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Fatal Bicycle Accidents in California

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Fatal Bicycle Accidents in California

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If you are part of a grieving family who has lost a loved one in a bicycle accident in Sacramento or another Northern California city, we invite you to speak with one of our compassionate and caring injury lawyers.  We offer no-obligation consultations during which we can help you decide if retaining legal counsel will be beneficial to your potential case.  We offer initial meetings in-person, by telephone, or over Zoom and will work with your schedule and preference.

We will never be able to take away the pain of losing a loved one, but we will do our best to relieve your anxiety and stress over the legal issues that can arise following a tragic accident. 

For nearly four decades, our firm has worked to advocate for injured Californians and their loved ones. We have helped numerous families recover compensation to assist with the economic losses that an unexpected death can leave behind.  

Our advice is to act quickly to retain a legal advocate after a fatal bicycle accident. In the days following the tragedy, while you are dealing with heartbreak, insurance companies are callously strategizing to minimize the wrongful death claim to pay your family as little as possible.

Fatal Bicycle Accidents and Wrongful Death Lawsuits

When fatal bicycle accidents are caused by another person’s negligence or carelessness, the surviving heirs may be entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim. The claim will seek compensation for the losses suffered due to the unexpected and untimely death. Some of the damages recoverable in a wrongful death matter include but are not limited to:

  • Any medical bills that were incurred after the accident and before the death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost future income if the decedent provided financial support to the surviving heirs
  • Non-economic damages such as loss of love, companionship, consortium, and parental guidance, as applicable.
California Statistics on Fatal Bicycle Accidents

According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 2016 through 2018, 455 bicyclists were killed in California vehicle accidents. That number represented an increase over any prior three-year period since the mid-1990s. 

Data shows that approximately 70 percent of all bicycle fatalities happen in urban areas. More than 60 percent of fatal bike accidents took place in locations other than intersections. The most dangerous time of day for bicyclists is, predictably, dark evening hours. More fatalities occurred between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. 

Fatal Bicycle Accidents – Common Causes

Regardless of location, most fatal bicycle accidents occur due to negligent and careless actions by motorists. California bicyclists enjoy the same rights on the road as any other traveler.  Unfortunately, motorists are often not on the lookout for bicycles and either do not see them or see them only after it is too late to avoid a crash.  Below are some common scenarios that result in fatal injuries to bicyclists:

  • A car turning left into the path of a bicyclist
  • A vehicle turning right without the driver first looking in the direction of travel into a cyclist
  • A motorist not allowing enough room when passing a bicyclist and sideswiping the bike
  • A vehicle occupant 0pening a car door into an oncoming bicyclist
The Statute of Limitations for Fatal Bicycle Accidents

There are legal deadlines that must be met to preserve a California wrongful death claim. Additionally, crucial evidence must promptly be gathered and witnesses located. Those important tasks are more likely to be successful if they are completed shortly after the incident. As such, it is advised that you act quickly following the fatal accident to protect your family’s legal rights. In most cases, the claim must be settled, or a lawsuit must be filed in court before the second anniversary of the tragic incident.  However, if a governmental entity is a potential defendant, that time limit is much shorter – only six months. If a claim is not settled or a lawsuit filed before the statute expires, all rights to recover compensation will likely be lost.

Bicycle Safety – An Ounce of Prevention

Bicyclists are always going to be at a disadvantage in a collision with a motor vehicle.  The best advice is to do everything you can to avoid getting into an accident. With that in mind, below are some bicycle safety tips:

  • Make sure your bike is the right size for you.  If the bike does not fit, it will be harder to control.
  • Make sure all of the equipment (brakes, gears, lights) on your bike works.
  • Wear a helmet and other protective gear.
  • Wear clothing and equip your bike to increase visibility – bright clothes during the day and reflective gear and lights in the evening or when visibility is otherwise decreased.
  • Only ride with one person per seat, and keep both hands on the handlebars unless turn signaling.
  • Secure all personal items to the back of the bicycle or within a well-fitting, comfortable backpack.
  • Secure your pant legs and shoelaces to keep them away from the bike chain.
  • Plan your route wisely – choose roads with less traffic and slower speed limits.  Use dedicated bicycle routes or off-road trails whenever possible.
  • Drive defensively, anticipating what others may do before they do it. The faster you can notice a potential crash, the faster you can avoid one.
  • Ride in the same direction as traffic, obeying all traffic signals, signs, and markings.
  • Assume that motorists cannot see you.
  • Do not ride with headphones or other distractions.
  • Avoid sidewalk riding unless it is legal and absolutely necessary.  Motorists are not looking for bikes on sidewalks.
  • Improve your riding skills by practicing in a safe environment or taking an on-bike safety course in the community.

Watch the YouTube video posted by the Federal Highway Administration on bicycling safely.

Northern California Bicycle Wrongful Death Lawyer

Hello. My name is Ed Smith, and we have helped Northern Californians and their families with personal injury and wrongful death claims since 1982. This includes many that arose from tragic bicycle accident fatalities. When assisting grieving family members, we seek to worry about the legal matters off of their already anxious minds. With compassion, we will work to recover financial compensation to help ease the family’s burdens that may exist following an untimely death.  We know that we cannot heal your heart, but allowing us to help your family by attending to the legal matter will allow you more time and energy to fully grieve.  

Please take a moment to read what many of our former clients have to say about our firm. We know you want to find a lawyer who cares, and seeing reviews from others can sometimes help with your decision.  Links are provided below.


Call us for free and friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. Alternatively, you may message us online.

Image by Carlotta Silvestrini from Pixabay 

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