Motorcycle Accidents

By Donovan B. Dodrill on September 16, 2019

Personal bias should not play a role in compensating an injured motorcyclist.  Many people distrust — or even dislike — motorcyclists, and members of the jury are not immune from prejudice. Juries may be less likely to award handsome verdicts to motorcyclists – compared to the driver or passenger of a car. Insurance adjusters are aware of this bias. For this reason, the burden of making a concrete case, and proving the key issues described in this article, becomes even more important for an injured motorcyclist. During pre-litigation settlement discussion an adjuster may be willing to concede liability. That willingness evaporates when suit is filed.

Estimating the result of a motorcycle accident trial is difficult.  At trial a jury ultimately decides just how much money the defendant must pay the injured motorcyclist. Even the most experienced attorney cannot climb inside a jury’s head and accurately predict outcomes. Pre-litigation settlement controls risk. A trial is risk.

Some personal injury damages, like medical bills and lost wages, are easier to predict because “concrete” costs like these will mostly be based on the amount the plaintiff demonstrates he or she has paid or lost and/or will continue to pay or lose. For subjective, less concrete damages like “pain and suffering,” predictions are at best an educated guess based on awards in similar motorcycle accident cases in the past. Because every case and every jury is different, even the best analysis will still only predict pain and suffering damages.

How the motorcycle accident affects a particular plaintiff is also key in valuing damages. For example, if a plaintiff is left with a permanent limp, but was formerly a very active person who enjoyed participating in a variety of sports and outdoor activities, his damages based on “loss of quality of life” will likely be higher in the eyes of a jury than if he had been relatively physically inactive before the injury. If the motorcycle accident left plaintiff permanently disabled in a way that does not affect his livelihood, that plaintiff’s damages for lost earning potential will be lower than a plaintiff whose livelihood is affected.

Following is some data on the median “average” motorcycle injury verdict, and related settlement and court verdicts.

  • According to Jury Verdict Research (published by Thomson Reuters) the median motorcycle injury verdict (after a personal injury trial) from 1999 to 2006 was $73,700.
  • $1,600,000 settlement after plaintiff slid on loose gravel and suffered crushed vertebrae and nerve damage.
  • $355,000 settlement after plaintiff was killed when defendant’s truck, pulling a small trailer, turned left in front of the motorcycle at high speed.
  • $300,000 verdict for plaintiff after truck turned left in front of the motorcycle. Plaintiff’s injuries were limited to aggravation of pre-existing herniated disc, soft tissue injuries and a torn knee ligament.

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