Oak Grove, MO – Motorcycle Accidents and Claims

In 2016 alone, there were over 2,100 motorcycle accidents in the state of Missouri. According to the Missouri Transportation Department, over 1,900 motorcyclists suffered an injury and a record setting 122 were killed. In the past four years, the state has seen a disturbing increase in the number of motorcycle fatalities.    Continue reading “Oak Grove, MO – Motorcycle Accidents and Claims”

Kansas City Motorcycle Injury Attorney

Since motorcycles are smaller than vehicles on the road, they will be less visible, often hidden in the blind spots. Any irregularity in the road can cause a motorcycle to do unexpected movements. Since motorcycles have two wheels are open air vehicles, the potential for injury in an accident far more likely.  Contact a Kansas City Motorcycle Injury Attorney for a free consultation if you or a loved one have been the victim of a motorcycle accident.

Kansas City motorcycle injury attorney

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a motorcycle rider is around eight times more likely to be injured and 40 times more likely to die in a motorcycle accident than an occupant of a car in a car accident. These statistics are not meant to deter you from riding, but to inform you about the dangers faced by motorcyclist and why the need for Kansas City motorcycle accident attorneys is more relevant than ever.

Finding a Kansas City Motorcycle Injury Attorney

If you have been injured or there has been damage to your property from a motorcycle accident, you will likely need the services of a Kansas City motorcycle accident attorney. Small accidents known as fender benders may be handled directly with insurance companies, but more severe accidents will benefit from an attorney’s knowledge.

Hire someone who is experienced and has a commitment to individualized client services and a track record of success. Your attorney will be able to speak on your behalf to insurance companies and the other drivers involved in your accident, so you can focus on getting well.

Doug Horn is the Kansas City motorcycle injury attorney you should contact for legal counsel. Every motorcycle accident case is different, and requires the knowledge of a motorcycle accident attorney in Kansas City, MO who is familiar with motorcycle safety laws.

Motorcycle Accidents in the Fall weather of Kansas City

Riding a motorcycle in the Fall weather is popular for many motorcycle enthusiasts. They understand, however, that there are hazards on the road that other motorists are just not exposed to. With these added risks, motorcycle accidents are bound to happen.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorcycles are less stable and less visible than cars. The number of deaths on motorcycles was over 27 times the number in cars. Helmets are crucial, with 37 percent preventing motorcycle deaths, and 67 percent in preventing brain injuries. However, less than half the states mandate helmet use. According to their data, more and more fatally injured motorcycle drivers are uninsured. The rate has been climbing every year.

While in some motorcycle accident cases it is clearly evident that a lawsuit against the negligent parties is required, there are other cases that can be settled. In either case, you must have a thorough case evaluation because your motorcycle accident claim is typically your one and only opportunity to obtain a fair and full recovery.

Kansas City Motorcycle Accidents in Fall Weather
Motorcycle Accidents in Fall Weather

 

Just recently a family met with friends, holding a vigil in remembrance of Andrew Lee Smith, a man killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this month. The location was 12th St. And Fremont Avenue, in a suburban neighborhood east of downtown Kansas City. A friend, Jason, said that safety is key. “Motorcycle accidents you don’t have nothing keeping you safe, just you and the open wind.” The family wants to give warnings to others to be careful on the road. Smith’s cousin said that his death should be a lesson for others, urging them to “be careful” because “they’re dangerous.”

Legal consultation, case assessments, and examinations from an experienced motorcycle accident attorney are important when you are working with insurance claim agents or other insurance company representatives. Contact Horn Law at 816-795-7500 free of charge for legal consultation.

Missouri Motorcycle Traffic Fatalities Up 22% In 2012

The number of motorcycle traffic fatalities across the nation increased approximately nine percent from 2011 to 2012, according to a recent study.  While that increase alone is cause for alarm, a bigger concern is that Missouri was the state with the fourth largest increase in the rate of motorcycle crash fatalities during that time – 22%.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association’s publication, Spotlight on Highway Safety, Missouri motorcycle traffic fatalities increased by 22% from 2011 to 2012. Missouri’s percentage increase was  lower only than the rates of motorcycle traffic fatalities in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. The percentage of the increases was determined by comparing the accident data for the first nine months of 2012 to the same period a year earlier.

