A California motorcyclist received a favorable jury verdict recently, as reported by juryverdictalert.com
, in his claim for damages arising from the negligence of another driver whose inattentive and abrupt lane change triggered a chain reaction of evasive maneuvers that ended with the motorcyclist’s bike landing on top of him. The verdict in this case is illustrative of the importance of making wise choices in accepting or refusing statutory offers of compromise, as well as a reminder that a change in California’s vehicle laws may make cases like this motorcyclist’s even more valuable in the future.
The accident that spawned this case took place in afternoon “rush hour” traffic along Interstate 5. S.N. was driving his motorcycle in the furthest left northbound lane when, according to the motorcyclist, the driver in the second-to-left lane, Z.B., swerved her Lexus vehicle into the first lane. S.N. claimed that Z.B. made the move suddenly and without giving a signal. Another motorcyclist, who was driving between the first and second lanes, took evasive action to miss Z.B. but swerved into S.N.’s path. S.N. tried to brake but, in the process, flipped his bike, which landed on top of him. He suffered injuries to his right wrist, right elbow, and right shoulder, along with both knees.
The motorcyclist sued the driver, accusing her of negligence. S.N. asserted that Z.B.’s abrupt lane change was the result of her inattentive driving. Z.B., in her defense, accused S.N. of driving too fast, following too closely, and improper “lane splitting.”
Prior to trial, each side submitted Section 998 offers to the opposing party. Statutory compromise offers are an important part of the process because, if you decline a defendant’s 998 offer and receive a judgment that is less than the defense’s 998 offer amount, you may lose your entitlement to collect certain fees and costs, as well as become liable for paying some of the defense’s fees and costs. S.N.’s Section 998 settlement amount was $1.499 million, although the motorcyclist later extended a settlement offer of $1.2 million before trial. Z.B.’s Section 998 offer, made at the time of trial, was $941,000. Neither side accepted the opponent’s offer, and the case went to trial.
In this case, the jury verdict was far in excess of even the offers S.N. extended to Z.B.. Even though the jury found S.N. 13 percent at fault under the principles of comparative negligence, he still received a net total award in excess of $3.1 million. His gross award included almost $500,000 in past medical expenses and lost earnings. His future lost earnings and medical expenses award totaled more than $1.375 million. The largest portion of the award was non-economic damages, which is an umbrella term that includes pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium, among other things. The jury awarded him $1.9 million in non-economic damages.
One of the important things to note about this is case is that, for motorcyclists who are injured in the future under circumstances similar to S.N.’s, the potential for recovery may be even greater than what this motorcyclist obtained. California recently enacted a new law that makes the practice by motorcyclists of “lane splitting,” or driving alongside other motorcyclists or other vehicles, legal as long as the motorcyclist is following all existing safety rules. Had S.N.’s injury occurred at a time when lane-splitting was legal, the jury might have found that his comparative negligence was even less. In his case, S.N.’s 13 percent comparative negligence reduced his net award from around $3.7 million to $3.1 million.
If you’ve been injured while riding your motorcycle due to the negligence of another driver, your injuries may be substantial and your need for compensation great. The San Mateo motorcycle accident
attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos have many years of experience helping motorcyclists injured in accidents seek a fair recovery for the harm they suffered. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.
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California Family Recovers $23M from City for Dangerous Intersection that Led to Fatal Crash
, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published Oct. 5, 2016