Losing a loved one in an unexpected accident is never easy, but it can be especially difficult to cope if another person’s careless or reckless behavior played a role. If a member of your family was killed in a bicycle accident that a negligent driver caused, you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim.
These cases can be incredibly complex, and there are all sorts of reasons why the at-fault party or their insurance company might dispute your claim. A seasoned attorney can help you avoid mistakes and make sure you are treated fairly. It’s important that you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible because an error or oversight early in the proceedings could derail your entire case.
Your initial consultation will be an opportunity to ask questions about the laws pertaining to your case. Read on to learn the answers to some FAQs about bicycle accident wrongful death claims:
1. What Must I Prove to Win a Bicycle Accident Wrongful Death Claim?
To recover damages from the party who caused the death or from that party’s liability insurance company, you must be able to prove liability, causation, and damages. In other words, you must be able to show that the defendant was legally responsible for the bicycle accident, the accident was a proximate cause of your loved one’s death, and damages were incurred as a result of the death.
The evidence your wrongful death lawyer uses to prove these three elements will depend on the circumstances. After a bicycle accident, however, it is common for the following evidence to play a role in proving liability:
- The official police report;
- Video recordings from dashcams and surveillance systems;
- Eyewitness deposition;
- Accident reconstruction expert deposition;
- Photos of the crash scene; and
- Cellphone records.
Much of the evidence needed to prove causation will likely be the same as the evidence used to prove liability and damages. There are, however, some scenarios when a causation dispute might arise. For example, the defense may argue that negligent medical care and not the bicycle accident itself was the proximate cause of death. At the end of the day, your attorney will have to show that the death would not have occurred but for the bicycle accident, and this isn’t always straightforward.
Regarding damages, it is important to note that it may be possible to bring both a wrongful death claim and a survival action. Each of these actions is brought to seek different kinds of damages. While a wrongful death claim seeks compensation for damages incurred by surviving family members, a survival action seeks damages incurred by the deceased between the injury and death. If your family brings both kinds of claims, the following evidence might play a role in proving damages:
- Bills and invoices for medical care received by the deceased after the accident;
- Financial documents to prove income lost by the deceased between the accident and the death, and to prove the value of lost financial contributions the deceased would have provided to the family had he or she survived;
- Medical expert deposition;
- Financial expert deposition;
- Documentation of burial and funeral costs;
- Evidence to show the monetary worth of services the deceased would have provided; and
- Evidence to show the nature of the relationship that various family members had with the deceased.
2. How Long Will My Case Take to Resolve?
The unfortunate truth is that no attorney can guarantee to resolve your case within a particular timeframe because there’s no guarantee that the opposing party will cooperate no matter how strong your case seems. A wrongful death case can last anywhere from a few months to well over a year.
It is entirely possible that the defense will dispute your claim even if you have compelling evidence of liability, causation, and damages. That said, a skilled and highly experienced attorney can take the necessary steps to avoid and mitigate disputes. This involves compiling all available evidence and performing the investigation right away so any time-sensitive evidence can be gathered. It also involves building your claim around the relevant case law and statutes to minimize the likelihood of facing a dispute. Sometimes just having a seasoned litigator by your side can encourage the insurance company to pay a fair settlement in order to avoid the cost and risk of entering litigation.
3. Who Might Be Liable for a Bicycle Accident Wrongful Death?
Most bicycle accidents are caused by an error on the part of either a driver or the cyclist. There are, however, many parties outside of those directly involved in the crash who might be at least partially liable. The list below provides an overview of the parties who are commonly named in wrongful death claims involving bicycle accidents:
- The Driver Who Caused the Accident: Was your family member hit by a driver who was breaking a traffic law? If so, it is likely that the driver would be liable and your claim would be made against their auto insurance company. If they don’t have sufficient insurance coverage to pay for all the damages incurred, your attorney may advise you to pursue damages from the driver directly if they have the finances or assets to justify such an action.
- A Government Agency: Sometimes government agencies can be held liable for damages resulting from an accident that was caused by poor road design or maintenance.
- An Auto or Bicycle Part Manufacturer: If a defective auto or bicycle part played a role, it may be possible to recover damages from the part manufacturer or another party that played a role in the part’s development or distribution.
- Other Parties: Many other parties might be liable depending on the circumstances. Examples include a negligent mechanic or bicycle repair shop, or the employer of the driver who hit your family member if the driver was acting in the course and scope of their employment when the crash occurred.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Speak with a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If your family member has died in a bicycle crash, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks to set up a free consultation. You can reach us at (562) 206-1939 or send us a message on our Contact Page. We accept wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis.
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