Driver inattention probably caused a vehicle-on-motorcycle crash which killed the operator and seriously injured a motorcycle passenger.
According to state police, the wreck occurred near the intersection of Halfway-Halifax Road and Highway 231. 77-year-old Charles Wagoner, of Scottsville, was hauling a pontoon boat as he tried to merge with traffic. He apparently did not see 25-year-old Brandon Harrison, who was riding a Kawasaki motorcycle. Wagoner’s pontoon boat collided with the Kawasaki, killing Brandon almost instantly. Brandon’s passenger, 22 year-old Kayleigh Harrison, of Scottsville, was rushed to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.
No charges are pending against Wagoner at this time.
Motorcycle Crash Injuries
As this video clearly shows, today’s vehicles are much safer than the ones on the road twenty years ago. Some safety improvements include better airbags, more durable construction materials, and better airbag deployment sensors.
But especially in terms of safety features, today’s motorcycles are not much different from the Rebel Without a Cause motorcycles of the 1950s. But these motorcycles are subjected to extreme forces during collisions. As a result, motorcycle crash victims often sustain injuries like:
- Head Injuries: When riders fall off their bikes and hit the ground, their brains slam against the insides of their skulls. Motorcycle helmets do nothing to prevent these motion-related head injuries.
- Broken Bones: The extreme forces mentioned above often result in crushed bones. So, doctors must perform invasive and risky surgery to set these bones. Later, these victims must go through weeks or months of physical rehabilitation.
- Nerve Injuries: When riders fall, they naturally extend their arms to break theri falls. This natural reaction often injures the brachial plexus nerves under the arms. These injuries often cause paralysis.
All these wounds are permanent, at least to an extent. The paralysis never entirely goes away, and range of motion often never goes back to the way it was. Head injuries are permanent as well. Once brain cells die, they do not regenerate. A combination of surgery and physical therapy can ease the symptoms, but never “cure” the injury.
First Party Liability
Driver inattention, like the inattention in the above story, could involve the negligence per se doctrine or the ordinary negligence rule.
Kentucky traffic laws require all drivers to maintain a proper lookout for other people on the road. That includes people in cars, on motorcycles, and on foot. If emergency responders issue a citation for failure to yield the right-of-way, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) could be liable for damages as a matter of law.
Frequently, however, emergency responders do not issue such citations on motorcycle wrecks, mostly because of the motorcycle prejudice. Many people, including many first responders, believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs. So, if the tortfeasor says something like “He came out of nowhere” or “I never saw her,” responders believe the rider was at fault.
The motorcycle prejudice also comes up in civil trials. Because of this prejudice, many jurors are more willing to embrace some insurance company defenses, as outlined below.
Since failure to yield the right-of-way also violates the duty of reasonable care, the ordinary negligence doctrine could apply in these situations as well.
The duty of reasonable care requires operators to drive defensively and avoid accidents when possible. If they fail to do so, they could be legally responsible for damages. That failure must be such that the tortfeasor’s conduct fell below the standard of care. If the failure-to-yield was a momentary lapse or there was an emergency situation on the road, it’s difficult for a Lexington personal injury attorney to show a breach of duty.
Possible Insurance Company Defenses
Contributory negligence is probably the most common insurance company defense in motorcycle wreck claims. This legal loophole shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim.
For example, in the above story, the insurance company might admit the tortfeasor did not merge safely, but blame the wreck on the speeding motorcycle. Due to the aforementioned motorcycle prejudice, many jurors agree with arguments like this, even if there is little evidence to support them.
In court and in life, it is rather easy to make harsh judgements about a group, like motorcycle riders, Republicans, or whoever. But many people do not judge individuals in that group, like Joe or Terry, nearly as harshly. So, attorneys personalize the victims to avoid the motorcycle prejudice.
Other insurance company defenses in car crash claims include assumption of the risk, especially if the victim was not wearing a helmet, and sudden emergency.
Motorcycle crashes often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Home, virtual, and hospital visits are available.