A pickup truck driver that struck a bicyclist on September 19th will not face criminal charges as a result of the fatal collision. Investigators determined that the pickup truck driver was temporarily blinded by sun when rounding a turn on Oregon Highway 131, and struck a bicyclist riding approximately two feet in the lane of travel. The District Attorney explained that the road where the fatal collision occurred did not have a shoulder available to bicyclists. Also, investigators determined that the motorist was attempting to move out of the way when the collision occurred.
The pickup truck driver was cited for careless driving, which is a traffic infraction, and not a criminal charge. A motorist can be cited for careless driving if the evidence shows that the motorist drove in a way that was likely to cause property damage or physical injury to other users of the highway. However, in order to prove a criminal charge, like an assault, a prosecutor would have to show a higher level of negligence, which is often referred to as “reckless” or “grossly negligent” behavior. For example, if this driver had been intoxicated, or had been driving several miles over the posted speed limit, then the prosecutor may have elected to file criminal charges.
We have pursued claims for wrongful death and serious injury against motorists who also faced criminal charges. Although the criminal case is a separate legal proceeding, it will often help in investigating the civil claim against the careless motorist. Also, if a motorist charged with a crime is convicted of a crime that involves the proof of reckless behavior and resulting injury, the careless motorist is prevented from denying responsibility in a later civil action for personal injuries.
Our sympathies go out to all parties involved in this tragic accident.