The unfortunate reality is that any bicycle accident in Northern California has the potential to be fatal. While bicycling is certainly popular, it’s also inherently risky. Not only do you have to deal with other drivers on the road, you simply don’t have the protection that a larger vehicle affords you.
Additionally, the emotional trauma can have a lasting impact on you and others in a similar situation.
For those who have experienced permanent or fatal injuries in a bicycle accident, our team at Paceline Law are here to provide support. With our extensive experience in handling these claims, we’ve established a successful track record working on your behalf. To learn more about how we can help you or your surviving family members, contact us for a free consultation.
What Type of Claim Can Be Filed After a Northern California Fatal Bike Accident?
No matter where they happen, fatal bike accidents fall under the category of “wrongful death” claims. This refers to any situation where:
- Another person or entity’s wrongful act or negligence leads to the fatality.
As it relates to a fatal bicycle accident, the negligent driver responsible for the incident is typically held liable for the damages incurred by your surviving family. Obviously, these can be quite extensive, especially if you’re younger or play a large role in supporting your family. Generally speaking, though, these claims can involve the following damages:
- Medical expenses – This includes the medical bills and expenses incurred by you prior to your death as a result of the accident.
- Funeral and burial expenses – The costs associated with your funeral, burial, or cremation of the deceased are typically recoverable.
- Lost wages – Financial considerations for the income you would have earned between the time of the accident and their expected retirement age.
- Loss of future income – This accounts for the income that you would have earned in the future had you not suffered a premature death.
- Loss of companionship – Damages may be awarded for the emotional loss and the impact of your absence on your surviving family members.
- Pain and suffering – This category addresses any physical or emotional pain and suffering you experienced before your death.
- Property damage – If there was damage to your personal property in the accident, such as the bicycle, this can be part of the damages sought by your surviving family members.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
As with other claims in California, there’s a statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, which is two years from the date of death. However, only certain people can file the lawsuit on your behalf:
- Surviving spouses or domestic partners
- Children of the deceased person
If there are no surviving spouses or children, other relatives who would inherit the deceased person’s property in the absence of a will can also pursue a claim:
- Common law spouses and their children or stepchildren
- Beneficiaries or trustees of the estate
Understanding who has the right to file a wrongful death claim is just one facet of the process. When assessing the value of a claim, various factors come into play.
Value of a Fatal Bicycle Accident Claim in Northern California
Not surprisingly, a fatal bike accident is one of the most severe types of claims you’ll come across. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is undoubtedly painful. It’s crucial, however, to understand how the claims process works.
As with any accident, the first step is figuring out who is legally responsible, which still revolves around the concept of negligence. To establish negligence in a wrongful death claim, you must prove the following:
- The responsible party breached their duty of care, acting negligently and causing an accident that resulted in the death of you or someone else.
With this established, the evidence you or your loved one has to support the claim is going to be important. Usually, this will include things like:
- Incident reports – Incident reports or other accounts of the accident, which usually include details about the parties involved, witnesses, weather conditions, and any traffic violations.
- Photographs and videos – Visual evidence, such as photographs and videos of the accident scene, can help reconstruct the events and illustrate the conditions at the time of the accident.
- Eyewitness testimony – Statements from individuals who witnessed the accident can provide crucial firsthand accounts of what occurred and who was at fault.
- Expert testimony – Expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals, can provide informed opinions on the circumstances of the accident and the extent of injuries.
- Medical records – The medical records of the deceased person can document the injuries sustained as a result of the accident, the treatment received, and any ongoing medical issues.
- Autopsy reports – If an autopsy was conducted, the results can provide important information regarding the cause of death and any link to the accident.
- Bicycle condition – Inspecting the condition of the bicycle involved in the accident can offer insights into any mechanical failures or defects that may have contributed to the incident.
- Surveillance footage – If available, surveillance footage from nearby cameras can provide additional visual evidence of the accident.
- Phone records – If distracted driving is suspected, cell phone records may reveal whether the responsible party was using their phone at the time of the accident.
