Look at the news coverage for a motorcycle accident and you will often find bias against the motorcyclist. Motorcycle riders get a bad reputation for being reckless, involved in criminal activity, and more. But while this just sounds like a bad media reputation, this bias against bikers can become a critical part of a motorcyclist's ability to pursue an injury claim or lawsuit.
The Effects of Bias on Motorcycle Accident Cases
Society's knee-jerk reaction to a motorcycle is often that the motorcyclist was being reckless and caused his injuries. The truth is, most motorcyclists are responsible riders. It is only a few bad apples that spoil the bunch with modified mufflers and wheelies on public streets.
Historically, juries tend to favor victims in a passenger vehicle over an injured motorcyclist. The insurance companies know this and use that knowledge to underpay settlements on motorcycle accidents. Motorists are also likely to argue that the motorcyclist was engaging in reckless behavior before the accident occurred, predisposing the jury to favor the motorist.
Elements of Bias in Motorcycle Accidents
Bias can come from any number of factors in your motorcycle accident case. While eyewitnesses might be helpful in providing a different perspective of the events leading to your accident, they can often be mistaken about what they think they saw. Some eyewitnesses with an existing bias against bikers might claim you were acting recklessly and caused the accident.
Helmet use is also another extreme source of bias. Some jurors and insurance adjusters equate lack of helmet to reckless behavior. The same goes for bikes modified to make higher levels of noise, or those with any stunt features added.
Finally, there is the rider's reputation. If a rider has a past affiliation with gangs or violent crime, it is more likely that juries will see him as the cause of the accident rather than the victim.
Danny Cevallos, a legal analyst for CNN, reported on a 2013 accident in New York involving an injured biker run over by an SUV after he made a sudden stop.
When this accident occurred, the media jumped on the biker as being reckless because the group he was riding with chased down the fleeing SUV and jumped the driver. The media judgment was apparent before law enforcement made any decisions on who was guilty of what crimes.
In his article, Cevallos states, "Motorbike enthusiasts, on the whole, get a bad rap. A minority of them cause trouble, sometimes a lot of trouble, which causes an underserved prejudice against the majority. And that prejudice can subtly influence law enforcement, just as it can the public at large."
What can motorcyclists do to overcome bias in their injury case?
The best defense is solid evidence based on Washington state law. It starts with knowing your rights and identifying evidence to prove that you were operating your motorcycle within the parameters of the law. Video evidence is extremely helpful, as it gives an unbiased look at how the accident occurred.
A Washington motorcycle accident attorney can help you bring out the truth in your accident claim. Insurance adjusters receive special training to reduce your settlement value by getting you to admit fault for an accident. They often ask leading questions that get you to unintentionally admit to contributing to the accident. Before you talk to the insurance company, talk to an attorney.
Do not count on eyewitness statements or police reports to give an accurate account of the accident. You might need special evidence such as character witnesses to prove you are a responsible and safe motorcycle operator. Your attorney will advise you on the best course of legal action for your case and negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf.
Max Meyers Law PLLC is a Seattle-based law firm that focuses on helping motorcyclists seek justice after another negligent party causes an accident. Do not let the bias against motorcyclists in accidents ruin your chances for compensation. Our legal team will help you develop a solid case based on facts and evidence that the insurance company or jury cannot discredit.
Contact us to set up a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your right to recovery after a motorcycle accident: 425-399-7000.