Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that may be of interest to New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs. The case illustrates how a defendant may attempt to argue that a plaintiff assumed the risk of injury, potentially defeating the plaintiff’s claim.

Assumption of Risk in New Mexico Personal Injury Cases

In some jurisdictions, a defendant may be able to completely preclude a plaintiff from recovering compensation for their injuries by successfully arguing that the plaintiff assumed the risk of harm in the situation. For example, if an athlete is injured while playing football, it is likely that a court would find that the athlete assumed the risk of injury if he were to file a personal injury lawsuit against the league because it is common knowledge that playing football can result in certain types of sports injuries.

In New Mexico, the assumption of the risk doctrine does not act to completely bar a plaintiff’s lawsuit but instead is factored into the comparative negligence analysis. Under comparative negligence, a plaintiff can recover for their injuries even if they are somewhat at fault for the accident that caused their injuries. However, the plaintiff’s total award amount will be reduced by their own percentage of fault. Therefore, in New Mexico, a jury will be able to consider whether a plaintiff assumed the risk of injury, but it will not preclude the plaintiff’s ability to recover for their injuries, unless the plaintiff is found to be completely at fault.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a motorcycle accident case, discussing the element of causation and the doctrine of intervening cause. Ultimately, the court determined that a third party’s actions acted as an intervening cause, severing the chain of causation set in motion by the defendant’s original allegedly negligent act. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case, finding that he was unable to meet a required element.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding his motorcycle when he rounded a corner and saw a motor home stopped in his lane of traffic. Unable to safely stop in time to avoid the motor home, the plaintiff was injured when he lost control and skidded out.

As it turns out, the motor home was waiting in a traffic jam that had formed in the wake of another accident that had occurred about 90 minutes before. That accident was caused when an allegedly drunk motorcyclist entered into the turn too quickly, lost control of the bike, and drove off the road. That motorcyclist was pronounced dead on the scene. Highway patrol had responded and was in the process of clearing the scene when the plaintiff’s accident occurred.

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The Supreme Court of Mississippi recently released a decision upholding a trial court’s denial of the state transportation commission’s request for sovereign immunity from a wrongful death claim brought on behalf of a motorcyclist who was allegedly killed because of unsafe conditions on a roadway operated by the defendant. The state supreme court ultimately rejected the defendant’s argument that roadway maintenance during construction is a discretionary function, which would protect the state from liability in the event that the negligence of state employees caused unsafe road conditions that resulted in the accident. Based on the high court’s ruling, the family of the deceased motorcyclist may be compensated by the state for their loss.

The Plaintiff Dies after Losing Control of His Motorcycle in a Construction Zone on the Interstate

The case of Adams v. The Mississippi Transportation Commission was filed by the surviving family members of a man who died after he lost control of his motorcycle while changing lanes on the highway. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the accident occurred in a construction zone with an uneven surface between two of the lanes. After the accident, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death complaint and sought damages from the government, alleging that the Transportation Commission was negligent by failing to comply with relevant construction standards, failing to correctly use traffic control devices, failing to place necessary warnings on the roadway, and creating an unreasonably dangerous condition with a reckless disregard for the safety of the public.

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Late last month, a New Mexico man was killed after a motorcycle accident near Ector County. According to news reports, the driver of a Chevrolet was driving south on Loop 338, near Odessa. Evidently, the Chevrolet driver crossed the lanes into oncoming traffic. While crossing into the opposite lane, he slammed into a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

When medical personnel arrived, they immediately declared that the motorcyclist had passed away as a result of his severe injuries. The driver of the Chevrolet was transported to Medical Center Hospital, and as of the most recent report he is he still hospitalized and in serious condition. State Police are still investigating the accident to determine whether any charges should be filed.

Are Criminal Charges in New Mexico Necessary To Succeed on a Civil Suit in New Mexico?

