Portland Bicyclist Injured by Drunk Driver in Auto Accident

Date: December 21, 2010
Location: Portland, OR
Names: Angela Burke, Caleb Pruitt

Southwest Portland resident Angela Burke, 26, was killed on the night of December 15 as she walked her bicycle across Southwest Barbur Boulevard.

According to Portland Police as reported in The Portland Tribune, 28-year-old Caleb Pruitt was driving south on Barbur Boulevard at a high rate of speed at approximately 10:47pm when he lost control of his car and struck Ms. Burke about a half mile south of Southwest Hamilton Street.

The passenger in Pruitt’s 2008 Subaru Impreza was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after the accident. Burke was pronounced dead by medical personnel at the scene.

Pruitt was arrested the next day on charges of driving while intoxicated and criminally negligent homicide and was booked into the Multnomah County Jail.

A candlelight vigil organized by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition was held Dec. 20 near the intersection where Burke was killed to honor her life along with those of other victims of roadway fatalities.

Angela Burke, a native of New York, had recently moved to Portland and was working two jobs in pursuit of earning a master’s degree from Reed College, according to bikeportland.org. She was coming home from work to her nearby apartment complex when she was hit.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to Ms. Burke’s family and friends at their tragic loss.

In the wake of a tragedy like this, each person must deal with it in whatever way works best for them. We would never try to talk someone into taking legal action. It is an individual decision that can only be made by the family. When a drunk driver causes an injury car accident in Oregon, there is a possibility of suing the person or bar who served the alcohol. This must be done correctly, and quickly. There are strict time limits for filing a lawsuit in Oregon, and where alcohol is involved, the limits get even stricter. A Dram Shop Notice must be received by the server within 180 days of the incident, pursuant to ORS 471.565.

Why sue a bar for serving a person alcohol? Well, the bar must have done something. Bars are regulated strictly by the OLCC, and if they serve to minors, or serve to a person who was visibly intoxicated, they have violated regulations and they should be held responsible for that. But the rules only work if the bartenders are well-trained and supported. If anyone is at fault, it’s not going to be the clerks and bartenders – it’s going to be the owner. If an investigation finds that the owner of the bar did not train the bartenders properly, hired the cheapest people and then underpaid them, routinely told the bartenders to serve as much as possible to increase profits, faked bartender’s OLCC licensing tests, and routinely served minors, then a lawsuit could prevent another similar accident in the future. If there were honest, well-trained, hardworking bartenders and clerks who made a single honest mistake, then a lawsuit would do no good. But, the family at least gets to rest easy knowing that they investigated, and found out the truth of the matter.

We encourage people to educate themselves on the law of drunk driving in Oregon, and we provide free information to help you settle your lawsuit without an attorney. But when a drunk driver is involved, the law becomes very tricky, and you should contact an experienced Oregon injury attorney.