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Summer’s Here and the Time is Right for Injuries

Our sincerest apologies to the Motown group Martha and the Vandellas for expropriating their song title. Producers initially pitched this song to Marvin Gaye as a soulful ballad. But he immediately and correctly thought the song would be a better dance number. In the early 1960s, Martha and the Vandellas recorded the song, which became a Billboard Top 10 hit and a Civil Rights anthem, in only two takes. Several other artists, most famously the Rolling Stones, covered the song.

Summer is not just the time for dancin’ in the streets. It is also time for walkin’, bikin’, and ridin’ in the streets. That is especially true in places like Ohio, where it is too cold to do these things in the winter. The motorcycle crash rate, for example, usually increases significantly during the summer and early fall months. As outlined below, these and other wrecks cause many serious injuries that, at least to some extent, are usually permanent.

The immediate medical bills related to a serious injury accident often exceed $40,000. The long-term medical costs could be almost as high. A Hamilton personal injury lawyer obtains compensation for these expenses. Lawyers also obtain compensation for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, so injury victims can move on with their lives.

Motorcycle Crashes

Very few motorcycles are on the road during cold months. Therefore, during warm months, drivers are not looking out for motorcyclists. Additionally, many drivers are not too happy that they have to share the road with motorcycles. The combination often leads to deadly crashes.

What Causes Motorcycle Wrecks?

Driver inattention, in one form or another, causes most motorcycle wrecks. Left-turn wrecks, which account for about a third of motorcycle collisions, are a good example.

When traffic is heavy or environmental conditions are poor, small, and slow (or at least relatively slow) motorcycles are hard to see. Many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who hit motorcycles say something like, “You came out of nowhere” or “I never saw you.” Somehow, they believe these statements excuse their negligence. Instead, they’re basically liability admissions. More on that below.

So, when tortfeasors make unprotected left turns, usually at intersections, they do not see approaching motorcycles, mostly because they were not diligently looking for them in the first place. As a result, the tortfeasor turns directly into the motorcycle rider’s path. These collisions are so violent that riders rarely survive them.

Unsafe lane changes are another example. Motorcycle riders often weave in and out of traffic. That is one of the benefits of riding a motorcycle. Drivers often change lanes because they did not see anyone in their blind spot two or three seconds earlier. But a lot can happen in two or three seconds, especially on a busy street or highway.

Liability Issues

If driver inattention causes a crash, a Hamilton personal injury lawyer can use the negligence per se rule or the ordinary negligence doctrine to obtain compensation for crash victims.

Negligence per se is a violation of a safety statute. Tortfeasors fail to yield the right-of-way in both left turn and unsafe lane change collisions. As a result, they could be liable for damages as a matter of law. Additional evidence usually increases the amount of compensation jurors award. So, additional evidence also raises a claim’s settlement value.

Briefly, an injury claim’s settlement value is like a new car’s sticker price. In both cases, settlement negotiations start with this figure.

Evidence is even more important in ordinary negligence claims. A Hamilton personal injury lawyer must prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not, in these cases. Vehicle collision negligence claims have five basic elements:

  • Duty: Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care in Ohio. They must drive defensively, obey the rules of the road, and avoid accidents if possible. They must also be at their best, physically, mentally, and otherwise, before they get behind the wheel.
  • Breach: Aggressive driving and impaired driving are the two most common breaches of care in vehicle collision cases. Speed is the most common and most dangerous kind of aggressive driving. Excessive speed increases the risk of a wreck and the force in a collision. Alcohol is the most common kind of driver impairment, followed closely by drug use and fatigue.
  • Cause: A Hamilton personal injury lawyer must prove that the breach substantially caused the wreck. If a driver loses control of a car on a wet road, the weather contributed to the wreck, but the driver’s error, usually aggressive or impaired driving, substantially caused it.
  • Foreseeability: Tortfeasors are only liable for damages if the victim/plaintiff’s injury was a foreseeable consequence of their action or inaction. In one famous case, a man dropped a package of fireworks which exploded and caused a large scale to topple onto a railroad passenger. The court ruled that, even though its employees were negligent, the railroad was not liable for damages, as her injury was not foreseeable.
  • Damages: Near-miss accidents are very scary, especially for exposed motorcycle riders. But in most cases, a near-miss is not negligent. Drivers are legally responsible for wrecks if the collision causes a physical injury, no matter how slight. Other theories, like negligent infliction of emotional distress, may be available in some cases.

These five elements are basically the same as the other kinds of injury claims. Negligence defenses are basically the same, as well.

Electric scooters are a special case. These vehicles are not quite motorcycles and are not quite bicycles, which is why we are discussing them here. These operators almost never wear helmets and usually have little or no idea how to ride an electric scooter.

Like motorcycle wrecks, driver inattention causes most electric scooter crashes. But because of the aforementioned combination, the contributory negligence defense, which shifts accident blame onto the victim, often applies in these cases.

Electric scooter operator error could be contributory negligence. For example, if Alvin strayed outside the designated bicycle/e-scooter lane and collided with Vince, they might each be partially at fault (50-50, 80-20, etc.) for the wreck.

Ohio is a modified comparative fault state with a 51% bar. Victims are entitled to a proportionate share of compensation if they were 49%, or less, at fault for the wreck.

Helmets are a special case in Ohio. Under Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4513.263, helmet non-use, or seat belt non-use, is only admissible to reduce the number of noneconomic damages.

Bicycle Safety

Bicycles account for about 1% of vehicle traffic. But bicyclists account for 2% of fatal crash victims.

