Motorcycle collisions -- "left-turn-in-front-of" collisions and injuries caused by a car or truck failing to yield the right-of-way to a motorcyclist.
Unfortunately, I was going to the public library yesterday morning in a small but busy town near my home, and as I traveled down the main street, I saw the flashing red and blue lights of multiple emergency vehicles and police cars at the intersection where I would turn right into the library. Across the street at the intersection was a donut shop. As I approached, I saw a huge, beautiful Harley-Davidson loaded on a flatbed wrecker, its entire front wheel and fork assembly ripped off and dropped on the flatbed next to the cycle. Adjacent to the wrecker and the police cars was a small sedan, front end destroyed, its hood up, over the curb and pointing in the direction of the donut shop. There were fluids all over the road.
It was a beautiful spring Saturday morning. One of the first we’ve had here after a rough winter. I sized up the scene immediately … I’ve handled so many of these kinds of motorcycle injury cases.
The sedan had to have been making a left turn across the opposite lane in the intersection, heading onto the street adjacent to the donut shop. In doing so, the driver of the car likely crossed directly in front of the motorcyclist, who would have had the right-of-way going straight on that beautiful morning, probably just on a “short ride around the neighborhood” to check his cycle out on the first warm spring Saturday. I saw no skid marks, and there was a long straight scrape in the pavement in the lane where the motorcycle likely went down.
The impact had to have been tremendous to tear the front fork assembly clean off the Harley. The ambulances were gone.
I talked to a person in the library who said there had been a “number” of people on the ground being treated by medical personnel. I later spoke to a someone else in the donut shop who said the operator of the sedan was a young girl allegedly looking at her cell phone at the time of the collision. He said the motorcyclist was screaming in pain on the ground after the collision.
It is a classic motorcycle collision scenario. So many motorcyclists are severely injured or killed in these “crossover” collisions at intersections or adjacent to parking lot entrances. The driver of the car or truck making that left turn is, in almost every instance, liable as a matter of law in New York for causing the collision and the motorcyclist’s injuries or death.
Here’s a classic version of that scenario, from a New York State Supreme Court decision directly on point, Marafioti v. Risman, 2008 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 8521 (N.Y.S. Sup. Ct., Nassau Co., 2008). The injured plaintiff in that case was operating his Yamaha motorcycle going straight and with the right-of-way when a Toyota sedan made a left turn from the opposite lane, directly across the Yamaha’s path of travel. The Court found for the injured motorcyclist, stating as follows:
This Court has reviewed and considered all of the papers submitted by all of the parties on this motion. The plaintiff has demonstrated a prima facie entitlement to summary judgment, as a matter of law, by establishing the defendant violated [New York] Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1141 when the defendant made a left turn directly into the path of the plaintiff's motorcycle as the plaintiff legally proceeded into the intersection with the right-of-way. In addition, the defendant admitted never seeing the plaintiff nor the motorcycle prior to making that left turn.” [Emphasis added.]
Everyone lost something precious yesterday.
If you are a motorcycle rider, and this ever happens to you or someone you know, call me immediately. I’ve handled many of these unfortunate collisions, and I know just what to do on behalf of the injured cyclist.