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Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case After a Bicycle Accident?

Published on March 10th, 2020

Personal Injury Lawyer

Bicycle accident fatalities are on an upward trend. As more people leave their cars at home and commute to work on a bicycle, that trend will likely continue.

While some cities have implemented bike paths and dedicated bike lanes, bicyclists must usually share the road with cars and trucks at some point on their journey. A bicycle lane that is not separated from car lanes by barriers can be just as dangerous as riding in traffic.

In a collision between a car or truck and a bicycle, it is almost inevitable that the rider will be injured. A bicycle helmet provides some protection when a bicyclist falls to the pavement, but no helmet provides full protection against head injuries in a crash with a car moving at normal urban speeds.

While head injuries are a common cause of fatal accidents, other deadly injuries that bicycle riders risk include internal bleeding, crushed organs, a broken neck, and blood loss from amputations or severed arteries.

Family members who lose a loved one in a bicycle accident are entitled to bring a claim for wrongful death. In most states, they can recover the funds the deceased accident victim would have contributed to the family if the victim had lived a full lifespan. Families can also recover the financial value of services (such as doing home repairs) that the victim would have provided.

Different states take different approaches to measuring other compensation the family can receive. A bicycle accident lawyer can explain how wrongful death law measures compensation in the state where the accident occurred.

Family Members Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case After a Bicycle Accident

Each state has its own wrongful death law. No state allows the victim’s friend to bring a wrongful death claim. Depending on the state, the claim might be brought by the victim’s estate or by close relatives.

Many states allow family members to initiate a wrongful death claim, but they take different approaches to deciding which family members can participate. Spouses are typically allowed to bring the claim if they were married to the victim at the time of death. Minor children are typically allowed to join the claim, or at least to share in the proceeds.

Depending on the state and on the circumstances, adult children, the children of a deceased child, parents, and siblings might also be entitled to join in the claim. Some states limit participation to spouses and minor children. Some also allow participation by other close relatives were financially dependent upon the accident victim.

Some states allow (or require) all eligible relatives to join a wrongful death lawsuit unless they choose to opt out. Other states permit one relative (such as a spouse) to bring the claim and then require that relative to distribute compensation in a manner required by state law.

Estates Might Bring a Wrongful Death Claim After a Bicycle Accident

In some states, the wrongful death claim belongs to the deceased victim’s estate, not to the victim’s family. In those states, the claim is initiated by the estate’s personal representative (sometimes known as an executor). 

When the estate brings a wrongful death claim, the proceeds of the claim are distributed according to the victim’s Will. If the victim died without a Will, state law determines how the victim’s property, including wrongful death compensation, will be distributed.

In addition to wrongful death claims, state laws generally allow an estate to bring a survival claim. If the victim did not die immediately, the victim’s estate can seek compensation for the pain and suffering the victim experienced prior to death. Survival claims also seek recovery of the victim’s medical expenses prior to death.

Since state wrongful death laws differ dramatically, families should seek legal advice promptly. Protecting the right to seek justice for a bicyclist’s death begins by obtaining advice from an experienced wrongful death lawyer.

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