9 FAQs About Bicycle Accident Wrongful Death Claims

January 22, 2020

by ogkdev

Losing a family member in a sudden accident is a life-changing tragedy that nobody deserves to experience. The trauma can be especially difficult to bear if the death was caused by someone else’s negligence or reckless conduct. If your loved one was killed in a bicycle accident, your family may have grounds for a wrongful death claim.

Recovering fair compensation in these cases often involves an uphill legal battle. The damages can be substantial, so insurance companies have plenty of incentive to challenge these claims. The best way to protect your rights is to consult with a bicycle accident attorney who has a track record of success in cases involving wrongful death.

Your lawyer can gather evidence, manage correspondence with the claims adjuster, handle settlement negotiations, and fight for the full compensation your family deserves. Your personal injury attorney can also serve as a source of legal guidance and insight, which can greatly alleviate the distress that you and your loved ones are no doubt experiencing.

Your free initial consultation with a wrongful death lawyer is the perfect opportunity to get answers to questions about your particular case. Below we’ve addressed some general FAQs about wrongful death claims arising from bicycle accidents:

1. What is the difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival action?

A wrongful death claim and a survival action are two types of action that may be brought after a wrongful death. A wrongful death claim is brought to pursue compensation for damages suffered by beneficiaries. A survival action is brought to pursue compensation for damages incurred by the deceased between his or her fatal injury and death. While a wrongful death claim directly benefits the deceased’s surviving beneficiaries, the damages awarded in a survival action go to the deceased’s estate before they are distributed.

2. Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida?

The wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. Sometimes the personal representative is named in the deceased’s will. When no will exists, the personal representative is appointed by the court.

3. Does it matter if my family member wasn’t wearing a bicycle helmet?

Probably not. Pursuant to Florida Statutes section 316.2065(18), failure to wear a bicycle helmet is not considered evidence of negligence. Even if the opposing party argues that the death would not have occurred if the decedent had been wearing a helmet, it is unlikely that such a defense would impact the outcome of your case.

4. What if my deceased family member was partially liable for the accident?

If the decedent somehow contributed to the accident—for instance, by breaking a traffic law—the award of damages may be reduced by their percentage of fault. In other words, if the damages incurred total $100,000 but it is determined that the decedent was 20 percent liable for the accident, surviving family members would be able to recover up to $80,000.

If you suspect that the opposing party will argue that the decedent was partially liable, it is critically important that you consult a personal injury attorney who has experience overcoming the comparative negligence defense. Such a lawyer will be well-versed in the statutes and case law pertaining to wrongful death claims involving shared fault. Often in these cases, having the damages award reduced by just a few percentage points could add up to a considerable loss. Your bicycle accident lawyer can compile the evidence needed to prove liability and take the necessary steps to minimize the percentage of fault imposed on your deceased family member.

5. How much is my family’s wrongful death claim worth?

A multitude of factors could impact the potential value of your case. One of the primary reasons to hire a wrongful death personal injury attorney is to ensure your claim accounts for all potentially recoverable damages and to approximate a fair settlement amount so you don’t leave any money on the table.

Below are just a few factors that could impact the settlement calculations:

Whether Your Loved One Survived for a Period of Time:

If your loved one died immediately, you will not be able to bring a survival action; however, if they lived for even a short period of time after the crash, a survival action may be brought to pursue compensation for medical costs, lost wages between the injury and death, and property damage.

The Cost of Expenses Incurred Due to the Fatal Accident:

What expenses were incurred by the deceased and your family due to the bicycle accident? The cost of medical bills, lost income, and funeral arrangements can vary dramatically from one case to the next.

The Deceased’s Income and Career Trajectory:

Your family’s claim can include any loss of financial contributions the deceased would have made, the value of which will be largely determined by his or her income and career trajectory before passing.

Whether the Deceased Was Partially Liable:

As previously mentioned, the award of damages may be reduced by the decedent’s percentage of fault.

6. How long does it take to resolve a bicycle accident wrongful death claim?

Like many other questions you find on this page, the answer depends on the circumstances. The proceedings could last from a few months to well over a year. Below are just some of the factors your personal injury attorney will inform you about that could influence the amount of time it takes to resolve your case:

The Strength of Your Evidence:

At the end of the day, the stronger your evidence to prove liability, causation, and damages, the less likely the opposing party will be to dispute your claim. If a fair settlement can be reached without entering to litigation, the duration of the proceedings would be much shorter; however, if the evidence is weak or suggests that fault was shared, a dispute might arise that leads to litigation.

The Value of the Damages Being Pursued:

Do you intend to pursue significant damages? If so, the opposing party will have more incentive to challenge your claim, which could extend the proceedings.

Whether Fault Was Shared:

Any dispute could lead to protracted litigation. When fault is shared—either among multiple defendants or between a defendant and the deceased—a dispute can arise that leads to litigation.

Whether You Make Mistakes That Lead to a Dispute:

Even if you have strong evidence to support your wrongful death claim, you could still end up making a mistake that leads to a dispute. Examples of such mistakes include discussing the accident on social media or providing a statement to the insurance company.

Whether the Opposing Party Cooperates:

There’s ultimately no way to force the opposing party to pay a fair settlement. No matter how compelling your evidence, your case could proceed all the way to trial if the defense refuses to cooperate.

7. What happens during the discovery phase of litigation?

The ideal outcome of your wrongful death case would be to reach a fair settlement without even having to file a lawsuit. If, however, a dispute arises that cannot be resolved through dialogue between your personal injury attorney and the attorney for the defense, the next step would be to file a lawsuit and proceed to litigation.

The first stage of litigation is called “discovery.” During discovery, each side investigates the other side’s claims and defenses. A personal injury lawyer serves standard interrogatories to compile information about the accident, injuries, damages, and perhaps the background biographical details of the parties involved. The opposing party might evaluate the deceased’s medical records to determine if a preexisting condition may have contributed to the death. Depositions may also be taken from the parties involved in the accident, eyewitnesses, and expert witnesses.

8. What is alternative dispute resolution?

If a settlement is not reached once discovery has concluded, the case may proceed to alternative dispute resolution (ADR). As the name implies, ADR is an alternative to trial that is cheaper and faster. Two common examples of ADR are mediation and arbitration. During mediation, a neutral party approved by both sides will assess the claims and defenses and suggest a resolution. Mediation is non-binding, so if one side disagrees with the mediator’s proposed solution, the case would proceed to trial. Arbitration, however, is binding. Under some circumstances, a case may be required to go through mediation before proceeding to trial, or a judge might order that a case go through arbitration rather than trial.

9. What role might expert witnesses play in my family’s wrongful death case?

Expert witnesses often play a pivotal role in the outcome of wrongful death cases. An accident reconstruction expert may be brought in to determine how the crash occurred. A medical expert might be deposed regarding the proximate cause of death, and an economist may provide deposition regarding the value of lost financial contributions. There are many other kinds of experts who might play a role in your case depending on the circumstances.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Bicycle Accident Lawyer in West Palm Beach

If your loved one was killed in a bicycle accident and you want to bring a wrongful death claim, contact Donaldson & Weston. We offer free consultations and accept cases on a contingency fee basis. Send us a message or call 561-299-3999 to speak with a personal injury attorney in West Palm Beach.