We field calls regularly from motorcyclists who want to know if they have a case worth pursuing. Sometimes the rider almost didn’t pursue a good case and on other occasions the case is not what the rider thinks it is. If you sustain damages, be it personal injury, property damage or a monetary loss which you believe is the fault or responsibility of another party or entity, you should check with a motorcycle lawyer to see what your options are. Most motorcycle lawyers will not charge for an initial consultation.
In some instances, cases turn out better then expected. One motorcyclist went down after a dog ran into the path of his bike. He sustained personal injuries and property damage. He was reluctant to contact a lawyer thinking that there was nothing to get from a dog. In such situations, the dog’s owner can usually be held responsible for violating leash ordinances and, in general, for not controlling his pet. In this particular case, the investigation established that the dog had a history of running into the street to chase vehicles.
In another instance a motorcyclist was legally passing vehicles stopped at a light. As he approached the front of the line, a driver made a U-turn directly into him knocking him into the opposing lane. However, the investigating police officer concluded that he was passing in the opposing lane and therefore was at fault for the accident. The motorcyclist was concerned about the viability of his case. After tracking down a key eyewitness, it became readily apparent that the motorcyclist had been pushed into the opposing lane by the offending driver. What he thought was a questionable case in the beginning became one worth pursuing.
In another instance, a motorcyclist went down and sustained injuries when a blanket flew off the back of a truck and got caught between his tire and fender. The truck kept going and he was unable to identify it. He was concerned about the viability of his claim because he was not able to identify the vehicle or the driver. He had the foresight, however, to have purchased uninsured motorist coverage and he was able to recover for his damages.
On he other hand, some cases are just not worth pursuing. We occasionally get calls from a motorcyclist who ran into a deer, asking if he can sue the government entity that controls that particular geographical area. Generally speaking, it is a difficult argument to make. Even if you were able to establish a prevalent hazard, for example, that there was a history of such incidents, it would be an uphill battle, if not impossible. Moreover, governmental entities have certain immunities for their actions and inactions.
In another situation, a motorcyclist went down after a truck tire tread got caught in his wheel. He wanted to make a claim against the governmental entity in charge of maintaining the freeway. You cannot, however, hold someone responsible for failing to constantly clean up all the debris on freeways and highways throughout the day. To successfully pursue such a claim there has to be a substantial hazard, sufficient notice of the hazard and an opportunity to rectify it. This also holds true for road surface conditions in general. For example, one motorcyclist went down when he hit a sinkhole that was hard to see until it was too late. The case was successfully prosecuted because the supervisor of the road maintenance crew conceded that the hole had been there for quite some time and that he was aware of the need to repair it. In fact, when the police responded to the scene, they immediately blocked it off until repairs could be made.
Even if you have a case worth pursuing, you should discuss the economic viability of pursuing it with a lawyer. You may have sustained damages as the result of someone’s negligence or breach of contract, but the potential recovery may not be worth the time, effort and expense of pursuing the case.
The best advice is to consult with a lawyer experienced in the field and if he or she does not feel the case is worth pursuing, get a second or even a third opinion. Most lawyers will tell you that they have successfully prosecuted cases that others lawyers have rejected.
Chuck Koro, Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys