Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

When someone is injured while playing sports or engaging in another recreational activity, the injured party may be able to seek financial compensation for their injuries against the responsible parties through a California personal injury lawsuit. However, the doctrine of assumption of the risk can act to bar some plaintiffs’ lawsuits when the activity at issue is inherently dangerous and comes with well-known risks.

Sand DunesThe idea behind the assumption of the risk doctrine is that plaintiffs are in the best position to avoid known risks associated with certain activities. If a plaintiff choses to disregard a known risk and engage in the activity nonetheless, courts will not hold a defendant liable when a plaintiff is injured due to the presence of a known risk. However, there are exceptions to the assumption of the risk doctrine, one of which is when the defendant creates an additional risk that is not normally present when engaging in the recreational activity.

A recent California personal injury case illustrates one plaintiff’s attempt to establish an exception to the general assumption of the risk rule. While the plaintiff was unsuccessful in convincing the court, the case is important in understanding the assumption of the risk doctrine.

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In a recent decision, the California Court of Appeal upheld a judgment in favor of the defendants after the plaintiff alleged that their negligence had caused his injuries, but he failed to meet his burden of proof.  After suffering injuries while participating in a class on motorcycle basic rider training offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the plaintiff brought a lawsuit for negligence against another participant, as well amotorcycle accidents the Foundation.  The appellate court reviewed the evidence supporting the lower court’s decision to grant the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in this California motorcycle accident case.

The facts indicate that the plaintiff had signed a form, titled “Waiver and Indemnification,” for the course.  His complaint against the defendants alleged negligence, gross negligence, and negligent training and supervision.  The defendants moved for summary judgment and asserted the waiver the plaintiff signed barred his causes of action.

The plaintiff contended that his gross negligence cause of action remained, and he also contended the waiver was not enforceable because of fraud.  The trial court agreed that the plaintiff had not shown evidence of gross negligence and had not demonstrated the waiver should be void. The plaintiff appealed.

In a recent opinion, the California Court of Appeals held it was a question of fact for the jury as to whether an employee was on a business errand while commuting, and as a result, whether the employer could be liable for injuries to a motorcyclist struck by the employee in a collision.  The general rule, set forth by the court, is that employees are not within the course and scope of employment while traveling to their workplace. However, California law holds that if an employee is commuting and on an erconstruction siterand for their employer, their conduct falls under the scope of employment.

In this case, a construction company, the defendant, paid an employee for the hours he worked at a job site. The company expected the employee to commute to the company “yard” and drive a company truck to the job site, along with coworkers and materials.  While driving from his house to the yard, the employee struck a motorcyclist, who then sued the company.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant company on the basis that the employee had been commuting to “work” and was not acting within the scope of employment. But the issue framed by the appellate court was whether the “workplace” was the yard or the job site. If it was the job site, the employee had been on a business errand that benefited the employer.

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An unpublished opinion issued by a California Appellate Court addressed issues concerning confidentiality and privileged statements made by accident victims to their own insurance companies. Generally, a recorded statement made to the policyholder’s automobile insurance company following anmotorcycle accident is protected under the attorney-client privilege and cannot be used in trial.  In this case, after the jury awarded the plaintiff damages for the defendant’s negligence in causing the collision, the defendant argued that the statement should have been admitted to court.

Before trial, the plaintiff made a statement to his own insurance carrier concerning the accident.  The trial court determined that this statement had been protected by the attorney-client privilege, and this privilege was not waived. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

The defendant appealed, arguing the trial court erred when they excluded the plaintiff’s statement to his insurer.  The appellate court looked at whether the defendant’s arguments and the statement were properly before the court for consideration.  They also analyzed the facts as they relate to laws concerning privilege and trial court error.

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Following a fatal head-on motorcycle accident on State Highway 33, surviving family members of the deceased brought a wrongful death action.  A jury determined that the State of California and the operator ofmotorcycle accident liability the other motorcycle had been at fault for the accident. Specifically, the State was deemed liable for a dangerous condition on the highway, and the victim’s family was awarded $12,690,000 in damages.

After deliberation, Juror No. 2 stated to the trial court that Juror No. 7 had not been deliberating, and a second Juror had stated this to be true as well. The trial court excused Juror No. 7 and seated an alternate. The issue in this case, on appeal, was whether the evidence supported a showing by “demonstrable reality” that the dismissed juror was unable to perform her duty.

