As a motorcyclist and a Broward County motorcycle accident attorney, I was interested to read about a public gathering in support of tougher laws for motorists who kill motorcyclists. The Pensacola News Journal reported Dec. 1 that about 150 riders from the Gulf Coast chapter of ABATE (American Bikers Aiming Toward Education), a motorcycle enthusiast and political group, circled an Escambia County building where a hearing was being held on just such an accident. Tammy Bellamy, 22, of Mississippi, pleaded no contest to failure to yield in the Sept. 11 accident that killed Anthony Nalbone, 55, and seriously injured Diana Oglesbee, 45. ABATE members, some of whom also attended the hearing, gathered outside to request stronger penalties for accidents that result in a death.
According to the article, Bellamy turned left in front of Nalbone’s motorcycle late at night on Sept. 11. The resulting crash threw both riders off the bike. Neither was wearing a helmet, and no one involved was drinking. However, Bellamy told investigators that she “never saw” the motorcycle before the crash. The article said the evidence in the case did not support the more serious charge of reckless driving against Bellamy, but ABATE chapter president Gary VerCrouse said the case was an example of why stiffer penalties are needed. VerCrouse and others held another such vigil in July of 2008, when a similar civil fine was the only penalty against an 18-year-old driver responsible for a fatal motorcycle crash. For years, ABATE has lobbied the Florida Legislature for stronger laws in such cases.
As a Davie motorcycle crash lawyer, I strongly support efforts to raise public awareness of motorcycles and their vulnerabilities on the road. And I would certainly be interested in knowing more about the circumstances of an accident that caused a death, yet still didn’t merit charges more serious than a traffic ticket. But because I work with the driving public on a regular basis, I am not sure whether a higher fine would be enough to reduce accidents from cars that fail to yield to motorcycles that drivers “don’t see.” Nor does a higher fine seem like enough, by itself, to penalize people who cause a death through sheer negligence. I would support efforts to establish a new law that strikes a middle ground between a “failure to yield” ticket and vehicular homicide — especially if it comes with a heavy dose of education for all Florida motorists.
Unfortunately, sometimes the evidence is genuinely not there to support criminal charges in a fatal traffic accident. But even when prosecutors cannot, or will not, pursue a criminal case, family members of a wrongfully killed motorcyclist can still seek justice on their own through a lawsuit. Cohn, Smith & Cohn has more than two decades of experience representing victims of all sorts of traffic crashes — and a senior partner who rides. We understand what motorcyclists are up against, both on the roads and after a serious accident. Our Pompano Beach motorcycle accident lawyers can help clients claim all of the financial costs of the accident, including lost income and medical bills, as well as compensation for a serious injury or the loss of a loved one. We will aggressively pursue justice and fair compensation for our clients, from the initial negotiations with insurance companies to the courtroom, if necessary.
Cohn, Smith & Cohn offers free, confidential case evaluations, so you risk nothing by telling us about your case and learning more about your rights. To learn more or set up a meeting, please call our main office in Broward County at (954) 431-8100 or send a message through our Web site.