Motorcycle accidents can result in catastrophic injuries to the riders and passengers. Riders are only protected by a helmet and protective clothing such as boots, gloves and leather pants, provided these are worn. Motorcycles are quick and flexible but sometimes riders are themselves careless and cause accidents, especially when the rider has been drinking.
A recent incident in Revere Beach involved an intoxicated motorcyclist who ran his bike into a police officer who was attempting to stop him after having observed the rider to be recklessly changing lanes and speeding. Despite the officer having exited his patrol car and waving at the rider to stop, the rider continued and struck the officer who sustained head and upper body injuries. The rider attempedt to flee the scene but was soon apprehended. He has been charged with OUI, assault with a deadly weapon, failure to stop for a police officer and other charges. We have had similar cases where police officers are injured in Massachusetts.
In most accidents involving drunk drivers, however, the motorcyclist is at the mercy of other motor vehicles given the disparity in size and weight and the rider’s lack of protection.
Intoxicated driving is responsible for about one-third of traffic-related fatalities according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Most motorcycle accidents and fatalities occur to novice riders and a substantial number occur because the rider was intoxicated.
This means that experienced riders are less likely to be in an accident, but statistics show that if you are, you stand a 98% chance of being injured in any kind of accident. About 50% of such injuries are serious. Injuries can include:
• Broken limbs
• Traumatic brain injuries
• Internal organ damage
• Severe burns
• Abrasions and lacerations
• Torn ligaments and tendons
Passengers often fare worse since they are usually ejected from the bike and thrown to the pavement or into an object.
Motorcycle riders are also at risk from intoxicated motorists. Driving at night is hazardous since the incidence of intoxicated drivers increases as the night goes on. Weekends, holidays and the summer months are the most dangerous times as well when more cars are on the roadways, thus increasing the risk of accidents from inexperienced, distracted, negligent and impaired drivers.
Evidence that a motorist was intoxicated can be obtained from the traffic incident reports that will contain the arresting officer’s observations of the defendant motorist, the driver’s performance on field sobriety tests and, of course, the results of any breath or blood test of the driver’s blood alcohol concentration level.
Your motorcycle accident lawyer can obtain this information as well as the disposition of the motorist’s OUI case.
Evidence that the defendant motorist was impaired can sway a claims adjuster, jury or judge if the defendant alleges you were at fault since credibility may be at issue in the absence of independent witnesses. It does help if other corroborating evidence exists to support your version of the accident since the burden of proof is on you to show the motorist was negligent. If there no third party witnesses, investigators can examine factors such as the location of the vehicles at impact and at rest, the property damage, skid marks, characteristics of the scene and roadway, each party’s statement and the possible existence of videotape from adjoining businesses or a traffic light camera.
If the defendant was determined to be intoxicated, it only has minimal value in your accident claim other than impugning the defendant’s credibility and demonstrating liability if other supporting evidence shows negligence since you can only claim punitive damages in a Massachusetts injury case if there was a fatality.
Damages in an OUI Accident
As indicated above, motorcyclists are much more prone to serious injuries in any collision with another vehicle or even in single vehicle accidents. Damages in an accident may include:
• Past and future medical expenses
• Past and future income loss
• Diminished quality of life
• Disfigurement and permanent scarring
• Pain and suffering
• Permanent disability
• Lost income capacity
• Spousal claim for loss of consortium
If a fatality occurred involving a drunk driver, the administrator for the decedent’s estate may bring a wrongful death action on behalf of the immediate family members. Damages include:
• Burial and funeral expenses
• Loss of financial support from the decedent
• Medical expenses if any incurred during final treatment
• Pain and suffering of the decedent if observed to have consciously suffered
• Loss of the decedent’s love, support, guidance and counsel
• Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or exhibited a willful indifference to the safety or rights of others
Evidence of impairment as the basis for punitive damages may need more aggravating facts such as those that existed in the Revere Beach incident. If the officer had died, then the defendant’s act in running him over could easily be construed as willful or at least grossly negligent and justify an award for punitive damages.
Consult Attorney Neil Burns
Neil Burns is a motorcycle accident lawyer who has handled serious injury cases and those involving wrongful death an an award of punitive damages. Contact his office at (617) 227-7423 for a free evaluation of your injury claim and the potential damages to which you may be entitled.