Motorcycles account for about two percent of traffic and about ten percent of motor vehicle fatalities. Not surprisingly, the reason for this discrepancy is that motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable road users on Ontario highways. And, because riders aren’t protected by a car or truck body, they are far more likely to sustain fatal or catastrophic injuries in a crash.
In October 2018, a Waterloo minister was critically injured after his motorcycle collided with a minivan near Orangeville, Ontario. The collision caused the rider, Reverend Dale Hoch, a pastor at World Outreach Ministries in Waterloo, to be thrown from his motorcycle and sustain severe injuries to his legs and tragically, the Reverend passed away five weeks after the accident. The collision occurred after the minivan allegedly ran a stop sign and struck the motorcycle.
This catastrophic accident is only one of several serious motorcycle accidents that occurred in Waterloo Region in late 2018. On December 4th, a 53-year-old Cambridge man sustained serious leg injuries after a collision with a car at Coronation Boulevard and Concession Road. Then, on December 21st, another Cambridge man suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle crash involving an SUV at Holiday Inn Drive and Groh Avenue.
Contrary to the popular belief that motorcycle accidents typically occur due to the motorcycle rider’s mistakes or risky behaviour, other drivers are at fault in the majority of motorcycle accidents involving more than one vehicle. In 2017, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported that more than half the victims in motorcycle accidents were hurt or killed due to another driver’s actions or negligence.
A leading cause of motorcycle accidents, where the motorcyclist was not at fault, is the failure of other drivers to watch out for, and detect, motorcycles on the road. In addition to not monitoring for motorcycles, other drivers often misjudge the speed of motorcycles and consequently make errors such as turning into an oncoming motorcycle.
Claiming Compensation for Injuries resulting from a Motorcycle Accident
In any circumstance where another motorist caused the accident, injured motorcycle riders have several options for seeking compensation for losses associated with their injury. A rider injured by a negligent driver may file a personal injury lawsuit against the at fault motorist. And, regardless of who was at fault in the motorcycle accident, an injured rider may seek statutory accident benefits under their ‘no fault’ vehicle insurance coverage. Injured motorcyclists who have long-term disability (LTD) coverage through their employer or another plan may also claim income replacement benefits under their LTD plan.
Sometimes defendants in a personal injury lawsuit deny liability and/or dispute the level of injury and losses that are being claimed by the injured rider. Also, insurance companies sometimes challenge the amount of benefits that are being sought in the statutory accident claim or deny the claim altogether. Similarly, LTD insurers sometimes deny disability claims or terminate benefits before the injured person is actually well enough to return to work. In disputed insurance claims of this nature, a claimant may commence a civil action to force their insurer to pay owed benefits.
In the vast majority of cases, civil actions involving insurance disputes or personal injury lawsuits can be successfully resolved in negotiation, mediation or arbitration. These forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) are less expensive and more expedient than going to trial and an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer will take every effort to have your case successfully resolved in ADR. In a very small percentage of cases, a defendant or insurance company may dig in their heels and refuse to honour a claim for owed compensation. When this occurs, the case must be resolved in court, as in the following two motorcycle accident actions.
Ryan v. Rayner (2015) is a civil action involving a woman who suffered very serious injuries in a motorcycle accident, and three years after the crash, the injured woman (the plaintiff) was deemed to have a catastrophic impairment. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff was required to undergo surgery to have her left leg amputated below the knee and was unable to return to her job at Canada Post. The plaintiff applied for statutory accident benefits for loss of income and cost of future care, but her insurer denied her medical, rehabilitation and attendant care costs. She subsequently filed a civil action against the insurer and the claim was settled in a second pre-trial agreement, with the insurer paying $1 Million which was her policy limit.
Boudreau v. Hiltz (2018) is a personal injury lawsuit against the ‘at fault’ driver in a Chatham motorcycle accident. The motorcycle accident occurred when a car driver made a sudden and unexpected left turn directly in front of a motorcyclist. As a result of the crash, the motorcyclist lost consciousness and ultimately sustained serious and permanent physical injuries and cognitive, neurological, psychological and sensory impairments.
The defendant driver denied responsibility for causing the accident. In Boudreau, the motorcyclist (the plaintiff) sought a summary judgement motion to find the car driver negligent in causing his injuries. The defendant had been ticketed at the scene and had paid a fine for ‘making an unsafe turn’ and on examination of all the circumstances of the accident, the motions judge found the defendant driver negligent and wholly responsible for the accident. The defendant failed to signal his turn; he did not ensure that he could make his turn safely before beginning to turn; he failed to give the plaintiff a reasonable chance to avoid the crash; he did not see the plaintiff’s motorcycle approaching when the plaintiff was clearly there to be seen; and he did not initiate the turn from the appropriate lane. In contrast to the car driver’s actions, the judge concluded that the plaintiff was driving his motorcycle in a safe and prudent manner and had no opportunity to avoid the accident. A trial by jury would follow to determine damages owed to the plaintiff.
If you or a family member were injured in a motorcycle accident and wish to make a claim for personal injury compensation, talk to a knowledgeable motorcycle accident lawyer at Dietrich Law and find out about your legal rights in the matter.
And, let’s all be reminded to actively watch out for motorcyclists, cyclists and other vulnerable road users on our streets and highways.