The first lesson any lawyer who wants to handle motorcycle crash cases learns is that you can’t handle these cases like car crashes. Liability will nearly always be denied. Even if fault is clear there will be attempts to blame the motorcyclist for “failure to avoid”. This defense can be based on the thinnest of evidence. Unless the case is quickly and carefully documented the evidence to defeat such defenses may be lost.
1. Motorcycle crash witnesses’ estimates of speed are seldom right. Witnesses will overestimate the speed of a motorcycle proportionally to the loudness of the exhaust and brightness of the color. Studies show that even those experienced in this area will place the speed of a motorcycle with loud pipes and bright colors well above that of a drab and quiet bike. For this reason it is important to have a qualified motorcycle crash reconstructionist investigate the crash as soon as possible.
2. Research shows drivers do see you. Other drivers do see motorcycles far more often than believed. Studies show that drivers misinterpret information regarding the motorcycle. They estimate the distance poorly and rarely accurately judge speed. Good defensive riders appreciate this fact and assume they will not be seen, or if seen not given the right of way. Automobilists often claim the motorcycle had no lighting or exaggerate speed to cover their fault.
3. Motorcycle speed can be accurately estimated from crash data. Several methods of estimating impact speed in car v. motorcycle cases have been studied. Skid length, wheel deformation, fork displacement and throw distance all factors into the equation. The length of skid marks, number of tires locked, points of impact and rest and data regarding the roadway all enter the equation and must be documented as soon as possible.