Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle accidents in Illinois and nationwide are often more severe than car or truck accidents. Due to the nature of motorcycles, the riders are often more vulnerable than those within a car or truck. A recent Illinois motorcycle accident settlement involving a father and daughter illustrates just how dangerous a motorcycle accident can be.

A father and daughter were riding a motorcycle together in Joliet, Illinois when they were struck by a pick-up truck that failed to yield the right of way. The father was driving the motorcycle with his 15 year-old daughter seated behind him; both were thrown from the motorcycle when it was struck by the pick-up truck.

The 15 year-old girl’s ankle was severely broken and the father sustained multiple injuries, including a fractured wrist and ankle. Meanwhile the truck driver sustained little or no injuries. In the two years since the accident the girl has required multiple surgeries and is scheduled for an additional surgery this year that will fuse the bones in her ankle. This fusion surgery will limit her mobility and flexion of her ankle.

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Any Chicago driver understands the danger of potholes — whether you’ve swerved to avoid a crater that suddenly appears on the road in front of you, experienced an extremely bumpy ride from a range of smaller potholes, or observed the constant summertime road work to repair the winter’s damage. And while potholes are as much of a part of Chicago’s landscape as the Buckingham Fountain, there is a difference between potholes that are a nuisance and those that are a danger.

Consider the case of a 43 year-old man who was severely injured in a Chicago motorcycle crash after his vehicle hit a large pothole. He filed a personal injury lawsuit against the City of Chicago, which recently settled for $3.25 million.

The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the roadway condition near the 900 block of S. Western Avenue was dangerous due to the large pothole that existed in the area prior to his September 2000 motorcycle accident. At the time of the motorcycle crash the decedent was riding along the roadway when his motorcycle went into an open pothole. He was thrown from his bike and sustained traumatic injuries, including loss of vision in his right eye and paralysis of his right arm.

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In 2007, an Illinois factory worker was driving a motorcycle when an SUV turned in front of him, killing him instantly in the collision that followed. The decedent’s family brought an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit against the college student who was driving the SUV and received a settlement of $3 million.

Many drivers forget that automobiles and motorcycles function very differently and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. While a motorcycle is quick and easy to maneuver through traffic, it is also difficult to see. Whereas while it is hard to avoid seeing an SUV, it does have the disadvantage of being difficult to maneuver.

Prior to the settlement in this Illinois motorcycle accident case, the defense attorneys argued that the motorcyclist was at fault for not keeping a proper lookout of the SUV’s activity. But the obvious retort to this is that the SUV did not keep a proper lookout when he entered the motorcyclist’s lane. When driving it is important to remember to pay attention not only to your own vehicle, but to all of those vehicles around you.

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Illinois remains one of only three states that does not have a motorcycle helmet law; Iowa and New Hampshire are the other two states. The rest of the US states currently have some sort of motorcycle helmet law in place.

Yet the degree of these laws vary from state to state, with some requiring only a limited population of motorcycle riders to wear helmets. For example, over the past ten years Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Texas have all changed their motorcycle helmet laws so that they only apply to younger riders.

However, not all states are going from strict to lenient laws, Louisiana recently moved from a partial to a universal motorcycle helmet law. Currently only 20 states require universal helmet use 100% of the time, while the other 27 states enforce laws covering only some motorcycle riders.

As the helmet laws change researchers are able to obtain data to study the effects of state laws on motorcycle helmet usage and the associated instances of motorcycle deaths and head injuries. While having universal helmet laws reduce death and serious injuries from motorcycle accidents, the same doesn’t hold true for partial helmet laws. This is in part because these partial laws are widely disobeyed. Weakening or repealing motorcycle helmet laws results in a sharp reduction in helmet use, which is then followed by a significant increase in injuries and deaths.

Texas is a perfect example of this trend. Between 1968 and 1977, Texas’s universal helmet was estimated to have saved 650 lives. However, it was later amended to cover only motorcycle riders younger than 18 years-old. That weakening in its law was followed by a 35% increase in motorcycle fatalities.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle fatalities have risen 127% since 1997 and now account for 11% of all motor vehicle deaths annually. In 2006 alone about 88,000 riders were injured.

Speculation about the increase in motorcycle injuries in Illinois and the rest of the county points to increased motorcycle sales, more powerful engines, and more older riders picking motorcycling up as a new hobby. Currently motorcycles account for about 2.4% of all registered vehicles. As a solution, the NHTSA is proposing tougher standards for helmets and more pretesting on motorcycle brakes.

Even though wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of dying in a motorcycle crash by 37%, the majority of riders are either wearing non-compliant helmets or no helmet at all. This is in part because over half of the states do not require motorcycle drivers to wear helmets. But even in the states where FMVSS 218-compliant helmets are required there are problems with counterfeit DOT decals that motorcyclists are placing on non-compliant helmets to fool law enforcement officers.

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An Illinois federal judge upheld a jury verdict for a woman permanently disabled in a motorcycle crash even though her expert witness did not pinpoint the exact cause of the crash. McCloud v. Goodyear Dunlop Tires N. America, Ltd. WL 2323792 (C.D. Ill. June 2, 2008).

Trish McCloud was severely injured in 2002 when the rear tire blew out on her Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. Her expert witness narrowed down the tire defect to three possible manufacturing errors by defendant, Goodyear. Based on his testimony the jury awarded her damages under her Illinois product liability claim.

Goodyear asked for a new trial, in part because it felt that McCloud’s expert had not adequately proved that its product was defective. McCloud’s expert had testified that the blowout was the result of a nylon cord getting embedded in the tire’s innermost layer rather than the layers of rubber, which was where it belonged. This then caused a bubble to form in the sidewall layer of the tire, which eventually burst. Her expert posed three different ways this Illinois product defect could have occurred during the manufacturing process, but did not pinpoint which one specifically was the cause.

In response, Goodyear reasoned that the blowout was the result of the tire being overloaded and under-inflated. It argued that the motorcycle itself was overweight, which would have contributed to this blowout, and further cited inadequate checking of the tire pressure by the owner. Furthermore, the fact that none of its other customers had reported a similar problem was a factor to be considered.

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