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Negligence per se may create liability in motorcycle accidents

The enjoyment of motorcycle driving in New Hampshire is always at peak popularity. It is an unfortunate hazard of operating a motorcycle, however, that a cycle is not as easily seen on the roadways by operators of larger vehicles. This creates many motorcycle accidents that could have been avoided. A good example of the phenomenon occurred again recently when a motorist made a left turn into the path of an oncoming motorcycle, creating the appearance that she did not even see an oncoming vehicle.

The accident happened on Lowell Road in Hudson when an SUV operated by an 85-year-old woman made what appears to be an improper left turn directly into the path of the oncoming motorcycle being driven by a 61-year-old Nashua man. The man suffered life-threatening injuries and was flown by emergency responders to a Boston-area hospital. The female operator was also hospitalized as a precaution.

She apparently was attempting to turn left to enter the premises of the Market Basket on Lowell Road when she collided with the motorcycle approaching in the opposite direction. A motorist must keep a sharp lookout ahead prior to making a turn across the roadway. This includes looking for motorcycles as well as other vehicles. 

Police say they are investigating the crash. If they issue a citation to the SUV operator for turning improperly into the motorcycle's path, a conviction on that violation will be admissible in any civil claim for personal injuries brought by the victim against her. The injured motorcycle driver will not have to prove negligence in the civil case -- it will be established by the improper left turn conviction.

New Hampshire law provides that the conviction of an offense that is directly relevant to the cause of the accident equates to negligence per se, and it relieves the need to prove negligence in the civil claim. This applies to all vehicular accidents, including motorcycle accidents. The conviction establishes the SUV driver's liability to compensate the victim for his personal injuries. That compensation could include lost wages, permanent disability and loss of earning capacity, medical expenses, and for pain, suffering, loss of life's pleasures and other potential damages.  

Source: Nashua, NH Patch, "Nashua Motorcyclist Seriously Hurt In Crash", Jason Claffey, Aug. 21, 2017

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