Bagen Law Firm | January 6, 2023 | Motorcycle accident
In a recent year, there were 8,317,363 registered motorcycles in the United States. There were also 5,579 motorcycle accident fatalities involving 5,517 motorcycles and 83,000 motorcycle accident injuries.
Motorcyclists are more vulnerable and likely to have injuries and fatalities than other vehicle occupants. For example, a recent data comparison shows 29 times more fatalities for motorcyclists. Figures from the same year reveal that older riders appear to sustain more severe injuries than younger ones, as riders over the age of 50 accounts for 37 percent of all deaths.
In addition, motorcycle crashes cost society and individuals billions of dollars per year in direct expenses, such as:
- Local emergency services
- Medical and rehabilitation expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages or loss in household productivity
- Insurance costs, including claims and legal fees, and expenses
Motorcycle accidents can have devastating consequences. Even with protective gear such as helmets and boots, motorcycle accident injuries are often severe and, in some accidents, fatal.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that when multiple vehicles are involved, almost 70 percent of motorcycle accidents result from another driver violating the motorcycle rider’s right-of-way. Furthermore, the NHTSA estimates that there are approximately 90,000 motorcycle crash injuries each year.
These significant figures might leave you wondering what causes motorcycle accidents. No matter how your motorcycle accident occurred, you should meet with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer to discuss your potential injury claim for compensation.
Motorcycles Compared to Passenger Vehicles
Before understanding why some motorcycle accidents occur, it’s essential to understand what sets them apart from other vehicles on the road. Motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than passenger vehicles. They only have two points of contact with the road, are much smaller than most other vehicles on the road, and offer no protection in the event of an accident.
Motorcycles lack the crashworthiness and occupant protection features of a passenger vehicle. Most vehicles have more weight and bulk than a motorcycle. They have a roof, door beams, airbags, and seat belts. They are also more stable because they are on four wheels giving them four points of contact with the road. However, what a motorcycle sacrifice in weight, bulk, and other crashworthy features is offset to some extent by its agility, maneuverability, ability to stop quickly, and ability to swerve quickly if necessary.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Factors that can result in a motorcycle accident include many of the same ones that cause passenger-vehicle collisions, such as:
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failure of other drivers to obey traffic lights, signs, or other laws
Many of these factors go back to motorist negligence. Other drivers owe it to everyone on the road to drive safely. They are supposed to obey traffic laws, including speed limits, and drive defensively to prevent accidents. Drivers who are busy on their phones have been drinking too much, driving too fast for road conditions, or participating in many other dangerous behaviors that put lives at risk. Drivers might not see motorcyclists until it is too late.
Common causes of motorcycle accidents include:
- Unsafe lane changes: Drivers risk colliding with motorcyclists when they fail to check their blind spot or signal before changing lanes or trying to cut motorcyclists off.
- Car doors: Motorcycle accidents can occur when a parked driver opens their car door in the path of an oncoming motorcycle. Severe injuries may occur if a motorcyclist hits the opened door, especially at higher speeds.
- Speeding: Speed is a leading cause of every type of auto accident. Speeding reduces a driver’s chance of noticing and reacting to other drivers in time to avoid an accident. The higher the speed, the greater the force of impact and the more significant the consequences.
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol: Far too often, all types of vehicle drivers get behind the wheel while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. These drivers endanger many lives, including motorcyclists’ lives, and as such, they may face both civil and criminal liabilities.
- Sudden stops: If another driver is following a motorcycle too close and the motorcycle driver must make a sudden stop, it can result in severe injury or death to the motorcyclist. Especially at higher speeds with larger vehicles, the motorcyclists can become trapped or crushed by the vehicle behind them.
- Inexperienced drivers: These drivers are likely to make unsafe moves on the road that can compromise the safety of other motorists, especially motorcyclists.
- Left-turn or unsafe turn accidents: Motorcyclists are perhaps the most at risk when it comes to these types of accidents. Right-of-way errors or miscalculations of distance when executing a left turn are common causes of injuries and fatalities in motorcycle riders. In fact, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 41 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes happen when the driver of another vehicle hits an oncoming motorcyclist while making a U-turn or left-turn.
- Dangerous road conditions: With only two points of contact on the road, motorcycles demand safe road conditions. Potholes, crumbling pavement, debris, and lack of necessary signs and signals all increase a motorcycle rider’s odds of losing control of their bike. In these cases, a government entity or municipality in charge of the roads or traffic can be liable for the resulting injuries and damages.
