An item posted late last night on The Oregonian’s website offers details of a serious Washington bicycle accident involving a teenage rider in which a motorist faces assault charges and, potentially, drunk driving charges as well.
The paper, citing the Everett Herald, reports that a 52-year-old Everett man driving a pick-up truck “allegedly struck a teenage cyclist, launching the boy off a 30-foot overpass… the crash caused the victim, 16, to fall about 20 feet onto a hillside, police said. His body then tumbled an additional 10 feet down into the street.” The paper reports that the boy’s injuries include a possible broken neck – meaning that, while they are not, according to the paper, life-threatening, they could be life-altering for both him and his entire family.
The pick-up truck driver “told police he had been drinking beer or wine a few hours before the crash and believed he suffered a seizure.” The paper reports that when he was arrested at the scene the suspect “had trouble standing and could not easily move his hands. Officers said the suspect slurred his speech and had bloodshot eyes.” Bail for the suspect was set at $25,000, the paper reports.
As the brief summary above indicates this one accident raises a number of potential legal issues. We are faced here with a bicycle accident involving reckless driving and, as a result, serious injuries to a child. Had this accident taken place in Oregon that fact would allow a jury to consider punitive damages when the case comes to trial, though in Washington State this is not the case. Alcohol potentially also plays a role, which means this case may also fall under what are known as dram shop laws. These extend liability to a retailer, waiter/waitress or bartender who sells alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person.
As an Oregon and Washington attorney with a practice focusing on both bicycle accidents and injuries to children this case touches several nerves. Adults need to take care when driving, but they need to pay especially close attention to children and teens. The accidents that result from reckless or drunk driving are always the most easily avoidable. It is also a reminder that despite our region’s reputation as one of the most bicycle-friendly parts of America, drivers still need to be especially aware of cyclists and pedestrians every time they get behind the wheel.