WOOD SURFACES CAN be sur- prisingly slick when wet. Despite a few rain show- ers, the ride has been great.
You’ve been following an old highway that
curves through farmland, crossing a few
creeks and gullies here and there. You’re
in no hurry, but you maintain a somewhat
aggressive pace to fully enjoy the bike.
You know that on secondary roads such
as this, the pavement isn’t always well
maintained, so you try to put your tires over
the most tractable surface, while avoiding
the potholes and ripples. And where the
road passes near farms, you ride more conservatively when you see mud, manure, and
hay tracked onto the surface.
You really appreciate that this road is
so little used that it’s never been a priority to
straighten it out and widen it. Many of the bridges
are the originals with rumbly wooden decks, and the
bridge ahead bends in a curve. You lean the bike in, and
prepare to feel the rumble-rumble as your tires pound over
the thick, uneven planks.
It’s a bit of a shock when your tires slip sideways on the
planks. You hold a steady throttle and let the bike drift a little
wider. The tires regain traction, but the side slip certainly got
your attention. The wood planks certainly looked uneven,
but not slick.
Wood fibers get ground away from the planks by the tires of
passing vehicles. When dry, traction can be very acceptable. But
when wet, the wood fibers mix with water to form a very slippery
paste. This bridge was still damp from the earlier rain showers,
and very slippery. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except
that the bridge was curved.
In this situation, you could have better maintained traction by
planning a straighter line across the bridge, which would have
kept the bike more vertical, reducing the side loads.
A bridge like this is most slippery after a brief shower, or when
wet with morning dew. Heavy rain will wash away much of the
accumulated wood fiber and provide better traction.
QMR. DEITZLER, I was recently involved in a crash on the 5-Freeway in Southern Cali- fornia. I was lane-splitting at
approximately 40–45mph. I was in the
carpool lane, fully to the left of the dotted white line. The motorist I was passing
drifted into me, hitting my handlebar and
knocking me to the ground. My bike was
totaled. I was taken to the ER as a precaution but I had no serious injuries (I wear full
gear, which includes a hi-vis green jacket).
The driver apparently stopped about 1/2
to 1 mile up the road and was questioned
by highway patrol. A motorcyclist behind
me, who witnessed the crash, helped me
get my bike to the shoulder but then he
left (I was too shaken to ask for his contact
information). I am not yet sure if the motorist will be cited...I doubt it. She was traveling at 35–40mph, and I passed 10-mph
faster. I am sure she just did not see me, but
another motorcycle had just passed her, so
I assumed she was aware of our presence.
My GEICO insurance will cover my losses,
but not enough to buy a new motorcycle
to replace my totaled bike (coverage is for
the value of my current bike, a 2010 model
year). Is it worth pursuing the motorist to
get reimbursement for my loss? My medi-
cal expenses will be covered almost in full
by my health insurance.
Daniel Cipriani, P. T., Ph.D.
ADANIEL, UNLESS THERE has been a recent change, California has pure comparative fault rules and allows the injured party
to recover from another party, reduced
by the percentage of fault attributed to
the injured party. Your case would go to
a jury for determination as to the degree
(if any) to which the other driver was at
fault, and the degree to which you were at
fault, based on the evidence that you and
the other party are able to present.
If you are found to be 60% at fault and
the other driver is found to be 40% at
fault, you could collect 40% of your loss.
From that amount you would deduct your
attorney fees and costs, because those
obligations are paid by you. Also, under
the terms of your insurance contracts, you
would most likely be obligated to reim-
burse your health insurer and your med-
ical insurer (at least on a pro-rata basis)
for the amounts that they have paid on
Based on that analysis and my concern
that a jury may find you totally at fault,
I suspect that your net result may not be
a positive number. In addition, it may be
difficult to find an attorney willing to take
your case on a contingent fee basis.
I’m sorry for your loss and apologize for
being the one to convey less than favor-
able conclusions. It is fortunate that you
had the foresight to buy medical insurance
and motorcycle insurance to cover the loss.
Many people who contact me have not
been as well-prepared for the unexpected.
●●Harry Deitzler is a partner in the law firm of
Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee and Deitzler, PLLC;
Charleston, WV. Send questions to: harry@
Please Note: The information in this column
is intended for general purposes only and is
not to be considered legal or professional ad-
vice of any kind. You should seek advice that
is specific to your problem before taking or
refraining from any action and should not rely
on the information in this column.
by David Hough