The number of motorcycle traffic fatalities has been consistently increasing in the United States over the past 15 years, more than doubling from the 2,116 fatalities reported in 1997 to the 4,612 fatalities reported in 2011.  The GHSA predicts that the number of fatal motorcycle accidents in 2012 will be among the highest numbers ever recorded when all of the data is compiled. Deadly motorcycle accidents in Missouri and across the nation are increasing, even though the total number of traffic fatalities involving cars and trucks has dropped by 23% since 1997.

Addressing Missouri Motorcycle Accident Fatality Rates

The GHSA recommends that states adopt strategies to increase helmet use, reduce alcohol impairment, reduce speeding, train all motorcycle operators and ensure that they are properly licensed, in addition to adopting strategies that encourage other drivers to share the road with motorcyclists.  That’s good advice, and if followed, could likely have a direct affect on Missouri motorcycle accident fatality rates, although other factors may also be involved.

According to a report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the top three causes of traffic fatalities involving all types of motor vehicles in the state are:

  • exceeding speed limit / going too fast for conditions
  • alcohol impairment
  • not paying attention to other drivers and conditions.

Motorcycle drivers tend to suffer the brunt of the injuries in collisions with cars or other vehicles because they are less protected and therefore more vulnerable to serious injury or death.  In fact, the MSHP reported that nearly 80% of all motorcycle accidents in 2010 resulted in death or personal injury.

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident or lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident caused by another motorist, contact The Horn Law Firm, P.C. to discuss your legal options. You may be entitled to compensation to help pay your medical bills and other expenses.

Truck Driver Charged in Fatal Hit-and-Run Accident on Kansas Highway

Prosecutors in Geary County, Kansas requested a continuance in their criminal case against a truck driver accused of a hit-and-run accident with a motorcycle. The motorcyclist died of his injuries soon after the crash. The truck driver faces charges related to a fatal motor vehicle accident and false statements.

The accident occurred at about 3:00 a.m. on August 24, 2012. Calls to 911 indicated that a man was lying on the road next to a motorcycle along Interstate 70 west of Junction City. The 28 year-old victim had been heading west on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle on the way to Las Vegas. An 18-wheeler allegedly struck the motorcycle from behind. The victim suffered severe head trauma, and was pronounced dead at the hospital several hours later. The investigation was delayed several hours due to rainy conditions, but investigators were able to return to the scene the following day. They determined at that time that another vehicle had been involved in the crash, and issued a press release asking for information from the public.

The sheriff’s department investigation lasted several months. They collected paint samples, which they sent to state law enforcement for paint transfer tests. They also received multiple tips. On November 2, 2012, they issued a warrant for truck driver Rodney Stockstill, Sr. of St. Joseph, Missouri. According to Topeka’s WIBW News, he is charged with Accident Involving a Death and Making a False Writing, an offense related to false statements to law enforcement of other officials.

Stockstill was incarcerated in Doniphan County on unrelated drug charges at the time the sheriff’s department issued the warrant. He was transferred to Geary County in mid-December, where he reportedly remains in custody on $50,000 bond. Stockstill is a truck driver for a Doniphan County-based company. The night of the accident, he was allegedly traveling on one of his usual routes, which he took several times a week. Local news has reported that he has several prior drug-related convictions, but it is not known if prosecutors are alleging that drugs were a factor in the accident.

The prosecution was expected to present evidence against Stockstill at a preliminary hearing on January 24, 2013. They instead requested a continuance, telling the court that one or more witnesses located out of state had evidence relevant to the prosecution, and that the state needed more time to arrange travel. The county attorney requested forty-five days additional time, which would give them until around March 10.

This accident involved many of the most significant risk factors for highway accidents. 18-wheelers and other large trucks, by virtue of their immense size and weight, pose a particular danger to other vehicles. Motorcycles are particularly prone to accidents, given that they are comparatively lightweight. Motorcycle operators have no restraints to protect them in the event of an accident, and protective gear is only useful to a certain point. The early-morning time of the accident and the rainy conditions further compounded the danger.

Motorcycle accident attorney, Doug Horn is an advocate for safe driving in the greater Kansas City area. He represents the rights of people who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones due to the negligent or illegal conduct of others. Contact us today online or at (816) 795-7500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Photo credit: By Edwin Olson, via Wikimedia Commons.

