Though unfair, the reality is that the road isn’t equally safe for everyone who travels on it. Road violence has been deemed an epidemic in our country, and bicyclists, no matter how much protective gear they were, are often the most vulnerable on California streets.
The threat of a motorist acting in a negligent manner and hitting a bicyclist, which leads to their untimely death, is a constant one. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018 California was the second state with the most pedalcyclist deaths in the country. And per the California Highway Patrol's 2017 Annual Report, 9.7% of vehicle collisions either injured and/or killed bicycle victims. California's shocking bicycle accident statistics are alarming and demonstrate the dangerous reality that many bicyclists face.
If you have lost a loved one in a bicycle accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to file a suit for wrongful death and can be entitled to compensation for damages. An experienced attorney at West Coast Trial Lawyers could help you and your family navigate this tiresome and confusing process through this difficult time.
Sharing the road with vehicles that more than double the size of a bicycle, like busses, and large trucks, puts bicyclists at a constant risk of major injuries or even death on impact. Because even if bicyclists have the same right-of-way as other motorists by law, many motorists don’t extend the same care to bicyclists as they would do to other vehicles, which ultimately leads to fatal accidents.
Some of the most common causes of bicycle fatalities can include:
- Failing to yield to bicyclists
- Turning right and hitting a bicyclist in the crosswalk
- Misjudging bicyclists speed at an intersection, turning in front of them, and colliding
- Clipping bicyclists by passing by too close to them
- Dooring bicyclists by opening car doors while they’re passing
- Colliding with bicyclist as they remove bikes from a bus
It’s important to note that California Vehicle Code 21209 prohibits all drivers from driving within a bike lane. Any driver who injures a bicyclist in a bike lane will most likely be held liable for the accident.
Moreover, when it comes to bicycle accidents, negligence is usually some form of careless or reckless behavior on behalf of a driver. This means that if a driver was negligent and caused harm to a bicyclist, they will typically be held liable for any injuries sustained, as well as the resulting damages.
Some common examples of driver negligence in relation to a bicycle accident may include:
California was ranked as the state with the highest amount of bike deaths in 2012. In our state, cyclist deaths represent 4% of all the auto accidents. This is twice the national average, making California the first in the nation in cyclist deaths.
Between 2007 and 2012, 834 cyclists died. An average of 139 bicyclists die every year, with men being more likely to die in a bike crash than women. In 2017, males were eight times more likely to get into a fatal accident. Moreover, 98% of cyclist deaths involve a motor vehicle.
However, there are instances where drivers aren’t the ones responsible for a bike accident wrongful death. The victim’s surviving loved ones may file a suit against pedestrians and even a city if the death is a result of poorly maintained roads.
The surviving heirs of the deceased have a wrongful death claim and may sue for the following damages when they lose a loved one:
- Funeral/burial costs
- Loss of companionship and support
The following individuals may file a wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles:
- The surviving spouse
- The surviving domestic partner
- The children of the decedent
- If the decedent's children have passed, the surviving grandchildren may file
- Decedent’s parents
- Any individual(s) entitled to the decedent’s property, according to California’s intestate succession laws
A successful wrongful death case will involve proving: the death of an individual, that the negligence or reckless actions of the defendant caused the death, and that the surviving family members have suffered financially and emotionally.
The plaintiff must provide convincing evidence to the jury that there was a connection between the negligent act and the cause of death. If they are successful in doing so, then the allegations against the defendant would be considered more likely to be true than not true, which will result in the plaintiff recovering damages.
Unfortunately, in some wrongful death cases involving bicycles, the defendant will argue that the bicyclist was partially responsible for the accident. For example, if a truck hits and kills a bicyclist and the family brings forward a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, the trucking company may argue that the bicyclist failed to yield or made other mistakes that contributed to the accident.
Defendants do not have to prove anything to prevent the jury from rewarding the plaintiff for damages. If a plaintiff is unable to convince the jury that the allegations they are claiming are true, then the defendant will be successful in the case even without having to present their evidence. However, they may use affirmative defense. This will create a reverse effect between the plaintiff and defendant, thus resulting in the defendant having to prove that the defense should be applied.
Damages in a wrongful death claim are meant to compensate surviving family members for the loss of tangible and intangible forms of support they reasonably should have expected to receive had the victim not lost his or her life.
Economic damages may include:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Financial support that the decedent would have reasonably contributed to their family throughout their lifetimes
- Loss of benefits or gifts the surviving family members would have reasonably expected to receive had the deceased not lost their life
Non-economic damages may include:
- Moral support
- Sexual relations
- Training and guidance
Non-economic damages will be awarded at the court’s discretion and are based on common sense and available evidence. There is no set amount or tried and tested standard for determining a dollar amount.