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Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle collisions create some of the most devastating injuries that humans can suffer.

Legally, motorcycle cases can be difficult because insurance companies almost always blame the motorcyclist.  

They claim that the motorcyclist was speeding, was being inattentive, or was inexperienced.  Insurance companies know that society is prejudiced against motorcycles and that many people think that when a person is injured on a motorcycle, he gets what he deserved by taking the risk.  At Maxwell Graham, P.S., we take a different view.  We have litigated many motorcycle injury cases successfully and will continue to do so.


ACTUAL CASE 1

Graydon H was a young man who worked as a painter. He went to a friend’s house and drank beer all evening and got drunk. After midnight he rode his motorcycle home on NE 75th Street in Seattle. He was aware that he was drunk and was driving carefully and slowly.  Suddenly, a Metro bus pulled out in front of him from a side street. The bus did not stop at a STOP sign and Graydon had to make an emergency decision.  This was a long accordion style bus, and Graydon was heading straight toward the middle of the bus.

Graydon turned his motorcycle sharply and tried to drive onto the sidewalk in front of the bus. He nearly made it, but the bicycle rack on the front of the bus caught his knee and drove his thigh bone into his hip, lacerating his liver. Graydon was rushed to Harborview Medical Center with life threatening injuries.

Metro denied all liability on the ground that Graydon had been drinking. Michael Maxwell filed suit against Metro. Mr. Maxwell took the position that the outcome for Graydon would have been the same if he had been stone cold sober. In other words, Mr. Maxwell claimed that no motorcyclist could have reacted in time to avoid colliding with the bus. Shortly before trial, Metro capitulated and paid Graydon a sum of money. Graydon was able to purchase his own home and start a business buying and refurbishing old homes.

ACTUAL CASE 2

Bryan M was riding his dirt bike on Capital hill in Seattle. A young man pulled out from a gas station in front of Bryan. Bryan did not have time to stop and collided head on with the young man’s SUV. Bryan was knocked unconscious and his arm was badly fractured.

Due to his head injury, Bryan did not have a memory of the events leading up to the collision. However, multiple witnesses claimed that Bryan was standing on his pedals as he rode through the intersection. Based on these witnesses, the insurance company for the young man denied all liability, claiming that Bryan was driving recklessly.

Attorney Michael Maxwell filed a lawsuit on Bryan’s behalf. He produced training videos which showed that some motorcycle training companies teach riders to stand on their pedals as a safety technique. Based on this, the insurance company dropped the claim that Bryan was driving recklessly and settled with Bryan.

ACTUAL CASE 3

Troy T bought a brand new Suzuki and took it for a ride one summer evening near his home in Bothell. He drove to an intersection and waited to turn left at a red light. When the light turned green, Troy followed the SUV in front of him as he completed the left turn. The SUV in front of Troy pulled over to the right side of the road and Troy continued straight.

Little did Troy know that the driver of the SUV intended to make a complete U-turn, and was only turning to his right to begin a long swing to his left. Suddenly, the SUV turned in front of Troy and Troy hit his brakes hard to avoid colliding. Unfortunately, Troy’s body struck the rear of the SUV and Troy’s motorcycle slid more than 30 feet on the pavement.

Troy was rushed by ambulance to Harborview Medical Center with life threatening injuries and multiple bone fractures. He spent several months in rehab and was finally able to regain his ability to walk.

The insurance company for the driver denied all liability. It claimed that Troy was speeding, that Troy was being inattentive, that Troy was inexperience, and that the driver of the SUV had signaled his intention to turn with the turn signals. Attorney Mike Maxwell filed suit on Troy’s behalf and deposed several witnesses to the collision, including the SUV driver and another independent witness. Mike tracked down the Bothell police officer who arrived after the scene and deposed him as well.

Mike then brought a motion for summary judgment, asking the Court to find that the driver was liable for making a dangerous left turn. The insurance company continued to maintain that Troy was at fault. The court found that the driver was liable, but allowed the insurance company to maintain at trial that Troy was also negligent.

Mike then brought a second motion for summary judgment. This time, he asked the court to find that Troy was not negligent, and that there was nothing that Troy could have done to avoid the collision. The court agreed and granted summary judgment in Troy’s favor.

Stripped of its defenses, the insurance company for the SUV driver opted to settle a few days before trial.

ACTUAL CASE 4

Donald T was a military veteran who was driving his Harley eastbound on I-90 over Mercer Island. He was on his way to Seattle where he worked at the Pepsi bottling plant. It was a hot summer day and the Mariners were in town. Traffic was congested and stop and go.

When the SUV in front of Donald came to a sudden stop, Donald tried to stop in time to avoid it. Instead Donald struck the rear of the SUV and blew out the back window of the SUV. Donald's body hit the pavement and his motorcycle slid across several lanes of traffic. Donald was nearly killed on the scene by multiple drivers on I90. He was rushed to Harborview and underwent extensive surgeries to repair broken bones. Unfortunately, due to diabetic complications, his broken leg never healed and was amputated above the knee several months after the collision.

The insurance company for the driver in front of Donald denied all liability. After all, in Washington State, the following driver has the primary duty to avoid a collision. In this case, Donald struck the vehicle in front of him. Many attorneys would have turned Donald’s case down altogether.

