Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

While some California motorcycle accidents present a situation in which one party is clearly the victim and another clearly at fault, it is common for the parties involved to each be partially at fault. In California, courts apply the “pure comparative fault” method when determining which parties are entitled to recover compensation for their injuries.

Under a pure comparative fault analysis, an accident victim can recover compensation for their injuries even if they are at fault. Additionally, a defendant can only be liable to an accident victim for their own percentage of fault. If the jury determines that the plaintiff was partially at fault, the judge will reduce the plaintiff’s recovery amount by their own percentage of fault.

For example, Driver A and Driver B might be involved in an accident, with Driver A being 40% at fault and Driver B being 60% at fault. If Driver A files a California car accident lawsuit against Driver B, and the damages are determined to be $500,000, Driver A will be awarded $300,000, or $500,000 reduced by 40%.

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One of the most important considerations in any California personal injury case is understanding when the claim must be filed. In a recent case, an appellate court allowed a California motorcycle accident case to proceed to trial despite the defendant’s argument that the claim was filed after the relevant statute of limitations had expired.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff hired an accounting firm to manage her finances. As part of the agreement, the firm was to purchase insurance for the plaintiff and her family. The plaintiff asked the firm to obtain uninsured/underinsured insurance with a $5 million policy limit, but the firm obtained a policy with a limit of only $1.5 million.

The plaintiff’s son was later involved in a motorcycle accident, resulting in his sustaining serious injuries. The plaintiff only then found out that her insurance policy was limited to $1.5 million. After receiving the $1.5 million payout under her insurance policy, the plaintiff sued the accounting firm, alleging that she and her son suffered damages because they could not collect the additional money under the policy that she had requested.

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The temperate climate of California is perfect for motorcycle enthusiasts. In fact, California offers some of the most popular motorcycle routes, including the views from Big Sur along Highway 1. However, each year as more motorcyclists take the road, there is a corresponding increase in California motorcycle accidents.

This is not to say that the accidents are caused by motorcyclists. Indeed, the majority of motorcycle accidents involving more than one vehicle are later determined to be the fault of the other motorist. The causes of motorcycle accidents vary, but distracted driving, drunk driving, and aggressive driving are among the top causes of fatal motorcycle accidents.

When a motorist’s negligence causes a motorcycle accident, the injured motorcyclist may be able to obtain compensation for any injuries sustained in the crash through a personal injury lawsuit. If successful, a plaintiff may be able to recover compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and any pain and suffering caused by the accident.

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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.

The 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 as 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 errand 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 an 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 of 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, and 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.

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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