Motorcycle Accident Injury – The Litigation Basics
If you are among the many people who take advantage of Georgia’s mild year ’round climate to enjoy the freedom of motorcycle road trips, chances are you also know that motorcycling has its downside as well. Motorcycle accidents are on the rise in our state.
In spite of efforts to make other drivers aware of the motorcycles with which they share the roadways, failure to actually see or pay attention to a motorcycle is the reason most often given for the accidents that happen. Unfortunately, the injuries in a motorcycle-car or a motorcycle-truck accident tend to be more severe and often fatal. Riding a bike can be deadly, not because of the biker’s inattention, but because of the vehicle driver’s failure to understand the way motorcycles work. Bikes have their own special limitations and not understanding them can have bad results.
In this article we will discuss a hypothetical motorcycle accident, the injuries resulting from an inattentive driver’s failure to change lanes properly, and the consequences this negligence inflicts upon an innocent motorcyclist. We will give you some pointers about what you’ll need to win a case like this one in court, and let you know what such damages are calculated in terms of lawsuit settlement. Finally, we’ll let you know how hiring a qualified Georgia personal injury lawyer can help ensure that justice is done.
Ross is a retired police officer. These days he spends his time puttering about in his garden and indulging his passion for riding his motorcycle. While these pass-times are pleasant ones, Ross has been recently second-guessing his retirement. His seriously considering running in the next year’s Fulton County Sherriff’s Election and continuing to use his years of law enforcement experience in the betterment of his community.
On this particular Tuesday afternoon, Ross is enjoying an outing by riding SR 92 a primarily rural 2-lane highway. Near Fairburn, he notices a sporty silver car in his rear-view mirrors traveling faster than it should be. In his mind, Ross wishes he could ticket the middle-aged man behind the wheel as the driver swings into the left lane to pass. Ross makes mentally notes that the driver is not only speeding, but he is talking animatedly on a cell phone.
After overtaking Ross’ motorcycle, the driver cuts back into the north-bound lane so quickly, and without signals, that Ross must brake hard to avoid a collision. In spite of his years of experience on a bike, Ross brakes harder than he should and locks up his front wheel. The resulting accident sends him skidding across both lanes to the south side of the road, pinning him under a guard-rail beneath is bike. The distracted driver doesn’t stop or even notice.
The car behind him comes to his aid and calls 911. Ross is taken to the hospital where doctors discover he has fractures to his right shoulder, upper arm, and the hip on that side. He also has an extensive case of road rash. Only his helmet kept him from serious head trauma.
The multiple fractures on Ross’ right side – particularly the open displaced fracture of the right humerus – the large upper bone of the arm near the shoulder – and the mangled right shoulder require surgery. His broken hip also requires surgery and, because Ross is over 62 years old the doctors opt for a partial hip replacement since the healing of the femoral head, the ball of the joint, can be difficult in older patients. This surgery is less invasive than the shoulder surgery as it can be done arthroscopically, providing a more positive prognosis.
He will require a minimum of one-week in the hospital with lengthy physical rehabilitation and physical therapy to follow. He will have to learn to walk with his new limitations and move in spite of his painful injuries. His rehab begins the day of his surgical procedure.
Because of his police force training and experience, Ross is able to give the investigating officers detailed information about the vehicle that caused his wreck including the car’s license plate number. This, of course, leads to his being charged with infractions including speeding, distracted driving, failure to signal, and leaving the scene of an accident.
Ross has his wife call a personal injury lawyer whose reputation he knows from past experience.
Proving his physical injuries won’t be difficult in Ross’ case. The fact that he was taken immediately to the hospital works in his favor since there is no lapse of time between the accident and onset of care.
His more subtle injuries, including the fact that Ross will be forced to put off his campaign for the Sheriff’s office at least until he is completely healed are more difficult to demonstrate. Campaigning for office is a physically challenging activity, involving much walking and hand-shaking, neither of which Ross can do without pain. Unfortunately, because the next election won’t happen for another five years, our victim will be too close to 70-years-old when that rolls around to be a viable candidate. Ross’ dreams of being the Top Cop in Fulton County are dashed.
