Overcoming Juror Bias in New York City Motorcycle Accident Cases
When presenting a New York City motorcycle accident case, it’s often challenging for lawyers to persuade jurors to put aside all their negative opinions about motorcyclists. All too often, jurors assume that most motorcyclists carelessly ignore traffic laws, enjoy speeding and often weave in and out of traffic with little or no regard for other people’s safety.
The truth is that only a small percentage of motorcyclists ride in a foolish manner – as we often see in TV shows and movies. Most motorcycle riders aren’t unruly gang members who disregard traffic laws and enjoy suddenly pulling up in the blind spots of nearby motorists. In fact, many of these riders are heading to work and want to arrive safe and sound like everyone else who may be traveling in cars and trucks.
Furthermore, many people ride motorcycles because they can’t afford to drive cars. They shouldn’t be discriminated against when accidents occur simply because they’re trying to minimize their transportation expenses while providing for their families. There are also many older riders who just enjoy taking a spin on their bikes with friends on weekends.
What facts should be presented to help jurors view motorcycle accident victims fairly?
During trials, lawyers representing motorcyclists who’ve suffered serious injuries after being hit by cars or trucks should carefully and methodically present some of the following types of evidence that may be available in their cases.
- Factual evidence that combats negative stereotypes. This may include diagrams and blow-ups of photos that clearly indicate how the accident unfolded. Careful measurements should be presented – making it very clear to jurors that the motorcyclist was riding exactly where s/he should have been on the road or freeway. Also, it can be very useful to present photographs of where each vehicle or motorcycle wound up immediately following the accident. Photos of the motorcyclist’s injuries are also useful, along with copies of all medical records and tests run immediately after the accident;
- Clear evidence of skid marks. These can help indicate that the motorcyclist tried to avoid the collision;
- Video evidence from building surveillance systems in the area. Such videos may be available from multiple sources – providing clear proof that a vehicle may have wrongfully turned in front of the motorcyclist – or failed to provide adequate notice of an upcoming turn;
- Witness testimony. Individuals can confirm such facts as the motorcyclist was driving at the proper speed, was wearing a helmet – and came to a full stop before entering the intersection after a light changed;
- Official copies of police reports and wrecking companies. These may contain additional diagrams of the accidents and witness statements. The wrecking company records may indicate the exact condition of the motorcycle or vehicles when towed away – often indicating which vehicle or motorcycle parts fell off or were otherwise demolished due to the crash. Police evidence may include results of any alcohol breathalyzer or blood alcohol tests run on the drivers at the scene or immediately afterwards at a hospital;
- Copies of all police photographs of the accident scene. While these may not always be taken — if they’re available — they can help fully support the evidence presented by the plaintiff motorcyclist’s accident investigator.
Pre-trial motions, jury instructions, careful handling of voir dire and other measures
When an insurance company has fought hard to avoid settling a case involving an injured motorcyclist, the plaintiff’s lawyer can still rely on various pretrial tactics and lawful trial maneuvers to present a winning case.
- Special pretrial motions can be filed. Each case’s circumstances will determine the precise nature of these types of motions. For example, the plaintiff’s attorney may want to ask the court to exclude certain evidence that may prejudicially favor the vehicle driver at the motorcyclist’s expense. This evidence might include facts concerning the motorcyclist’s membership in a riding organization, the decibel or noise level of the motorcycle while being ridden, presence of any tattoos on the body of the motorcyclist and any other evidence that’s more likely to prejudice the jurors – without offering any strong probative value for properly resolving the case;
- Special types of evidence can be introduced. In some cases, it may be possible for the injured motorcyclist’s attorney to present evidence that the rider had never previously received any traffic tickets for riding illegally – and has never been involved in any prior accidents. Also, proof of recently completing a motorcycle safety training or defensive driving course might also be provided to the court;
- Careful handling of voir dire. All plaintiffs must depend upon their lawyers to carefully present questions to potential jurors that can help reveal any of their current biases against motorcycle riders. Questions may include inquiries into whether any family members ride a motorcycle — or if the individual has ever been involved in an accident with a motorcyclist;
- The motorcyclist’s lawyer can present the court with carefully crafted jury instructions. In certain instances, when approved by the court, these can help prevent jurors from making current decisions based on past prejudices against motorcycle riders. These instructions may also help jurors better understand how specific types of comparative negligence standards must be applied to the facts of the case at hand.
If you’ve been seriously injured in a New York motorcycle accident, you need to contact your New York City motorcycle accident attorney for immediate legal advice. Our lengthy experience in handling such cases makes it possible for us to win the maximum amount of compensation available under the law. We always seek to fully recover for all your pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses and all other valid, accident – related losses or expenses.