Insurance Company Defenses in Motorcycle Crash Claims
Every year, motorcycle crashes cost a staggering $16 billion. Medical bills and lost productivity (lost wages) account for most of these costs. The noneconomic losses these victims must deal with, such as pain and suffering, is almost impossible to calculate. Legal compensation is usually available for all these losses.
To obtain fair compensation, a Tampa motorcycle accident attorney must do more than collect evidence and build a claim. An attorney must also be ready to respond to some common insurance company defenses in these claims. Since so much is at stake, insurance company lawyers look for any possible loophole that could reduce or deny compensation in a crash claim.
Last Clear Chance
About a third of wrecks are left-turn wrecks. The tortfeasor (negligent driver), who is trying to turn left against traffic, moves directly into the path of an unseen motorcycle travelling in the opposite direction.
According to the last clear chance rule, the motorcycle riders could be legally responsible for these crashes, even though they did nothing wrong.
All motorists have a duty of reasonable care. That duty includes a responsibility to avoid accidents when possible. So, the failure to avoid an accident could also be a violation of the duty of care. In other words, if a motorcyclist sees a crash about to occur, the motorcyclist cannot do nothing and let the wreck happen.
Left turn crashes are theoretically avoidable if the rider stops or changes lanes suddenly. But two-wheel bikes are much harder to control than four-wheel vehicles. Such emergency maneuvers often cause a worse crash than the one they prevented.
The defense is inapplicable in these situations. Victims must have the last clear chance to avoid a wreck, as opposed to any possible chance.
Contributory negligence is probably the most common insurance company defense in all vehicle collision claims, not just motorcycle crash claims. This legal doctrine shifts part of the blame from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, the tortfeasor might have made an illegal turn as the motorcycle rider was speeding.
In situations like these, jurors must listen to the evidence and apportion fault on a percentage basis between the parties.
Florida is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the wreck, the tortfeasor is still liable for a proportionate share of damages. As a result, comparative fault, unlike last clear chance, usually only reduces the amount of compensation the victim receives.
Defenses like these do not just apply at trial. They also affect the value of a personal injury claim during pretrial settlement negotiations.
The Sunshine State only has a limited motorcycle helmet law. As a result, many motorcycle crash victims do not wear protective headgear. Florida is one of the few states where helmet non-use is relevant with regard to damages.
However, before insurance company lawyers can use this defense, they must introduce the proper evidence and make the proper argument. They cannot simply cite safety statistics.
Essentially, the insurance company must prove that the lack of a helmet, as opposed to the tortfeasor’s negligence, substantially caused the victim’s head wounds and other injuries. That’s not easy to show. For example, helmets do not prevent all head injuries. Frequently, the motion of a crash, as opposed to the impact, causes a head injury. That sudden, violent motion causes the victim’s brain to slam against the insides of the skull.
Contact an Savvy Attorney
Motorcycle crash victims must often overcome some insurance company defenses to obtain fair compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact Mark H. Wright, PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.