A motorcycle expert witness advises on a case involving a motorcyclist who was struck by a driver pulling onto a roadway. Plaintiff motorcyclist filed a lawsuit against the driver of an auto who struck him, causing severe injuries. Police found that the defendant was easing out of a parking lot when she clipped the plaintiff’s motorcycle as he was changing lanes. The motorcyclist said he was traveling about 30 mph and simply proceeding down the road. Plaintiff asserts that he did not see the car enter the roadway until it was too late to react.
Defendant claims that her car was stopped and still in the parking lot as she looked around a bush to see if traffic was clear. Plaintiff was speeding up the road and doing wheelies, she said, when he lost control of his motorcycle and hit her car. He struck her front bumper and slid across the road as his motorcycle flipped several times. Eyewitnesses corroborated her statement about the wheelies. Police did not cite the car driver for the accident.
Plaintiff filed suit against the driver for negligence for the injuries that resulted from the collision.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. How fast was the motorcycle traveling?
- 2. On what information did you base that estimate?
Expert Witness Response
After surveying the accident area and interviewing the police officer and eyewitnesses 14 months after the accident, reviewing photos of the defendant’s vehicle and interviewing the defendant, I estimated the final resting location of the motorcycle. The actual resting place of the vehicles and the distance between them was not noted or photographed by the investigating officer, nor was any damage to the vehicles noted. The officer estimated that the vehicles came to rest 50 to 100 feet apart. From the estimation of the resting place, I determined the speed of the motorcycle from an estimated friction coefficient calculation that is routinely used by experts in my profession. I concluded that the plaintiff was traveling 30 mph.
The expert has specialized in biomechanics and accident reconstruction for more than two decades. The trial court allowed the testimony, and a jury awarded the plaintiff more than $150,000. A state appeals court reversed and remanded the case because the trial court failed to conduct a hearing on the reliability of the expert’s methodology.