A crash in a residential Chesapeake, Virginia (VA), neighborhood on a sunny fall Saturday afternoon left a moped rider dead and the driver of a car facing charges. The fatal collision happened a little after 3:30 pm on November 7, 2020.
According to police and news reports, the driver struck the moped rider while making a left-hand turn from Hoover Avenue onto Buckland Street. The driver then fled, pursued by other motorists who witnessed the crash.
Emergency medical personal declared the moped rider dead at the scene. Acting on tips from concerned citizens, police tracked the hit-and-run driver to a nearby residence and took that individual into custody.
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Regardless of what crash investigators determine regarding why the deadly crash happened, the fleeing driver will be charged with leaving the scene of an accident in which another person suffered injuries. This is a felony in Virginia.
Police may also discover that that the car’s driver failed to yield right of way to the moped rider who was traveling straight in the oncoming lane of Hoover Avenue. Under section 46.2-865 of the Virginia Code, a driver “intending to turn left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction if it is so close as to constitute a hazard.”
There is no question that the moped rider could legally operate on Hoover Avenue, where the posted speed limit is below 35 mph. This placed the duty to yield right of way on the person behind the wheel of the car. Failing to meet that legal duty could make the driver liable for settling wrongful death claims filed by the deceased moped rider’s family.
What if the Driver Fled Because They Lack Insurance?
Over the decades that my Virginia Beach-based personal injury and wrongful death law firm colleagues and I have represented crash victims, we have noticed that a high percentage of hit-and-run drivers cite not having insurance as a reason they fled. Virginia lawmakers noticed this, as well, and passed a law requiring every car insurance policy issued in the state to include uninsured and underinsured motorist provisions.
Victims of hit-and-run drivers can invoke these coverage provisions and have their financial losses, as well as their physical suffering and emotional distress, compensated by filing claims with their own insurance providers. Of course, insurance companies look for reasons to reject uninsured motorist claims. One attempt that could made in a case like this tragedy in Chesapeake is arguing that the deceased moped rider contributed to causing their own death by not wearing a helmet.
Here is what the Virginia Code says about required safety ger for moped riders:
Every person operating a moped … on a public street or highway shall wear a face shield, safety glasses, or goggles of a type approved by the Superintendent or have his moped equipped with safety glass or a windshield at all times while operating such vehicle, and operators and passengers thereon, if any, shall wear protective helmets of a type approved by the Superintendent. A violation of this section shall not constitute negligence, be considered in mitigation of damages of whatever nature, be admissible in evidence or be the subject of comment by counsel in any action for the recovery of damages arising out of the operation, ownership, or maintenance of a moped or motor vehicle, nor shall anything in this section change any existing law, rule, or procedure pertaining to any such civil action.
I bolded the phrase that defeats a contributory negligence defense against liability for injuring or killing a moped rider.