Being involved in a car accident is upsetting even when the damage is minor, but when a crash results in serious injuries or death, some drivers become so overwhelmed and panicked -- even if the accident isn't their fault -- that their first instinct is to leave the scene. It's not until later that their thinking clears and they realize it wasn't a smart or ethical move. But by then, they face a high risk of a hit-and-run charge. It's then up to the driver to decide whether to admit to driving away and face the consequences.
San Jose police are hoping that the driver who hit and fatally injured a bicyclist recently will make the right decision and come forward. The bicyclist was discovered lying in a road near the city's border with Campbell, California, on the night of July 27. The 50-year-old man was later declared brain dead at a hospital. He was expected to be taken off life support soon afterward, though it's not yet clear when or whether that has happened.
Police said that judging from the accident scene, the man likely collided with a small or midsized SUV, but that damage to the man's bicycle suggests the car driver may have struck the bicyclist without knowing. If that's the case, police hope the motorist will learn of the accident and come forward.
The car vs. bike accident was the second to occur within about 30 hours. In the previous crash, a bicyclist crossing Campbell Avenue was struck and killed by a sedan. The driver stayed at the intersection and cooperated with police, who don't expect to file any charges.
Even if they didn't technically cause the accident, motorists who drive off can arouse suspicion of wrongdoing, which could motivate victims or their families to pursue damages through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Those who have been injured in a hit-and-run accident may face a longer recovery as they struggle to pay for medical treatment and wonder why the missing driver fled the scene. The family of the man who was gravely injured on his bicycle could decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit if the driver is found, but they're probably more eager to find out why the driver didn't stop to try to save their loved one's life.
Source: Mercury News, "Two local bicycle tragedies in just 30 hours," Khalida Sarwari, Aug. 2, 2012
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