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The issue of whether a taxi driver was an agent or an employee of a defendant taxi company recently came before the California Court of Appeal.  Following a motorcycle crash, the plaintiff in this case had filed a personal injury claim against the taxi driver who crashed into him and the company for which he worked.  The trial court had found that the evidence did not support the jury’s finding that the driver was an agent of the taxi company, anmotorcycle collisiond it granted a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV).  The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the evidence did show agency and supported the verdict.  On appeal, the court held that public regulations could be used to determine principal-agent relations, when those regulations require the taxi company to exert control.

While riding his motorcycle through West Hollywood, the plaintiff had been struck by the defendant’s taxi, coming from an opposite direction, which turned left in front of the plaintiff. The defendant driver opened his taxi and set his own hours. He had a contract with the defendant taxi company, and it stated he was an independent contractor.

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In an unpublished opinion, the California Court of Appeal recently held that the County of Los Angeles was immune from liability following a motorcycle collision in Big Tujunga Canyon Road in Angeles National Forest.  After suffering serious injuries, the injured plaintiff brought claims of a dangerous condition of public property as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The County invoked both design and sign immunity, arguing that they could not be found legally responsible in the lawsuit.  On appeal, the court reviewed the evidence in support of these immunities and affirmed the holding in favor of the County after reviewing.

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The facts of this lawsuit demonstrated that Karim Kamal had been riding his motorcycle eastbound on Big Tujunga Canyon Road, in Angeles National Forest, and was struck by Samuel Morales, on his own motorcycle, as Mr. Morales crossed the dividing line and entered Mr. Kamal’s traffic lane in an effort to pass another vehicle. The collision resulted in permanent, serious injuries to Mr. Kamal, and the cause of the collision was deemed to be Mr. Morales’ speed, in violation of the Vehicle Code.

Mr. Kamal filed a complaint against Mr. Morales, the County of Los Angeles, and the State of California for a dangerous condition of public property, negligence in maintaining a roadway without signs, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The County moved for summary judgment based on both design and sign immunity and the fact that Big Tujunga Canyon Road did not constitute a dangerous condition of public property under Government Code Section 835. Mr. Kamal opposed the motion, and it was ultimately granted in favor of the County.

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In a motorcycle accident case, Christina Elliott appealed the dismissal of her lawsuit against Geico Indemnity Company. Mrs. Elliott’s husband was struck and killed by the defendant, who had been driving while intoxicated. While Mrs. Elliott recovered damages from the defendant’s insurer and the restaurant owner’s insurer, she sought additional damages under Geico’s underinsured/uninsured motorist policy.   At issue was whether Geico was required to pay Mrs. Elliott, under the underinsured motorist liability coverage of her policy, in addition to the recovery she had already obtained from the defendant’s insurer and the restaurant owner’s insurer.

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The facts demonstrated that the defendant, Lesa Shaffer, was returning home from her job at a restaurant and bar in Nevada City. She had been drinking, and her truck crossed the center line and entered the deceased’s lane of travel. His motorcycle was struck by Ms. Shaffer’s vehicle, and he died.

Ms. Shaffer’s insurer paid $15,000, and the restaurant owner’s general liability insurer paid $250,000 to Mrs. Elliott, after the settlement of a wrongful death action brought against Ms. Shaffer and the restaurant owner. Mrs. Elliot then submitted an insurance claim to Geico for $85,000, which is the underinsured motorist coverage limit minus the $15,000 recovered from Ms. Shaffer’s insurance company.

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motorcycle-763804-mThe California Court of Appeals recently rendered a decision in a case, Kaiser v. Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, Cal. Ct. App. (2015), that dealt with an appeal from a case involving a fatal motorcycle collision.

The plaintiff’s husband was involved in a motorcycle accident following an event that thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts attended at the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, which is located in an unincorporated area of Monterey County.

Directly after the event, the plaintiff’s husband was struck by several motorcycles that had collided and slid into his lane. The plaintiff’s husband reportedly overturned and struck the ground several times before coming to rest in a field. The decedent was pronounced dead at the scene.

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chippings-960867-mIn a  recent California Court of Appeals decision, Trapasso v. Romero, Cal. Ct. App. (2014), the court had to rule on the issue of alleged jury misconduct according to allegations the plaintiff made that jurors engaged in misconduct by making calculations related to potential speed as related to a motorcycle and truck accident.

In the case, several motorcyclists were attempting to pass a truck that was pulling a trailer at a low rate of speed, when one of the motorcyclists collided with the vehicle as it turned left.

At trial, the main sources of contention were how fast the motorcyclists were travelling, in what formation, and whether the truck had used its turn signal prior to beginning its turn. There was conflicting expert witness testimony regarding the speed allegations, and conflicting witness testimony was presented regarding the truck’s use of a left hand turn signal and the speed of the motorcyclists.

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