Riding a motorcycle is by its very nature a risky activity. You have little to protect yourself in an accident and can be thrown onto the pavement, into a tree, or exposed to other vehicles even in minor collisions. At any one-time, intoxicated drivers and those under the influence of illegal drugs or legal medications are on the roadway, presenting a danger to all, and most especially pedestrians and motorcycle riders.
A recent tragedy in Reading, Massachusetts, highlights the risk for motorcycle riders for being hit by a drugged driver. In this incident, a woman with a history of 2 prior DUI arrests, of numerous license suspensions for refusals to take chemical tests of her blood alcohol level, and of at least 4 previous collisions, was driving erratically on I-95 when she struck a car that spun out of control and into the path of a motorcyclist. The bike rider, a 42-year old father of 3 and a resident of Bedford, suffered fatal injuries.
According to police, the driver, who fled the scene and caused a series of other minor accidents while fleeing but who was soon apprehended, was incoherent and unable to stand and exhibited belligerent behavior to the officers. Although reports did not indicate the results of any blood tests, if taken at all, the driver’s attorney commented that she had suffered a bad reaction to back pain medication that left her in a confused state.
As every motorist knows, or should know, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08%. You are also prohibited from driving if impaired by any drug, legally prescribed or not. Although a blood test may only indicate the presence of the drug, it is the user’s demeanor and observed symptoms of impairment that will indicate that the person is under the influence.
If stopped by an officer or if the driver was in an injury accident, the investigating officer who suspects drug use, may have training in performing a test called horizontal gaze nystagmus. This is a procedure where the suspect follows a pencil or finger and the officer notes certain jerky eye movements that indicate the presence of a drug.
More reliable drug indications are the driver’s driving conduct and demeanor. In the Reading case, the driver had been observed to be driving erratically, caused other accidents after the fatal one, and was incoherent and hostile to officers, all signs of drug impairment. A blood test would have confirmed the presence of the medication in her system.
Injuries in a Motorcycle Accident
Many motorcycle accidents result in catastrophic injuries to riders. A motorist who causes an accident cannot argue that a motorcycle rider accepts such a risk and assert that the injured biker is not entitled to claim substantial damages as a consequence.
Common injuries to bikers include:
- Damage to internal organs including internal bleeding
- Fractured ribs
- Broken limbs
- Fractured pelvis
- Fractured skull
- Disfigurement or permanent scarring
- Traumatic brain injury
- Partial or total paralysis
Retain an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer if you were injured in an accident caused by another motorist.
Steps to Take if Hit by a Drugged Driver
Your initial and primary focus if in an accident is your well-being and receiving immediate medical treatment. At the scene of an accident, you may be incapacitated or otherwise unable to obtain the identities of witnesses or even to recall the event. If you were injured on a highway like I-95, there are usually numerous witnesses to the accident. Surveillance cameras are often utilized on city streets so that the events leading to the accident can be videotaped. These recordings can be obtained by police or your attorney.
Retaining a motorcycle accident lawyer is imperative and should be your next step. Too often, bike riders are blamed for accidents and may be unable to recall the accident to give their version of what occurred. Your lawyer will do the following:
- File a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company
- Contact and file a claim with your insurer for PIP benefits
- Obtain the accident report
- Contact witnesses and obtain statements
- Gather records of your employment or school attendance
- Investigate the accident with trained reconstruction experts if liability is an issue
- Ensure you receive proper medical care
- Handle your medical claim and be sure no collection actions are being taken by medical insurers
- Keep in contact with your doctors and gather medical records and reports supporting the nature and extent of your injuries
- If necessary, have you evaluated by a vocational rehab expert
- Retain other experts such as a forensic economist regarding income loss
- Communicate with the liability insurer to keep them updated on the seriousness of your injuries and damages
- Negotiate a settlement of your claim or litigate it if necessary
If a fatal accident case, the motorcycle accident lawyer will handle the wrongful death action that is filed by the administrator for the decedent’s estate on behalf of the immediate family members.
Damages in a Motorcycle Accident
In many cases, injuries in a motorcycle accident are catastrophic and the damages substantial. Typical damages include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Emotional distress
- Loss of earning capacity
- Diminished quality of life
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
If a wrongful death claim, then damages may include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses for life-saving measures or treatment given for the injuries that resulted in the fatality
- Loss of financial support over the decedent’s working life
- The value of household services provided by the decedent
- Pain and suffering if the decedent was observed to have consciously suffered before succumbing
- Loss of love, affection, companionship, support and consortium
- Punitive damages if the defendant was grossly negligent or exhibited a willful indifference to the safety of others
Although punitive damages can certainly be applied in cases like the Redding motorcycle fatality where the driver had knowingly operated a vehicle while drugged, few defendants have the resources to pay damages over and above the insurance limits. These damages are not covered by insurance.
Motorcycles riders should always carry uninsured and underinsured coverage of at least $100,000 because so many accidents result in significant injuries.
Retain Massachsuetts Motorcycle Lawyer Neil Burns
Consult motorcycle accident lawyer Neil Burns of Boston. Whether you were hit by a drugged driver or the negligence of another driver, Neil Burns has the experience and knowledge necessary to get you the compensation you deserve. Call us today to get started 617-227-7423.