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 All Forums
 Motorcycle Safety
 General Discussion
 Accidents vs Rider Errors (Causation)
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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17396 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 07/03/2022 :  8:07 AM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend                        Like
It probably will not surprise you to know that attorneys are word smiths. They very carefully choose the words they use when arguing their cases.

It also should not surprise you to know that plaintiff attorneys choose to use the words "Rider Error" while defense attorneys prefer "Accident" when describing the same events.

My perspective:

Very few motorcycle accidents are actually accidents (or Acts of God). Instead, they are planned, deliberate activities, except for the crash. When a curve in the roadway is posted with a 35 MPH speed limit sign and a motorcyclist elects to try to take it at 70 MPH, then when his motorcycle tires lose traction and he crashes, that was a planned and deliberate action, except for the crash. This would be an example of rider error, not an accident.

When a motorcyclist travels 15 MPH over the posted speed limit, it is incontrovertibly a planned and deliberate choice on the part of the motorcyclist. Should a collision occur as a result of that excess speed, that is also an example of rider error instead of an accident.

Guess what else results from choosing to use the words "rider error" instead of "accident". A compelling argument for also using the words "reckless" and "negligence". Those words are legal landmines that can cost you both money and freedom.

This is a much bigger topic than it first appears to be. Civil trials attempt to determine causation - who or what caused an incident of damage or injury.

In the 43 civil trials I've worked only TWO found that the motorcyclist did not contribute to the cause of the incident while all the rest found that the motorcyclist contributed, in part, to the incident.

Let me be clear about that. If you are riding on a road and an 18-wheeler makes a left turn in front of you and a collision occurs, you had two possibilities to avoid that collision: you could have applied your brakes (aggressively) or you could have changed your path of travel (aggressively), but not both at the same time. If, instead of doing either, you froze at your controls and did nothing, you CONTRIBUTED causatively to the collision but you DIDN'T CAUSE IT.

The jury would be tasked to determine what percentage of all the causative factors you contributed. That percentage determines the outcome of the trial.

Your feedback is welcome.

Eagle Six
Junior Member
52 Posts


Snowflake, Arizona
USA

Kawasaki

ZX14R

Posted - 07/04/2022 :  7:37 AM
"you could have applied your brakes (aggressively) or you could have changed your path of travel (aggressively), but not both at the same time." If you DID do both at the same time, would that then be, "you CONTRIBUTED causatively to the collision but you DIDN'T CAUSE IT." ?

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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17396 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 07/04/2022 :  8:44 AM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
That's pretty funny - bravo.

However, you provided an excellent point that demonstrates why the jury must assess the relative contribution values for both the defendant and the plaintiff. If, for example, in the case you presented, the jury found that proper usage of brakes or change of path could have resulted in the avoidance of the collision entirely, then your facts could result in the motorcyclist being held primarily responsible for it.

Juries have to be instructed very precisely as to their responsibilities. A jury member who decides that had the motorcyclist not gotten out of bed that morning there would not have been a collision makes the system a sham. The judge would not allow that to happen by providing proper jury instructions.

Again, to your facts...if doing both resulted in the loss of control of the motorcycle, he would be assessed as having contributed more to the causation than if he had remained in control.

Each case is unique and demonstrates why, if you need a lawyer, you want one who knows and understands motorcycling.

All this talk about comparative amounts of contributed negligence also highlights that each state has its own rules. In some states, for example, comparative negligence rules specify that compensation is absolutely determined by percentage. Others, more than half, specify that there is a threshold value (typically 51%) such that if the plaintiff contributed at least that amount, the case is simply lost - no compensation at all.
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Eagle Six
Junior Member
52 Posts


Snowflake, Arizona
USA

Kawasaki

ZX14R

Posted - 07/04/2022 :  2:27 PM
Thank You James, great information.
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