- Weather and road conditions – Records of weather conditions and the state of the road at the time of the accident can help establish contributing factors.
- Vehicle maintenance records – If the accident involved a motor vehicle, maintenance records can be examined to determine if any mechanical issues contributed to the accident.
What Leads to Fatal Bicycle Accidents in Northern California?
Fatal bicycle accidents happen for some of the same reasons as car accidents, mainly because of mistakes and carelessness by drivers. But when a bicycle accident occurs, it’s usually worse because bicyclists lack the protection that a larger, heavier vehicle gives you.
In Northern California, these are the usual reasons for fatal bicycle accidents:
- Poor visibility – This stands as a prevalent cause of bicycle accidents. Bicyclists have a much smaller profile than cars, and they may often ride within a driver’s blind spot. When combined with factors like distracted driving or failure to yield, collisions between cars and bicycles are common. Even in low-speed collisions, fatalities can occur when the bicyclist is thrown off the bike or struck in the head or chest by parts of the moving car.
- Reckless driving – Impatient drivers may tailgate bicyclists, then attempt risky maneuvers like sudden passing or swerving out of their lane to avoid a bicyclist. These actions frequently result in accidents, particularly when cyclists are on major roadways. Sometimes, drivers exhibit reckless behavior or respond angrily when sharing a lane with a bicycle, which can lead to fatal collisions due to increased speed or aggression.
- Impaired driving – Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a leading cause of various types of accidents, including bicycle accidents. Impaired drivers often operate at higher speeds and exhibit slower reaction times. This can be devastating for bicyclists, as impaired drivers may not react in time, potentially causing fatal accidents.
- Poor weather – Although Northern California typically enjoys favorable weather for cycling, sudden changes can occur, especially during spring and summer. Thunderstorms and rain can rapidly reduce visibility and maneuverability for both cars and bicycles. Such conditions heighten the risk of accidents, as cars may struggle to stop in time or lose control while trying to avoid cyclists.
While these are leading causes of fatal bike accidents throughout Northern California, it’s important to remember that virtually any accident carries the potential to turn fatal. That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself while on your bike.
How Can You Reduce the Chances of a Fatal Bike Accident?
Obviously, nobody goes out on a bike ride expecting an accident to happen, let alone losing their life in one. That said, it’s always a possibility, so it’s important to be prepared. Reducing the chances of a fatal bike accident involves taking safety precautions and being aware of potential risks, as well as making sure to do the following:
- Wear a helmet – Always wear a properly fitted helmet to protect your head in case of a collision or fall.
- Follow traffic rules – Obey traffic signals and signs, use hand signals for turns, and ride in the same direction as traffic.
- Use bike lanes – Whenever possible, use designated bike lanes and paths to separate yourself from motor vehicles.
- Stay visible – Use lights, reflectors, and bright or reflective clothing, especially when riding in low-light conditions or at night.
- Stay alert – Watch out for potential hazards, like parked cars with opening doors, and be mindful of traffic around you.
- Avoid high-speed traffic – Whenever possible, avoid riding on roads with high-speed traffic, especially if there are no bike lanes.
- Ride defensively – Assume that not all drivers see you and anticipate potential dangers.
- Plan your routes – Whenever possible, plan routes that are less busy and have lower traffic speeds.
- Stay clear of larger vehicles – Be extra cautious around buses, trucks, and other large vehicles, as they may have limited visibility.
Taking these precautions is highly recommended, even though they may not completely eliminate the risk of a fatal accident. Still, you should do everything you can to avoid an accident no matter what the circumstances are.
Experienced Northern California Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Any bicycle accident can significantly impact you or your family, regardless of the preventive measures you take. But when the accident turns fatal, it completely changes things. At Paceline Law, we take pride in the support and reassurance we offer to every client. If you’ve lost a loved one in a fatal bicycle accident in Northern California, we can help ease what can be a challenging situation for your surviving family members.
Contact us today to set up a free consultation.