Missouri Supreme Court Rules Driver Entitled to Underinsured Motorist Coverage After Motorcycle Accident

A person injured in a motorcycle accident is entitled to recover underinsured motorist coverage under several insurance policies, according to the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling in Manner v. Schiermer, et al, No. SC92408, slip op. (Mo., Jan. 8, 2013). The defendant insurance companies contended that “owned-vehicle” exclusions applied to the plaintiff’s claim. The court reversed a lower court’s summary judgment order in the defendants’ favor, holding that the policies did not define “owned vehicle,” that the insurance companies had the burden of proving that the exclusion applied to the plaintiff, and that they failed to do so. It further held that the provisions of the policies allowed “stacking” of the coverage provided by each policy.

The plaintiff, Nathaniel Manner, was riding a Yamaha motorcycle on September 25, 2004 when a vehicle driven by Nicholas Schiermeier struck him. Manner suffered serious injuries, with damages totaling $1.5 million. Schiermeier’s insurer settled Manner’s lawsuit for the policy limit of $100,000, leaving him with $1.4 million unpaid. Manner made claims on four separate insurance policies: three policies in Manner’s name through American Family Mutual Insurance Company for the Yamaha motorcycle and two pickup trucks; and a policy held by Manner’s father through American Standard Insurance Company for a Suzuki motorcycle, which named Manner as an additional insured. Each policy had $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. Both insurance companies denied coverage under all of the policies.

Manner added American Family and American Standard to the lawsuit as defendants. He alleged that the limits of the four policies could be stacked, entitling him to $400,000 of coverage. The insurance companies moved for summary judgment, asserting that an owned-vehicle exclusion in the policies covering the trucks and the Suzuki motorcycles precluded coverage of Manner’s injuries. The exclusions stated that bodily injury was not covered if the insured was occupying a vehicle “owned by [the insured] or any resident of [the insured’s] household.” Slip op. at 4. The defendants argued that Manner owned the Yamaha and that the three policies did not directly insure the Yamaha; therefore, the three policies’ owned-vehicle exclusions applied to Manner’s claim. The lower court granted the defendants’ motion, and the case made its way to the Missouri Supreme Court.

In reversing the summary judgment order, the Supreme Court noted that an insurer has the burden of proving that a coverage exclusion applies. The court further noted that, while Manner had possession of the Yamaha motorcycle, Manner’s uncle still held title to it while Manner made payments to him. Manner at most held an “insurable interest” in the motorcycle, id. at 6, and the court held that the defendants failed to prove that this was sufficient to establish ownership. None of the policies expressly defined the word “owned” as it was used in the exclusion, and the court held that none of the evidence presented by the defendants met any definition of ownership established by Missouri caselaw. The court also held that an “other insurance” clause in the policies allowed stacking of the coverage. Since the $400,000 in stacked coverage was far less than the $1.4 million in unpaid damages, the court reversed the trial court’s order and remanded the case.

Motorcycle accident attorney Doug Horn is an advocate for safe driving in the greater Kansas City area. He represents the rights of people who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones due to the negligent or illegal conduct of others. Contact us today online or at (816) 795-7500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Photo credit: By Roger Hartmans (Self-published work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Missouri Driver Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter in Fatal Motorcycle Accident

A Missouri driver entered a plea of not guilty in late January 2013 to several criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter. The charges stem from a July 2012 traffic accident in which the man is accused of colliding with a motorcycle on a rural highway while driving under the influence of alcohol. The motorcyclist died in the crash. Accidents involving motorcycles on Missouri highways often involve catastrophic injuries or death, so understanding of motorcycle rules and regulations, and the liabilities associated with them, are crucial to safe motorcycle operation.

The accident occurred at about 8:30 p.m. on July 11, 2012. Nicholas Kulhanek was driving a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix on Highway 39 in Shell Knob, Missouri. He allegedly turned into the path of a 1967 Harley-Davidson motorcycle operated by Aaron Poston. The two vehicles collided head-on. The Barry County Coroner pronounced Poston dead at the scene at about 9:15 p.m.

Responding officers reportedly followed Kulhanek, who fled the scene on foot. The officers claimed that he resisted arrest when they caught up to him, and that he told one of them that he had “a couple of drinks” earlier in the evening. The probable cause statement prepared by the officers further claims that Kulhanek needed help standing at the time of his arrest, and was therefore unable to perform field sobriety tests. The officers had to obtain a warrant to draw blood for a blood alcohol test.

