Motorcycle Accident Lawyer MN – Proving Fault Evidence


After a motorcycle accident, there may be a dispute about who was at fault. A top Minnesota motorcycle accident injury lawyer can be crucial in helping direct the investigation, particularly if it is a fatal accident and the motorcycle driver is not available to speak for himself. One issue that frequently comes up is the speed the motorcycle was going before the accident.


One well-known motorcycle accident case about fault came up in 1971. This Minnesota injury case set a precedent limiting evidence about the speed of the motorcycle before the accident. Here is how the court described the facts of the motorcycle accident:
The accident giving rise to this action occurred on July 31, 1971, at approximately 9:30 p.m. It happened on County Road No. 4, in Chippewa County, Minnesota. Both decedent’s motorcycle and defendant’s truck were proceeding south on the two-lane, blacktop highway, which was straight and level at the scene of the accident.
The weather was clear, the road dry, and the light condition was dusk bordering on darkness. The pickup truck was following a self-propelled combine at a distance of 150 to 170 feet. They were each traveling at the rate of about 15 miles per hour. The driver of the car testified that he saw in his rear-view mirror the motorcycle headlight approaching, but could not determine its distance or speed. The motorcycle collided with the left rear of the pickup box and came to rest on its left side in the center of the southbound lane.


The motorcycle left a single skid mark, which began about 20 feet north of where the motorcycle came to rest and ran for about 10 feet. Damage to the truck consisted of a bent license plate, a bent angle iron on the corner of the truck box, and a bent fender. Damage to the motorcycle consisted of a broken rear wheel; damaged headlight, fender and speedometer; and bent handlebars.
The first person to reach the scene of the accident testified that he observed the decedent still astride the motorcycle, with no apparent injuries except bleeding from his nose. There was an abrasion on the left front of decedent’s helmet. The medical cause of death was later stipulated to be a basal skull fracture.
Plaintiff sought to establish that the accident was caused by inadequate lighting on the rear of the pickup. They presented testimony concerning the poor condition of the pickup’s one taillight from a mechanic who inspected it about 4 months after the accident. The defendant testified on this point that he had checked the taillight prior to starting out on the evening of the accident and found it in working order.


In this motorcycle accident case, the insurance company attorney for the driver of the car that hit the motorcycle sought to establish that the motorcycle was traveling at unreasonably high speed prior to the accident. Through a witness who had seen the decedent immediately prior to the accident, the defendant attempted to show that decedent had gained about one-fourth mile over Levitz during the stretch between the park and the highway.


The issues presented by the motorcycle accident lawyers on this MN appeal were:
(1) Whether certain statements made by insurance company lawyer in his final argument constituted misconduct so prejudicial as to require a new trial; …
(3) whether the trial court committed reversible error in admitting evidence of the motorcycle rider’s speed at a point remote from the accident scene to prove speed at the time of the accident.
1. Plaintiff complains of three specific comments made to the jury in defense counsel’s final argument. The first is as follows:
‘* * * You’re not supposed to change your own analysis simply to make sure that the next of kin recover something. And it’s not easy. It’s a tough proposition because there exists in all of us a lot of feeling. We feel for the surviving family of an accident victim who has died on the highways. It’s happening perhaps to many of us. I can tell you my own brother was killed on a motorcycle, so I know the feelings that exist. And there will be a great temptation to want to award the Janssens something.’
Plaintiff contends, first, that this comment is improper as an appeal for sympathy. Plaintiff also argues that the above quoted comment is objectionable because it is not supported by the record.


In this case, these remarks were, to say the least, inappropriate and should not have been made. If they were the only grounds asserted for a new trial, however, we would undoubtedly uphold the trial court’s ruling that they were not so prejudicial as to require a new trial.
The second remark claimed to be prejudicial in this motorcycle crash case is as follows:
‘* * * Will the bike travel 70? You bet those motorcycles will go 70. Unprotected death traps that they are, they’ll go that and faster. Twenty horsepower, Bridgestone, 175; that machine will do it. It will.’


