Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Insurance Companies And Motorcycle Accidents: Looking For Blame In All The Wrong Places

Insurance companies will stop at nothing to find ways to blame motorcyclists in car-motorcycle crashes. A recent case I settled on behalf of an injured motorcyclist illustrates this point.

Scenario: my client-motorcyclist entered the intersection with the right of way traveling the speed limit (25 mph). The negligent driver rolled through the stop sign and entered the intersection. Realizing that a crash was imminent, and with nowhere else to go, the motorcyclist laid the bike down to avoid being smashed by the car, and was injured in the process. 

The driver of the car was cited in the crash.

The insurance company for the at fault driver took his recorded statement, and he confirmed that he was going the speed limit. There was little to no damage to the motorcycle, and there were no skid marks. In other words, there was no physical evidence whatsoever that the motorcyclist was speeding.

Months later, the adjuster sent my client a letter (before he hired me) claiming that he was 30% at fault, because (1) he "panicked"; (2) he had ample time to stop; and (3) the driver of the car thought he may have been going 30 mph and was therefore speeding.

Thinking this was b.s., he hired me. How did the adjuster come up with his "you were 30% negligent" figure? He pulled it out of thin air. Why did he take this position? Because he could, and because of the usual tactic taken by insurance companies in many motorcycle-car collision cases: blame the motorcyclist because of the bias and prejudice against motorcycle riders.

After I reviewed the case, I concluded that the motorcyclist did nothing wrong, and reacted in split second fashion to an oncoming 3,000 pound bullet the only way he could have: avoid a T-bone crash by laying the bike down, the only real option he had.

Ohio law is clear that if a motorist has the right of way and is not speeding, he cannot be charged with being at fault in a crash. This, however, did not stop the adjuster from taking a "you were 30% at fault" position. Why did he take this position? In this example, under Ohio law, if you are 30% responsible for your crash, you can recover only 70% of your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Because the adjuster would not back off of this position, we filed a lawsuit. A new adjuster was assigned to the case, and they backed off and finally made an offer that was reflective of the fact that my client did nothing wrong.

The takeway here is that motorcycle accidents are scrutinized much more than crashes involving two cars. The reason is simple: motorcycle-car crashes usually involve more serious injuries, usually to the motorcyclist. Because they have more to lose in a settlement payout or jury verdict, they often resort to nitpicking the motorcyclist's actions in an attempt to save money. Unfair? Yes. But it happens all the time. That's why our phone rings...    

No comments: