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Jack Yates’ Family Settles in Lawsuit Against Truck Driver Who Killed Him

December 1, 2010

In August 2009, John R. “Jack” Yates was riding his bike south on Maryland Avenue approaching Lafayette Street behind a large cement truck. Said truck made a right hand turn at the intersection, and Yates collided with the truck’s rear wheels, killing him—a classic “right hook”-style accident. The truck did not stop, but the driver was later identified in an investigation and, eventually, found to be not at fault.

From an earlier, more detailed post on the accident, this is “not at fault”:

Whether the driver didn’t see Yates or didn’t look, the turning truck sealed off the cyclist’s passage, and there are then only three things possible: 1) The cyclist veers right, impossible in this situation; 2) the cyclist stops, also impossible in this situation because there wasn’t enough time to react; 3) the cyclist crashes into the turning truck. Yates—a regular bicycle commuter and by all accounts an experienced, safe, and responsible cyclist—met the latter fate, hitting the truck and becoming entangled in its rear wheels, which dragged him several feet across the intersection. He died on the scene, in the middle of a city intersection on a city-sanctioned bike corridor, and the truck drove off.

When you see The Baltimore Sun or the Baltimore Police Department say Yates hit the truck, you should understand exactly what that means.

The Yates family filed a negligence suit against the driver, Michael Dale Chandler, and his employer, Potts and Callahan Inc. The parties yesterday settled the suit for an undisclosed amount, according to the Sun. Which leaves the driver, in an official sense, not responsible. Which is baffling and outrageous. If Yates was close enough for the accident to occur, he should have been visible in a standard mirror check before the turn. But the law doesn’t particularly care about that. The law is concerned that Yates was attempting to pass the truck on the right, which puts him at fault, though such a maneuver is common practice in urban cycling. If you’re on a bike, it’s safer to be at the front of the line, so to speak, when a traffic light turns green.

Family attorney Steven D. Silverman had two new bits of information to present at trial that make the entire incident all the more outrageous. One, there are two signs warning that Maryland Avenue is a bike route—signs in place to keep drivers even more alert than they should be normally. Two, the driver didn’t use a turn signal. See, if the driver had used the turn signal, Yates might have seen the truck was turning and anticipated the turn, which is what a turn signal is designed to do. But the driver didn’t and Yates is dead and Chandler has officially made no mistake.

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