Illinois motorcycle accident attorneys should always be creative when analyzing the potential areas of recovery for their clients. According to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) there were 7.1 million motorcycles on the road in the U.S. in 2007. Sales of all two wheelers in the U.S. was 1,087,000 in 2008.
Motorcycles are by their very nature far less crashworthy than closed vehicles and crashes frequently result in catastrophic injuries or death. They are also less visible to other vehicles and pedestrians and less stable than four wheel vehicles. Motorcyclists and their passengers are more vulnerable to the hazards of weather and road conditions than drivers in closed vehicles. According to the DOT 5,154 people died in motorcycle crashes in 2007 and motorcycles are 35 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in crashes per vehicle mile driven in 2006, and 8 times more likely to be injured according to the DOT’S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In a recent case I successfully represented the estate of an 18 year old male in a wrongful death lawsuit alleging negligent entrustment against the decedent’s friend who let him ride his “supersport” motorcycle also known as a “pocket rocket” despite the decedent’s lack of experience and licensure to operate a motorcycle. Determining whether there may be a potential claim for negligent entrustment require a careful reading of the Illinois Supreme Court’s opinion in Zedella v. Gibson, 165 Ill. 2d 181, 186, 650 N.E. 2d 1000, 1003 (1995).
In Zedella, the Illinois Supreme Court adopted Section 308 of the Restatement of Torts (Second) which provides:
It is negligence to permit a third person to use a thing or engage in an activity which is under the control of the actor, if the actor knows or should know that such person intends or is likely to use the thing or to conduct himself in the activity in such manner as to create an unreasonable risk of harm to others.
The testimony indicated that these recent high school graduates had never operated a motorcycle before, much less a motorcycle that was described in testimony as the fastest production motorcycle available.
Section 390 of the Restatement of Torts (Second) was adopted in Illinois by the court in Small v. St. Francis Hospital, 220 Ill. App. 3d 537, 542, 581 N.E. 2d 154, 158 (1991), and it states:
One who supplies directly or through a third person a chattel for the use of another whom the supplier knows or has reason to know to be likely because of his youth, inexperience, or otherwise, to use it in a manner involving unreasonable risk of harm to himself and others whom the supplier should expect to share in or be endangered by its use, is subject to liability for physical harm resulting to them.
These “pocket rockets” should only be used by or lent to motorcyclists with a high degree of training and who possess all necessary licenses.
Other areas to review include failure of the motorcycle’s mechanical systems, failure of other motorists to observe the motorcyclist, failure to maintain the roadway, and debris on the roadway from trucks including tire tread separation. All potential areas of recovery should be explored to insure that the client is fully compensated and that require creativity, knowledge of motorcycles, and a careful review of the crash investigation.