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Michigan Motorcycle Fatality Trend Must Be Curbed
By Terry Cochran
On Valentine's Day this year the U.S. Transportation Department sent proposed legislation to Congress to strengthen the ability of states to target one of the leading causes of motorcycle deaths in the U.S.: riding without a helmet.The proposal by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters comes three years after she herself was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle crash. The call for legislative change on Feb. 14, 2008, was an outgrowth of a comprehensive federal initiative to improve motorcycle safety launched by Secretary Peters in October 2007.Besides targeting helmet use, the initiative also calls for more rider education and training, road designs that consider motorcycle dynamics, law enforcement training, and tougher standards for helmet certification labeling. Secretary Peters is one of the many "baby-boomers"¯ who have recently returned to riding motorcycles after years of not riding. In August 2005, she suffered a broken collar bone after a crash on a two-lane highway just north of Tucson, Arizona.When sending the proposed legislation to Congress, Secretary Peters commented: "As an avid motorcycle enthusiast myself, I know first hand the joy and the pain that can come with the freedom of the open road. In August 2005, I suffered a broken collar bone in a motorcycle crash. Had it not been for my protective gear - including my helmet - I am convinced I would have suffered severe injury, or even death. Unfortunately, many motorcycle crash victims aren't so lucky. While we have been successful in reducing automobile deaths in recent years, our progress is being negated by a rise in the rate of motorcycle fatalities - which have more than doubled in the last decade. I believe that overcoming this tragic trend is the greatest highway safety challenge our nation faces today." ¯As a lawyer who has represented motorcycle drivers and their families, I have seen first-hand the fallout from the tragic trend"¯ cited by Secretary Peters. My law firm's motorcycle team (, however, has noted that there is no way to eliminate risk in driving a motorcycle and we fully realize that serious accidents occur to even the most skilled bikers,

because most often it is the other driver who is to blame. State laws define what rights a biker has if involved in an accident. Michigan law, for instance, does not consider a motorcycle to be a motor vehicle and so motorcycle victims have significantly different rights than automobile victims do. Some motorcycle accidents are not caused by motorists but by a road defect. These defects could be the result of faulty road design, disrepair, inadequate maintenance, or failure to remove a road hazard. A claim against a public entity for defective road repair or inadequate design is often subject to complex filing requirements. In Michigan, where I conduct the bulk of my practice, No-Fault benefits generally are available to Michigan motorcycle victims if a motor vehicle is involved with the accident. No-Fault benefits are intended to provide medical benefits, wage loss, attendant care and replacement services to injury victims. No-Fault benefits can be critical to the economic survival of the seriously injured. The most obvious claim available to those seriously injured in Michigan motorcycle accidents is that arising from the negligence of the at-fault vehicle in the collision: usually a passenger car.I fully embrace Secretary Peter's campaign to make biking a safer experience in America and to lessen the tragedy that often needlessly falls upon bikers and their families. Once an occurs, it is very important that the victims or family members contact an attorney to make sure justice prevails. While I cannot stress enough the need for legal counsel, I also can not stress enough that America needs to do everything it can to reduce the number of motorcycle accidents and fatalities in our country.

Terry Cochran, senior partner in Cochran, Foley & Associates, P.C., a Michigan law firm specializing in personal liability, medical malpractice, and SSD/SSI appeals. Cochran does not represent insurance companies or corporations but instead bases his practice upon representing individuals and families. 800-322-5543.


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