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$450,000 – Motorcyclist Wins Settlement Against Motor Vehicle Driver with Only $100,000 Insurance Coverage

Plaintiff in this case was a 28-year-old motorcyclist who received severe fractures to his leg and arm when an automobile driven by a doctor pulled out from his office driveway in front of the plaintiff.

The defendant, who was a doctor and owned a large home, had only a $100,000 insurance policy. The insurance company offered the $100,000 policy limits right away; however, a prior law firm and plaintiff refused to accept it and retained the law offices of Winer, Burritt & Scott, LLP.

Unfortunately, for the plaintiff, his leg fractures did not heal particularly well and he required four surgeries. His arm healed without a surgery; however, there was some mild deformity. Since plaintiff was a white collar computer industry worker, the only time missed from work was due to the surgeries. However, he was left with a permanent slight limp.

The defense claimed that the motorcyclist was solely at fault for the accident because there was proof that he was speeding and that moments earlier, he had entered at a yellow light and run a red light. Further, the defense claimed that the driver pulled out of his driveway cautiously but his visibility was obscured by parked cars and trees.

The defense hired a physicist and a photogrammetry expert to recreate the accident in a movie and in still pictures. Based on an 11-second pull out time on the part of the automobile driver, the movie and photographs made it appear that the motorcyclist had all the time in the world to see the car coming out and come to a safe stop hundreds of feet before the pulling out vehicle.

Through cross-examination of the driver, John D. Winer was able to establish that the driver’s actual pull out time was closer to three to four seconds which would have given the motorcyclist no opportunity to stop safely.

When the defense physicist and photogrammetry experts were questioned on their estimates of the 11-second pull out time, they said that they decided to ignore the sworn testimony of the defendant, because it was unreliable, and instead asked him to recreate for them what he had done at the time of the accident. Under this study, he pulled out at about one mile an hour and it took him 11 seconds to reach the point of impact. This testimony sounded inherently unreliable.

The law offices of Winer, Burritt & Scott, LLP, retained their own motorcycle accident reconstruction expert and photogrammetry expert who created an animated computer simulation of the accident based on the driver’s testimony of the four-second pull out. The animation made it clear that the motorcyclist would have had no opportunity to stop in front of the car which, essentially, darted out in front of him.

Plaintiff conducted a focus group with mock jurors from the area and concluded that, despite evidence of the defendant driver’s fault, the “jurors” put a substantial portion of the blame on the plaintiff because he was a motorcyclist and he was an inexperienced motorcyclist.

Based on the $100,000 insurance policy limit and somewhat limited personal assets of the defendant, the case then settled.

RESULT: $450,000 settlement on behalf of the plaintiff

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