In many situations, a car accident, especially one that results in a fatality, will lead to criminal charges against the culpable party. In some circumstances, the criminal charges are because the culpable party was driving under the influence or acting in a particularly egregious or unlawful manner. However, there are certain situations when no criminal charges are filed or when the alleged wrongdoer was found not guilty of criminal charges by a judge or jury. Although, a criminal charge and conviction makes a civil suit more likely to be successful, it is not a prerequisite.
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Earlier last month, a New Mexico motorcyclist was killed after a UPS truck pulled onto the road in front of him. According to Santa Fe news reports, the motorcyclist was driving south on Rio Arriba County Road when the accident occurred. Apparently, the UPS driver pulled into the road, and the motorcyclist attempted to avoid hitting the truck.

In attempting to avoid an accident, the motorcyclist rode his motorcycle onto a shoulder and over an embankment. However, in doing that, the motorcycle overturned. The motorcyclist was thrown from the motorcycle, and his passenger was also ejected. The passenger was taken to a local hospital, and she remains in stable condition. Unfortunately, the motorcycle driver was declared dead at the scene of the accident. Both parties were wearing helmets when the accident occurred. New Mexico State Police are currently still investigating the crash, but no charges have yet been filed.

Motorcycle Safety in New Mexico
Motorcycle accidents and truck accidents often result in the highest number of fatalities, and when those two vehicles are combined it is highly likely that someone will end up seriously injured or killed. It is important when operating a motorcycle that both the driver and passenger are aware of the rules of the road and specifically safety rules directly related to their motorcycles.
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Earlier last month in a tragic accident in Albuquerque, a man was killed when a drunk driver ran a red light and struck him while he was riding his motorcycle. According to a report by one local news source, the woman had just started to go through court-ordered programs for an aggravated DUI charge she received last year.

Evidently, on the night in question, she blew through a stop sign and crashed into the motorcyclist at near full speed. When police arrived and administered a breath test, she blew a .17, which is more than twice the legal limit for driving under the influence in New Mexico.

Aside from this current offense and her prior DUI, it seems as though these were the woman’s only arrests. Her family told reporters that she had been doing well after her first DUI, and she had just started a new job when she was out celebrating. Apparently, a man punched her in the face while she was out, and she decided to leave as a result. It was on her way home that she hit and killed the motorcyclist.
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A New Mexico man was charged with indecent exposure, leaving the scene of an accident, and failure to wear a seatbelt after an accident that occurred when he fell off a Ford pickup truck near Taos, New Mexico earlier this month. The man was completely naked and standing on top of the truck as it travelled on State Road 522 on June 6. The man apparently fell off the truck, and a motorcycle behind him stopped quickly to avoid running him over. A woman who was in a car behind the motorcyclist was unable to stop in time and rear-ended the motorcycle. Witnesses helped the man into the pickup truck he was riding on, and the driver sped off. Police pulled over the pickup truck a few minutes later and booked both the man who fell and the driver of the truck on various charges. The man was moderately injured and hospitalized, but he was released the following day.

The Laws against “Naked Truck-Surfing”

Not surprisingly, New Mexico does not have a specific criminal provision that forbids someone from riding naked on top of a truck on the highway. The police were still able to charge the man with indecent exposure and failure to wear a seat belt, but his behavior appears too strange to fit cleanly within the criminal code. Any injuries or damage suffered by the other drivers involved will most likely not be addressed by the criminal proceedings against the man, and if the other drivers want to be paid back for the damage that the man’s behavior caused, they will most likely need to file a New Mexico auto accident lawsuit. If the injured victims can show that the man was acting negligently when he decided to ride naked on top of the truck, a civil court will have the ability to order the man to pay the victims to compensate them for their injury.
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Two New Mexico residents were killed last Friday when the motorcycle they were riding on collided with a guard rail around 11:00 PM, and they were ejected from the motorcycle. According to a report by the Taos News, a 56-year-old man from Moreno Valley was driving, and a 32-year-old woman was riding on the back when the bike hit a guard rail near mile marker 27 on New Mexico Highway 434 near Black Lake. Neither rider was wearing a helmet when the accident occurred, and the riders were thrown from the bike at high speed, killing both of them at the scene.

