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Readers may have heard last month about a wrongful death case in which a San Francisco jury awarded $4 million in damages to the parents of a woman who was struck and killed by a truck while riding a bicycle in 2013.

The accident reportedly occurred when the truck driver made a right-turn in front of the 24-year-old woman and caused a collision. She later died from injuries at a local hospital. Although the trucker was not originally cited by police, he was later deemed to be at fault for the crash. Still, prosecutors never filed criminal charges on the grounds that there was no proof that the woman’s death was caused by the trucker.

Arguments in the case highlight one of the challenging aspects of personal injury and wrongful death litigation: that crash victims are often blamed for their own injuries. Under California’s comparative fault statute, plaintiffs in personal injury litigation may have their damages award reduced in proportion to their degree of fault for the injuries. There is no bar to recovery for at-fault plaintiffs, but there is the possibility of having the damages reward significantly reduced.

In this case, the attorney representing the trucker and his employer argued that the woman had been riding her bike while listening to music, which caused her to become distracted, though there was no actual proof that she was wearing her earbuds at the time of the crash. Ultimately, however, the woman’s parents were satisfied with the outcome of the case.

Those who have been harmed in a car accident deserve to be adequately compensated for their injuries. In building a personal injury claim, it is important to build a strong case both for liability and for damages. When it comes to damages, mitigating the assignment of fault is an important goal in the process, and a skilled attorney can really help.  

Source: sfgate.com, “Jury awards $4 million in S.F. bicyclist’s death,” Kale Williams, Jan. 16, 2015. 

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