What Role Does a Jury Play in Motorcycle Accident Cases
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of John H. (Jack) Hickey with Hickey Law Firm.
Motorcycle accident cases are unique in a variety of ways, from the extent of the damages involved to the challenges an injured motorcyclist might face in court. Without the level of protection provided by the body of a standard passenger vehicle, in a car-on-motorcycle crash, the motorcyclist typically comes out of the situation with far more severe injuries than the driver. Additionally, some motorcyclists have a reputation for taking unnecessary chances on the road, which can lead a jury to consider their case with a bias they might not use when approaching a case between two standard vehicles.
The jury is responsible for deciding liability in an accident case.
In civil personal injury claims, such as those between a vehicle driver and a motorcyclist following an accident, a jury or collection of six pre-vetted individuals is presented with evidence from both sides of the issue. After being given time to evaluate the evidence regulated by a judge, the jury then decides which party is liable for the accident, and to what degree. In some cases a jury may assign a certain percentage of liability to the other party, limiting their ability to make a financial recovery by that same percentage. The judge then hands down the verdict to the two parties.
Juries have been known to carry an inherent bias toward motorcyclists.
Unfortunately, juries have often exhibited an unfair bias against motorcyclists, assigning blame to them even where it is not justified. This can result in motorcyclists receiving reduced compensation or even being denied compensation for their damages altogether. If a motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, regardless of the state’s helmet laws, this can give juries the impression that the rider was not prioritizing safety from the start, increasing their bias even if the motorcyclist was operating their bike responsibly at the time of the accident. This can make it much harder for motorcyclists to seek compensation for damages caused by a negligent driver, including resulting medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
It is particularly important for motorcyclists to talk to an experienced attorney after an accident.
While it’s always a good idea to talk to an attorney after a significant motor vehicle accident, it is particularly important for motorcyclists to seek legal counsel. Jury bias can be devastating to a motorcyclist’s case and potential for recovery, and experienced motorcycle accident attorneys know this. A good motorcycle accident attorney will know exactly what to expect from the jury, as well as how to head off any existing bias before it can start affecting the claim. A motorcycle accident attorney will know how to communicate with the jury as well as counsel the motorcyclist to prevent any accidental and unfair incrimination.
Similarly, if a motorcyclist is seeking to settle out of court, thereby avoiding trial and the jury altogether, it’s still important to consult with an attorney before signing any papers. Initial settlement offers might not take into account the future damages a motorcyclist may suffer, including the need for ongoing physical/mental therapy and impairment of earning capacity. It’s important to sit down with an attorney who has worked with injured motorcyclists before to make sure any offer you receive is equivalent to any and all predicted damages. Involving a motorcyclist attorney as early as possible also ensures that you’re ready to defend yourself against jury bias if a good settlement agreement cannot be made and the case does go to trial.
To learn more about motorcycle accident claims or to discuss your options after being injured in a motorcycle accident, reach out to an experienced motorcycle crash attorney in your area.