Representing Victims of Motorcycle Accidents

Barry: Most of the clients I represent in motorcycle accidents have had one of two things happen to them. Either a car has made a left-hand turn in front of them or a car has pulled out from a side street or a parking lot in front of them. Either way, you're dealing with people who have had fairly significant orthopedic injuries because of high speed accidents.

It's actually really very rare for me to represent people who have been involved in either rear-end or side swipe accidents while they're up on a motorcycle. I've actually represented two people who have been taken down off their motorcycle by dogs.

Pam: What? Dogs? That's crazy. What happened?

Barry: With one of these gentlemen, he was actually riding his bike down a residential street and a dog jumped through the screen of their house, bounded across the front lawn and jumped on him while he was riding his bike, took him down to the ground, and he suffered a number of fractures.

The other case involved a gentleman who was riding his motorcycle down Route 83, and a dog got out of the house, ran out into the road in front of him. He hit the dog, and actually was thrown off his bike. Both of these gentlemen ended up with well over six figures worth of medical bills.

It's kind of an interesting phenomenon, and there was actually a report sponsored by the federal government that was written back in the late '70s or early '80s. And basically what it says, for cognitive reasons, people have a hard time appreciating oncoming motorcycles. They just don't see them, and you end up with a lot of these failure to yield situations, where a car makes a left hand turn in front of a motorcycle or pulls out from a side street or a parking lot in front of a motorcycle. And unfortunately, the motorcyclists a lot of times are really left with no real opportunity to avoid the accident and it becomes a fairly significant accident.

Pam: So then what makes representation of motorcycle riders different from victims of car accidents?

Barry: Really three ways that I can think of offhand. One of these is the nature of the injuries that are involved. The nature of the injuries that motorcycle riders have after an accident, assuming they survive, is really very different from that which you see in car accidents normally.

Frequently with motorcycle accidents, you see the riders suffer really significant fractures because they get sent airborne and landing on the pavement or there's direct contact between the car and their bodies. They're operating without the protection that you have in a car, and these end up being some really significant fractures.

The other thing that you see motorcycle riders suffer fairly frequently is what's sort of benignly referred to as road rash. What it really is and what I call it is road wave friction burns. And essentially this is what happens when people go sliding across the roadway and lose their outer layers of skin and further end up with gravel and asphalt and all these other things end up inside the area that's exposed. It's kind of a gross graphic injury, and if people don't really appreciate just how serious and how ugly an injury this is, they're really doing a disservice to the rider that they're representing.

Secondly, representing motorcycle riders is different from representing anyone else is understanding how motorcycle riders are sort of popularly perceived in the public at large. There are a percentage of motorcycle riders who are devil may care. They go speeding along. Those are the people who create a bad name for motorcycle riders in general, but you have to understand that's an image that's seeded in the popular perception of motorcycle riders in the population at large. You need to be able to address that both during jury selection and as you present evidence to help undo some of the damages done by that popular perception, to make sure you get a fair day in court.

The last way that representing a motorcycle rider is different from representing a driver of an ordinary car is that operating a motorcycle is kind of its own animal. It's something that a lot of people haven't done and they don't necessarily understand how the different brakes work, how the gears are shifted, how you maintain stability on a motorcycle. And if you don't understand yourself, you have a hard time presenting this to people who are on a jury.

I actually have my own motorcycle license, and I understand why it is that you don't apply your front brake while the handlebars are turned. If you're working with a lawyer who doesn't understand these kinds of things, you're not getting the full kind of representation you really deserve

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