Prosecutors charged Kulhanek with involuntary manslaughter, leaving the scene of the accident, and resisting arrest. The lead prosecutor initially told the Ozarks Sentinel that he did not include a charge for driving while intoxicated because that offense was included within the involuntary manslaughter charge. Later reports on the case indicate that Kulhanek was charged with DWI. His bail was set at $250,000, and he remained incarcerated in the Barry County Jail as of late January 2013. He waived a formal arraignment on January 22 and entered a plea of not guilty to the involuntary manslaughter charge.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), over 326,000 people in the state have motorcycle licenses, and nearly 140,000 motorcycles are registered. Motorcycles require a different set of skills than an automobile, and they generally require greater attention to road conditions and other vehicles on the road. State law requires passage of an additional examination in order to obtain a license to operate a motorcycle on any public road. MO Rev. Stat. § 302.020.1(2). It also requires anyone operating or riding on a motorcycle to wear approved protective headgear, usually a helmet. Id. at § 302.020.2. While most crashes involving motorcycles in Missouri occur in urban areas, the MSHP says that most fatal accidents involving motorcycles occur on rural roads.

Motorcycle accident attorney Doug Horn advocates for safe driving in the greater Kansas City area and represents the rights of people who have suffered injuries, or lost loved ones, due to the negligent or illegal conduct of others. Contact us today online or at (816) 795-7500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Web Resources:

Motorcycle Safety (PDF file), Missouri State Highway Patrol, August 2010

Photo credit: sulaco229 on stock.xchng.

Missouri DUI Case Goes to U.S. Supreme Court, Could Change How Police Collect Evidence in DUI Investigations

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments recently in the case of a Missouri man who refused to submit to sobriety testing after an arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence. The arresting officer took a blood specimen from the man anyway, despite the lack of both consent and a warrant. The state appealed the trial court’s order suppressing the blood evidence all the way to the high court. The case, Missouri v. McNeely, No. 11-1425, presents several important questions of Fourth Amendment rights and the extent of police officers’ power to gather evidence without a warrant. From the perspective of a personal injury attorney and safe-driving advocate, the case may bring significant changes to how evidence is gathered in both criminal investigations of DUI and in civil claims for damages.

A state highway patrolman pulled the defendant, Tyler McNeely, over late one night. According to the officer, McNeely presented the “tell-tale signs of intoxication,” and the officer could smell alcohol on McNeely’s breath. Missouri v. McNeely, 358 S.W.3d 65, 67-68 (Mo. 2012). McNeely did poorly on field sobriety tests, so the officer placed him under arrest. He refused to consent to breath or blood tests. The officer, who later testified that he believed he did not need a warrant to collect evidence of intoxication, drove McNeely to a hospital and had a phlebotomist draw a blood sample for testing. Before trial, McNeely moved to suppress the blood evidence, arguing that the warrantless blood test violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court agreed, and prosecutors appealed the order to the state supreme court.

The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order, citing a U.S. Supreme Court case setting strict limits on the ability of law enforcement to collect blood evidence from DUI suspects without a warrant. Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966). Schmerber involved a DUI suspect who was injured in an accident. The suspect was placed under arrest at the hospital, and the arresting officer instructed a doctor to take a blood sample without a warrant. The Supreme Court held that, while blood tests certainly implicate Fourth Amendment rights, the accident investigation presented “special facts” justifying the warrantless intrusion. Id. at 770-71, McNeely, 358 S.W.3d at 69. The fact that alcohol breaks down in the body, combined with the fact that the suspect in Schmerber needed transport to the hospital, limited the time in which evidence could be collected. The Schmerber court held that these “special facts” justified the warrantless search. The Missouri Supreme Court, however, found no similar “special facts” in McNeely’s circumstances, holding that the dissipation of alcohol in the human body, by itself, did not justify the search.

The U.S. Supreme Court will now consider whether blood alcohol metabolism is sufficient justification, on its own, for warrantless blood tests in DUI investigations. For personal injury lawyers, the decision could have an important impact on the gathering of evidence in accident cases. Current law only allows warrantless searches when the suspect is injured, but not necessarily when the suspect injures another person. The Supreme Court must balance important Fourth Amendment rights with the need for speedy investigation.

