For more than 30 years, Attorney Wes Pittman has represented injured motorcycle riders and the families of riders killed in the Florida Panhandle region. In this work, he has learned to fight against a frequently-held bias against motorcycle riders. All too often, people assume that motorcycle riders are risk-takers who speed in and out of traffic with little or no regard for safety. This bias is not only unfair, it is also grossly inaccurate. We have worked with countless riders and observed their commitment to safety. When we serve as a law firm for motorcycle riders in Panama City, we make sure that judges and juries see this commitment and hold automobile drivers accountable when their failure to share the road has tragic consequences.
The potential for tragic consequences became a reality in a collision between an SUV and motorcycle at the intersection of Moylan Road and Clarence Street in Panama City Beach. Officials from the Florida Highway Patrol told WJHG that motorcycle operator Scott Davis, age 54, and passenger Melissa Deberry, age 48, were heading south on Moylan Road at approximately 5:15 P.M. on Monday.
Joyce Mickschl, age 71, had been travelling north when she started to make a left turn onto Clarence, placing her SUV into the riders' path. The vehicles collided, leaving both Davis and Deberry dead at the scene. Police have filed charges against Mickschl, who is from LaCrosse, Wisconsin and was not injured in the crash.
Last year, the Sun Sentinel reported on research that found, contrary to popular bias, the drivers of cars and trucks bore fault in a disproportionate share of studied motorcycle accidents. The study, which analyzed Florida motorcycle crashes over a 10-year period, was conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation and researcher Chanyoung Lee with the University South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research.
Lee concluded that motorists in other vehicles were at fault in 60% of collisions between motorcycles and four-wheel vehicles. To be fair, motorcycle riders did bear fault in certain accidents. Specifically, Lee noted that motorcycle riders were involved in significantly more one-vehicle accidents than automobiles, with 34% of motorcycle crashes involving only one vehicle versus 19% of automobile accidents.
Still, most motorcycle crashes involved at least one other vehicle and, according to FDOT's study, the other vehicle was at fault in most of those collisions. A frequent accident pattern involved a vehicle turning left into the path of a motorcycle that is travelling straight. Drivers simply didn't expect to see a motorcycle and failed to yield the right of way to cyclists. Lee noted that drivers may yield for a car but not a motorcycle because they see the car as more intimidating and judge the motorcycle to be farther away.
FDOT also pointed to awareness as a culprit, noting that drivers with motorcycle endorsements said they often see motorcycles on the road while drivers without the endorsements said they only occasionally see motorcycles on the very same roads. As Lee said, "If you're aware of it, you see it," with motorcycle riders reporting that unaware motorists pose a constant danger.
Contrary to popular belief, most motorcycle riders are quite safety-conscious. As with all accident cases, most motorcycle accident litigation settles before trial. When we do take motorcycle cases to trial, we ensure that the jury sees the facts and does not operate on pre-conceived biases. This allows us to hold drivers accountable when their motorcycle-blindness leaves riders injured or leaves families mourning a lost loved one. Call if our Northwest Florida motorcycle accident law firm can help you.