Attorney Mike Maxwell investigated Donald’s case and found that the driver that Donald struck was a minor who had been drinking beer earlier in the day. He also found that the minor had struck the vehicle in front of him, and that the driver of the lead vehicle had purchased the beer for the minor.

Mr. Maxwell demanded policy limits from the insurance companies for both vehicles. Based on the use of alcohol, the insurance companies paid policy limits.

ACTUAL CASE 5

John B is a plumber. He was driving his Harley home from breakfast one Sunday morning in Auburn. On the back of his Harley was his girlfriend, Candy. A 16 year old man pulled out from a stop sign and John did not have time to stop. He laid the bike down on the street to avoid colliding broadside with the car driven by the 16 year old. John survived, but he had a painful compression fracture of his vertebrae in his lower back and severe bruising.

As always, the insurance company denied all liability, claiming that John was speeding or not paying attention. Attorney Mike Maxwell filed suit on John’s behalf; John’s girlfriend Candy hired a different attorney.  In Candy’s case, the insurance company claimed that John was at fault, and that Candy should have sued John.

Mike moved for an order on summary judgment in court asking the court to find that the 16 year old was liable. Although the 16 year old’s attorney strongly objected, the court agreed with Mike and granted the motion.

Following this, Candy’s lawyer took Candy’s case to trial. In Candy’s case, the jury found that John was partially at fault. Based on this, the insurance defense lawyer for the 16 year old asked the Court to reconsider its ruling and to find that John was at fault. The Court denied this motion. The insurance defense lawyer then made a request to the court of appeals, and Mike asked the court of appeals to not rule on the matter until after the trial. The court of appeals agreed with this request and decided not to consider the appeal.

John offered to settle his case for policy limits of $100,000. The insurance company denied the demand and told Mike that it would never offer more than $20,000.  Following this, John’s case went to trial. After four days of trial, the insurance company offered policy limits. John decided to accept. The parties accepted and agreed to settle. A minute later, the jury returned it verdict which was substantially less than the $100,000 policy limits. However, John got the benefit of the deal.

ACTUAL CASE 6

John H is a steelworker who lives in Kent, but works in West Seattle. One day he was driving his Harley northbound up Central Avenue in Kent near Carpinito Brothers. A truck carrying bark swerved into John’s lane, which was the inside lane. John switched lanes to the outside lane to avoid the truck. The truck then switched lanes to the outside lane and started to squeeze John in space between the truck and the curb. John lost control of his motorcycle, flew over the handlebars, bounced off a utility pole, and landed on the pavement. He was lucky to be alive with a few broken ribs.

Mike demanded $180,000 from the insurance company for the truck. The insurance company balked, but Mike told it, “not a penny less” and threatened to sue. The insurance company folded and paid John the money in full. No lawsuit was necessary.

A few years later, John H called Mike again and told him that a car had cut him off in traffic again in Kent. Again, John went over his handlebars and this time broke his foot. This time, the insurance company denied liability and Mike sued. The parties settled short of trial for six figures.

ACTUAL CASE 7

Wayne A works for a military contractor near Ft. Lewis.  He was driving his motorcycle home from work eastbound on 20th Street E in Fife, WA.  An enormous tractor trailer was in his lane. Wayne drove to the right of the tractor trailer at an intersection when the tractor trailer swung into the left turn lane.
According to all the witnesses, the tractor trailer had its right turn signals on. With the signals flashing, all the other drivers knew that the tractor trailer intended to turn to the right. They blamed Wayne for driving to the tractor trailer’s right when it was clear that the tractor trailer was about to turn to the right.

The tractor turned right and knocked Wayne off his motorcycle. His leg was severely fractured and repaired at Harborview.

Wayne retained a different attorney to represent him. After investigating the case, that attorney withdrew. That told Wayne that the collision was Wayne’s own fault, and that a lawsuit would be futile. He told Wayne that he should expect to recover nothing.

Attorney Mike Maxwell took the case over and reconstructed the collision. First, he determined that the truck was overweight and should not have been on that road in the first place. Second using scene photographs, Mike determined that the truck was making an illegal turn by swinging wide to the left before turning to his right. He filed suit against the driver of the tractor trailer.

The defense moved to dismiss Wayne’s case on summary judgment; Mike moved to establish liability on summary judgment. The judge denied both motions. The defense then offered to settle, and the case settled at mediation for six figures.

ACTUAL CASE 8

Robert G was an orchard worker in Bridgeport, Washington. He and friends drove motorcycles on a gravel pit owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation.  Robert did not know that the WSDOT had strung a piece of steel cable between two blocks of concrete about a 1/4 mile into the gravel pit entrance road. This cable was impossible to see, and Robert struck it while accelerating to an estimated speed of 40 mph.  He was thrown from the motorcycle and lost consciousness a few minutes later. He died within an hour of internal bleeding from the blow.

Mike Maxwell represented Robert’s Estate in a lawsuit against the State of Washington Department of Transportation for erecting the cable on the road, a dangerous condition without posting warnings.  The State of Washington denied all liability, and tried unsuccessfully to have Robert’s case dismissed on a variety of grounds. After losing all motions to dismiss, the parties prepared for trial. On the eve of trial, the State settled all claims.

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