Distracted drivers are an all-too-common problem and a tremendous threat to the safety of cyclists. The focus of this blog is a crash that occurred on November 28, 2017. 24-year-old Emily Fredricks was riding her bike during rush hour, traveling west on Spruce Street in Philadelphia. She was struck by a Gold Medal Environment trash truck driven by Jorge Fretts, 28. Fredricks died as a result of her injuries.
An interesting development occurred in the days following the crash. It turns out, Gold Medal Environment had cameras installed inside their trucks. At the time of impact, the video shows Mr. Fretts wearing headphones and looking down at paperwork on the console. These inattentive behaviors were occurring as he made the turn onto Spruce Street and struck Emily Fredricks. Wearing headphones while operating a motor vehicle is illegal in Pennsylvania.
In September, 2018, Fredricks’ parents reached a $6 million settlement with Gold Medal Environment, Mr. Fretts’ employers. In addition to the settlement, the company will be responsible for giving $125,000 over the next 5 years to initiatives to improve road safety in Philadelphia.
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In February, 2019, Jorge Fretts was charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment. He has surrendered to police and bail has been set at $100,000. Fretts could face 5 years in prison on a single charge alone. By charging Mr. Fretts with such serious criminal charges, the city of Philadelphia is sending a message to drivers who fail to obey the laws.
I’m not sure why Ms. Fredricks was riding her bike that morning. Perhaps she was on her way to work, or running an errand. Or maybe she was just out for some exercise or wanted to enjoy a brisk Philly morning. But no matter the reason, I’m sure while she was lacing her shoes or grabbing her water bottle, she never thought it would be her last ride. She didn’t contemplate never seeing her family again, or not getting married. She didn’t have time to mourn for the children she will never bear. In just an instant, her life was taken from her.
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In our day-to-day lives, we must take chances. There is some degree of risk in everything we do. But we also depend on those around us to exercise ordinary care and caution so that we are not endangered by their activities. In this case, that did not happen. Six million dollars may seem like a lot of money, and it probably is. But $6 million, $60 million, even $600 million won’t be enough to bring back Emily Fredricks to her family. Each one of her family members will suffer her loss for years to come. The financial settlement may help send a message to Fretts and his employer, but they in no way come close to repairing the damage done. And frankly, even if Fretts serves five years behind bars, even that won’t bring back Emily’s life.
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We represent injured cyclists and the families of cyclists killed in crashes because we take cycling seriously. We know that feeling of apprehension when a truck drives too close, or when you take a turn, suspiciously eyeing the distracted driver in the car next to you. Cycling is a fantastic sport – but accidents happen. And when the unforeseen does occur, you need to have someone on your side, looking out for your best interests. In the days and weeks following a crash, your mind isn’t thinking clearly. Settlements, monetary figures – it all becomes a big blur. That’s why it’s important to have a trusted legal professional on your side. If you have questions about a case, or you are uncertain how to proceed, call us today. We’re on your side.