Often defense attorneys or insurance companies may try to unfairly discredit a motorcyclist and ultimately reduce liability for damages the rider sustained in a motorcycle accident that another driver caused.
Some might unfairly portray the motorcyclist as reckless, drawing on a narrow stereotype of bikers as dangerous risk-takers. Whatever the case may be, it’s important that injured bikers recognize the potential defenses and discuss with their attorney how to address them.
Why Attorneys and Insurers May Try to Reduce Their Client’s Liability
Pennsylvania follows modified comparative fault laws. The law requires reducing the claimant’s or plaintiff’s damages in proportion to his or her fault for the accident and injuries. So if a motorcyclist is 30 percent responsible for an accident, then damages are reduced by that percentage. If the rider sustained $50,000 in damages, then he or she would only recover $35,000 instead of the full $50,000.
So the incentive behind a lot of defense tactics to discredit the motorcyclist or reduce another driver’s percentage of fault is to ultimately reduce the amount of the injured biker’s settlement or judgment award.
Arguing Violation of Motorcycle Regulations
A common defense tactic in motorcycle claims involves citing regulations that the rider may have violated during the accident as proof of the rider’s fault.
Some of these regulations and things that are required for a motorcycle include:
- use of a safety helmet;
- daytime use of a headlight;
- wearing eye protection; and
- left and right side mirrors.
If these violations did not contribute to the accident or resultant injuries, though, they may not be relevant. So if another driver was looking down while texting during rush hour and slammed into the back of a motorcycle that was stopped in traffic, whether the motorcyclist had the headlight on likely did not make a difference.
This might also apply to the nature of the biker’s injuries. A defendant may argue that a motorcyclist’s head injuries would not be as great had the biker worn a helmet. Not wearing a helmet in this case may contribute to the motorcyclist’s comparative negligence. But if the biker is claiming damages for a medical costs related to a broken arm, helmet use would likely be irrelevant to the injury.
Of course, engaging in reckless behavior can increase the motorcyclist’s comparative negligence for the accident. If the rider was speeding, committed a lane violation, was driving drunk or engaged in reckless conduct in some way, he or she may be partially or wholly at-fault. Defendants might use traffic citations or witness statements to establish these reckless or careless acts.
How can plaintiffs respond to these counter arguments?
On the other hand, injured bikers may use any of the following to establish fault:
- accident reports;
- traffic citations;
- medical records;
- expert testimony;
- witness accounts; and
- medical records.
Your attorney can advocate for your rights and demonstrate to the insurance adjuster, judge or jury that you held limited, if any, fault for the accident and that the other party was to blame for your injuries.