Bicycle Injuries

Much like motorcycle riders, bicyclists are almost completely unprotected during collisions. As a result, they usually sustain injuries like:

  • Head Injuries: Thin bicycle helmets, which are usually made out of foam, offer very little protection in bicycle-on-vehicle collision cases. Furthermore, the motion of a bicycle wreck, as opposed to a trauma impact, often causes head injuries.
  • Nerve Injuries: As people fall, they naturally extend their arms to break their falls. This reaction often rips brachial plexus nerves. This nerve damage usually causes permanent arm and/or facial paralysis.
  • Broken Bones: This reaction also snaps arm bones. These breaks are so bad that doctors normally must use metal plates and screws to surgically reconstruct them. Despite this added precaution, these victims usually experience a permanent loss of function.

In a catastrophic (life-threatening) injury case, the aforementioned hospital bills often exceed $100,000.

Bicycle Medical Bills

Hospital bills are only part of the puzzle. Transportation, physical therapy, and other ancillary costs are usually as high or even higher.

Helicopter medevac, even for a brief flight, often costs more than $40,000. Furthermore, physical therapy is long and difficult, and expensive in bicycle crash claims.

Due to these ongoing costs, a  Hamilton personal injury lawyer cannot settle a bicycle crash case until medical treatment is at least substantially complete. That is the earliest point at which an attorney can determine a settlement value, as mentioned above.

Pedestrian Accidents

Walking from place to place on a warm summer day is fun and healthy. Walking on a warm summer day is also dangerous, whether or not the victim is in a crosswalk.

Crosswalk Accidents

Only a handful of pedestrian accidents happen at intersections and inside marked crosswalks. But we will discuss them anyway.

This discussion includes virtual crosswalks as well as the traditional walk/don’t walk crosswalks. Virtual crosswalks feature buttons that activate flashing yellow lights that common motorists to stop and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in the crosswalk. Some drivers stop, some slow down, and others ignore the lights altogether.

Pedestrians crossing with the green or flashing yellow light clearly have the right-of-way. Maximum compensation is usually available in these claims, even if the pedestrian did not stop and look both ways.

Maximum compensation, or at least some compensation, is also available if the pedestrian crosses against the light. The duty of care requires drivers to avoid accidents when possible. They cannot strike pedestrians and blame the victims.

Non-Crosswalk Accidents

These accidents are more common and more complex. Motorists and pedestrians alike have a duty to avoid accidents when possible. Pedestrians cannot walk into the road and expect cars to stop. Cars cannot keep going and expect pedestrians to move.

The contributory negligence doctrine often comes into play in these situations. If both parties shirk their legal responsibilities, both parties are partially at fault for the wreck.

In these cases, an attorney must maximize the tortfeasor’s fault and minimize the victim’s fault. Device distraction is a good example. Assume Bill the motorist and Ted the pedestrian were both on their phones at the moment of impact. That fact, by itself, might suggest a 50-50 fault division. But if, according to device use logs, Bill was watching a video and Ted glanced at a text, the fault division might be more like 80-20.

Device use logs and other electronic evidence are usually quite important in injury cases. But unless a Hamilton personal injury lawyer acts quickly, owners “accidentally” delete this information. The data is still available, but it is more difficult and expensive to obtain.

A spoliation letter creates a legal duty to preserve all physical evidence, including device use logs, for future inspection.

Another legal doctrine, the sudden emergency rule, could apply as well. This rule excuses negligence if the tortfeasor reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency.

Ohio law defines “sudden emergency” very narrowly. This designation only applies to hood fly-ups and other completely unexpected situations. Jaywalking pedestrians, like large potholes and stalled cars, are everyday hazards. Motorists have a duty to anticipate and avoid such hazards.

Swimming Pools

Swimming pool drownings are the leading cause of death for children under 4. For young children, kiddie pools are not much safer than adult pools. These victims can drown in as little as two inches of water.

Drownings are the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14. Owner negligence usually causes these incidents. Pool owners must often ensure that guests swim safely, even if the owner displays a “No Lifeguard On Duty” or other warning sign. Owners definitely have a duty to maintain pool equipment. For example, if a drain is not working properly, it could literally suck swimmers under the waves.

Warning signs do not automatically excuse negligence. They just make the assumption of the risk defense easier to prove. This defense applies in swimming pool drowning cases if the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand the sign. If the insurance company proves all three elements, jurors must normally divide fault on a percentage basis.

Swimming pool poisonings are an issue as well. If the owner uses too much toxic chlorine to clean the water, this chemical could burn swimmers’ ears, noses, and throats. If the chlorine level is too low, bacteria grow and multiply, especially in warm summer months.

In both cases, liability attaches if the owner knew, or should have known, about the injury-causing hazard.

Amusement Parks

The same duty and knowledge approach applies to injuries at amusement parks, where the watchwords are always faster and more. Each summer, these parks build faster roller coasters and other attractions to lure more people through the gate.

These basic rules apply to equipment-related injuries, trip and fall injuries, and other incidents the amusement park owner completely or mostly controls. Incidentally, the amusement park owner is usually an out-of-state holding company. So, these claims are quite complex.

Assaults and other negligent security-related injuries work a bit differently. We mentioned the foreseeability element in negligence cases above. Frequently, this element is basically a technicality. But, in a negligent security claim, it makes or breaks the case. Normally, a third-party criminal act breaks the chain of foreseeability.

The chain stays intact if an attorney independently proves foreseeability. Evidence on this point includes prior similar incidents at that location, or nearby locations, the park’s location (e.g., is it in a secluded area or off a major freeway), and the neighborhood’s crime rate.

Reach Out to a Compassionate Butler County Lawyer

Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Hamilton, contact Kruger & Hodges, Attorneys at Law, by going online or calling 513-894-3333. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

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