A jury in Cook County has awarded $1.3 million in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of the victim of a fatal motorcycle accident in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.
Fatal Motorcycle Accident in West Town
On November 4, 2015, 44-year-old motorcyclist Patrick Conklin was heading to work at West Suburban Medical Center. At that time, a pickup truck operated by Jason Gilbert made a left turn at the intersection of West Chicago Avenue and North Wood Street and struck Conklin, who was later pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital.
Gilbert told responding officers that the traffic signal had turned yellow before he began to turn left, but an eyewitness contradicted his statement, saying that Gilbert had a green light when he struck Conklin.
Mary Malinowski, sister of the deceased, brought a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of her adult siblings against Gilbert and Selco Industries, his employer, for the fatal motorcycle accident.
Modified Comparative Negligence
While Malinowski’s attorneys argued that Gilbert’s failure to yield the right of way before making a left turn was the primary cause of the incident, the defense argued that Conklin’s speeding was the chief reason for the fatal motorcycle accident. To bolster their claim, the defense called an expert to testify that Conklin was operating his motorcycle at 54 miles per hour in a zone with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour.
Defense attorneys told reporters that they hoped jurors would find Conklin at least 50 percent responsible, which would trigger a verdict for their side under the state’s modified comparative negligence laws. According to this theory of comparative fault, an injured Plaintiff’s compensation can be reduced in proportion to his or her degree of fault. If the Plaintiff is held to be 50 percent at fault or more for an incident, however, he or she would not be able to obtain compensation for personal injuries from the Defendant.
The defense’s strategy proved partially successful. The jurors tallied $2 million in damages, but the payout to Conklin’s family was reduced to $1.3 million after he was found to have been 35 percent responsible for the fatal motorcycle accident.
Why Are Motorcycle Crashes So Dangerous?
While motorcycles can be a great way to travel, these open-air vehicles come with a serious downside, as motorcycles leave their riders much more vulnerable than many other methods of transportation.
With no metal frame surrounding the rider, as in cars and trucks, he or she is exposed to direct contact with other vehicles, obstacles, and the road itself, and is therefore much more likely to be seriously injured in a collision. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, motorcycle riders made up 15 percent of traffic deaths in 2012, despite accounting for less than one percent of the total miles driven that year. Statistics show that a frequent cause of these motorcycle fatalities is the left-turn collision.
Heightened Responsibility of Vehicles Turning Left
Vehicles turning left have a heightened responsibility to yield the right of way to other vehicles, including motorcycles. Essentially, a driver may only make a left turn when it is safe to do so, and only when there is no oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, far too many drivers misjudge the time that they have to make left turns safely, or they are distracted and do not check to see if there are other vehicles coming from the opposite direction, or they are impaired by drugs or alcohol. Consequently, they may make sudden left turns when they should not do so, often with serious collisions as a result. When a car or truck makes a reckless left turn in front of a motorcycle, the consequences can be catastrophic.
When encountering a vehicle turning left recklessly, a motorcycle rider can have very little time to react. As a result, the rider often crashes into the vehicle head on. Sometimes, the impact from such a collision is so powerful that it can throw the rider from the motorcycle and onto the asphalt a great distance away from the point of impact.
Chicago Motorcycle Accident Lawyers
As you may see from the facts in the above case, any collision involving two or more vehicles can be complex. Even with the types of serious damages that can result from a fatal motorcycle accident, it is essential for the Plaintiff’s side to prove the Defendant’s negligence. Under Illinois law, any comparative fault on the part of the Plaintiff can significantly reduce the value of his or her compensation for personal injury, while too much negligence can prevent the victim and/or the victim’s family from receiving any compensation at all.
Given the stakes involved, the Plaintiff’s side of the story must be explained fully and with great finesse. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may find it beneficial to seek out experienced legal counsel to help build your case, such as the kind of counsel that you would receive from the Chicago motorcycle accident lawyers at GWC Injury Lawyers, Illinois’ largest Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firm.
With over $2 billion recovered for our clients and offices throughout Illinois, GWC has the expertise and the determination that you need to obtain the justice that you deserve.