California is home to many bicyclists. Unfortunately, the state recently reached a 25-year high for bicycle fatalities, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data released in January 2020.
While not every cycling fatality gives rise to a wrongful death claim, the state provides remedies for the family members of cyclists whose deaths resulted from someone else’s reckless or negligent behavior.
What constitutes a wrongful death claim?
A valid wrongful death claim requires that a party acted “wrongfully,” either through negligence, recklessness or intentional harm. Careless driving is a common example. Failing to maintain roadways or sidewalks, failing to warn of dangerous conditions, or manufacturing defective bicycle equipment are also examples of such wrongful behavior.
Who qualifies to file a wrongful death action?
In California, only certain people qualify to file a wrongful death claim. They include the deceased person’s
- Children, stepchildren or grandchildren
- Spouse or domestic partner
- Legal heirs under state intestate succession laws
- Parents, in some cases
- Financial dependents
Note that the deceased person’s estate may not file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate.
What compensation is available for wrongful death?
While nothing ever truly compensates for the loss of a loved one, wrongful death claims may result in financial compensation for funeral and burial expenses, medical bills from the accident, lost future income and earnings, mental anguish and emotional distress and loss of companionship and support. Additional damages may be available in some cases.
A wrongful death action cannot bring back a lost loved one, but financial recovery may help ease the burden on grieving families.