Motorcycle Versus Deer Collision

Early in my career, a client came into my office because she had been seriously injured—a deer had struck her while she was riding on the back of a motorcycle!

06/08/2020 By Justin Kallal

Early in my career a client came into my office because she had been seriously injured—a deer had struck her while she was riding on the back of a motorcycle! She had already been to five other attorneys in Jackson and all had turned her down. They each thought it was an impossible case.

As a young lawyer, you are not often the first person called, but fortunately, like me, you may not have enough experience to realize a case is “impossible.” I didn’t feel bad I was not the first lawyer she called; I was just thrilled about the prospect of having another client.

The facts were not in dispute. My client’s boyfriend was driving the motorcycle, he was driving the speed limit, they were near Devil’s Tower in north eastern Wyoming, and the sun was setting. The deer jumped from behind a bush and struck my client’s leg. Although she was severely injured, her boyfriend miraculously retained control of the bike and brought it to a stop without crashing.

I took the case without realizing it was “impossible” and got straight to work. I knew he was not negligent after the deer collision, but what about before? I began furiously researching how I was going to show the boyfriend was negligent.

First, I learned that when you research lawsuits involving motorcycle + deer + injury, there are a surprising number of people on the east coast shot by hunters while cruising round in the woods during deer season. I added a blaze orange hat to my fishing gear during hunting season after learning that.

After much searching, I discovered a case that found a driver negligent for the injuries his passenger suffered when they were struck by a deer. It was determined the driver was going too fast for conditions.

My neighbor was born and raised near Devil’s Tower. I asked him what he thought about driving a motorcycle the speed limit on the highway by the Tower. He immediately asked, what time of year and what time of day. I told him the info and he said someone would have to be crazy to do that because of all the deer in the area at that time.

Armed with my new, local knowledge, I fired off a letter demanding the boyfriend’s insurance company tender policy limits to my client. A week later I got a call from a very skeptical adjuster. I spent close to thirty minutes explaining the situation and I agreed to email him the case law I had on the subject.

Two days later he called me back and tendered policy limits. I then negotiated a very good settlement with my client’s underinsured-motorist carrier. Her pickup truck policy provider additional coverage and we achieved a very solid outcome on her behalf.

Last, I learned three things: sometimes it is a good thing to be unknowing enough to not realize something is ”impossible”, never assume you have all the facts, and a little luck and a lot of hard work can go a long way to making the “impossible” possible.