Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

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motorcycle-stunter-tyre-burnout-1301095-m-3.jpgIn most states, including Maine, uninsured motorist coverage is mandatory. Uninsured motorist coverage is an exception to the basic idea in insurance and tort law that an injured person’s damages should be paid by or on behalf of the at-fault party. In Maine, the amount of uninsured motorist coverage that must be provided depends on the applicability of the Maine Automobile Insurance Cancellation Control Act. Any policy subject to this law must provide coverage that is no less than the amount of liability coverage offered to the purchaser, unless the purchaser rejects that amount.The amount of uninsured motorist coverage cannot be less than the minimum limits for bodily injury liability insurance. If a policy is not subject to the law, uninsured motorist coverage is required only in accordance with statutory minimums.

In the recent Maine Supreme Court case Dickau v. Vermont Mutual Insurance Company,the plaintiff had been struck by an under-insured driver while riding his motorcycle. The plaintiff argued that either he was entitled to uninsured motorist coverage pursuant to an umbrella policy with his insurance company, based on the policy’s language or by operation of law.

The plaintiff suffered more than $250,000 in damages, but the defendant’s insurance policy only provided $100,000 in liability insurance coverage. The plaintiff, on the other hand, was covered by two insurance policies. A Dairyland Insurance Company policy insured the plaintiff’s motorcycle and offered $250,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. An umbrella policy offered liability coverage in excess of minimum primary insurance for up to $1 million per occurrence.
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motorcycle-stunter-tyre-burnout-1301096-m.jpgMotorcycles in Maine and elsewhere are often associated with rebellious youth. In 1990, only one out of 10 bikers was over 50 years old. In 2003, one out of every four bikers was over 50 years old. However, a number of bikers today are over the age of 60. From 2000-2006, the number of crashes increased by 145%. This hobby is only gaining popularity among baby boomers.

A 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal examined the injury patterns and the severity of those injuries among younger and older bikers. The study found that bikers over the age of 60 were up to three times more likely to be seriously hurt due to a collision with a car compared to younger bikers. The data for the study found that there were 1.5 million crashes involving adults over age 20. Importantly, injuries to people over the age of 60 tend to be more severe than injuries to younger people. Older people are less resilient, and therefore they take a longer period of time to heal.

The data for the study came from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program. The program assessed injuries from motorcycle accidents that were handled in the emergency department between 2001-2008. The researchers compared trends among three groups: 20- to 39-year-olds, 40- to 59-year-olds, and those over age 60.
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hand-holding-mobile-smart-phone-1417191-m.jpgAdults in Maine and other states know that texting and driving is dangerous. Yet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that in 2011, 387,000 people were injured and 3331 were killed in car accidents due to distracted drivers.

As discussed in other posts, there are a number of distractions that drivers need to avoid, but texting is especially dangerous, and it affects a vulnerable portion of the population that may not understand the consequences: teenagers. Teenagers often think it’s no big deal to send a quick text, even when they know talking on the phone is a bad idea.

NTSA has found teens to be six times more likely to crash while dialing a telephone. They are 23 times more likely to crash if they text while driving. Their reaction times start to approximate a 70-year-old driving without a cell phone, which is particularly dangerous because teens are also less likely to have a visceral understanding of the hazards of excessive speed and leaving enough space between cars.
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skylark-always-has-to-have-a-driver-1351165-m.jpgFor years, Maine residents, like all Americans, have been warned of the dangers of drunk driving. Most people know that just drinking some coffee after a night of heavy drinking is not good enough, and assume, when drinking at a friend’s house, that waiting there and sleeping off a buzz is safer than getting on the road. However, some recent European studies show that driving with a hangover can be as dangerous as drunk driving, a finding that should affect both how you drink and how you drive the following morning.

In one study, a professor from the University of the West of England asked participants to drink alcohol the night before taking simulated driving tests. The morning after their drinking, they had to drive in a simulation involving both urban and rural settings. The participants were legally sober and ‘drove’ for 20 minutes. However they had a large number of mistakes and deviations in both speed and driving position. They crossed over the central line more frequently. They sped too much. Most disturbingly, they had slow reaction times.

In a larger study conducted in the Netherlands, which was presented at the 2013 Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs conference, 47 participants that had spent the night before drinking an average of 10 drinks took a 1-hour simulated highway driving test. They were tested in the morning and found to have no alcohol in their bloodstream at the time they took the tests. However, their ability to drive was dramatically impaired, comparable to somebody with a BAC of .05 (which is the legal limit in some other countries such as Australia.)
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working-girl-515333-m-2.jpgLower back pain is a bigger problem in Maine and elsewhere in the United States than you might think. It can be gradual and chronic. Or it can happen suddenly, while you are bending over to pick something up. Why does this happen? And what is the impact on society?

The nerve supply to the spine holds some of the answers to questions regarding pain. While you can feel some pain in the spine, the threshold for feeling it is relatively high. Sometimes tension that has been building in the muscles over time without being sensed consciously causes the back to spasm. However, more often stress and inflammation builds in the joints. At some point — perhaps when you are bending over– the body, specifically the muscles, protect an inflamed or misaligned joint by not letting you bend.

