersection down by Lombardi’s house.

These situations lead to tough questions with very unsatisfying answers.

If you’ll recall we’ve discussed a similar type of accident involving an ATV running into a parked car.

But it also raises another question. What was the driver of the Ford truck doing? How fast was he going? Did he have any distractions that took away from his awareness as a driver on the public roads? His actions may not excuse his negligence. Was he aware from previous occasions that this kid would be out riding his go-cart in the street? If so, was he watching out for him? Did he know the kid was there and just ignored him? Determining negligence is such a multi-faceted task with many questions about the behavior of each actor that need to be answered about whether it lived up to the reasonable man standard. In this case it’s probably too easy to just want to blame the kids on the go-cart; but our first inclinations aren’t always the fairest either.

So let’s wait till we know all the facts before judging and coming to a conclusion.

We wish the families well and I rest my case.

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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