Last year, one of our clients was traveling down a beautiful rural road in the suburbs of Philadelphia, when another driver backed out of her driveway and into the path of oncoming traffic. This client was an experienced motorcyclist with a strong understanding of road safety, yet knowledge and skill couldn’t prevent an accident. He was violently thrown from his seat, resulting in life-altering, permanent injuries. His terrible experience should serve as a warning to all PA motorcyclists as they bring out their bikes for the summer ahead: always be wary of driveway blind spots.
Property Hazards and Careless Driving Threaten Motorcyclists Everywhere
In this particular instance, the driveway obstructed vision of the roadway due to overgrown bushes and trees. (In other words, negligent property maintenance posing a hazard to motorists.) But overgrown premises or not, this exact type of accident is unfortunately quite common.
As far as road vehicles go, motorcycles are very compact. While their small size offers up the maneuverability motorcycles are prized for, it also means they are easily hidden in the blind spots of a car. Depending on make and model, these blind spots can be caused by the door, roof, or pillars (structural supports around the windows). They can also be masked by objects or backgrounds outside the car, such as bushes, fences, bridges, signs, or other visual obstructions.
As a result, motorcyclists must remain vigilant and drive defensively, keeping a constant eye on traffic and especially drivers backing out of driveways or parking spaces. The installation of a driveway convex safety traffic blind spot mirror may have prevented the accident which injured my client from happening, just as much as proper trimming of the bushes and trees would have contributed to safety.
Who Was Liable?
Interestingly enough, the driver that struck our victim claimed that she was not at fault, and that fault lied squarely with the motorcyclist. As our client sustained disabling injuries which were so severe they prevented him from working, our law firm commenced an action against the property owner, automobile insurance, landscape maintenance company, and local utility company. We hired a surveyor to survey the property and determined that an easement was granted to a utility company — which also had an obligation to repair and maintain fencing, bushes, and trees that obscured vision.
In addition to the dangerously overgrown state of the property, driving errors account for the other half of the story. In the United States, failure to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic is one of the leading causes of accidents involving motorcycles (and other vehicles).
Many Pennsylvania County and Township ordinances provide that every entrance and exit used by vehicular traffic to and from properties abutting a street or highway:
- Shall be free from obstructed vision.
- Shall have clear lines of sight between points of a given distance from the intersection of the street and driveway center lines.
These ordinances also mandate that no driver shall back a vehicle out of a driveway unless the movement can be made safely and without interfering with other traffic. Even then, drivers may back out only after yielding the right-of-way to moving traffic and pedestrians.
While these rules constitute simple, straightforward common sense, they go completely ignored by all too many offending drivers. To make matters worse for motorcyclists, the striking drivers or owners of the vehicles often maintain insufficient insurance coverage to provide for the financial losses sustained by their innocent victims.
The Pennsylvania motorcycle accident attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm have litigated premise liability and motorcycle collision cases for over three and a half decades, and have been recognized as Top 100 Trial Lawyers by National Trial Lawyers. Our attorneys are also regularly nominated as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers.
We are committed to road safety — and to pursuing justice and compensation for accident victims. If you or someone you love was hurt in a motorcycle accident, call our law offices at (215) 246-9000, or contact us online to schedule your free legal consultation.