Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Turning Left In Front Of A Motorcyclist--The Most Common Cause Of Morotcycle-Car Collisions

In over 20 years of handling Ohio motorcycle-car collisions, I have seen one recurring pattern: a car that abruptly turns left in front of the motorcyclist. This scenario has clearly outweighed other causes of motorcycle-car crashes that I have investigated or litigated. Running a close second is a car that pulls out from a stop sign directly into the motorcyclist's lane.

The reason is simple: car drivers are simply not looking for a motorcycle. The human eye is usually looking in its field of vision for the presence of other vehicles, rather than a motorcyclist. In fact, almost uniformly, the driver's response, in a police report or a deposition, is usually the same: "I looked but I just didn't see the motorcycle."

Obviously, when car meets motorcyclist, the rider almost always loses, and the injuries can be horrific. Because the driver's insurance company faces substantial exposure in any claim or lawsuit, the standard defense in these cases is that the motorcyclist was speeding. This is because under Ohio law, a vehicle or motorcycle that has the right of way maintains that right of way only if he or she is not speeding. Many times this claim is bogus, but it doesn't stop a deep pocket insurance company from arguing it. And let's face it: many people have a negative view of motorcycles and motorcyclists due to a few bad apples who weave in and out of traffic and give all riders a bad reputation. Although this is slowly changing due to the increasing popularity of morotcycles, insurance companies still like to tap into this bias in defense of these cases.

So, if you ride a motorcycle, there are a few take away lessons you need to be aware of. First, always obey posted speed limits, particularly when you approach any intersection. Second, if you're involved in a crash, it is imperative that you speak to a competent attorney or firm that can arrange for an accident reconstructionist to visit the scene to preserve physical evidence like skid or yaw marks, or other valuable physical evidence. Similarly, the ABSENCE of skid marks must be documented at or near the point of impact, as they may be relevant as to the motorcyclist's lack of opportunity to take evasive measures. The passage of time can materially change the physical dynamics of the accident scene, which may make it harder to prove your claim.

Finally, make sure that you or family members get the names of as many witnesses as possible. It is amazing to me how many times witnesses relayed to my clients or a family member at the scene or shortly afterward that they saw what happened, only to find out weeks later that the witnesses were not interviewed or even listed in the accident report. It happens a lot more than you think, unfortunately.

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