Bicycle riders and pedestrians often face perilous conditions on the roads that they choose for their travels. One road in West Virginia, U.S. 119, has been the site of two deaths in the past two weeks. The most recent of those occurred on Sept. 24 at 5:00 a.m. when a man riding his bicycle home from work was struck from behind by a car. Responders took him to a hospital with a brain injury, a pelvic fracture and a lower leg fracture.
The victim died later that afternoon in the hospital, presumably from the head injuries. Another accident two weeks earlier occurred on the same highway, just a half mile south of this one. In that incident, a motorist hit and killed a pedestrian; the motorist then sped away. Police are still looking for the perpetrator. In this latest incident, the driver stopped and is cooperating, but at this point no arrests have been made.
The family of the decedent in the recent accident can file an estate and bring a wrongful death action for damages against the driver. There are not yet enough facts available to determine whether that would be a viable or successful claim. The initial indications of being hit from behind would indicate that the driver may have been negligent in not paying better attention to what was on the road ahead. Details will decide the issue when things like speed, distractions, lighting conditions and the like are determined.
The police investigation of the details will be helpful in evaluating what took place. However, any investigation of criminal charges against the driver is largely irrelevant to whether the decedent's estate has a strong wrongful death claim. In West Virginia and all other states, a tortfeasor (wrongdoer) can be innocent of criminal charges and still be liable for civil damages due to having operated the vehicle negligently. Carelessness is sufficient to establish a death claim against the driver as long as it is shown that the negligence was the direct and substantial cause of the man's brain injury and other fatal injuries.
Source: wsaz.com, "UPDATE: Family Asking for More Safety on Corridor G After Deadly Accident", Sept. 25, 2015