California Court of Appeal Rules in Favor of Fatally Injured Bicycle Racer’s Family in Wrongful Death Case

As a bicyclist, there are certain risks that come with taking to the road on your bike. That is especially true if you are a racing bicyclist. One of the risks that shouldn’t “come with the territory,” though, is the risk of injury or death due to the negligence of a driver of a car, truck, or van. In one recent case, a van driver’s decision to park that vehicle in the path of a group of bicyclists was potentially an action that elevated the risk of harm to the bicyclists and allowed the family of one dead cyclist to pursue their wrongful death claim. Whether you’re bicycling to race or simply as a means of transportation, you may be entitled to damages if you are hurt by a driver’s negligence. You should act without delay to contact an experienced California bicycle accident attorney about your case.

Suzanne, the cyclist whose fatal accident spawned a recent lawsuit, was from Bakersfield but was participating in a road race in Mariposa County in May 2012. During the race, the race organizer had support vans to assist riders. At one point, a support van stopped to help a rider, and the driver parked the van in the road, within a lane designated for racers. When Suzanne and a group of other racers encountered the van in their lane, the other cyclists were able to swerve into a lane intended for vehicle traffic. Suzanne wasn’t able to steer around the van and crashed into it. As she lay on the ground, at least one other cyclist was unable to avoid her and ran over her. The woman died from her injuries.

Suzanne’s family sued the organizer for wrongful death. The family faced some clear hurdles to success in their case. The law says that there are certain types of activities that carry with them a degree of risk. When you voluntarily choose to participate in that activity, you do something called “assumption of the risk.” That means that you have voluntarily chosen to accept the consequences, including possible harm, that can come from taking part in that activity. In other words, if a football player breaks his leg as a result of a regular and legal tackle executed by an opposing player, the injured player is generally not entitled to a recovery for his damages (absent other special circumstances) because he voluntarily chose to take part in the potentially dangerous activity of football.

On the other hand, even if you are participating in a dangerous activity, you may be able to recover damages for the harm you suffer if someone else increases your risk of injury above that which is inherent in the activity itself. This was the basis for the appeals court’s decision in favor of the woman’s family, reviving the wrongful death case. While bicycle racers assume the risk of crashing and suffering injuries, they do not necessarily assume the risk of crashes resulting from vehicles being unexpectedly parked in their course paths and at the bottom of a steep, blind downhill curve. The organizer’s worker, by parking the van where they did, arguably created a risk of harm not inherent in bicycle racing, so the family was allowed to proceed to trial with their case.

When you have been hurt in a bicycle accident, you need strong representation to make sure that you get a full award of compensation for the harm you suffered. The experienced San Mateo bicycle accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos have been helping injured cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians for many years. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Injured Bicyclist Recovers $4.85 Million Settlement from the City of San Diego for the City’s Failure to Maintain and Repair an Uneven Sidewalk, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, Oct. 18, 2017

California Bicyclist Injured in Charity Race Crash Allowed to Continue Pursuing Claim for Damages, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, Sept. 7, 2016