The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
How Can a Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyer Overcome Common Motorcycle Crash Defenses?
March 29, 2020
On average, motorcycle crashes are twenty-seven times deadlier than four-wheel vehicle crashes. So, for survivors and insurance companies, the financial stakes are much higher. Insurance companies that generally settle claims quickly batten down the hatches. And, insurance companies that normally contest car crash claims fight motorcycle wreck claims even harder.
Many times, insurance company strategies hinge upon one of the defenses listed below. Generally, insurance company lawyers have the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion in these situations.
So, to obtain maximum compensation, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer must do more than prepare a solid damages claim. Good lawyers also anticipate insurance company defenses, so they can refute them in court. This dual approach is usually the best way to obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Minnesota has a limited motorcycle helmet law. Additionally, there are multiple studies and statistics which at least purport to show a relationship between helmet use and injury reduction. For these reasons, many Crow Wing County victims believe that, if they were helmetless, they are ineligible for compensation.
Insurance companies count on this attitude. They hope that this belief prevents victims from consulting a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer.
But not so fast. The so-called helmet defense is flatly illegal in Minnesota. Insurance company lawyers cannot bring up helmet non-use in either the liability or damages portion of a negligence trial. So, helmet non-use is also irrelevant during pretrial settlement negotiations.
Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Contributory Negligence
Comparative fault is probably the most common insurance company defense in vehicle collision claims. This legal loophole might apply if both parties were arguably at fault for a crash. For example, a rider might have been speeding when a tortfeasor (negligent driver) illegally pulled into the rider’s lane.
As mentioned, insurance companies have the burden of proof, and the burden of persuasion, in these cases. Here’s how that works in this example. First, the insurance company must convince the judge that the defense is legally available. That’s probably not the case unless the rider was excessively speeding.
Then, the insurance company must convince a jury that the defense applies. Generally, the insurance company must present additional evidence of rider carelessness, like lane-splitting. If the jury applies the defense, the jury must divide fault on a percentage basis between the victim and tortfeasor.
Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. Even if the victim was 49 percent responsible for the crash, the tortfeasor is still responsible for a proportionate share of damages. Therefore, in most cases, the contributory negligence defense only reduces the victim’s damages
Last Clear Chance
This legal loophole is a bit like contributory negligence. However, if the last clear chance defense applies, the tortfeasor is not liable for damages at all.
Let’s return to the previous example. Insurance company lawyers could argue that the victim had the last clear chance to avoid the wreck. When the rider saw the tortfeasor change lanes illegally, the rider had a duty to change lanes or take other action to avoid the crash. At least, that’s how these defense works in theory.
In practice, it is almost impossible for riders to safely make sudden moves on their bikes. In most cases, they would lose control of their rides and cause a more serious accident than the one they prevented. That’s especially true if weather, traffic, and other conditions are anything less than ideal.
Unlike the first two, the motorcycle prejudice defense is not found in any law book. But it is real, and Brainerd, MN accident lawyers must be prepared to deal with it.
Many jurors believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs. Jurors who remember the Hell’s Angel days or the Twin Peaks motorcycle gang shootout in Waco are more likely to hold this belief. Frequently, insurance company lawyers make subtle emotional appeals during jury selection, opening arguments, and closing arguments. The motorcycle prejudice defense is especially common if the contributory negligence defense is also an issue.
To combat the motorcycle prejudice, many Brainerd, MN accident lawyers try to remove biased jurors. Judges allow these removals, in most cases. Alternatively, a lawyer might accentuate the victim’s positive aspects, so s/he does not fit the motorcycle gang member mold.
Connect with an Experienced Attorney
Insurance companies have several go-to defenses in motorcycle crash claims, but they are all flawed. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.