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Littering blamed for cyclist's death

Motorcyclists must deal with the fatal disadvantage of lacking protection in crashes with other vehicles. But, motorcycle accidents have other and sometimes, unusual, causes. For example, a personal injury lawsuit was recently filed for the death of an Illinois motorcyclist who crashed into lawn debris blown on a highway in Bureau County last May.

Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the person responsible for the lawn debris. It was charged that he blew lawn clippings and other debris onto a two-lane highway.

The responsible person was also charged. He was found guilty of violating the state's Litter Control Act. The court sentenced him to six months of probation and $482 in fines and court costs.

Given these light penalties, the victim's family is seeking justice. In addition to their wrongful death lawsuit, they asked for Cheryl's Law to be enacted.

Cheryl's Law is named after the victim, Cheryl Zeglan. If enacted, this law would impose greater punishment against people who place or leave clippings or debris on a road and which causes serious injury or death of a motorcyclist in an accident. This offense would be a class four felony with an increased sentence of one to four years imprisonment.

There has been debate over enacting tougher laws protecting motorcyclists, however. Proponents claim that debris and clippings constitute a road danger. Others argue that motorcyclists need to receive sufficient training and have enough experience to avoid road obstacles, such as debris.

Even if Illinois law is strengthened, it cannot absolutely deter the type of behavior in this case. Victims of a motorcyclist accident caused by another driver's negligence, reckless placement of debris or obstacle or other conduct may be entitled to compensation. Victims and their families should seek legal assistance to obtain evidence and pursue their rights in court.

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