The Increased Danger of Motorcycles
New Mexico motorcycle accidents are often more severe than other types of road accidents. When a motorcycle is involved in a collision with another vehicle, the bike and riders are generally not in a safe position compared to passengers in the other vehicle. Single-bike accidents, like that which occurred last week, are also more likely to cause severe injury or death because riders are often ejected at high speeds. Additionally, motorcycles can lose control more easily when confronted with poor road conditions, and if a rider is not wearing a helmet, the risk of serious injury or death increases even more.

Motorcyclists Need the Best Insurance Coverage that They Can Afford
New Mexico roads are not always safe for motorcyclists, and bikers should have the best insurance coverage available. Motorcyclists should purchase coverage not only for liability and personal injury but also for collisions with uninsured and underinsured drivers. Collision and comprehensive coverage are also available, and obtaining such coverage puts New Mexico motorcyclists in a better position in the event of an accident.
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In a tragic accident last week, a New Mexico man crashed his pick-up truck into a motorcycle, killing the driver and injuring the driver’s 11-year-old daughter. According to a report by the Huffington Post, a witness had called police about the driver twice earlier that day; once for erratic driving and once for fighting with a neighbor. Shortly after the second call to police, witnesses report the man’s truck crossing the center line into oncoming traffic and colliding with a motorcycle. The driver of the motorcycle was pronounced dead at the scene.

In 2006, the man was charged with another fatal DUI and served 6 years in prison as a result. In that accident, the same driver failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with a motorcycle carrying two passengers. One of the drivers was killed and the other was paralyzed. In a remarkable yet tragic coincidence, the victim in the most recent accident was the brother of the judge who sentenced the driver for the first accident.

Motorcycle Accidents in New Mexico

No matter what kind of motorcycle a rider chooses, the reality is that the bike won’t fare well in an accident with a larger vehicle. In fact, each year hundreds of New Mexico residents are injured or killed in motorcycle accidents many of which are due to no fault of the motorcyclist. Motorcycle accidents, like other accidents, can be caused by a number of things, but the most common reason for motorcycle accidents is that the other driver fails to notice the motorcyclist.
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A 39-year-old man recently died following a motorcycle crash on Interstate 25 near Cañoncito. According to a representative from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, Lieutenant Joe McLaughlin, the Los Alamos man was headed north on the roadway when he attempted to pass a four-door Chevrolet on the right near mile marker 294. As he did so, the motorcycle rider reportedly lost control of his bike and struck a guardrail.

Following impact, the man apparently flew off of his motorcycle which then struck the Chevrolet. Despite that he was wearing a safety helmet at the time of the crash, the 39-year-old man was pronounced dead due to massive head injuries at the accident scene. Authorities stated neither the 42-year-old driver of the Chevrolet nor his 43-year-old passenger was hurt in the collision.

The exact cause of the deadly accident is currently under investigation by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators apparently believe alcohol did not play a role in the traffic wreck. McLaughlin stated it appears excessive speed may have contributed to the deadly accident.

Motorcycle crashes in our state are often caused by a motorist’s inattention or simple negligence. Regrettably, the injuries sustained by the victim of a motorcycle collision are generally much more serious than if the same accident had involved the driver of a car or truck. Too many New Mexico motorcycle accidents result in catastrophic injuries and untimely death.

According to the United States Department of Transportation, almost 40,000 deadly motorcycle crashes occur throughout the nation every year. Normally, less than half of those killed in such an accident are wearing a protective safety helmet. In addition, speed reportedly played a role in at least 40 percent of fatal motorcycle collisions nationwide. Because New Mexico is a comparative fault accident state, a motorcycle crash victim may receive damages for his or her accident injuries even if the motorcycle rider was partly responsible for the crash. It is always a good idea to speak with a knowledgeable motorcycle accident attorney following any bike crash in New Mexico.
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