According to the landmark Hurt Report, about a third of motorcycle wrecks are left-turn crashes. The tortfeasor (negligent driver) waits to make a left turn against traffic. Sometimes that’s an unprotected left turn at an intersection, and sometimes the tortfeasor is waiting to enter a private driveway or turn onto a side street. The tortfeasor does not see an oncoming motorcycle and turns directly into the rider’s path.
The fatality proportion may be higher today. When the Hurt Report was released, most motorists drove cars and station wagons. Today, many people operate large SUVs or pickup trucks. These vehicles are difficult for other motorists to see around.
Damages in motorcycle crash claims usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.
Improving Visibility as a Motorcycle Rider
In many parts of the country, motorcycle wrecks drop off to almost nothing during the winter, because it is too cold to ride. But the (mostly) year-round balmy weather in Florida keeps riders out all year. So, one would think that other motorists would be used to looking for them. But that’s usually not the case.
There are a number of ways to perhaps improve visibility when riding. Most of them are common-sense changes which are fairly easy to incorporate into a daily ride, such as:
- Weaving slightly inside a lane of traffic,
- Trailing vehicles at an angle instead of directly behind them,
- Wearing light-colored clothing or helmets, and
- Adjusting the muffler to make the bike louder.
There is basically no evidence that any of these techniques work. Furthermore, many of them irritate drivers who do not particularly like motorcycle riders to begin with. So, use caution when implementing them, and do not expect dramatic results.
Liability in Left Turn Crashes
Drivers who turn into the path of other drivers clearly did not yield the right-of-way. So, the negligence per se doctrine could apply. If the tortfeasor violates a safety law, and that violation substantially causes injury, the tortfeasor could be liable for damages as a matter of law.
But not so fast. Emergency responders frequently do not issue citations in these situations, even if the motorcycle rider was killed in the collision. Furthermore, even if there is a citation, such tickets are only a presumption of negligence in Florida.
So, in all left-turn claims, the victim/plaintiff must probably present additional evidence of negligence, or a lack of ordinary care. That negligence could be using a wireless device (either hand-held or hands-free) at or near the time of the crash, excessive speed, or mild impairment due to alcohol, drug use, or fatigue.
Insurance Company Defenses in Brandon
The last clear chance defense is probably the most common insurance company defense in left-turn crash claims.
Assume Jack was stopped at an intersection, waiting to make an unprotected left turn. Edward is approaching from the opposite side. Jack things he sees a gap in traffic, and suddenly accelerates to shot through the perceived gap. He does not see Edward, and Edward collides with Jack’s passenger side.
If Edward had a chance to avoid the crash, he is legally responsible for the result, if he did not take advantage of that chance. That opportunity might have involved changing lanes or speeds.
However, such emergency maneuvers are difficult to perform on unstable two-wheel vehicles. That’s especially true if traffic or environmental conditions are less than perfect. Additionally, since Jack suddenly accelerated, the wreck may have happened so fast that Edward could not have done anything to avoid it.
The contributory negligence defense is a subset of last clear chance. Comparative fault shifts part of the blame for the crash from the tortfeasor to the victim. Contributory negligence very rarely defeats a claim altogether, but it could reduce the amount of compensation the victim receives.
Contact Tenacious Attorneys
Left turn motorcycle crashes are complex. For a free consultation with an experienced Brandon motorcycle accident attorney, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).