Lawsuit blames Lyft driver for deadly motorcycle crash

The scene of a crash between a motorcyclist and a Lyft driver on Royal Crest Drive (Wenzel Family attorney Photo)
The scene of a crash between a motorcyclist and a Lyft driver on Royal Crest Drive (Wenzel Family attorney Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The wife of a man who died in a motorcycle crash on April 23 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against rideshare company Lyft.

The crash happened last Saturday evening in the 1600 block of Royal Crest Drive in southeast Austin. Thirty-one-year-old Robert Wenzel was pronounced dead at the scene.

Wenzel’s attorney says he crashed after a pickup driving in front of him abruptly swerved to the left, revealing a Lyft driver in a Honda Civic who stopped for his passengers.

The scene of a crash between a motorcyclist and a Lyft driver on Royal Crest Drive (Wenzel Family attorney Photo)
The scene of a crash between a motorcyclist and a Lyft driver on Royal Crest Drive (Wenzel Family attorney Photo)

The motorcyclist lost control, hit the curb of the road and struck a wooden utility pole. The motorcycle then hit the Civic that police have said was legally stopped on the side of the road with its hazard lights flashing.

The lawsuit also cites Austin city ordinance: “A driver operating as a TNC driver may not stop, stand, park, load or unload passengers in a travel lane or in an officially designated bus stop.”

The victim’s wife is seeking more than $1 million.

Alexandra LaManna, a spokesperson for Lyft, released the following statement: “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the family and loved ones affected by this accident. We are available to assist the authorities in their investigation.”

The crash report, obtained Friday by KXAN, indicates a possible contributing factor in the crash is “driver inattention” on the part of the man who died in the crash.

“The driver of [the motorcycle] hit a dip in the road and lost control of the motorcycle,” the report states.

The crash report does not mention a pickup truck. However, police wrote that the driver of the motorcycle drove into a light or electrical pole, hit his head and was tossed from the motorcycle. The motorcycle also slid into the back of a car, which was “standing with hazards lights on,” the report indicates.

The attorney says he filed the lawsuit not only for the relief, but to try to get more information from Lyft about what happened. He also said he wanted to get the lawsuit in before the election on Proposition 1. Aside from the main issue of background checks, a “for” vote on Prop 1 will also get rid of the city rule banning drivers for companies like Lyft from loading and unloading passengers in travel lanes. Still, even if that provision goes away, state code would continue to apply to certain situations.

“Oh it’s devastating as you can imagine,” said Robert Melendez, Wenzel’s lawyer. “Now she’s left with a lifetime of grief and having to take care of these kids on her own.”
Melendez says Robert and his wife Kelly had two kids.

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