Recently, a 55-year-old bicyclist was killed when he rode through a red light in Raleigh before 7 a.m.. He was struck by a North Carolina police officer who was driving a marked SUV.
The bicyclist was bicycling southbound at about 23 mph and trying to cross the street against a red light. The police officer wasn’t injured in the accident, and he wasn’t cited.
All bicyclists in North Carolina are required to follow traffic signals, including red lights. They are also subject to other laws that are exclusively applied to bicyclists. For example, bicyclists must have both a front and rear light when riding in the dark, and these lights need to be visible from 300 feet. In some cases, reflective clothing may be worn instead.
Drivers must follow certain laws when sharing the road with bicyclists in North Carolina. A driver is permitted to pass a bicyclist in instances when a bicyclist is traveling the same way, going straight, and not signaling a left turn or turning left.
The driver who passes a bicyclist is supposed to provide at least four feet between his car and the bicyclist, or completely drive in the left lane. A driver whose actions require a bicyclist to leave his travel lane to avoid a crash or causes an injury by traveling too close to a bicyclist will face a $200 fine.
When a driver causes a bicyclist to crash resulting in property damage or personal injuries, he’ll be fined $500, unless there is more than $5000 in injuries or property damage, in which case he’ll be fined $750. A bicyclist is allowed to point to the right with his right hand in order to signal a right turn.
A bicyclist who fails to follow laws applicable to bicyclists or fails to follow traffic signals and suffers injuries or death, as described above, will not be able to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit. In North Carolina, courts follow the doctrine of contributory negligence, under which a plaintiff is barred from recovering damages if he is partially to blame for an accident. This doctrine also bars an accident victim’s family from winning a wrongful death lawsuit if the accident victim died as a result of negligence.
Under North Carolina Statutes section 28A-18-2, a wrongful death is one caused by the wrongful neglect, act or default of someone else. This could include a death caused by someone’s negligence in driving too close to the bicyclist, or otherwise negligently striking the bicyclist. For example, if the driver in the accident described above had actually run a red light and hit the bicyclist in question as a result, he might have become liable in a wrongful death lawsuit.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is allowed to sue an at-fault driver in civil court for damages arising from the death. This civil proceeding is separate from any criminal charges that might be filed against a driver who was at fault for the death of the bicyclist. In a wrongful death lawsuit, damages are expressed in terms of compensatory money damages.
A wrongful death claim arising out of a bicycle accident caused by someone else’s negligence can seek damages on behalf of the decedent’s estate as well as the decedent’s survivors. In some cases, the decedent has an estate plan that names a personal representative, but in other cases, the court may appoint a personal representative.
If your loved one is killed in a bicycle accident in North Carolina, Maurer Law may be able to represent you in a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.
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