A 55 year old Oakdale scheduling clerk settled her wrongful death claim arising from a motorcycle accident that occurred in June. Her husband a minimally employed construction worker was riding his Harley-Davidson Road King to visit his brother a short distance from her home when fate changed her life forever. The couple had been married for only three years and had no children when the tragedy occurred. The motorcycle rider, though traveling straight when an SUV turned left in front of him, was blamed substantially for the accident by the police. While acknowledging that the SUV driver admitted not seeing the motorcycle they found that the rider was driving too fast for conditions, a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 22350. Two witnesses , a pedestrian and a motorist both stated that they saw the white SUV making a left turn and a motorcycle coming at a high rate of speed. The motorist added that the motorcycle appeared to speed up to avoid stopping for the turning SUV. The pedestrian said that he saw the white SUV wait for him to cross the street before he began his turn. He heard the loud exhaust of the motorcycle before hearing the impact that fatally injured the rider. While investigating the scene and conducting traffic control the CHP officer was approached by an off duty Modesto Police Sargent who advised that his residence was on the other side of the sound wall. He said the sound was as if it was accelerating hard between every up shift. From the sound the Modesto Police Sargent believed the motorcycle was traveling at a high rate of speed before the sound of the impact. The investigating CHP officer also found the Harley-Davidson Road King lying on its right side after the impact and upon further investigation found that it had several performance modifications, exhaust, Cobra Fi2000 PowerPro tuner and a K & N air filter kit.
With regard to the SUV driver they found that he was waiting for a pedestrian and when the cross walk was clear be began making his left turn. As he was making his turning maneuver the motorcycle suddenly appeared in front of him. He was unable to avoid the collision and did not see the motorcycle prior to the collision. The investigating CHP officer confirmed that the SUV driver had not been drinking, was not on any medications and did not have any medical conditions such as diabetes or epilepsy. The SUV driver was not sick or injured and was willing to take a voluntary blood test for confirmation. No test was conducted.
Faced with this bleak picture the widow contacted The Dunnion Law Firm. The case was assigned to an experienced motorcycle attorney familiar with prejudice that occurs in such situations. He contactacted the insurance carrier for the SUV driver and convinced them to participate in a mediation with a neutral mediator. After briefing the matter throughly the attorney argued at mediation that the motorcycle rider was faced with critical traffic situation when he encountered the left turning SUV, And contrary to the findings of the CHP did everything in accordance with safe operation of the motorcycle. The Harley rider had only limited options: he could lay the bike down, brake as hard as he could and finally conduct a swerve maneuver. Due to the positions of the vehicles when he observed that the SUV was going to turn in front of him he braked hard leaving 38 feet of rear wheel skid mark. Realizing that he was not going to be able to stop before the impact he swerved to his right and accelerated hard trying get around in front of the turning SUV. Unfortunately while taking these actions, all as taught by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, he did not have a sufficient time/space bubble and was struck on the left side of his motorcycle by the front of the SUV. The impact was severe and the result was fatal.
The mediator, the insurance company and the defendant all agreed that if the matter went to trial the Dunnion attorney had a strong position. In light of all the factors the mediation resulted in a settlement for the wife of the Harley rider in the amount of One Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars. This is a life altering sum for the widow. She is currently considering her investment plan including the use of an annuity for life time income.