Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

dump truckIn a recent unpublished North Carolina appellate decision, the plaintiff appealed the dismissal of an insurer in his motorcycle accident case. The case arose while he was operating the motorcycle on a state road, and a large truck going too fast around a curve in the road swerved and dumped gravel around him. The spray of debris hit the plaintiff, who lost control of the vehicle and crashed it. The truck didn’t stop, and they couldn’t identify either the driver or the truck’s owner. The plaintiff was injured.

At the time of the accident, the motorcyclist was insured under an automobile policy with Progressive and another one with USAA General. He sued both insurers, seeking uninsured motorist coverage. The claims were denied. Progressive claimed that uninsured motorist coverage wasn’t triggered because there was no physical contact between the plaintiff and the uninsured vehicle or the dump truck and the plaintiff. The insurer claimed that the object that hit the plaintiff had to be part of the equipment on the hit and run vehicle in order for uninsured motorist coverage to be triggered.

The plaintiff sued Progressive and USAA General, asserting numerous claims, including breach of contract and bad faith. He submitted an eyewitness’ affidavit, stating that she saw the debris from the dump truck make direct contact with the plaintiff and his motorcycle, which would other wise not have crashed. She also stated that it appeared there was nothing the plaintiff could have done to avoid the accident.

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motorcycleHow an underinsured motorist policy provision is interpreted can make a big difference to how much compensation is recovered in an accident in which a North Carolina driver’s insurance doesn’t cover all of an accident victim’s damages. In the unpublished opinion of Integon National Insurance Company v. King, a North Carolina Court of Appeals considered underinsured insurance coverage for a motorcycle accident case. The insurance company asked the court to declare it had no duty or obligation to two deceased people’s estates beyond its underinsured motorist limits of $100,000, minus what these claimants received from the at-fault driver and her insurer.

The accident arose when an insured motorcyclist (King) drove his Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a passenger (Turner). A driver (Skipper) with three passengers lost control of her car and hit the motorcycle, killing the motorcyclist and passenger. When the accident happened, the insurance company insured the car through an automobile liability insurance policy with limits of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident. The insurer distributed the $60,000 among the three passengers in the car as well as the estates of the decedents, King and Turner. This exhausted coverage.

The insurance company also insured King through a motorcycle insurance policy that included underinsured motorist coverage with maximum limits for bodily injury of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Under the policy, the insurer paid the King and Turner estates $82,072 in underinsured motorist benefits. Each estate got $100,000 for the Skipper and King policies, based on the per person limit.

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motorcycleIn some motorcycle accident cases in North Carolina, intervening negligence by the plaintiff becomes an issue. An intervening negligent act is a new legal cause that breaks the connection between the injuries and the original cause, and therefore it becomes solely responsible for the injuries.

In Pope v. Bridge Broom, Inc., a North Carolina appellate court considered a wrongful death case involving a motorcycle accident. The decedent had been riding a motorcycle with her husband in Charlotte. The defendant was street sweeping, using four vehicles driving southbound. The defendant’s employee drove a pickup truck at the tail end of the street sweeper, which was supposed to absorb a rear-end impact. There was a warning sign on the truck. The truck was completely in the left land of travel.

The decedent and her husband were riding in clear weather. The driver of a van came up to the street sweeping operation and came to a total stop behind the pickup. He signaled and moved to the center lane. Another driver hit the brakes to let him move over. The husband of the decedent came up in the left lane on his motorcycle, and the husband believed he had to move over to avoid the defendant’s truck, which was just finishing up its street sweeping. When he moved, he braked, but the motorcycle slid for 195 feet and fell over. The decedent was thrown from the motorcycle and died.

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mopedIn North Carolina, a plaintiff’s right to recover compensation in a personal injury or wrongful death action is barred upon a finding of contributory negligence. This means that the jury will look at whether a plaintiff’s own negligence or breach of duty was a contributing factor to an accident that causes his injuries or death.

Scheffer v. Dalton is a North Carolina wrongful death case. The plaintiff in the case was the administrator of Jeremy Talbot Scheffer’s estate, who sued the defendant, claiming the defendant’s negligence caused the wrongful death of Jeremy Talbot Scheffer. The defendant answered that Scheffer’s own negligence contributed to the accident, barring recovery. The plaintiff’s reply claimed that the other driver had the last clear chance to keep from hurting the man who was killed.

Scheffer drove a moped and worked at a bike shop. One day in 2010, he left the bike shop on his moped. The original headlight on the moped had broken, and the decedent had installed a bicycle light in its place. He often charged the light’s batteries at his place of employment, but there was no evidence as to whether he did this that day.

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busIn some cases, an employer can be held responsible for an employee’s negligence in a motor vehicle accident case. Lewis v. Morgan involved a charter bus company run by a husband and wife. The company employed four drivers, and occasionally the husband drove buses too. Some drivers had keys to the gate where buses were parked. If a driver who didn’t have a key needed a bus in the morning, it was the husband’s responsibility to unlock the gate so that the driver could get the bus for work.

In 2011, one of the company’s drivers called the husband and wife and asked for the gate to be opened so that he could pick people up at their hotels and drive them to the offices of a business with which the company had a contract. The following morning, the husband drove over to open the gate for the driver. However, as he turned left, he hit the plaintiff, who was riding his motorcycle the opposite way. The plaintiff was seriously injured, and the husband was cited for failure to yield.

The plaintiff sued the husband, the charter bus company, and another company owned by the couple. He claimed that the husband’s negligent driving injured him and that the charter bus company should be vicariously liable for his injuries. He also argued that the corporate veil between the charter bus company and the other company owned by the couple should be pierced. The husband’s attorney denied fault in his answer, but at deposition, the husband admitted liability.

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