Have you been in a motorcycle accident that you feel was not your fault yet the offenders insurance company is saying it is?
It seems the flavor-of-the-month over the last several years with some insurance companies is to place liability on the motorcyclist where none or minimal liability actually exists. What this means is that the insurance companies will claim that the motorcyclist did something wrong, even though it is readily apparent that the other driver was fully at fault. Here’s some examples:
Example No. 1: The erratic lane change
The motorcyclist was traveling at freeway speeds when suddenly the offending driver crossed over two lanes in an attempt to exit the freeway. The motorcyclist braked and went down without hitting the other vehicle. The insurance adjuster claimed that the motorcyclist was 75-percent at fault because he should have stopped in time, even though an independent eyewitness said that the defendant’s movements were so erratic and “idiotic” there was nothing the motorcyclist could have done. If he hadn't braked, he would have slammed into the other vehicle.
Example No. 2: Unsafe lane change by a police officer
In this case a motorcyclist had been splitting lanes, which is legal in California. Just prior to the collision he was alone in his lane at which point an unmarked police car made an abrupt lane change into him forcing him to go down. Without ever speaking with the independent eyewitness, the responding police officer concluded that the motorcyclist was at fault for excessive speed.
A lawsuit was filed and the witness was deposed. He unequivocally stated that the offending driver made an abrupt lane change at a steep angle without signaling, thereby causing the accident.
Example No. 3: Crossing the double-double yellow line
In this case the motorcyclist was alone in the car pool lane. To his right were two sets of double-double yellow lines. The offending driver crossed over both of them in an attempt to get into the car pool lane because traffic in his lane had come to a halt. Incredulously, the insurance company claimed that the motorcyclist was 20-percent at fault based upon a witness statement, which was suspect at best. Two additional witness statements confirmed that the other driver indeed crossed over two sets of double yellow lines. The case was resolved successfully.
Example No. 4: Case of the jumped stop sign
This accident occurred at an intersection with a 4-way stop sign. The motorcycle was just about through the intersection westbound when a driver stopped at the southbound stop sign proceeded into the intersection, hitting the back end of the bike. The rider sustained a serious leg injury. A witness who was directly behind the person who ran the stop sign, stated that she was flabbergasted as to why this driver proceeded into the intersection when the motorcyclist was right in front of her. Believe it or not, the insurance company took the position that the motorcyclist was 50 percent at fault because there was no one there who could confirm that he fully stopped for the stop sign. That case was ultimately settled for the policy limits.
Example No. 5: The unsafe left turn
The offending driver, who was coming towards the motorcyclist, turned left directly into the path of the motorcyclist forcing him to T-bone the offending driver’s vehicle and go down. Throughout, the insurance company claimed that the motorcyclist was 35-percent at fault. A witness confirmed the motorcyclist’s version. Apparently this still wasn't good enough for the insurance company. They wanted to obtain their own statement. For reasons unclear, they claim they could not get in touch with the witness notwithstanding the fact that after they advised us of this, we contacted the witness again without any problems. The insurance company finally agreed to accept 100 percent liability.
The above are just a few examples of the crazy liability theories that insurance companies come up with. The bottom line is you should seek legal counsel if this issue arises and remember you cannot always expect a timely settlement even when it is relatively clear that the other party is at fault. Insurance companies will do whatever they can to make you fight for a just recovery.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Attorney Chuck Koro
Personal Injury Attorney Chuck Koro of Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys is an aggressive litigator with a wealth of experience in motorcycle injury cases. Chuck has been Russ Brown's partner for many years and has vast, first-hand, inside, knowledge of insurance company tactics. Chuck's first concern has been and always will be his clients.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.
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