What is my potential liability if I was involved in an accident with a bicyclist who was hit by my car and then hit and killed by another vehicle?

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What is my potential liability if I was involved in an accident with a bicyclist who was hit by my car and then hit and killed by another vehicle?

He ran out in front of me with no lights on his bike and I did not see him. I had the green light at an intersection. The bicyclist hit my car then rolled onto the pavement and was struck by a second vehicle that hit and killed him but then left the scene. I stayed. I followed all the rules when driving and got out to help. When I found out he had died I went hysterical. Can I be charged with his death?

Asked on January 23, 2014 under Personal Injury, Florida

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

It would be advisable to obtain the police report.  If the police report does not find you at fault for the accident, you have a good defense to a lawsuit for wrongful death filed by the bicyclist's family.

If the police report finds you at fault in the accident, then you would want to argue as a defense that it was an unforeseeable event that the bicyclist would be struck by a second car after being hit by your car and therefore you are not the proximate cause of the bicyclist's death.

What this means is that in a claim of wrongful death which is negligence, to be liable you have to be both the actual cause and proximate cause of the bicyclist's death.  Actual cause means but for the bicyclist being hit by your car, would the bicyclist have been killed?  If the answer is no, you are the actual cause of the bicyclist's death.  If the answer is yes, you are not the actual cause and are not liable.  If the answer to the but for question is no, you are the actual cause of the bicyclist's death and then the next question is are there any unforeseeable intervening events which would relieve you of liability?  This would be phrased as was it foreseeable that the bicyclist would be struck by a second vehicle?  If the answer is yes, you are liable.  If the answer is no (it was unforeseeable that the bicyclist would have been run over by a second car), then you are not the proximate cause of the bicyclist's death and are not liable.  You have to be both the actual cause and proximate cause of the bicyclist's death to be liable.

If you are held liable for the bicyclist's death, you also want to assert the defense of assumption of the risk which means the bicyclist recognized and understood the danger of riding at night without a light, going in front of a car that was proceeding on a green light and voluntarily chose to encounter this danger.

If the police report finds you at fault, it would be advisable to contact your auto insurance company which will provide you with an attorney at no cost to you.

If you are found liable for the accident and the bicyclist's family gets a court judgment against you, it would be advisable to file bankruptcy at that time.

If the police apprehend the hit and run driver who struck the bicyclist, that will help your case because that driver is primarily responsible for the death of the bicyclist.


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