Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

When 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 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.

It was a typical car-on-motorcycle collision, like so many the Central and Syracuse New York motorcycle lawyers of Michaels Bersani Kalabanka 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.

You 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.

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.

My father was a bone doctor. He made his living putting broken human bodies, among them motorcyclists’ bodies, back together again, kind of like “all the kings’ horses and all the kings men” in that Humpty Dumpty rhyme. He was a loving, gentle father, and very seldom lost his temper. But there was one thing he was extremely strict about: “Mike, you are never to get on a murdercycle (his word for “motorcycle”), and if you do, and I found out, you will be severely punished”. He made me promise I would not, and I did in fact promise. He had seen too many young men, dead and living, whose bodies had been broken to pieces in motorcycle crashes.

Well, I won’t tell you if I ever broke that promise (I’ll “take the 5th”), but I can tell you that, as a Syracuse NY Accident lawyer, I have almost the same perception as dad did about how dangerous motorcycles are. Recently, this has hit home pretty hard. A friend’s husband left her widowed, and his three small children fatherless, when he died in a Cayuga County motorcycle crash. It is heartbreaking to see her struggling alone with such young children.

Whenever I represent an injured motorcyclist, or the family of a dead cyclist, in court, I am always concerned that the jury will feel that motorcycles are dangerous, too dangerous, and will want to blame my client for riding one, even if the accident was completely the fault of the car driver. In other words, I am afraid my father will be sitting on that jury!

As a Syracuse motorcycle accident lawyer, I can’t help but notice all the recent Central New York motorcycle accidents reported in our local press. There’s been about one every other day for the past two weeks. And the same pattern keeps repeating itself; the driver of a car or truck strikes or cuts off a bike because he just doesn’t “see” it.

In a recent blog I talked about how motorcycles are invisible to other motorists, and how bikers need to adjust their driving accordingly.

Here’s the facts about the latest Central New York motorcycle / motor vehicle collision: This morning a couple was injured on Route 298 (Collamer Road) at about 10:00 a.m. in the Town of DeWitt when their motorcycle was struck by a Ryder truck that pulled out of a cemetery driveway and crossed the motorcycle’s lane of travel. The driver of the Ryder truck admitted to police that he “did not see the motorcycle”.

The Geneva Finger Lakes Times reports that an 11 year-old Dundee girl, a passenger on her father’s motorcycle, suffered a leg injury Friday when an oncoming car turned left in front of it in an attempt to enter a driveway off of Dundee-Starkey Road in the Town of Starkey, Yates County, New York. The motorist was ticketed for failure to yield the right-of-way to the oncoming motorcycle. The child was taken by Mercy-Flight to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York.

How sad that such a young child has to have such an injury, and through no fault of her own. We hope that it is not too serious, but the fact that she was airlifted to Rochester is not a good sign.

I can tell you from my experience as a Central New York motorcycle accident lawyer that this failure-to-yield car/motorcycle collision is very, very common. I bet the driver of the car never “saw” the motorcycle. One of the big dangers of riding bikes is that other motorists just don’t “see” you, even with your lights on! So they cut you off, violate your right of way, and sometimes injury or kill you.

When it rains it pours. And this week a storm of motorcycle accidents moved into Western New York State.

Case in point: A Cattaraugus man was killed Saturday night after he struck a ditch and was thrown from the bike. He was air-lifted by Mercy Flight to Erie County Medical Center, but died there from his injuries.

Earlier that same day, a motorcycle crashed in the 900 block of Sweeney Street in Buffalo killing the driver and injuring a passenger.

Here we go again with another all-too-typical, and tragic, Central New York motorcycle accident caused by motorists’ amazing ability to overlook, fail to see, and otherwise be oblivious to, motorcyclists. The Syracuse Post Standard reports that a Syracuse man died Tuesday in a motorcycle crash in the Town of Sennett, Cayuga County, not far from our main personal injury law office in Auburn, New York. The biker was riding a 2003 Honda westbound. on Grant Avenue, when the car, ignoring the motorcyclist’s right-of-way, turned left onto Grant from County House Road and cut him off. The unfortunate biker was unable to avoid impact with the left side of the car.

You are almost twice as likely to be involved in an accident if you are on a motorcycle as compared to in a car. Why? You guessed it – cars don’t see you and end up cutting you off or hitting you, just like this motorist did to this biker.

The motorcyclist’s family will have a strong wrongful death case against the owner and driver of the car that cut him off. Even though motorists tend to not see motorcycles, the law REQUIRES motorists to see them. The defense, “gee, I just didn’t see that motorcycle coming”, is no defense at all.

When I read the Syracuse Post Standard’s report of this recent Central New York motorcycle accident, I thought perhaps I had accidentally jumped to the movie review section of the paper and was reading about a slapstick comedy. The accident happened on Route 31 in Lakeport, New York. The motorcyclist collided into the back of a Chevrolet Cavalier convertible stopped and waiting to turn left at the intersection with Coulter Cove Road. Upon impact, the motorcyclist flew off his bike and landed in the backseat of the convertible. The driver of the convertible was quoted as saying, “the next thing you know there was this big crash, and I felt something on the back of my head”. Her daughter, the passenger, then said, “mom, there’s something in the backseat”. When the driver turned around, she saw the motorcyclist lying in the back seat with his feet on her head.

I have handled a lot of Central New York motorcycle accident cases, but never one like that! Sounds more like a cartoon than an actual accident. I guess you can find humor in anything, even in motorcycle accidents, as long as no one is seriously injured.

What caused the motorcycle to rear-end the car? The biker was adjusting his bike’s mirror and didn’t notice the stopped vehicle. Lesson to be learned: Adjust your mirror BEFORE you start driving your motorcycle. Never be distracted behind the wheel of a car, or the handlebars of your bike.

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