The Verdict - The Lombardi Law Firm Blog
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Motorcyclist’s “loss of control” may not be the cause of this wreck.
Doctors refer to general diagnoses as "a waste-basket diagnosis", meaning the diagnosis is so general that it's meaningless. So when the Harrison County, Iowa officials list a loss of control as the cause of what killed a 49-year-old Omaha man after his motorcycle crashed it’s pretty worthless.
KCAUTV reports that David Jeulfs of Omaha was driving his motorcycle two-miles south of Missouri Valley when “he lost control of it” and crashed into a concrete railroad embankment. Of course the reporting is what it is because of the cause listed by the Harrison County officials who investigated the accident. I’m not picking on their reporting. But what I am trying to do is to explain why lawyers don’t find “loss of control” a sufficient explanation of the true cause of what caused Jeulfs to lose control. The passenger, Deborah Godek may be able to shed light on what actually caused Jeulfs’ to initially lose control.
When lawyers, judges and juries evaluated fault and negligence they seek to know more about what caused the driver to initially lose control. It could be speed, drinking alcohol and the effects, a deer crossing, a gaggle of geese in the roadway, a dog chasing the bike, a pot-hole in the roadway, a grease spot or some other debris on the road’s surface or a distraction caused by the passenger can all be “causes” of what caused the driver to “lose control”.
Loss of control is an initial description or preliminary description that leads to further investigation to establish the true cause of the collision and resulting death.
Take for instance a second motorcycle collision-wreck in Henderson County, Iowa where a 52-year old Christopher Coates of Corydon, Iowa was killed. In this collision there is another vehicle, a pickup truck driven by an 85-year old gentleman from Galesburg. In this wreck it’s reported the driver of the pickup truck turned left of center intending to make a left turn, but did so right in front of the motorcycle. The motorcycle driver lost control of the cycle as it slid into the pickup truck, causing his severe injuries and death and serious injury to the passenger of the motorcycle. It’s correct to say the motorcycle driver lost control, but that’s not the cause of the collision. The cause of the collision is the pickup truck turning left in front of the motorcycle, which causes him to lose control, and then leads to the crash. Going back one more step the pickup truck driver failing to see the motorcycle, a failure to use due care while driving, is the true cause. Speed could also be a factor along with other causes that influence vision and reaction times.
When a motorcyclist loses control it’s easy to initially blame the driver, but that’s unfair and wrong. You first have to examine all potential causes of what made the driver lose control in the first instance. We’ll examine one more crash. KOLNKGIN.com reports of a Dixon County, Nebraska crash where a 49-year old woman died after crashing into a car. She obviously lost control but that is not the cause of the crash or negligent act that caused her to lose control. What happened on that Sunday afternoon on Highway 12 near Ponca is that a car on the left shoulder of the highway came out and attempted to turn right, causing the motorcycle to crash into it. The negligent act is not the motorcyclist losing control, but the attempt by the car driver to cross lines of traffic from the left to make a right turn.
So when you are analyzing fault or negligence don’t stop short of the true cause. If there can’t be a determination of the true cause, in cases where the driver is killed and there is not a witness and no other vehicle involved, the waste-basket cause may have to be the only determination. But when there is more, ask questions and analyze the other potential causes. Good luck with your case.