A motorcycle rider was northbound on Washington Boulevard in Ogden when an SUV entered the same northbound lane from a parking lot. The motorcycle and the SUV crashed killing the motorcycle rider. The motorcycle crash occurred on May 24, 2013, Friday night about 9:00 pm. The motorcycle rider killed in the crash was 24-year-old Deyne Stocker.
The Deseret News reported that the motorcycle was traveling “… at speeds exceeding the posted limit of 40 mph” according to Lt. Cragun of the Ogden Police Department.
I do not know whether the crash investigation had been completed when Lt. Cragun made his comment or whether his comment was based on reports of bystanders at the scene.
Oftentimes bystanders overestimate the speed of motorcycles. The reasons bystanders overestimate speed is because of the noise a motorcycle makes when accelerating. Furthermore motorcycles sometimes speed to get out of blind spots and get into a position to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Simply stating or seeing the motorcycle speeding sometime before the crash does not mean the motorcycle was speeding at the time of the crash. Motorcycles speed up quickly and slow down quickly. What needs to be investigated in this particular Ogden motorcycle crash is whether the motorcycle was in fact speeding at the time of the crash.
I have litigated and tried cases to a jury in Utah where the speed of the motorcycle was in question. Crash scene investigators and accident scene reconstruction experts are used to determine speed of vehicles at the time of the crash. Factors include braking (one or two wheel braking), the weight of the motorcycle and rider(s), skid marks, and the surface on which the motorcycle is traveling. All of this information is necessary to determine speed of the motorcycle at the time of the crash.
Speed is critical in determining liability when involved in a motorcycle crash. Motorcycles are difficult to see at the best of times and if the motorcycle is speeding it deceases the time the vehicle driver has to react. Furthermore, studies show that smaller objects (motorcycles) appear to be moving slower than larger objects (cars). I believe that if any evidence exists showing the motorcycle was speeding most Utah jurors will give the benefit of the doubt to the vehicle driver. The argument goes something like, “If the motorcycle was not speeding there would have been more time for the driver to see the motorcycle and the crash avoided.” Of course this assumption is false because conspicuity is not assured. Even a few mph over the limit may severely work to the detriment of the motorcycle rider when trying to prove liability.
There is a lot of bias in Utah against motorcycle riders. The jury will probably be composed of people that do not ride motorcycles and carry that bias into the jury box. Most people when asked if most motorcyclists speed, if honest, will answer “yes.” Furthermore, most vehicle drivers (and jurors) have been in a situation where they have seen motorcycles speeding. Whether this bias is admitted or not it is still a bias and needs to be addressed before picking a jury for your motorcycle case in Utah.
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