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Motorcycle Accident with Ambulance settles for $4.5 million

MOTORCYCLIST vs.  MEIZENIS

Motorcycle Accident with Ambulance Settles for $4.5 million

Garry R. Salomon and Adam B. Lederman, partners of the New Jersey injury law firm Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. are pleased to announce the resolution of a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County regarding a motorcyclist colliding with an ambulance with its lights and sirens activated. The disputed claim settled on December 10, 2020, during mediation before the Hon. Eugene J. Codey, for $4.5 million dollars after suing the driver for negligence in failing to take proper precautions while entering a controlled intersection.

Both Salomon and Lederman jointly represented the motorcyclist. The case was fully prepared and ready for trial. The facts are as follows:

On August 17, 2017, a 47-year-old man was leisurely riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle eastbound on Highland Avenue in Franklin Township, NJ with a green light approaching Franklin Boulevard when he was hit by an ambulance, with its lights and sirens activated, while in route to a local hospital. Coincidentally, the ambulance at the time was headed to a hospital carrying a patient injured in a different unrelated motorcycle collision. The motorcyclist was thrown from his 2006 Harley-Davidson FLS Soft Tail Slim motorcycle suffering multiple facial fractures, fractures of his mandible, left humerus and left articular process, a disc herniation at C5-C6, PTSD, loss of consciousness, and mild traumatic brain injury caused by a severe concussion. The motorcyclist underwent 5 surgeries and extensive physical and cognitive therapy.

The motorcycle accident happened as the motorcyclist was heading to meet his wife at the local Elks Lodge. The motorcyclist testified that as he was riding within the speed limit with a green light when the defendant’s ambulance, with its lights and sirens activated, suddenly entered the intersection causing an unavoidable collision. At the time of the collision, the ambulance was rushing to the local hospital’s emergency room transporting a man injured in an entirely different motorcycle accident. The motorcyclist’s legal team produced an accident reconstruction expert that concluded that the motorcyclist could not have avoided the collision.

The defendant, an experienced ambulance driver, contended that he had a red light but that he took reasonable precautions by stopping, as required by the law, prior to entering the intersection. During the lawsuit, Salomon and Lederman learned that the defendant’s ambulance driver gave his insurance carrier a statement. The statement produced in response to the legal team’s Demand for Production proved that the ambulance driver saw the motorcyclist about a block away when he stopped at the intersection but assumed that the motorcyclist would yield to the ambulance.

Upon impact the motorcyclist was thrown from his Harley landing on his left side fracturing several facial bones including a comminuted fracture of his left humerus, requiring surgery and left C7 transverse foramen fracture. The motorcyclist suffered partial hearing loss, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury with mild cognitive short-term memory deficits. Despite the traumatic injuries’ the motorcyclist made a relatively good recovery but continued to experience short-term memory loss and mood swings.

At the time of the collision, the motorcyclist was employed as a private commercial jet pilot and asserted a disputed wage loss claim.  The State of New Jersey is a No-Fault Insurance state that provides personal injury protection (PIP) medical benefits to anyone injured in a motor vehicle accident.  However, in New Jersey motorcycle riders, whether they were the driver of the motorcycle or a motorcycle passenger, are excluded from and not eligible for any PIP medical benefits to cover medical bills and lost pay. Because the motorcyclist’s spouse was a state employee, all medical bills were paid by private health insurance without the right of subrogation.

The investigating police officers determined that the motorcyclist was proceeding within the 25-mph speed limit and that the motorcyclist’s view was obstructed by several utility and traffic signal poles, trees, bushes, shrubs, fences, and cars lawfully parked in their driveway. The official police report also indicated that the motorcyclist likely could not hear the siren due to the noise of the motorcycle and the direction of the ambulance.

To prove negligence, Lederman and Salomon hired the services of an expert witness who reconstructed the accident with data and scene measurements relying upon N.J.S.A. 39:4-91(a) which requires that drivers shall yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle when the vehicle is operating with an audible warning device and is equipped with at least one lighted red light visible for at least 500 feet to the front of the vehicle.  The statute in paragraph (b) also requires that the “driver of an authorized emergency vehicle is not relieved from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons, nor shall it protect the driver from the consequences of his reckless disregard for the safety of others.” The Davis, Saperstein & Salomon partners also hired a nationally recognized EMS and fire expert witness who referenced the New Jersey statute as well as the Emergency Vehicles Operation Course standards noting that 68% of EMS vehicle accidents occur despite sirens and lights being activated.

The motorcyclist’s legal team collected all of the motorcyclist’s medical and orthopedic records and hired a retired orthopedic surgeon to serve as an expert medical witness to examine the motorcyclist, review his medical file and write an expert opinion report about his findings. In accordance with his report, the doctor was ready to testify about all the motorcyclist’s injuries, procedures, and rehabilitation as well as his opinions regarding permanent injuries. For cognitive deficits to the motorcyclist’s brain, Salomon and Lederman hired a neuropsychologist to conduct extensive neuropsychological testing on the motorcyclist to determine where within the brain the motorcyclist suffered a permanent brain injury. The Neuropsychologist found deficits in verbal fluency and short-term memory. Salomon and Lederman further hired a Vocational Expert Witness to test and analyze the future employability of the motorcyclist and to give an opinion about potential employability and loss of earning capacity of the motorcyclist. The vocational expert determined that the motorcyclist would likely never work again as a commercial pilot which caused Salomon and Lederman to hire an Economist as an expert witness to testify in court about all of the past income lost the motorcyclist as well as his future income losses.

Lederman and Salomon, who are certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as Civil Trial Attorneys also consulted with Davis, Saperstein & Salomon Partner Steven Benvenisti who heads the firm’s Brain Injury Practice Group to assist in developing a strategy to prove the cognitive losses suffered by the motorcyclist.  As a young man, Benvenisti himself was struck by a drunk driver in Florida that caused him to suffer brain injuries.  Having made a full recovery from his brain injuries, Benvenisti went on to head the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey (BIANJ), a non-profit organization whose mission is to help people and families affected by brain injury. Benvenisti also became the national Vice-Chairman of the Board of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Rounding out the Davis, Saperstein &Salomon, PC’s legal team is attorney Manuel B. Sameiro, himself is an avid motorcycle enthusiast, assisted in the reconstruction of the collision and also took the depositions of many of the defendant’s witnesses as part of the discovery process leading up to the trial date set by the Monmouth County Superior Court. The case was originally filed in Middlesex County, but the venue was changed by the Court to Monmouth County.

The case settled on December 10, 2020, during non-binding mediation before the Hon. Eugene J. Codey, Jr. P.J.SC. (Retired) for the sum of $4,500,000, representing pain and suffering harms and losses.

The motorcyclist was married within a year of the collision date.  The newlywed couple enjoyed outdoor activities including scuba diving, flying, hiking, exercise, and extensive and frequent world travel. Noting two prior on-the-job injuries, two prior back surgeries, surgeries to both shoulders, and high blood pressure defendant argued that the motorcyclist’s career and earning capacity were not essentially cut short by the motorcycle collision.

This was not the first multimillion-dollar motorcycle crash result for Salomon and Lederman, who jointly head the firm’s Motorcycle Litigation Practice Group. Back in 2018, Garry Salomon and Adam Lederman also settled a case involving a Bergen County motorcyclist whose Harley was cut off by a bus, causing extensive orthopedic injuries, leg fractures, and spinal injuries, for $5.75 million which was the largest motorcycle accident settlement in New Jersey for 2018.

The settlement is subject to a qualified confidentiality agreement restricting full disclosure of some of the parties involved.