Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for motorcycle riders.jpgGood news for motorcyclists. A bill (S. 7138) just passed the NY State Senate that would require “motorcycle awareness” training as part of the Department of Motor Vehicle’s mandatory 5-hour course that all new drivers are required to take. The training would educate new drivers on how to be aware of, and share the road with, motorcyclists.

The bill, which is expected to also pass in the Assembly, be signed by the Governor, and thus to become law, was prompted by a recent upswing in motorcycle accidents in upstate New York. Oswego County has been especially hit hard – motorcycle collisions have claimed four lives in Oswego already this season, a new record.

Why the upswing in motorcycle accidents? In recent years, with the high cost of gas, more New Yorkers are giving up their four wheels for two. In Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties alone, for example, the number of registered motorcycles has increased 16 percent since 2007. More motorcycles usually means more motorcycle accidents. (Paradoxically, if there were many more motorcycles on the road, we would probably see FEWER motorcycle accidents. Read why here).

money handshake.jpgMonday I was scheduled to try a Seneca County NY motorcycle accident case in the Seneca County Courthouse in Waterloo. But as often happens, the case settled on the eve of trial, in this case Sunday afternoon.

Why do personal injury cases settle so late in the game, after the attorneys have put so much work into preparing for trial”? In one word, “pressure”. The pressure of an upcoming trial transforms the psychology of the parties and the lawyers. The weaknesses of your own case suddenly come into focus as never before. The risks of trial loom larger. This happens on both sides. When the parties’ positions are not far apart to begin with, splitting the difference suddenly seems more palatable.

Trying cases is exciting, fun and, yes, frightening, especially for the client who usually has never been to court. The cases that get tried are the ones where the parties are miles apart. Where the positions are “within firing range” of each other, the pressures of trial often lead to a settlement on the courthouse steps.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for motorcycle riders.jpgThe Syracuse Post Standard reports, in an article titled, “Oswego County Motorcycle Deaths Increasing“, that three motorcyclists have been killed already this year in Oswego County, and we are only in April. This totals more than the full-year of motorcycle fatalities in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Why? Warm weather has meant more bikers out earlier and, as the Post Standard notes, “drivers may not be prepared to see them”.

But the warm weather is not the only factor responsible for more motorcycles on the road: high gas prices have pushed more motorists to switch to motorcycles. As a result, motorcycle registration is up all over New York State, including in Oswego County.

cow in road.jpg.jpgEric Turkewitz, a celebrated New York personal injury blogger, recently blogged about the case of Hastings v. Suave, in which a cow wandered from a fenced-in pasture into a road at night and caused a car to collide with it, injuring its driver. Eric noted that the Third Department (intermediate appellate court) affirmed dismissal of the case because, under a weird quirk of New York law, an owner of a domestic animal cannot be held liable for negligence in allowing his animal to escape. Rather, he can only be held liable if he knew or should have known the animal had vicious propensities. The Third Department Court was reluctant to dismiss the case, but its hand was forced by existing case law, which clearly requires a finding that the animal was vicious or at least “abnormal”. As Eric points out, the law in New York does not recognize a cause of action for negligent failure to restrain a large, but passive, animal such as a cow.

Here’s my personal footnote to Eric’s great blog post: In upstate New york, where I practice personal injury litigation, there are lots of cows, and some of them invariably stray off into roadways. And I have settled “wandering cow” cases with insurance adjusters for significant money. I recall a case a few years ago where the cow had escaped at night because the dairy farmer had failed to mend a gap in the fence for several weeks. A car collided with the cow, causing injuries to its driver and passengers. The insurance adjuster never even challenged me on liability.

Yes, I know the law. But I also know that most insurance adjusters do not. They simply assume a farmer can be held liable for negligently failing to fence in, leash, or restrain an animal. That’s because such a rule makes sense, even if it is not the rule in New york.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for motorcycle riders.jpgIn this balmy Central New York May, with the little snow that ever fell a distant memory, the biker’s feel that call of the wild — that desire to feel the wind in your face and hear the roar between your butt and the road. Motorcyclists all over Central New York are dusting off their bikes, revving up their motors, and checking their tire pressure.

But special dangers lurk on the roads in spring. Residual salt and sand might be found at corners, intersections and even on the main roads and highways. Stopping or turning too fast on sand can make you slide, fall, lose control or cross over into the oncoming lane.

Here’s another danger: Over the long winter, those four-wheeled drivers have forgotten what a two-wheel vehicle looks like. Or at least lost the habit of looking out for them. Wise advice: Ride as if every motorist is out to murder you. Just believe it! You will thus avoid them at every opportunity, and you will be doubly happy if they turn out to have no such murderous intent.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for car crash.jpgNew York personal injury cases can take weird twists and turns, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Here’s one that took a dramatic turn for the better, twice!

