Bicycle Fatality Accidents, Lawyers and Lawsuits
Despite advances in protective gear and state laws designed to make bicycling on roadways safer, hundreds of bicyclists are killed each year in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 726 bicyclists were killed in bicycle accidents in 2014 alone – at least two bicyclists per day. These numbers represent approximately two percent of all individuals killed on the roadway each year.
Bicycle injuries can be devastating to the bicyclist and to his or her family, but bicycle fatality crashes are catastrophic for the bicyclist’s surviving family members. Not only must these surviving family members mentally and emotionally process the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one, but they must also contend with the bicyclist’s loss of income, medical expenses incurred by the bicyclist before his or her death, and/or funeral and other final expenses. A bicycle fatality attorney may be able to help lighten the load on surviving family members who find themselves in this tragic and unfortunate situation.
Causes of Bicycle Fatality Accidents
Because bicyclists do not have the protection that a car or other motor vehicle affords, bicyclists are at an increased risk of suffering fatal injuries in any collision with a motor vehicle. Fatal injuries may be sustained even under circumstances that would only result in minor “fender bender” were two or more cars involved. Fatal bicycle collisions are more likely where:
- The bicyclist and/or the motor vehicle are traveling at a moderate or excessive speed;
- The bicyclist is thrown from his or her bicycle (as opposed to simply being knocked over, as may happen if the bicyclist is stationary and the motor vehicle merely taps the bicyclist);
- The bicyclist is not wearing appropriate safety gear like a helmet. A properly-fitted and approved helmet can drastically reduce the likelihood that a bicyclist will sustain severe or fatal head injuries in the event of a collision;
- The bicyclist is hit head-on or collides with other stationary objects in the crash.
A bicyclist may not be immediately killed; instead, he or she may suffer and eventually succumb to his or her catastrophic injuries. In addition, there may be other individuals or entities responsible for causing the bicyclist’s death. For example, a well-meaning passerby may attempt to move or provide first aid to the bicyclist when the “good Samaritan” has neither the training or education to know how to perform these actions safely. Or, the bicyclist may be hit by one motorist only to be hit by another motorist who does not see the crash in time to avoid it. Identifying each responsible party and determining each party’s level of responsibility is crucial to obtaining full and fair compensatory damages.
Steps for Surviving Family Members Following a Bicycle Fatality Accident
Hearing the news that your loved one was just killed in a tragic bicycle crash can be disorienting and overwhelming. It can be difficult to know what to do or expect. While every case is different, surviving family members can expect to meet with:
- Insurance adjustors for the bicyclist and/or the responsible motorists. If the motorist’s insurance carrier or the bicyclist’s life insurance company determines that benefits are due under the policy, the adjustor may offer to tender such benefits in return for settling claims the surviving family members may have against the insurance policy (and its insured). It is important to review these offers carefully to ensure you are not waiving important legal rights by accepting the insurance company’s offer.
- Law enforcement personnel may be the ones who provide you with notification that your loved one has died. They may also be able to provide information as to the circumstances of the crash (or what details they may know about the crash after performing a preliminary investigation.
- Medical personnel, including the coroner if an autopsy is performed. These individuals will be able to provide important information about what specific injuries the bicyclist sustained that caused his or her death. For purposes of your bicycle fatality lawsuit, it will be important to obtain copies of the decedent’s medical records and bills. If the bicyclist did not have an estate planning document granting some specific person the authority to speak to medical personnel, obtaining information from the hospital and/or coroner’s office can be difficult for individuals other than surviving family members.
- Funeral personnel who will be responsible for helping to plan any memorial service the family desires and either burying, cremating, or otherwise handling the deceased’s remains.
If circumstances lead you to believe your loved one’s death was the result of a motorist’s negligent or reckless driving, you should also speak with a bicycle fatality accident lawyer as soon as possible. While monetary damages may not be able to bring your loved one back, such compensation can alleviate the financial strain and burdens that accompany a sudden and unexpected death. Contact the compassionate yet skilled attorney Ken Stern of Stern Law, PLLC at (800) 462-5772. He will assist you in pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible motorist or other parties so you and your family can focus on grieving your loved one and putting your lives back together.