Friday evening in Portland at around 8:45 p.m. a motorcyclist was killed when it was involved in what Portland Police describe as a head on collision with a semi-truck.
The fatal accident took place on Marine Drive in Portland, which is a somewhat narrow, two lane roadway that runs parallel to the Columbia River north of the Portland International Airport.
Local news sources report that the driver of the semi-truck remained at the scene and cooperated with police and accident investigators. The names of those involved have not been released.
In a fatal traffic accident like this one, oftentimes survivors of the person killed will ask themselves whether they should explore the possibility of a lawsuit. It's a difficult and sensitive topic because the pain and anguish of losing a loved one unexpectedly in an accident is often overwhelming. The idea of a lawsuit in the face of such a painful loss of life feels almost disrespectful to many people. Very often, surviving family members feel too guilty to explore the idea of a lawsuit, as if the desire for justice and compensation sends a message to the world that their love for the victim was secondary or not genuine. It's a very personal decision.
However, the stark truth remains that sometimes a careless act that causes the death of another person can leave a family without a wage earner, can leave children without a parent, and can leave families broken forever. The notion of restitution has been an unapologetic and fundamental principle of civil law for thousands of years.
Unfortunately there are institutional forces in our culture that have been successful at stigmatizing individuals, plaintiffs, for pursing a moral and social right to restitution. Such a negative perception of civil claimants is as misplaced as denying women the right to vote.
There is currently no information to indicate that another person caused the death of the motorcyclist. But if another person's negligent conduct did cause the death of the motorcyclist killed on Marine Drive, at some point the surviving family will likely consider the option of using the civil justice system to bring the responsible person to accountability. This is a right that every person in this country is entitled to under the 7th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Whether or when to use the civil justice system to recover for losses suffered because of another person's mistake is something that can only be decided by the one who has been harmed.