An 81-year-old man died when a car ran off the highway and struck his bicycle in Camden County, North Carolina (NC). The fatal crash happened near the junction of U.S. 17 and Keeter Barn Road at around 5 pm on October 5, 2017.
Highway Patrol troopers who responded to the scene found the bike rider dead from his injuries. They determined that the driver involved had gone off the road to the right moments before hitting and fatally injuring the bicyclist. They charged the driver with failing to maintain lane control and with causing a death while operating a motor vehicle.
The first charge was made under paragraph d1 of section 20-146 of the North Carolina General Statutes. That law states, with emphasis added, that “whenever any street has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, the following rules in addition to all others consistent herewith shall apply. A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.”
Making and prosecuting a misdemeanor death by vehicle charge requires gathering evidence of the following three facts:
- The driver acted without the intent of injuring or killing the crash victim,
- The driver violated a state law or local traffic ordinance other than driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, and
- The driver’s negligence led directly to the crash victim’s death.
Troopers would not have immediately taken the driver into custody for allegedly causing a fatal crash unless they felt high confidence that what they observed at the scene of the wreck on U.S. 17 in Camden County pointed toward the driver’s fault. This degree of confidence, and all the evidence troopers collected, give the deceased bike rider’s family strong grounds for filing wrongful death claims against the driver’s auto insurance.
Importantly, succeeding with wrongful death claims will not depend on the state securing convictions on the lane control and death by vehicle charges. Civil claims get pursued separately from criminal cases even when the same evidence is used to support both. Consulting with an experienced and caring Carolina wrongful death attorney will help the family members who lost their loved one exercise their rights to seek compensation and damages from the at-fault driver.