Following a 2018 fatal motorcycle accident that killed a Brewster man, the West Yarmouth driver who collided with the rider in the middle of an intersection was found not guilty by a jury of vehicular homicide by negligent operation but was found guilty of failing to yield.
The West Yarmouth driver was, however, negligent in operating his car, in the civil personal injury context, however, his failure to yield did not rise to the level of criminal conduct. If he had been found under the influence of alcohol or drugs or was speeding and never stopped at all at the intersection, the jury might have found otherwise.
Not guilty judgements in motor vehicle accidents often do not affect civil claims since the standard of proof is much stricter in criminal court. However, if the jury had found the driver guilty of vehicular homicide with alcohol involved, it would demonstrate that the evidence of gross negligence, or that of willful and wanton conduct, is sufficient for an award of punitive damages to the family of the decedent in a civil lawsuit or perhaps persuade an insurer to increase a settlement if the driver had adequate insurance. Punitive damages are only available in death cases and collection of these awards must come from the defendant’s personal assets since insurance will not include coverage for punitive awards.
Motorcycle accidents are not uncommon. If you listen to the radio reports on morning traffic in any major metropolitan area, you will hear of such accidents on a near daily basis. About 1 in 7 traffic fatalities in Massachusetts involve a motorcycle or around 43 to 46 fatalities per year. If you are a rider or passenger in any motorcycle accident, you have an 80% chance of sustaining an injury, far above that for drivers and passengers of automobiles.
There are various factors that cause motorcycle accidents:
- Distracted driving
- Poor road conditions
- Poor weather
- Drugs and alcohol
- Faulty equipment—steering, brakes, tires
Massachusetts riders do have a 90% helmet use rate, which puts us above the national average. But even a minor collision that causes a rider or passenger to be ejected from the bike can cause catastrophic injuries such a traumatic brain injury, broken pelvis, facial and other severe fractures, permanent disfigurement, and internal injuries.
What To Do If Injured
Should you be the injured victim in a motorcycle accident, you will want to be not only safe and receive medical care, but to take steps to preserve evidence in order to make a claim for compensation if you were not at fault. Here are things to do if you were injured:
- Immediately get to a place of safety if you are in the middle of a roadway or highway
- Call 911 or ask any other person at the scene to do so if you cannot
- Do not say anything to the motorist such as “I didn’t see you,” or “where did you come from?” Such statements can be misconstrued and interpreted as an admission of fault
- If you can, take photographs of the scene, roadway, motorcycle and auto, the other driver, signs, potholes, oil slicks or items or conditions that may have caused the accident
- If there are witnesses, obtain their names and contact information
- If police arrive, they will want a statement from you and the other driver—if you do not recall specific speeds or distances, do not speculate but be sure to include all your injuries
- Do not refuse medical care at the scene even if you feel you were only slightly injured
- See your doctor as soon as possible
- Call your insurance company to make a claim
- Do not talk to any investigators or insurance adjusters representing the defendant driver
- Call an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer
Why You Need an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
A knowledgeable and skilled motorcycle accident lawyer is essential in these cases if you want to be adequately compensated. Many times, insurers for the defendant driver will assume you were at fault by speeding, unsafe passing or maneuvering, or that you ran the stop sign or red traffic signal.
It may take an accident reconstruction expert to investigate the scene and the damage to determine how the accident happened. Other issues can be whether you can prove that your injuries were the result of this accident, especially if you had prior injuries similar to the ones you sustained in this accident.
Your attorney will obtain all necessary medical bills, records, police reports, photographs, employment records, and school records if applicable. If necessary, your attorney will have a doctor draft a report outlining the seriousness of your injury, the effect your injury has had on your ability to perform routine tasks or the demands of your job, the reasonableness of the medical and other care you received or are receiving, and if future care or surgeries are likely and reasonably necessary.
Damages in Wrongful Death Accidents
In a wrongful death claim in Massachusetts, the action is brought by the administrator for the immediate members of the decedent’s family. Damages in these claims may include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses for emergency services and final treatment and care
- Lost potential income over the working life of the decedent
- Loss of the decedent’s love and companionship
- Pain and suffering of the decedent if he was visibly observed to have suffered prior to his death
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent
Call the Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at Burns & Jain
Because many motorcycle accidents involve issues that are not commonly found in accidents only involving automobiles, you need an attorney who has been successful in handling motorcycle accidents and obtaining the most compensation available. Call a motorcycle accident lawyer from Burns and Jain at 617-227-7423 for a free consultation about your motorcycle, personal injury or wrongful death claim.