Victims of motorcycle accidents can be re-victimized when they bring a lawsuit.
A motorcyclist is often given less respect than operators of cars or trucks. The roads are dangerous places, and the lack of protection (even with helmeted motorcyclists) can more easily lead to catastrophic injuries. But what kind of obstacles do motorcyclists face in the courtroom if they’re attempting to recover damages? The disadvantages are plentiful and not always obvious.
The motorcycle operator’s choice of attorney can be crucial. While almost any lawyer specializing in catastrophic personal injury cases can handle a motorcycle accident case, most will simply treat accidents involving motorcycles like a car accident. As anyone who rides a motorcycle knows, the two kinds of vehicles don’t just look differently, they are very different. From a legal standpoint, this is certainly true, as motorcycle law is its own unique genre within personal injury law.
In fact, most lawyers dealing with vehicle accidents fail to understand the difference between a motorcycle accident and a car accident. A motorcycle moves differently when it’s hit. It doesn’t slide like a car, or leave the same type of tire friction marks. Motorcycle skid marks don’t tell the same story that a car’s skid marks will tell. Although it isn’t necessary for a lawyer to be a so-called “motorcycle lawyer” to represent a motorcyclist who has been victimized, they should be well-versed in the distinctions between cars and motorcycles post-impact.
There’s also a stigma to being a “biker” in most courtrooms that has to be overcome or at least compensated for by a skilled attorney. Juries or even judges should be alerted to the presence of this inherent stigma. “Bikers” are perceived as risk takers, with the “Hell’s Angel” stereotype dangling about their persona in the manner of a living tarantula. What attracts bikers to the recreational activity tends to repel the majority of the population.
What bikers can do to help themselves is to counter negative stereotypes. If an attorney points out that a biker was attired in full safety gear when the accident occurred, it can help. If a biker was wearing an unapproved helmet or no helmet at all, or dressed in t-shirt and a pair of shorts and so was badly cut up, jurors tend to be less sympathetic. But an attorney representing the motorcyclist must first be aware of such nuances if his representation is to be well-regarded in the courtroom.
Alexandra Reed writes for Connecticut personal injury law firm, Stratton Faxon.
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