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Motorcycle Accidents Cause Wrongful Death

On 8/28/13, a motorcycle accident resulted in the wrongful death of Nicholas Otto, Urbandale, Iowa.  Otto's motorcycle collided with a truck while Otto was traveling at the intersection of 9th St. and Hickman Road in Des Moines. According to the Des Moines Register, the collision occurred when Katherine Bloch of Polk City, turned left onto 9th St. and directly into the path of Otto's motorcycle. Mr. Otto's death marked the 27th motorcycle related death in the State of Iowa in 2013.

The occurrence resulting in Mr. Otto's wrongful death is, unfortunately, all too common. Many of these motorcycle accidents occur when a driver of a car or truck fails to see an oncoming motorcycle and turns into the path of the motorcycle. Often times the motorcyclist is killed or severely injured as a result of the impact. When this occurs, the family of the deceased motorcyclist needs to retain, as soon as possible, an attorney with experience handling these unique types of collisions. Although how the accident occurred may seem clear shortly after the occurrence, many times insurance companies will attempt to sway or skew the facts in a way to point fault at the motorcycle driver.

For example, the last motorcycle accident case our attorneys handled involved a wrongful death claim on behalf of the wife and children of a deceased motorcycle operator. The motorcycle driver died in Des Moines, Iowa after he collided with a vehicle making a left hand turn in front of the motorcycle. Immediately after the accident, the insurance company for the truck driver began to question whether or not the motorcyclist was speeding or whether or not the head light of the motorcycle was on at the time of the collision. This was an attempt by the insurance company to point blame towards to motorcyclist.

After being retained by the family, our office immediately found out where the motorcycle was and sent one of our lawyers out to view and photograph both vehicles. Our attorney was particularly interested in the head light and the filament of the bulb. What many people and many attorneys do not understand is that accident reconstruction principles can be applied to head lights in order to ascertain whether they were illuminated or not at the time of impact. Specifically, the filaments of incandescent light bulbs can provide a good indication as to their status at the time of impact. If the filaments - the tightly coiled wires running between two supporting posts within the bulb - are activated and carrying an electrical current creating light, they become extremely hot. At these extreme temperatures, the filaments are flexible and malleable. When subjected to the inertia of a collision or impact, the filaments can become deformed resulting in what is often referred to as "hot shock". This often causes the filament to stretch in the direction of the impact and often results in a curved filament. By locating and preserving the head light, our attorney handling the wrongful death case resulting from the motorcycle collision was able to prove that the headlight of the motorcycle was on at the time of the collision.

With respect to the speed of a motorcycle at the time of a collision and wrongful death, accident reconstruction experts and engineers can often estimate the speed of the vehicle at impact as well as the reduction in speed just prior to the collision based on any skid marks left by the motorcycle on the concrete. Thus, it is very important to contact a lawyer handling motorcycle wrongful death cases as soon as possible, since skid mark evidence can dissipate quickly. It is also important that the motorcycle be preserved until the attorney and an accident reconstruction expert can examine the motorcycle and the car or truck so that crucial measurements and pictures can be taken before the vehicles are repaired.

Although all cases are different and the recovery is based on the specific facts of each case, our last motorcycle wrongful death case settled for an amount in excess of $2,500,000. When computing the value of these cases, the lawyer handling the wrongful death case must take into account the economic losses of economic support, household services, insurance benefits, etc. as well as the non-economic damages cause by the loss of a loved one. This includes the loss of the love and companionship suffered by a surviving spouse and surviving children.

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