Plaintiff argues that there is no evidence in the record concerning the maximum speed capability of decedent’s motorcycle. Also, that reference to motorcycles as ‘unprotected death traps’ is a provocative and unwarranted appeal to pure prejudice.
The third statement alleged to be prejudicial is as follows:
‘The evidence should also be considered, folks, in the light of whether or not another statute was violated, that being a statute that requires that headlights on a motorcycle illuminate objects up to 500 feet away. Well, I don’t know whether the headlight did or not. It was dusk. I fear that I would be asking on that for you to indulge in speculation if I suggested that maybe his headlight didn’t illuminate objects satisfactorily at 500 feet away.
The court in the MN motorcycle injury case noted that the motorcycle accident attorney correctly characterized this as a misstatement of the law. Defendant concedes that the statement was incorrect, but contends it was not prejudicial because defendant’s counsel also told the jury that their application of this law would require speculation on their part.


The first instruction complained of is the following, based on Minn.St. 169.48 and 169.49:
‘It is also provided by law that every motorcycle shall be equipped with at least one headlamp at any time from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise.’


The lawyer for the family of the fatally injured motorcycle driver contends that the undisputed physical facts of the accident conclusively negate speed as a causal factor in the collision.
If, however, the testimony of motorcycle driver’s companions with respect to speed prior to the accident was properly admitted, the jury could draw the inference that decedent was traveling unreasonably fast, raising the issue of speed. Further, the mere happening of the accident may be sufficient to raise that issue where the accident possibly could have been avoided if decedent had been traveling more slowly than he was.
In either case, there was some evidence from which the jury could reasonably infer that decedent’s speed was excessive and was a direct cause of the collision. With the motorcycle’s speed a proper issue in this case, the basic speed statute was properly given to the jury.
3. Plaintiff argues that the trial court was in error in permitting the lawyers to have Keith Levitz to testify, over objection, as to the manner in which decedent operated his motorcycle on the road on which the accident occurred. ‘It is primarily for the trial court to determine whether such evidence has probative value.  Unless it is so remote in point of time or space as to be of no probative value and is so prejudicial that in all probability it did influence the outcome of the case, we will normally not reverse.’


The trial court apparently thought that sufficient probability existed that the speed at which driver was traveling while leaving the park was excessive. It is possible, however, as argued by plaintiff, that the court did not have the intervening 90-degree turn at the intersection in mind when it considered this issue.
The effect of an intervening turn was passed upon in Glass v. Hutchinson Ice Cream Co., 214 Iowa 825, 243 N.W. 352 (1932). It appeared in that case that defendants had been racing before they reached a 90-degree turn. However, the trial court restricted the evidence to their conduct after making the turn and up to the point of the accident.
The probability that the motorcycle’s speed at the time of the accident was close to what it was when leaving the park despite the intervening 90-degree turn is highly speculative. We conclude that it was prejudicial error to have admitted Levitz’ testimony in this Motorcycle accident injury case.
Injury Attorney Pam Rochlin
Injury Attorney Pam Rochlin
Injury Attorney David Rochlin
Injury Attorney David Rochlin


Pam Rochlin and David Rochlin are Minnesota personal injury attorneys with more than 25 years’ experience. We have successfully handled hundreds of motorcycle and car accident injury cases throughout MN. Pam was a former partner at Meshbesher & Spence, now offering small firm attention to her clients. We will make sure that you get the compensation you are entitled to.
A best MN motorcycle accident lawyer can meet with you to discuss to discuss your injury case at our offices in Edina, Woodbury and Minneapolis. Our attorneys also meet people at their homes who have been injured to discuss motorcycle accidents and who was at fault.
We come to St. Paul, Rogers MN, Elk River, and Maple Grove. Also, Brooklyn Park MN, Chanhassen, Chaska, and other cities throughout Minnesota. We will always provide you with a free initial consultation. In addition, we never charge anything unless we are successful in getting compensation for you and your family.