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James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17333 Posts

Houston, TX


GoldWing 1500

Posted - 12/19/2018 :  1:20 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend                        Like
Some civil cases involving motorcyclist injury are reasonable, but require the employment of an attorney who at least understands the fundamentals. Then there are the no brainers - cases that simply should not exist at all.

Take for example one in which I was involved in as an expert witness where the facts as I learned them caused me to shake my head in disbelief because it was filed in the first place.

A relative newbie rider decided to buy a bike for himself. No MSF training, ever, no motorcycle endorsement, no safety gear of any kind - this person paid a friend for his bike and tried to ride it home.

He rode on busy country roads (two lanes in each direction) mid-morning (10:30) on a bright and cloudless day. He stayed in the right lane. Well, he stayed in that lane until he had to move to the left lane in order to pass the slower car in front of him in that right lane. In other words, he was speeding and driving aggressively and somewhat recklessly.

Funny thing then happened - he discovered that at 18-wheeler was across BOTH LANES ahead of him. That truck had made a complete stop at the intersection, then moved across the two-lane road as it positioned itself to make a left turn. The motorcyclist claimed that the truck did that almost instantaneously.

Well, not exactly. There were no visibility obstructions of any kind and the roadway was straight and level. In other words, the motorcyclist could see directly ahead of him for at least half a mile- but he (claimed that he) couldn't see that truck as it moved across two lanes. Other vehicles on the roadway saw it, but not the rider. Why? Because, according to the rider, he was 'momentarily distracted' looking down instead of ahead while he tried to capture a set of headphones that the wind had dislodged from his head and was dangling around his neck. When the rider looked up ("Only a moment later"), the truck was there and he couldn't do anything about it except, in his words, "Maybe lay the bike on its side and slide under it."

Instead of that, thankfully, the rider 'tapped a few times' on his rear brake because he feared being thrown over the handlebars if he had braked too hard. Yeah, that's what he said. Anyway, the motorcycle crashed into the rear wheel of the truck and was destroyed in the process. The motorcyclist was actually pretty lucky as he only had a broken leg, a messed up ankle, and severe road rash on his back and shoulder.

In the complaint filed to create the lawsuit, his attorney claimed that the impact was at 'substantial speed'. In deposition with me he did everything he could think of to get me to agree that the speed was 'modest'. His words came back to bite him, of course. ALL witnesses claimed that the motorcyclist was 'speeding', one even claimed it was at 'highway speed'.

It should not be a surprise that I claimed that the motorcyclist's use of his brakes was 'inneffective', but that attorney could not leave the subject alone. After I was able to discuss braking rates and included some testimony about 'G rates', the attorney totally lost it and displayed his total ignorance about acceleration and deceleration. He asked a question about whether or not his client could brake at EIGHT G's. When I explained that nobody, no motorcycle, no car, no anything had ever braked at 8 G's unless they had hit a brick wall, the attorney asked me how many G's a motorcycle is moving at when it's traveling at 35 MPH.

When I explained, again, that G's describe only acceleration and deceleration rates and that if the motorcycle was moving at a constant rate of speed of 35 MPH, then it would be experiencing exactly ZERO G's, the attorney asked his next question and demonstrated not one iota of understanding: "Well, then, what would his G rate be if he was traveling at 55 MPH?"

The case settled the next day. My guess is that the defendant got off relatively easy.

James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17333 Posts

Houston, TX


GoldWing 1500

Posted - 12/19/2018 :  4:45 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Apparently some of you came to the conclusion that the civil case had no merit from the plaintiff's point of view and that the odds of winning the suit were essentially nil. So, I was asked, why was the suit filed at all?

I never met the plaintiff and didn't ask him, so I can only guess as to the answer to those questions.

1) If you elect to ride a motor vehicle of any kind, you NEED to have insurance!!! (In the case of a motorcycle, be sure it is full coverage so that you are covered in case you are struck by or hit an animal.) Anyway, you must NOT depend on a civil suit to win a large enough settlement to cover your medical bills, let alone damage to your bike. As this case demonstrated, the facts of the incident may be enough to assure that your recovery efforts are unsuccessful.

2) There are 'personal injury attorneys' that advertise on radio and TV claiming to be able to work miracles. (They never say that, but you get what I mean.) If you retain a law firm to file a suit for you, make sure that the attorney who works the case knows something about motorcycles - preferably a lot! Some law firms simply depend on a large number of cases where they win some and lose some to pay their bills. Those are NOT the kind of law firms you want on your side. You want a firm that will tell you honestly that you have a winnable case or not.
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