A client was badly, really badly, injured in an upstate New York car crash. But the at-fault driver (who was also the owner) of the car was insured for only $100,000, and all the evidence about him (where he lived, the type of vehicle he was driving, etc.) indicated he would have no significant assets beyond the insurance policy.

So I called my client into my office to give him the bad news: It looked like $100,000 was all that was available to compensate him for his terrible loss, including past and future medical expenses, a lifetime of lost wages, and a large dose of lifetime pain and suffering. You can’t get water from a rock, and this negligent driver looked like a really, really dry rock.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for motorcycle riders.jpgWhen Central New York motorcycle accident lawyers like me read about a motorcycle-on-car collision, by force of habit, we focus on fault. You can’t always tell when you read the newspaper whose fault it was. But often you can. Here’s a recent example.

I just read on Syracuse.com about a Minetto, New York car-on-motorcycle collision. A young motorist (18 years old) crossed over into the oncoming lane and struck a 55-year old motorcyclist on State Route 48. The motorcyclist was airlifted to Upstate Hospital in Syracuse. After hitting the biker head-on, the car crashed through a guard rail and landed in the Oswego River. The driver and his passenger were able to swim to safety.

Of course the investigation will focus on what caused this driver to veer over into the oncoming lane. Unless the driver has some very good excuse (and it is hard to imagine one, short of a swarm of bees suddenly attacking her, or the steering wheel suddenly failing), she, and the owner of the car, will be held liable for the motorcyclist’s medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for motorcycle riders.jpgIt was a typical car-on-motorcycle collision, like so many the Central and Syracuse New York motorcycle lawyers of Michaels & Smolak have handled over the years. The car operator had a stop sign, and the biker did not. But, as often happens, the car driver did not notice the motorcyclist, and left the stop sign, violating the biker’s right of way. Crash!

I am preparing for my Central New York motorcycle injury trial soon. And in motorcycle injury cases, picking a fair jury is both difficult and crucial. Why? Because many jurors want to blame the motorcycle rider for his injuries merely because he was riding a motorcycle.

The remedy for this bias? Aggressive “voir dire”. What’s that? That’s where the lawyers get to ask prospective jurors questions to find out if they can be fair. I will ask lots of questions designed to ferret out hidden biases against motorcycles and bikers. At the same time, I will be educating the prospective jurors that New York motor vehicle accident law does not allow them to blame the biker for being on a motorcycle. They must blame only the driver who violated the rules of the road, and in this case, that was the car driver.

Thumbnail image for rearview.jpgYou probably won’t hear the advice I am about to give you from anyone else. I came up with this safety tip myself from my years of experience as a Central and Syracuse New York car accident lawyer. I will give you two simple techniques you can use to minimize your injuries if you are rear-ended. Before I give you my tips, though, let me explain why I am giving them now.

You see, I am getting more and more rear-end auto accident cases caused by distracted drivers, usually someone texting or looking down at his or her phone. I just took one in the other day. These rear-end collisions come with explosive force because the distracted driver never applies the brakes. He or she is too busy looking down at his or her phone to even notice the stopped vehicle. Further, these collisions usually don’t happen at stop signs or traffic lights. They usually happen when the front vehicle is waiting to turn left into a driveway. That is an area of the roadway where the distracted driver never really expected the front vehicle to stop before he looked down at to check his calls or text his friend.

I hear you, “enough lawyer talk already, give us the tips!” OK, here is the first of my two tips: Don’t wait with your steering wheel turned. Instead, keep your front wheels straight, and only turn them as you actually make your turn. Why? Because if you wait with your wheels turned, and you are rear-ended with force, your car can flip, and you will end up upside down. Not fun at all, believe me, I have been there! Two of my recent rear-ended clients got flipped. Their wheels were turned as they waited. If you keep your wheels straight as you wait, you will instead be catapulted forward, a much better deal.

rearview.jpg I don’t know about you, but every time I back my car out of my driveway or in the supermarket parking lot, I worry about hidden toddlers. This could be a side affect of my job as a Central New York personal injury lawyer. But it could also be because I have read way too many reports of toddlers getting backed up over by cars, pickup trucks and SUV’s. The problem is that small children are below the view of your rearview mirror.

So I was glad to come across a Bloomberg article yesterday reporting that rearview cameras with in-vehicle displays will probably be required in new cars and trucks by the year 2014. The auto industry will, of course, oppose this requirement, but hey, they also opposed requiring seatbelts and airbags in their day, and look how many lives those have saved.

I remember a story I read in the Geneva Finger Lakes Times last year where, in Geneva, New York, an uncle backed his car out of his driveway and ran over his 3 year-old nephew. After the accident, he disappeared for a few days while he contemplated suicide.

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