Bicycle Accident Wrongful Death Attorney in Austin
The Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that more than 400 people died in bicycle accidents on Texas roads from 2010 through 2017. With picturesque bike trails and warm weather, Austin residents love to joyride on their bicycles, and many commute to work. Yet injuries and fatalities caused by bicycle accidents present a major concern. Whether a road hazard or a motor vehicle causes an accident, cyclists have a greater risk of injury, and are more likely to die upon impact or as a result of their injury.
If someone you love has died in a bicycle accident, your family is going through a difficult time. Although no amount of money will bring back your loved one, receiving compensation can help ease the financial burden and recover the economic costs of your loss. Coping with sudden death is not easy, especially if another person's negligence led to the death of your loved one. In these cases, you might have the right to file a wrongful death claim to receive compensation for the death of your family member. The State of Texas has a two-year statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit, so you must contact an attorney as soon as possible. Call The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin (512) 851-1004 to discuss your case.
What Is Wrongful Death?
According to Texas law (Statute 71.002), a cause of action for wrongful death occurs "if the injury was caused by the person's or his agent's or servant's wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default." The law also states that the victim must have been able to recover damages if he or she had not died. Texas law states that only a victim's surviving spouse, children, or parents may file a wrongful death suit on the behalf of the victim. They have three months from the date of death to do so, or the victim's executor may do so on their behalf.
Who Can Be at Fault in a Bicycle Wrongful Death Case?
Determining fault isn't always easy in a bicycle accident. Drivers of motor vehicles are more often at fault than the bicyclist, but bicyclists who aren't following Texas's bicycle laws may also be at fault. This may be because most fatal bike accidents involve a motor vehicle—bicycle accident statistics estimate that bicycle accidents involve a single vehicle more than 90% of the time. Other types of fatal bike accidents may occur because of a defective bicycle or a defective helmet. In these cases, the manufacturer, wholesaler, and/or retailer may be liable in a wrongful death suit. Finally, in the case of poor road design or hazardous roads, the city, county, or state may be held liable.
What Kind of Damages Can Be Recovered When a Wrongful Death Occurs as a Result of a Bicycle Accident?
In Texas, when the court hears a wrongful death claim, they may award compensatory damages or exemplary damages, often referred to as punitive damages in other states. Exemplary damages are rare, but in cases of gross misconduct or negligence, the court may award them. Often, surviving family members receive compensatory damages which seek to offset the following:
- Medical expenses paid by a surviving family member
- Funeral expenses
- Service or support that the deceased provided to a surviving family member, especially a dependent
- Loss of companionship, protection, and/or guidance
- Psychological pain and suffering
The court may also award some types of damages to the estate of the deceased, which include compensation for:
- Lost wages and benefits including future wages that the deceased would have earned
- The value of the earnings that the estate could have had if the deceased had lived
- Medical and funeral expenses that the estate paid
In What Ways Do Those Liable for Bicycle Wrongful Death Accidents Try to Avoid Responsibility?
Those who are liable in wrongful death cases may take whatever measures necessary to avoid paying their debt to the victim. Although the Texas Wrongful Death Act gives surviving family members the right to sue, Texas is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that when the court hears your case, if they find in your favor, the damages awarded will be reduced by the percentage of blame assigned to the deceased. For example, a car runs a red light and crashes into a bicyclist, killing the cyclist. The court finds that the driver was negligent for running the red light, but the bicyclist should not have been in the intersection based on the traffic light pattern. The court might decide that the bicyclist was 15% at fault for the accident. If damages are awarded at $100,000, you will only receive $85,000.
The defense may use a variety of tactics to shift some or all of the fault to the victim, including claiming that the cyclist was inattentive, under the influence, or breaking traffic violations. In Texas, it is important to have a skilled personal injury attorney, as Texas uses a modified version of the pure comparative negligence rule. This modification states that the defendant must be at least 51% at fault to be held liable for damages. An experienced attorney will fight these counterclaims against the deceased and strive for the best possible outcome for surviving family members.
In the event of a defective bicycle or helmet, products liability law comes into play. You must prove that the bicycle was defective, dangerous, and led to the death of your loved one. Products liability claims in Texas follow a strict liability rule: typically, negligence does not matter in these cases.
How Much Will a Lawyer Cost Me?
Most law firms that specialize in wrongful death cases offer free consultations for you to discuss the details of your case with one of their attorneys. In the event that the lawyer agrees to represent you, representation usually does not require a retainer up-front. Wrongful death cases are often handled on a contingent fee basis, meaning that your lawyer will deduct their fees from any settlement or judgment that the court awards you for the wrongful death of your family member.
If someone that you love has died in a bicycle accident due to negligence, call for a free consultation with one of the experienced wrongful death attorneys at The Law Offices of George Salinas in Austin at (512) 851-1004. You and your family are going through a difficult time and are most likely overwhelmed with grief. Let the lawyers at The Law Offices of George Salinas guide you through the best course of action, while you focus on recovering from your loss.