Our firm has long been committed to helping riders injured in motorcycle accidents. This includes claims against negligent drivers, in coverage disputes with insurance companies, and in product liability actions. Sadly, in recent years the rate of fatal accidents has been on the rise, calling on both our motorcycle and wrongful death expertise as we represent grieving families following motorcycle fatalities. As a team, our Panama City motorcycle death law firm believes strongly in helping families when someone else's negligence or wrongful actions caused the death of their loved one.
A report by the Northwest Florida Daily News detailed a Labor Day weekend ride that turned tragic. Donice Croley, a 55-year-old from Pinkard, Alabama, was riding eastbound on County Road in Walton County on the afternoon of Sunday September 1. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the 2001 Harley Davidson left the highway as Croley navigated a curve. The motorcycle passed onto a grassy shoulder before returning to the roadway and overturning. Croley, who was wearing a helmet, was ejected from the bike. Although she was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast, Croley later died. Police are investigating the incident.
Earlier this year, the Governors Highway Safety Association ("GHSA") issued a preliminary report on motorcycle fatalities in 2012. The report includes the disturbing conclusion that, based on preliminary data provided by the states and the District of Columbia, the number of motorcycle deaths nationwide increased by about 9% in 2012. This represents a continued trend of increased motorcycle fatalities in 14 of the past 15 years. Even before the 2012 increase, the number of yearly motorcycle deaths had more than doubled between 1997 (2,166) and 2011 (4,612). In contrast, and even if a 5% increase in 2012 is considered, the number of total traffic fatalities dropped substantially in that time span.
The report cited several factors that may have played a role in the rise in motorcycle deaths. High Spring temperatures may contributed to the especially high fatality rates in the first half of 2012 (24% rise in the first quarter). An improving economy may have added to the number of leisure riders, while high gasoline prices encouraged people to choose the relatively fuel-efficient motorcycles over cars for everyday travel. Data from 1976 to 2012 also shows that fatality rates closely track registration rates and that registrations are correlated with rising gas prices. As such, the GHSA report concludes that registrations, travel, and fatalities will all continue to rise if the economy continues to improve and the price of gasoline remains high.
In addition to tracking fatality rates, the GHSA study provides suggestions for reducing the number of motorcycle deaths. The report suggests states adopt plans to increase helmet use, prevent alcohol-impaired riding, reduce speeding, and ensure operators are trained and licensed. Additionally, drivers should be educated on sharing the road with riders. By far, the most effective strategy (again, per the report) would be the passage of a universal helmet law in the states without such legislation. 31 states, including Florida, do not have such laws.
As proud advocates for riders, we hope to see a cooperative effort to reduce the rate of motorcycle fatalities and change this deadly pattern, even as registrations rise. We hope to see fewer families saddled with the grief of losing a loved one too soon. For those who are left behind after a beloved rider dies in a motorcycle accident, we offer help. Our Panama City wrongful death lawyer represents the families of deceased riders when someone else was responsible for the accident that claimed the rider's life. We can help, even if the rider's own actions were also a factor in the incident.
As with cases involving injured riders, the surviving family members may have claims based on a number of legal theories and it is essential that our team is involved as soon as possible following the accident. We will also work to overcome any bias a jury may have against motorcycle riders. Together we can get monetary compensation for deserving families and work on preventing others from enduring similar losses.