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Kansas witness vital to finding hit-and-run suspect

Auto insurance often contains coverage for underinsured or uninsured motorists. Many Pittsburg drivers may not realize the insurance can apply to hit-and-run car accidents, to cover victim's losses when an at-fault driver is unknown.

An alert motorist helped Wichita police locate a man suspected of causing a bicyclist's death. Authorities said the 39-year-old victim was struck as she and a male companion were biking in a curb lane at night. The man was cycling ahead of the woman when she was struck by a truck.

The bicyclist's injuries were fatal; the second rider was not injured. The truck driver didn't stop. Investigators noted the bicycle was so badly damaged it was impossible to tell whether the bike was outfitted with reflective accessories.

A witness followed the work truck. She stayed with the vehicle until the driver pulled into a tree-trimming company's parking lot, exited the truck and drove away in another vehicle. Identifying information, including the number on the truck license plate, was given to police.

The witness's work paid off. Authorities spoke with the owners of the business where the truck was parked and learned the driver was an employee. Police located and arrested the man at his home.

Police records said the truck driver was partying with friends that night, celebrating his 35th birthday. The driver was jailed on suspicion of driving under the influence, leaving the scene of a fatality and involuntary manslaughter.

Abandoning a seriously or fatally injured victim at an accident scene is a crime. In a Kansas civil court, disregard for a victim's safety through drunk driving or failure to aid translates to acts of recklessness or negligence.

Damages may be paid to victims of hit-and-run accidents, including family members whose loved ones have died. Compensation may cover present and future medical costs and earnings losses, along with damages for physical pain and emotional trauma.

Source: The Wichita Eagle, "Man celebrating birthday arrested after fatal crash involving bicycle" Stan Finger, Jan. 10, 2014

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