Our St Louis Missouri law-firm often represents injured bicyclists, and in most situations when cyclists are badly hurt, it is because the driver of a car or truck is negligent and causes a collision. Additionally, we also help injured pedestrians and in most of those cases a car or truck driver is the culprit in such collisions and injury.
A rare situation is when a cyclist negligently hits a pedestrian. Once such case occurred in 2012 when a cyclist was riding downhill, and presumably fast (about 30 MPH), rode into a busy intersection with pedestrians crossing, and struck a 71 year old man who died from his injuries. The cyclist rising into a busy intersection packed with pedestrians is not much different, legally speaking, than a driver of a car barreling into that intersection with reckless abandon. Cyclists have the same rights to the road but with that comes the same responsibilities for others' safety. Criminal charges were filed against the cyclist and he was convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter.
I am sure the family of the deceased man will be pursuing a wrongful death claim against the bike rider. Wrongful death is a cause of action created by statute (the legislature) that allows certain relatives to file a negligence claim against the at-fault person or business to recover damages that the dead relative would be able to recover (medical bills, pain and suffering, etc ...) in addition to damages for loss of companionship and support. In this case, since the bike rider has been found guilty that is damn good evidence in the civil case that he is legally responsible for the damages caused. See, Evidence of Criminal Guilt or Conviction in Civil Cases.
Under Missouri law, Wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within 3 years of the date of death, and in Illinois that time is 2 years. If the family does not file a case within that time it is likely that any case filed after that time period will be dismissed. Wrongful death actions can only be brought by certain relatives, and specific "classes of relatives" have priority over others. In Missouri the relatives entitled to sue are specified in RSMo 537.090 are:
1. The husband or wife of the decreased and the deceased's children. If the decedent was not married and did not have any children then;
2. Brothers or sisters of the decedent or their kids, and of no siblings then;
3. A Plaintiff ad litem, or a court appointed person to represent any remaining relatives or persons entitled to sue; such as surviving parents, or other relatives.
If there are relatives in class 1, then relatives in class 2 cannot sue; same as of there are relatives in Class 2 and none in class 1, then class 2 relatives can sue but class 3 relatives cannot.
As a lawyer handling dozens of wrongful death claims in Missouri and Illinois, it is very important that the relatives of the decedent understand who is entitled to sue and who is not. Even more important is that the relative that are in one class and that will be part of the lawsuit cooperate and get along. Family division is the defense lawyer's friend. All of the family members must come together and cooperate to bring the wrongful death lawsuit.
It is important that early on the family members agree to who will have the primary responsibility for making decisions about the case, who will primarily communicate with the lawyers, and how the settlement or verdict money will be divided. If there is discord between the family members, the defense lawyers will take advantage of that and it will hurt a wrongful death case. Family members must set aside differences and come together and cooperate to respect the memory of their deceased relative and for the good of the legal case.
Making these decision early on is extremely helpful, as a wrongful death lawyer, I often require the family members to agree on the above issues in writing before accepting their case. Typically, I recommend that family members in the same class as mentioned above, agree to split any settlement or verdict money evenly. If they cannot agree that fight will be aired in front of a judge who will then be forced to make that decision for the family.