Jury Bias in Motorcycle Accident Cases

 

Every motorcycle accident attorney has to deal with the issue of jury bias. For motorcycle accidents, the issue of jury bias can be more profound and insurance claims adjustors know this and try to use it to whittle down the value of a motorcycle accident claim.

Defense counsel and their insurance adjustors like to play up stereotype of a motorcycle biker as a boozing, drugged up, reckless rider, who is always at fault in an accident. Born out of an older stereotype, the image hardly has relevance any longer. For so many, the motorcycle is a cheap and efficient manner of commuting. It uses less gas, and is more easily maneuverable in rush hour traffic than is a standard car. For more and more people, it is a great commute alternative.

But regardless of how you look, how you dress, how many piercings or other tattoos you may have, if you are a victim of someone else’s negligence, you should be able to collect for your injuries. That being said, you and your attorney should be prepared to change some minds and hearts along the way to resolving your claim.

Prepare For Trial: Prepare For Jury Bias

There is an old adage among trial attorneys: “Prepare each case as though you are going to trial.” There is a fair amount of validity to this.  If your attorney prepares a case thoroughly and as if the case is going all the way to trial, you and your attorney will be prepared to handle any potential jury bias against you. That means that you will have thought through, and will be prepared for, all the ways that the threat of jury bias could be used to minimize your recovery.

Being Careful With Jury Bias in Pre-Litigation and Early Litigation

An attorney can start preparing to handle jury bias in the beginning of a motorcycle accident case. Questions regarding perceived stereotypes can be skillfully used during the case preparation process, to help combat jury bias.  Jury bias is a thing that clouds the evidence. Letting the evidence speak clearly is the aim of all attorneys.

Instead of shying away from potential bias, an attorney can face it head on. For example, one of the major areas of unsupported bias against bikers has to do with the loudness of the bike engine. Some equate a loud engine with reckless behavior. In preparing a witness statement, a skillful attorney can address the issue of a loud engine, coupling it with an assertive statement regarding the biker’s responsible driving.  Here is a good example:

Q: So if I understand your earlier statement correctly, you heard the bike’s loud engine at the same time that you saw the biker signal his intent to change lanes, is that correct?

Using Voir Dire, Examination and Summation to Educate a Jury

Jury selection is one of the main tools in an attorney’s toolbox at trial.  A skillful attorney will have a proven track record in weeding out potential problem jurors during the jury selection process, also called voir dire. Voir dire is an attorney’s chance to question potential jurors to see what prejudices and misconceptions they might hold about motorcyclists. These questions can be fact bound, such as, “Have you ever been involved in an accident with a motorcycle?” But they can also elicit feelings of underlying prejudice.  For example, an attorney can show a picture of a stereotypical motorcycle rider and be asked their feelings about the person in the picture. The same can be done with a typical “clean cut” man and then the same can be done with a picture of a “clean cut” man on a motorcycle. Not only is this useful to weed out potentially biased jurors, but it also educates the jurors who will be empanelled.  A picture is not always worth a 1000 words.

The same can be done during the examination of witnesses at trial and during summation. A skilled attorney will know how to prepare your case to stop jury bias in its tracks. Whether you take your case all the way through trial or whether you settle your case before trial, you want a fair and just outcome. Being prepared helps.