One of the most infamous wrecks in motorcycle history still has some important lessons in terms of obtaining maximum compensation.
British Army Officer T.E. Lawrence, who is better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was one of the most famous World War I commanders. In 1935, he was killed in a motorcycle crash which remains controversial. Some say that he swerved to avoid a boy on a bicycle and lost control of his 998cc Brough Superior. Others say that a reckless driver ran him off the road. Unfortunately, before anyone had a chance to look at the physical evidence, authorities loaded the wrecked bike onto a truck and hauled it to the dump.
All these years later, a quick and diligent investigation is still critical for Brainerd attorneys. Without examining the scene, it’s impossible to develop a theory of the case. And without evidence, it’s impossible to prove negligence.
Theory of the Case
Driver error causes almost all vehicle wrecks. Tire blowouts and other manufacturing defects only cause a few wrecks, and acts of nature, like lightning strikes, cause even fewer. That error usually involves either ordinary negligence or negligence per se.
Just before Lawrence’s final motorcycle ride, a court decided Donoghue v. Stevenson. This case is the foundation of modern negligence law. The court famously concluded that people had a responsibility to avoid injury to their “neighbors.” The neighbor principle later became the duty of reasonable care.
Noncommercial drivers have a duty to obey the rules of the road, both the written and unwritten ones, and a duty to drive defensively. Commercial operators, like Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and bus drivers, have a higher duty of care. So, it is usually easier to prove negligence in commercial operator cases.
Negligence per se is the violation of a statute. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) are liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety law and
- That violation substantially causes injury.
Device distraction illustrates the difference between these two concepts. A new hands-free law just took effect in Minnesota in August 2019. This law prohibits holding and using a phone for any purpose, other than GPS navigation. It’s still illegal to enter an address on such a device or manipulate the screen while driving.
The new law does not prohibit hands-free devices. But these devices may be more dangerous than hand-held devices. Hands-free devices are still distracting. Operators who use them take theie eyes off the road and take their minds off driving. Additionally, hands-free devices give some operators a false sense of security.
Brainerd Attorneys and Proving Negligence
So, the citation issued, if any, goes a long way toward establishing liability for damages. In some cases, that may be the only thing necessary. But in most cases, Brainerd attorneys must collect additional evidence.
Sometimes, this proof is readily available. For example, a Brainerd Attorney can cut through red tape and obtain a copy of a police accident report in only minutes. But this report is sometimes incomplete or inaccurate, especially if the victim was seriously injured or killed. In these situations, the critical report narrative only contains the tortfeasor’s side of the story. Since the fatality rate is so high in motorcycle crashes, these situations are common in this context.
Therefore, additional evidence is often critical. To examine this issue more closely, let’s stay with the device distraction example. Additional evidence in device distraction cases may include:
- Web browsing logs,
- Text message records,
- Call logs, and
- App usage records.
The tortfeasor can destroy all this evidence with just a few touches. To preserve it, a Brainerd Attorney must quickly send a spoliation letter. This letter directs the tortfeasor to preserve any potential physical evidence in the case, including the aforementioned items.
Insurance Company Defenses
Especially in motorcycle crashes, contributory negligence is probably the most common insurance company defense. This legal doctrine shifts responsibility for the crash from the victim to the tortfeasor.
For example, the insurance company might admit that the tortfeasor was using a hands-free phone and therefore distracted. But lawyers might accuse the victim of darting in and out of traffic while riding, thus making illegal lane changes. Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 50 percent bar. So, as long as the victim was no more than 50 percent responsible for the crash, the victim still receives a proportionate share of damages.
The assumption of the risk defense sometimes comes up in motorcycle crashes, if the victim wasn’t wearing a helmet. This defense basically states that people are responsible for their own injuries if they ignore a known risk.
Damages in a motorcycle wreck claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some cases.
Connect with a Thorough Lawyer
A diligent investigation often improves the end result. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.