As we have written many times in previous posts, the Bay Area is a dangerous place for bicyclists and pedestrians. Everything from street design to traffic laws tends to favor drivers while putting cyclists and pedestrians at risk. Advocacy groups are working on improving the rights and protections of non-motorized travelers, but progress is slow.
Dangerous drivers who cause fatal bicycle accidents often face no criminal charges. Thankfully, they can be held liable in civil actions, as a recent wrongful death lawsuit demonstrates. Earlier this month, a San Francisco jury awarded $4 million to the parents of a young woman killed by a truck driver while riding her bike.
According to news sources, the 24-year-old victim was commuting to work on a morning in August 2013. The driver of a commercial truck attempted to make a right turn and struck the bicyclist at an intersection in the South of Market neighborhood.
The truck driver did not have a commercial license, but did not legally need one because his truck weighed less than 26,000 pounds. The case against the driver and his company was likely aided by security video footage of the accident showing that the truck driver was at fault.
Large trucks handle much differently than the average passenger vehicle. And when mistakes are made or drivers are inattentive to their surroundings, the results are often deadly.
Whether or not negligent drivers should face criminal charges for causing fatal accidents is likely to remain a subject of heated debate. But at the very least, families of these victims deserve whatever compensation they can legally pursue, which is why wrongful death verdicts like this one are so important.
Source: The Almanac, “Jury awards $4M to family of Menlo School grad killed by truck,” Hannah Albarazi, Jan. 19, 2015