A Virginia wrongful death claim involving the death of a bicyclist was recently settled by the attorneys of Pierce & Thornton. The facts of the case involve an experienced bicyclist who rented a bicycle while in town for a religious conference. As she approached an intersection at a high rate of speed, according to the sole eyewitness who was standing on the sidewalk, the witness observed the bicyclist (operating in a designated bicycle lane) wobble, re-gain control and veer toward the curb before her body “hurtled” from the bike and fell into the street. As she fell, a dump truck that was executing a right hand turn ran over the bicyclist. In the days following the events, the witness posted on a blog that the dump truck driver had done nothing wrong and was not responsible for the bicyclist’s death.
The dump truck driver testified that he had signaled well in advance of the turn as he was descending a hill and approaching the turn. The fatality crash team investigation of the dump truck revealed that the turn signals were inoperable. The driver, at the scene, claimed that the turn signals had been operational, and that he must have caught the wiring (which was located under the steering column) with his leg as he exited the truck after being waved down by the eyewitness. The driver pointed this out at the scene and when the wiring was re-connected, the signals were again operational. The driver also testified that he never saw the bicyclist as he approached the intersection and that she must therefore have been overtaking him at a high speed in the seconds before the turn.
The investigating officers concluded that a bicycle skid mark that measured approximately 62.5 feet had been made by the bicyclist, and performed skid testing to conclude that the bicyclist’s speed was approximately 25-34 mph prior to her braking. The investigation also found that a rub mark on the curb was made by the bicyclist before she lost control and fell from the bicycle under the right rear tandems of the truck. The case turned on defendant’s failure to maintain a proper lookout and failure to signal due to defective equipment versus a contributory negligence defense based on the eyewitness’ account that the bicyclist was traveling very fast and had lost control well before the intersection and before the truck started to turn. The case resolved in the weeks following mediation.