A crash involving a USPS delivery vehicle and a motorcycle just west of Staunton, Virginia, left the biker dead and the mail truck driver facing charges. The deadly wreck happened on Parkersburg Turnpike late on the afternoon of February 18, 2017.
According to a brief Virginia State Police press release, the mail truck driver attempted to make a U-turn on the parkway shortly after entering the unincorporated part of central Augusta County. He collided with the motorcycle rider somewhere between Pine Tree Lane and Elliot Street.
The motorcyclist died from his injuries after being transported to a nearby hospital. The operator of the USPS truck survived without injuries and has been cited for failing to yield right of way.
Under the laws of Virginia, the U-turn itself would have been legal if the truck driver had waited for the motorcycle rider to pass. Drivers can change directions at any intersection that is not explicitly marked as a place where making a U-turn is not allowed for safety reasons. Making a U-turn on a state highway is also permitted at most locations along a straightaway unless vehicles are approaching from the opposite direction. Specifically, section 46.2-845 of the Virginia Code mandates a 500-foot rule. That is, a person must make sure that he or she has at least 500 feet -- about one-tenth of a mile -- to complete a U-turn without risking a crash that could result in property damage, injuries or deaths.
Ignoring the 500-foot rule can lead to getting cited for making an illegal U-turn or for failing to yield right of way. That second possible charge can be increased from a minor traffic citation to a reckless driving offense, which becomes a criminal case. It is not clear from news reports on the deadly truck-motorcycle crash in Augusta County if a reckless driving charge will apply.
Even if law enforcement officials accuse the mail truck driver with being nothing more than negligent, he would remain responsible for causing the death of the motorcycle rider. Had the surviving driver been operating his own car, he would also be responsible for relying on his own automobile insurance policy to settle wrongful death claims brought by the deceased motorcyclist’s family. Since the at-fault driver was behind the wheel of a USPS mail delivery vehicle, however, that Postal Service’s insurance will probably come into play.
Working with a dedicated and experienced Virginia wrongful death attorney will be essential if family members find it necessary to take on the USPS. Government agencies and government-chartered corporations enjoy many legal protections unavailable to private employers. Ensuring that claims for compensation and damages receive full and fair hearings will go easier with advice and representation from a plaintiff’s lawyer.