An official for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service's mental health division is dead following an accident in which he was struck by a log truck while riding his bicycle. The 27-year-old truck driver was charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.
Although the driver faces criminal charges in connection with the fatal truck accident, he could also be targeted by a wrongful death lawsuit.
In some cases, a victim's surviving relatives or estate can file a lawsuit in order to collect damages from the driver for his or her negligence. North Carolina's wrongful death law can be quite complex, making it necessary for potential plaintiffs to consult with an attorney to determine if they have a case.
Police say the crash occurred as the 49-year-old official was riding his bike on the right side of the road when he was struck by a tractor-trailer from behind. Initial reports indicate that the truck was traveling well below the speed limit at the time of the crash.
Sadly, emergency personnel declared the victim dead at the crash site.
The truck's driver later told investigators that he attempted to pass the bicycle, but that oncoming traffic prevented him from passing over the center lane to make sure he did not strike the victim. He likely faces charges because he should have waited until traffic cleared to allow him to safely travel around the bicyclist before executing a pass.
According to a representative with the North Carolina Department of Transportation's highway safety research center, accidents in the state killed 56 bicyclists in 2010. While it is important for bicyclists to be safe while sharing the road with motorists, it is up to the larger and faster vehicles to ensure they give bicycles enough room when they are in close proximity.
Source: News Observer, "Truck driver faces charges after state official dies in bicycle accident," Thomasi McDonald and Amanda James, July 5, 2012