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Aaron House

Common Insurance Company Defenses in Motorcycle Crash Claims

Because motorcyclists are almost completely exposed to danger, in that they are not insulated from the outside world inside a car or truck, a motorcycle rider is 28 times more likely to die in a car crash than a vehicle occupant.

Head injuries are especially common in motorcycle crashes, even if the victim was wearing a helmet. Headgear does not protect against many kinds of head injuries, such as motion-related wounds. When riders fall off their bikes, their brains may be slammed against the inside of their skulls, which can cause a head injury. Medical bills from head injuries and other serious wounds quickly add up and often exceed $100,000.

An experienced Kansas City personal injury attorney will be committed to making sure motorcycle crash victims receive the maximum compensation for their injuries. While personal injury lawyers work to ensure that these victims receive justice, insurance company lawyers, on the other hand, are committed to trying to ensure that insurance companies pay as little as possible for injury claims and to maximize profits for insurance companies and corporations. To minimize the damages and/or liability, insurance companies often rely on one of several primary defenses.

Contributory Negligence and Comparative Fault

What happens when there is a crash, and multiple drivers are at fault? For example, assume Alex is riding southbound on Main Street. James, who is in a northbound car on Main Street, is waiting at the First Street intersection to make a left turn against traffic. He does not see Alex approaching. So, James thinks he sees a gap in traffic, and he suddenly accelerates to shoot through the perceived gap. In so doing, he crosses directly into Alex’s path. The two vehicles collide.

More than likely, emergency responders would give James a ticket for failure to yield the right of way. But legally, Alex might also be liable for the wreck. If he had a chance to avoid the crash, perhaps by stopping or changing lanes, Alex is legally responsible if he did not take advantage of that chance.

If James was injured, he may be able to recover, but his recovery would be reduced in Missouri by any apportionment of fault he had for the crash. Missouri is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if the victim was 99% responsible for the wreck, the victim is still entitled to a proportionate share of damages. These damages normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

For example, if James’s total damages are $100,000, and a jury finds that James was 60% at fault for the crash, the jury would reduce his $100,000 damages by 60% and would award him $40,000.

If this crash occurred in Kansas, James would not be able to recover anything because Kansas is a contributory negligence state, in which an injured person cannot recover if he was 50% or more at fault for the crash. So, for example, if a jury concluded that James was only 30% at fault, James could still recover $70,000 in Kansas. If the jury concluded James was 51% at fault, he wouldn’t be able to recover anything.

Motorcycle Helmet Defense

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson recently vetoed a bill which would have done away with the state’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law (his veto was based on provisions of the bill unrelated the elimination of the helmet requirement, even though medical organizations favor keeping these laws in place so as to help minimize the injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash). In Kansas, anyone 18 or older does not have to wear a helmet. So, this law is still in place.

Failure to wear a helmet may be used as a basis to reduce a person’s damages under the comparative fault analysis described above. In other words, it may be used as a basis to impute comparative fault to the motorcycle driver who was not wearing a helmet.

Contact a Diligent Attorney

Motorcycle crashes can have devastating consequences that can result in significant bodily injury or even death. If you or a loved one has been injured due to another person’s negligence, call Aaron M. House at 816-875-4260 today for a free consultation. Our main office is conveniently located in Kansas City on the Country Club Plaza.

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