Recent brain scan findings from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine even suggest that it is possible to predict with about 85% accuracy whether low back pain will persist based on whether a patient has a specific marker in the axons that allow one’s brain cells to communicate. It’s believed that treatment with medication early on can make long-term chronic pain less likely.
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classic-camera-1427640-m.jpgInsurance companies in Maine and other states do conduct surveillance on personal injury claimants, especially those who claim large sums or a major disability. Is this spying legal? Yes, within limits. On the one hand, insurance companies have the right to ferret out fraud and therefore they conduct secret surveillance to make sure claimants aren’t bringing false claims. On the other, most claimants find surveillance creepy, disturbing and an invasion of privacy. Whether or not the surveillance is found to be appropriate depends in part upon where the spying takes place.

There aren’t a lot of Maine appellate cases deciding the extent to which an insurer may conduct surveillance. A 2001 appellate case, however, affirmed the right of an employee to sue for trespass to property, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress against a workers compensation insurance company, a private investigation business and a private investigator based on their surveillance activities while the employee received workers compensation benefits.

In one Pennsylvania Supreme Court case, two investigators conducted surveillance on a claimant when she left her house. The court found that because the woman exposed herself to public scrutiny every time she left the house and the surveillance did not extend into her home, the surveillance was not an invasion of her privacy.
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italian-pizza-1196126-m.jpgIn motorcycle and car accidents, an injured person’s full and complete recovery for their injuries may depend upon his/her ability to show the vicarious liability of a franchisor. Maine law permits a plaintiff to recover from a franchisor if the injured person can show the franchisor is vicariously liable for the actions of the person who directly caused the harm.

This issue arises most frequently in car or motorcycle cases when a negligent driver is working for his or her employer when the harm is inflicted. A more nuanced question occurs in the context of franchises, which sometimes have control over their franchisees. When can a franchisor be held vicariously liable for the injuries inflicted by a franchisee’s employee?

In Maine and many other states, an employer can be held liable for an employee’s negligent actions. It should be noted, however, that companies are usually not held liable for its independent contractor’s actions. Often the first thing that must be proved in vicarious liability cases is an employer-employee relationship.
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hand-on-keyboard-1260787-m.jpgDue to the widespread use of Facebook and Twitter, courts all over the country are handling discovery motions related to social media now. At this point, many social media tools are used to “check in” to businesses, identify your location, or mark other information that might otherwise be private.

In Maine, Rule 26 permits parties to obtain discovery regarding a non-privileged matter that is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action to the extent that the request is reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. This can present a problem for people who use social media without regard to the possibility that it might need to be produced in a lawsuit.

A common scenario happens when you get injured and you either accept a Facebook friend request from someone you do not know or are already Facebook friends with someone who knows the insurer or people that work for the entity responsible for your injury. The new “friend” might be monitoring Facebook posts to see whether you are legitimately hurt.
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1301096_motorcycle_stunter_tyre_burnout_.jpgIn Maine, a motorcycle accident or “negligence” case is made up of four elements: (1) a duty of care, (2) breach, (3) injury, and (4) a finding that the breach caused or partly caused the injury. Motorists in Maine owe a duty of care to others driving on the road, including motorcyclists. While duty is a question of law, the breach is a question of fact for a jury.

Causation is also a question of fact. Did the defendant’s breach of the duty cause the accident and subsequent injuries? Sometimes a defendant will bring what is called a “summary judgment motion.”

This kind of motion requires a plaintiff to bring forth evidence in the record (deposition transcript excerpts, discovery responses, declaration attested to under penalty of perjury) to support each of the four elements outlined above. A judge reviews the evidence to see if it’s sufficient to bring the question of fact before a jury.
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1331297_old_motorbike sxchu username.jpgIn April, the Maine Legislature voted against a proposed measure to require motorcycle riders across the state to wear safety helmets. Currently, only riders who are under age 18 must wear a helmet on Maine roadways. Representative Paulette Beaudoin of Biddeford introduced the bill, entitled An Act to Require Motorcyclists to Wear Helmets to the Maine House. Beaudoin stated she introduced the measure in response to motorcycle crash statistics collected by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to the NHTSA, head injuries are the number one cause of death in motorcycle accidents. The NHTSA also claims that wearing a helmet may reduce the risk of a fatal motorcycle crash by up to 37 percent.

Senator Margaret Craven of Lewiston said she supported the proposed law because motorcycle helmets normally prevent brain injuries. According to Craven, Maine taxpayers are often required to absorb the high cost of treating such injuries. In addition, long-term institutional care may be required since many individuals who suffer a brain trauma never fully recover. Craven stated those costs are preventable or may be minimized through helmet use. Representative Michel Lajoie of Lewiston disagreed with Craven and said it is unclear whether motorcycle helmets make a significant difference in head injury rates.

The Highway Loss Data Institute recently conducted a study that found that the costs associated with motorcycle accident injuries increased by 34 percent in one year after the State of Michigan repealed its mandatory motorcycle helmet law. The study authors also found insurance payments increased by approximately 22 percent across four states after taking into account a number of external factors such as weather and rider age. Chief Research Officer David Zuby said the increase in cost per injury claim is consistent with other study results that found that motorcycle helmets prevent head trauma in traffic accidents.

People hurt in a motorcycle or other vehicle accident in Maine may be eligible to recover compensation for their harm. Before damages may be collected, a Maine traffic wreck victim must demonstrate that their injury directly resulted from the accident and that the negligent motorist was more responsible for their harm than they were. If you were injured by another motorist anywhere in the State of Maine, you are advised to contact a skilled automobile accident lawyer to discuss your rights.
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