A community in Central Maine is mourning the loss of a longtime family physician who was killed in a bicycle accident after she was struck by a pickup truck.
Bicycle vs. truck accidents are not necessarily more common than bicycle vs. car collisions, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, they tend to be more serious because cyclists are vulnerable road users, and pickup trucks are so much larger and heavier than typical passenger vehicles. Unfortunately, truck drivers are not required to carry more insurance than those operating smaller vehicles. This is why it’s a smart idea for all bicyclists to maintain ample uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, which will supplement damages in the event of being struck by a driver who is not identified (hit-and-run), uninsured, or underinsured (only carries minimum coverage).
These policies will still extend coverage even if the rider was not in a motor vehicle at the time of the accident.
According to The Portland Press Herald, the 20-year-old driver of the pickup truck was coming over a hill on a rural road in the late afternoon and said the sun blinded him. He heard a thud and felt an impact. He told investigators he wasn’t sure at first but thought he’d struck something. When he stopped, he saw a woman and her bicycle lying in a ditch.
It was Dr. Carol Eckert, who had worked all day and was out for an evening bike ride. She had been wearing a helmet. The driver of the truck performed CPR, and paramedics arrived soon afterward. However, her injuries were too severe. She died just days before her 63rd birthday. Although authorities have said speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash, the investigation remains open, and they haven’t ruled out the possibility someone could be cited.
Eckert reportedly suffered multiple broken bones as well as a traumatic brain injury. She was unconscious when medical first responders arrived and did not ever regain consciousness. Traffic death investigators noted the mirror of the pickup truck had been pushed in.
The driver’s front-seat passenger, 19, and two child passengers, including one in a child safety seat, were not injured.
Eckert had reportedly worked for 30 years at the Sheepscot Family Health Center. Her colleagues remember her as smart, caring, compassionate, and careful. She was also dedicated to always learning. She earned a master’s in public health while also practicing medicine.
Sun glare is not an uncommon phenomenon in collisions. Most drivers have at least once experienced a few moments of a blinding glare, particularly in the winter when the sun reflects off the bright white snow. Unfortunately, it only takes a few seconds for a crash to occur. However, this does not necessarily excuse a driver from liability in a crash. That’s because, as our Portland bike accident lawyers can explain, drivers are expected to use reasonable care when operating motor vehicles, no matter the weather. There is a presumption that drivers understand there is a time when the sun is out, and glare is possible. Courts have ruled drivers have a responsibility to help prevent these kinds of situations by:
- Wearing sunglasses;
- Keeping the windshield clean;
- Driving an alternate route; or
- Keeping the headlights on, so other drivers/cyclists/pedestrians can more easily spot them.
No one injured in a crash should assume that just because no one intended it to happen no one is liable.
If you are a victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Central Maine doctor, hit by pickup while biking, dies of injuries, Oct. 15, By Betty Adams, Portland Press Herald
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Grant v. Foster Wheeler et. al. – Maine Supreme Court Clarifies Asbestos Causation Issue, Oct. 21, 2016, Portland Bike Accident Lawyer Blog