In his own way, Ross is something of an expert witness. He knows how to estimate the speed the other driver was going. His keen powers of observation give him an edge and provide an advantage for his personal injury lawyer in that information that might otherwise be lost such as the license plate number and a description of the driver are readily available.
His medical records are complete and his level of physical fitness before the accident is already on record thanks to his police force employment files. His previous employment gives him two important advantages.
- He is seen as an authority figure who is truthful and trustworthy – not prone to exaggeration or lying
- He is able to escape the stereotypical “biker image” that is sometimes applied to those who elect to use motorcycles for transportation. Quite to the contrary, there may even be a sense of debt on the part of the jury who sees Ross as a public servant to whom respect is due.
The attorneys for the defense will attempt to discredit Ross. His injuries will be painted as minimal by the insurance company attorneys and exist because Ross is an old guy who is out of shape and poorly conditioned for an athletic activity like handling a Harley on the highway. Maybe Ross had even been injured years earlier on the job, fighting with and arresting a bad guy. Had Ross been at the top of his mental and physical game, he wouldn’t have had the accident at all.
Fortunately, his personal injury attorney will anticipate these allegations and be amply prepared to counter these arguments with expert witnesses including Ross’ eye doctor, primary care physician, and his former boss at the PD. Ross’ neighbors will testify to the fact that the former officer was physically active and regularly involved in touch football games with his buddies in the back yard.
Ross and his wife produce a long and detailed list of expenses he’s had since the accident for tasks and chores he is not yet able to undertake. He cannot wash his own car, he cannot mow his own lawn, nor can he clean the gutters. He will miss his usual recreational activity this year, deer hunting this fall – a sport that normally provides food for the freezer which he will now be forced to buy. And, because Ross is right handed, he can’t even effectively take phone messages for his wife, a successful realtor. She must now forward calls to her Broker’s office, for which answering services she must pay.
When all of the expenses have been admitted into evidence during the discovery phase of your lawsuit, when depositions and statements are taken, the settlement negotiations begin.
All the hard costs of your injuries will be calculated first of all. Medical bills that include bills that already exist as well as estimates for ongoing therapy and prescription drugs for pain and to fight infection will be compiled. Expenses such as the ones above will also be factored in. The cost for in-home nursing care while Ross’ wife is working in the early weeks after the accident will also add to the costs.
When all is said and done, lawyers for the defense may make a settlement offer. Their alternative may be to go to trial if they think they can discredit or otherwise make the jury feel unsympathetic to Ross. This can be a big gamble for the defendants, but if their case is strong, it can and does happen all the time.
Another tool for establishing the monetary value for injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident is researching similar cases. If a case can be found where a person whose age is close to Ross’ is injured in the same way as Ross was, that value might be used as a starting place for the valuation of Ross’ injuries.
When and if an agreeable settlement amount is arrived at, the case may settle by agreement of the parties. If not, the case will go to trial, and a Jury will be asked to make a fair award or verdict.
It might occur to you that a case like Ross’ could be undertaken by just any attorney. Because things seem fairly ordinary, is a personal injury specialist really necessary?
We think the answer is a resounding, YES. A personal injury specialist already has certain protocols in place for gathering necessary information. An attorney who spends time obtaining police reports and working with accident re-construction experts already has contacts in place to help him/her prepare for court. A personal injury specialist knows how to obtain medical reports, find experts who know their stuff, and can do what is necessary by their expertise to put the client in the best position to win. In other words, a personal injury expert has the tools at his immediate disposal to prepare for any courtroom contingency.
When a personal injury attorney takes on a case like Ross’, he or she will bring the wealth of experience his years at the bar will provide. This experience is worth its weight in platinum. Knowing how to diffuse a clever attempt to derail a case comes from not just law school lectures but from moments spent actually inside the courtroom. You may call it OJT – on the job training. We like to think of it as Owning Justice Thoroughly.
At The Millar Law Firm, we are committed to delivering justice to our clients. More often than not, our experience and training give your courtroom experience a more positive outcome. Call us today for your free case evaluation.