Motorcycle Crashes Involving a Lay-Down by the Biker

Motorcycle Crashes Involving a Lay-Down by the BikerIt is common for a motorcycle crash not to involve a direct or major impact between the bike and another vehicle. Instead, the motorcyclist seeks to avoid a potential collision by laying the bike down. As a result, the impact is avoided or the severity of it is reduced, but the motorcyclist and the motorcycle's passenger will still receive injuries or maybe suffer loss of life.

Does a motorcyclist who lays down the bike have any legal rights to recover for injuries suffered in the accident? Tennessee law says that if a person is suddenly subjected to a risk of harm not of his or her own making, the response to that risk need only be a reasonable response under the sudden emergency. Thus, a motorcyclist presented with a sudden emergency and who decides to lay down the bike rather than collide with another object may still have a claim against the person who created the sudden emergency.

Assume a relatively inexperienced motorcyclist is driving on a narrow country road one Saturday morning and fiddling with the bike's radio. He takes his eyes off the road to try to find the song he wants to listen to and is distracted for 2 or 3 seconds while traveling 60 miles an hour in a 45 mile per hour zone. If he had been paying attention he would have seen a car broken down alongside of the road ahead. When he finally looks up he sees the driver's side door has been opened and the driver starts to get out of the vehicle. He fears he will hit the car driver or the door and lays his bike down. Can the motorcyclist maintain a suit against the driver of the car?

Perhaps, but the lawsuit will be complicated by the fact that the motorcyclist was distracted by the radio and his speed. The driver of the stalled vehicle should not have opened his car door on a narrow road without making sure it was safe to do so, but there will be a big fight over whether the "sudden emergency" presented by the open door should have been seen earlier by the motorcyclist and, if he had seen it earlier, whether it would have been necessary to lay the bike down to avoid a potential crash. In other words, while the car driver was negligent, there will be a significant disagreement over whether the so-called "sudden emergency” was caused by the motorcyclist's inattentiveness and speed.

On the other hand, assume that a motorcyclist is exercising reasonable care when, all of a sudden, a car pulls out from a side street less than 100 feet in front of the motorcyclist and turns right at a slow speed into the motorcyclist's lane. The motorcyclist, traveling 45 miles per hour in a 50 mile per hour zone, is well familiar with the area because she rides in the area frequently. She knows there is a rock cropping along the right side of the road. She sees a semi-truck in the on-coming lane less than 50 feet away. Given no realistic alternative, and knowing she probably cannot stop without slamming into the rear of the car, she decides to lay the bike down in her lane. She has a much stronger case for holding the driver of the car responsible than does the motorcyclist in the first scenario.

The bottom line is this: the mere fact that a biker lays down the motorcycle to avoid a collision does not mean that the biker has no rights. For more than 30 years, at the Law Offices of John Day, our award-winning lawyers have helped motorcyclists understand their legal rights in these situations. This is why we never charge for an initial consultation.  We understand folks do not want to pay to talk to a lawyer just to learn that they do not have a good case.  If we think you have a case and you decide to hire us, we handle all motorcycle accident cases on a contingent fee basis which means we only get paid if we recover money for you.  And because we advance all case expenses, you are never out of pocket any money to pursue your motorcycle accident case.  Contact us online or call us anytime of day at one of our three convenient Middle Tennessee locations.  While our offices are in Middle Tennessee, we represent motorcycle accident victims across the State of Tennessee.

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