Most Seattle residents are probably aware that the loved ones of people killed in accidents may have some legal rights to compensation if someone else is at fault. Most of the time, people likely think of these situations as those in which the family must look to a negligent driver who was to blame for the death. However, as one local case may show, motorists are not the only ones who have legal duties to those who use the public roads.
The family of a young woman who was killed last year while riding a bicycle in Seattle is looking to hold someone responsible for her death. The 27-year-old was riding along a street that contained trolley tracks when she tried to pass another cyclist, according to camera footage from the Seattle police. At some point, she crashed her bicycle, and died of head trauma some 11 days later, even though she was wearing a helmet. According to the police, the accident was caused by the woman’s own error. Her family, however, maintains that the trolley tracks she was riding over are known to be dangerous and caused her death.
The family believes, based upon an examination of the records by a medical professor at a nearby college, that the woman’s tire became caught in the streetcar track, which caused her to be thrown over the front of the bike, suffering the fatal injuries. Moreover, the family says that the City of Seattle knew, or should have known, that these tracks were dangerous to bikers, and that they could have taken measures to prevent the woman’s death.
The family has placed claims with the city, likely as a precursor to a lawsuit. The city has 60 days to either fulfill the claims or not. There have been a couple prior cases, but the outcome of any lawsuit based on this factual situation is unclear. What we do know, however, is that cities and other entities do have a legal duty to maintain safe streets, and that claims for compensation for fatal accidents are not limited to other drivers.
Source: seattletimes.com, “Brother’s claims against Seattle and Sound Transit blame streetcar tracks in bicyclist’s deadly crash,” Evan Bush, May 24, 2017