Common Defenses in Motorcycle Crash Claims
Motorcycle riders often sustain very serious injuries in vehicle collisions. In fact, these individuals are almost thirty times more likely to die than four-wheel vehicle occupants. Damages in these claims usually includes compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
A solid damages claim helps ensure fair compensation, but c legal claim is usually not enough. Since so much is at stake in these cases, insurance company lawyers do whatever it takes to reduce or deny damages. So, the best Brandon personal injury attorneys must be ready to answer some common insurance company defenses.
Comparative fault shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. For example, the insurance company may admit the tortfeasor was speeding but insist that the victim’s illegal lane change truly caused the crash.
Attorneys usually have two opportunities to fight the contributory negligence defense. First, the insurance company must convince that the defense applies. Not all illegal lane changes are created equally. Some contribute to crashes and some do not. Next, insurance company lawyers must convince jurors to divide fault on a percentage basis.
Usually, contributory negligence only reduces compensation, because Florida is a pure comparative fault state. Even if the victim is 99 percent responsible for the crash, the victim still receives a proportionate share of damages.
Last Clear Chance
This defense, however, completely eliminates compensation, if the defense is successful. Basically, there is a difference between fault at the scene and responsibility for damages. This difference often comes up in visibility-related motorcycle wrecks (e.g. the tortfeasor did not see the motorcyclist and pulled out in front of the rider).
In these situations, if the motorcycle rider had a reasonable chance to avoid the crash, the rider is legally responsible for damages. Even if a motorist pulled out in front of the rider, the rider still had a duty of care to avoid the crash.
Significantly, the rider must have the last clear chance, and not any possible chance. It’s very difficult to perform emergency maneuvers on a motorcycle, especially if conditions are less than ideal. Attempts to avoid one wreck might cause a more serious collisions.
Motorcycle Helmet Defense
Florida is one of the few jurisdictions which recognizes the motorcycle helmet defense. In some cases, helmetless riders may be responsible for their own damages. This defense comes up a lot, mostly because Florida only has a limited motorcycle helmet law.
This defense only holds up in court if insurance company lawyers offer sufficient evidence. A doctor or other professional must testify that the lack of a helmet, and not the tortfeasor’s misconduct, substantially caused the victim’s damages. That showing is not easy to make.
The “Motorcycle Prejudice”
This final motorcycle crash defense is not in any law book. And, although it is not as pronounced as it was before, the motorcycle prejudice is very real.
Many jurors believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs who show little regard for other motorists. This prejudice is especially strong in contributory negligence or last clear chance claims.
To defeat the motorcycle prejudice, attorneys must tread lightly. In general, it is rather easy to be prejudiced against a group, but not easy to be prejudiced against an individual. So, attorneys normally stress the victim’s good traits, both as a person and as a motorcycle operator. That’s usually the best way to defeat the motorcycle prejudice.
Connect with Experienced Attorneys
Insurance company lawyers usually have some tricks up their sleeve in motorcycle crash cases. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).