A 21-year old cyclist named Dylan Mitchell was killed in San Francisco in a crash on Thursday, May 23rd around 6:45 a.m. when a Recology garbage truck travelling in the same direction turned right on South Van Ness Avenue and struck him. Dylan was riding his bicycle to work at the time. It is a tragic accident that serves as a reminder of the dangers that all bike riders face on Bay Area roadways.
Under California law, there can be no recovery for pre-death pain and suffering in a death case. Dylan's mother, Julie, may have standing to sue for the loss of Dylan's love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society and moral support, along with the lost wages that he would have earned during the rest of his lifetime. Juries are instructed that they must separate these damages from the grief caused by the loss, for which there is no compensation.
In order to recover, Dylan's mother will have to prove that Dylan's death was the result of a wrongful act, either negligent or reckless. Proving that the driver of the Recology garbage truck acted negligently would involve an inquiry into whether the truck driver experienced a duty to Dylan, whether he breached that duty, and whether his breach of that duty caused Dylan's death. Recklessness usually arises from allegations of intoxication, or erratic driving. Attorneys typically seek to prove recklessness when it is warranted, as it can lead to recovery of punitive damages.
Every driver on the road has a duty to exercise reasonable car. Drivers must keep a lookout for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles. They must also control the speed and movement of their vehicles. The failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence. A driver must use reasonable care while turning. It appears from the news reports that the Recology driver was turning right when Dylan was hit. If the driver made his turn without checking that the maneuver could be made with reasonable safety or without giving of an appropriate signal, then he may have violated the Vehicle Code.
If the driver of the garbage truck was negligent, then it follows that Recology may be liable for his negligence to the extent that Recology permitted the driver to use its vehicle, and also to the extent that the driver was operating the vehicle within the course and scope of his employment with Recology at the time that he struck Dylan.
In order to be able to recover damages for wrongful death, Dylan's mother would also have to prove that the negligence of the driver was the cause of Dylan's death. The driver might argue that Dylan contributed to his own injuries by riding his bicycle too fast, or by failing to wear a helmet. If the driver were able to prove that Dylan contributed to his own injury, then the jury would be charged to determine what Dylan's proportionate fault was compared to the Driver's fault, and the recovery of Dylan's mother would be diminished by his proportion of fault.
Suing for wrongful death of a loved one due to a bicycling accident helps to send a clear message that drivers need to share the road with cyclists, which is especially important in San Francisco, which has the highest bicycle-to-work mode share of major U.S. cities having more than 500,000 inhabitants. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey of 2006, 2.5 percent of all San Francisco residents cycle to work, five times the national average of 0.5 percent, and about three times the state average of 0.8 percent. Callaway & Wolf are experienced Wrongful Death attorneys who have assisted many cyclists to recover for their injuries; their firm can insure that recovery for the death of your loved one is handled appropriately.