One of the very first cases in my career was to go to trial on a motorcycle accident case where my client was injured while riding a motorcycle. My client was riding a motorcycle when he was injured in an accident with a car. I was a young lawyer and my boss educated me on the jury bias against motorcyclists. He informed me that most people think when there is an accident with a motorcyclist it is the fault of the motorcyclist.
I learned that most people believe that motorcyclists weave in and out of lanes, drive in excess of the speed limit, fail to wear helmets and cut off vehicles when changing lanes. Often times, when a motorcyclist is injured the injuries are serious or deadly because the motorcyclist does not have surrounding metal like a vehicle to protect them from an impact but only their clothing and helmet.
It is a difficult burden to represent a motorcyclist based upon these prejudices so it is very important to look at the police report at the scene to see whether the police officer has blamed the motorcyclist for the incident. A finding of fault by a police officer in a police report is usually not admissible at trial because the police officer is usually not an eye witness to the incident. Unless the motorcyclist admits it was his fault to the police officer or in traffic court the finding of fault is left to the Jury.
The opposing side will always claim the motorcyclist was speeding but it is important to note that going in excess of the speed limit may not bar recovery if you can show that the other driver was the proximate cause of the injury and that the speed was a small contributing factor to the motorcyclist's injuries such that this may enter into a reduced verdict for the contributory fault or negligence of the motorcyclist. For example, if you can show the vehicle was the cause of the accident and the motorcyclist was going in excess of the speed limit, a jury may find the motorcyclist to be 10 percent at fault and reduce his award by 10 percent. Therefore, the motorcyclist can still recover 90 percent of the jury's verdict. This is known as contributory negligence.
Motorcyclist cases are usually not settled early on in the case and depositions are required. It is very important to hire a lawyer with experience representing motorcyclists to combat these prejudices. If the motorcyclist is going the speed limit, staying within his or her lane of travel and abiding by the rules of the road, a lawyer can overcome these prejudices. As a lawyer, it may be important to talk about your client's background to overcome these prejudices.
In my trial, before the jury deliberated, a settlement offer was made and the client aware of these prejudices accepted the settlement offer. Motorcycle cases are difficult to win and when choosing a lawyer it is important to have a lawyer aware of the prejudices because EXPERIENCE MATTERS!