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SUV Passenger Convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter for Causing Newport News Cyclist Death

It's rare for a passenger to be blamed for causing a fatal crash, but that's what happened on Julky 27, 2011, in Newport News, Virginia (VA). The convicted woman, who lives in Hampton, VA, had been riding in an SUV when it struck and killed bicyclist Len Joachim in Spetember 2010. According to the Daily Press, she told the court that she grabbed the steering wheel out of self-defense against the SUV's driver, and the court determined that her actions led directly to the accident near the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Francisco Way.

The driver of the SUV had already pled guilty to a separate charge of involuntary manslaughter, a crime that carroes a penalty of between 2 and 10 years in prison.

View the site of the accident on Jefferson Avenue and Francisco Way on a larger map

As experienced Virginia accident injury attorneys, we are saddened that this act of carelessness cost a young man his life.

Two factors contributed to causing the fatal crash. The primary one was the distraction of the driver. His altercation with the passenger and her grabbing of the wheel made it difficult to notice and react to what was going on the road ahead.
The second factor was that the man who died was riding a bicycle. My VA personal injury law firm colleagues and I know anyone who gets in an accident with a motor vehicle while riding a bicycle or a motorcycle is at great risk for suffering a serious injury or being killed.

The most recent data available highlights the vulnerability of cyclists. It  reveals that 716 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents in 2008. And a further 52,000 cyclists were injured in accidents in 2008, a 21 percent increase.
Bike riders are not just vulnerable from distracted drivers - or in this case distracted drivers and passengers. They are also at risk from drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as demonstrated last year by the tragic death of a 43-year-old cyclist on Tidewater Drive, Norfolk, VA, who was killed by a driver who was later charged with DUI.

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