Auto accident attorney Doug Horn is an advocate for safe driving in the greater Kansas City area. He represents the rights of people who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones due to the negligent or illegal conduct of others. Contact us today online or at (816) 795-7500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com.

Can a Person Be Held Liable for Distracting Another Driver? Not So Far, but Maybe.

Police ticketed a man in Wichita, Kansas who covered his pickup truck in hundreds of Christmas lights, citing public safety concerns. The risk of traffic accidents due to the distraction caused by the truck, they said, made it a hazard. For an auto accident attorney and advocate for safe driving, this raises an interesting question: can someone hold a person liable for a distracted driving accident if that person, rather than being directly involved in the accident, was the cause of the distraction? A court case from earlier this year in New Jersey suggests that it is unlikely, although it is still a developing area of law.

David Hill of Wichita covered his pickup truck in 856 Christmas lights. The truck has reportedly become a conversation piece around town, and Hill claims that thousands of people have asked about it, walked up to see it on the street, or had their pictures taken with it. His goal, he says, is to raise awareness for a charity that he runs. Wichita police, however, are more concerned with the impact the truck has on other drivers.

Hill received a ticket at about midnight on Saturday, December 8. A city ordinance, according to a police spokesperson, only allows civilian vehicles to have white lights on the front of the vehicle and red and white lights on the back. Hill’s vehicle had blue and red lights on the front. The primary reason for the ordinance is to limit those colors to emergency vehicles, but police said that the risk of distracting other drivers also motivated the decision to issue Hill a ticket.

The risk of distracting a driver with bright colored lights is probably limited to enterprising individuals during the holiday season. Distractions from cell phone calls and text messages are unfortunately an everyday occurrence. A New Jersey couple injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver sued the woman who sent the text message to the driver. The plaintiffs were riding a motorcycle on September 21, 2009 when they were hit by an eighteen year-old driver who was reading a text message from his girlfriend. Both plaintiffs lost a leg as a result of the crash. The driver pleaded guilty to texting while driving, careless driving, and other offenses and paid a $760 fine. Their lawsuit sought to hold the driver’s girlfriend liable on the theory that she knew he was driving at the time, and that therefore she “aided and abetted” him.

The judge dismissed the case on summary judgment in May 2012, holding that the girlfriend did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiffs. In an oral judgment, the judge noted that a judgment for the plaintiffs could create a precedent in which any distraction could support a claim for liability. He stated that drivers have a wide range of duties to others on the road, while people who send text messages to someone who is driving have no specific duties in that regard. The person sending a text message, the judge said, should be able to assume that the driver will use good judgment.

Auto accident attorney Doug Horn is an advocate for safe driving in the greater Kansas City area. He represents the rights of people who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones due to the negligent or illegal conduct of others. Contact us today online or at (816) 795-7500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Photo credit: ‘Christmas Bokeh Explosion’ by Lockheed on stock.xchng.

Education, Awareness Responsible for Drop in Motorcycle Fatalities in Missouri

An increase in education campaigns and awareness initiatives are being credited for a decline in motorcycle accident fatalities in Missouri. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, several states including Missouri reported that education and publicity efforts had helped affect a substantial reduction in motorcycle fatalities last year.

Missouri saw a dramatic drop in motorcycle fatalities between 2010 and 2011. Last year, there were 26 motorcycle accident fatalities in the first six months of the year, compared to 41 in the same period the previous year. There were also 68 fatalities during the first nine months of last year. In 2010, the number during the same time was 76. Those are preliminary numbers, but the Governors Highway Safety Association believes that the final numbers will tally with the preliminary figures.

However, across the country, there was no change in motorcycle accident fatality numbers at all. Many states reported declines, while others reported increases in their motorcycle fatality numbers. Some states like California saw a substantial increase in the motorcycle fatality numbers. Overall, the national motorcycle fatality toll this year is also expected to be in the region of 4,500, the same as last year.

Drive By Example, a Horn Law Safety Organization, is doing their part to protect motorcyclists. Drive By Example is particularly dedicated to curbing distracted driving, through their public awareness campaigns. “Even under the best conditions, motorcyclist are the most vulnerable drivers on the road, now given the proliferation of the cellphone and the distracted driving epidemic, motorcyclist face a new universe of risk” said Drive By Example founder, Doug Horn.