Friday, July 11, 2008

A question on crash liability.

I really wanted to comment on one of the Post articles on this accident, but by the time I got there hotter heads had already taken over with comments like "One less obstacle on the road". Once that crap happens any discussion becomes entirely useless. So instead I bring it home to a much less visible location.

First off, I can only imagine what Allison experienced in those last few seconds and what her friends and family are left with. I'm so sorry for their loss; no matter what anyone may say, it is a senseless and heartbreaking loss, accidental or not.

In an attempt at an unbiased look into this situation, I'd like to pose the following question.

My assumption (I know the investigation is underway and nothing has been said about how this happened, this is simply my slightly uneducated, educated guess) is that Allison was riding along in the cross walk, either she or the trash truck came up on the other and she ended up riding beside it in the blind spot. No blame laid here, just as with a car in a trucks blind spot does not entail blame. The truck pulls a right turn while Allison is right next to it leaving her no time to react. We all know where it goes from there.

Assume the case is the same truck on the highway, with a car riding in the lane next to it in the blind spot. The truck moves over to the right lane, hitting the car in the process. The truck had signaled but the driver of the car could not see this since it was in front of the rear lights but still in the blind spot. Where does the blame lie? With the trucker who moved over into the car correct? Criminal blame? Not so much but legally speaking the trucker was responsible for the accident.

Now consider a vehicle driving down a 2 lane, one way street in the left lane. Suddenly they turn right at a street, cutting across the right lane to do so. If they hit a car in that lane (or more likely a car runs into them as they cut across their lane), who is to blame? The vehicle that made the turn. Obviously. Still not generally a criminal offense, though if there was a death, I would guess an involuntary manslaughter ruling would not be out of the question.

So, what would make this case any different. The bike lane should be treated simply as another lane of traffic. Laws, and more importantly legal settlements should represent this. I'm saying there should be criminal charges here but in the case I've assumed, which is something that happens to many cyclists, though not to the extreme outcome of this case, the truck driver would be at fault. The insurance company would be liable for damages in the car on car incident. So should they be in the truck on bike.

Am I just way off base with this? Why do I doubt there will be any liability assigned on this case though?


John P. said...

Your arguments sound sensible to me. I'm not familiar with this case other than I did hear about it after it happened, from a blog I believe.

If there's a bike lane it should be treated exactly like a driving lane. Therefore, if a driver pulls over into your lane causing an accident, fault lies with them since they made the initial decision to change lanes, taking responsibility for safely changing lanes. That's my take anyway.

One thing for sure, it's sad no matter what. For drivers to say things like one less to deal with is just cruel.

Freewheel said...

Your analogies prove your point. The truck driver is at fault. It wasn't intentional, but it was his fault.

On bike lanes: If she had been in front of the truck, "taking the lane", instead of riding to its right in the bike lane, she'd probably still be alive.