- Weather conditions: Drivers need to adjust their driving habits based on weather conditions. For example, if the roads are wet, snowy, or icy, they need to slow down and give themselves more time to turn, make lane changes, and engage in other driving maneuvers. When they fail to do so, they put all drivers, including motorcyclists, at risk of injury and death.
- Motorcycle defects: Sometimes, the manufacturer of a motorcycle or its part can be held liable for any accidents arising from a defective part. Manufacturers have a duty to ensure they are producing and using safe parts.
Most motorcycle accident injury cases depend on the legal theory of negligence.
This theory includes four elements:
- Duty of care: One party owed the other party a reasonable duty of care
- Breach of duty: One party didn’t uphold their duty of care
- Injuries: The breach of duty caused the victim’s injuries
- Damages: Their injuries led resulted in compensable damages such as medical bills and pain and suffering
Examples of Negligence
Suppose you were riding your motorcycle straight through an intersection, and you had a green light. Other drivers who are coming from the opposite direction and are turning left have a duty to yield to you.
However, one driver either doesn’t see you or thinks they can beat you and attempts the left turn. You slam on your brakes and swerve to avoid the vehicle but crash into the car anyway.
You sustained three broken ribs, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and a separated shoulder that requires surgery. Your damages include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
You can file a claim for compensation against the other driver’s insurance and prove that they were negligent by turning in front of you. A seasoned motorcycle accident attorney can help you file your claim and negotiate a fair settlement.
What Are Damages?
Motorcycle accidents can cause severe injuries, some with lifelong consequences. Substantial financial and emotional stress might follow. For example, medical expenses alone for motorcycle accident victims may reach more than six figures.
With severe injuries, some injured motorcyclists cannot go back to work immediately, if even at all, causing them to lose wages. In addition, they may be unable to participate in activities they previously enjoyed and may even have lasting mental and emotional trauma from the accident.
The reason for pursuing a personal injury claim after sustaining injuries in a motorcycle accident is to obtain fair compensation for your damages. Damages are the losses, inconveniences, or suffering you have endured due to the accident. After a motorcycle accident, injured parties deserve full and fair compensation for damages. The amount and type of compensation will vary depending on the available insurance policies, how the accident happened, who the at-fault party was if there were multiple at-fault parties and various other factors.
Some damages are economic and have bills or receipts to prove their value. Other damages are non-economic and challenging to value because they are subjective without a pre-assigned value.
Typical damages in motorcycle accident claims include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Legal and travel expenses
Individuals who suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident should consult with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as possible after their accident. An attorney can discuss the types and amounts of compensation they may be entitled to if their case is successful. To support the damages requested in a claim, a motorcycle accident attorney can help you gather medical, financial, and other relevant documentation to build a strong case.
Motorcycle Accident Claims: Time is of Essence
After a motorcycle accident, injured parties usually have many tasks they must attend to, including medical appointments, filing insurance claims, arranging time off of work to heal, and finding help for tasks they can’t complete for themselves at that time. However, during this stressful and busy period, motorcycle accident victims must know they have only a limited amount of time to take legal action concerning their accident.
Each state has its own statute of limitations which details the deadline to file a personal injury claim arising from a motorcycle accident. Depending on the state where your accident occurred, most motorcycle victims have between two and four years to seek legal action against the party that caused their damages. The clock starts ticking on the date of the accident or when the motorcyclist discovered their injuries.
In cases involving an injured minor, claims against a government entity, or other circumstances, the statute of limitations might differ. Motorcycle victims should contact a knowledgeable motorcycle accident attorney sooner rather than later to determine what statute of limitations applies in their case.
Injured individuals need to note that if they wait past their state’s legal deadline to file their injury claim, the at-fault party or their legal counsel can enter a motion to dismiss the case due to the elapsed statute of limitations. The court will most likely reject the injured party’s case because of the late filing.
Reach out to a Skilled Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today
Motorcycles not only provide a practical, cost-saving, and environmentally friendly method of transportation, but they also provide recreational opportunities. Even still, riding a motorcycle can be particularly risky since bikes don’t offer the protection and safety features that passenger vehicles do. Even with protective gear such as helmets and boots, motorcycle crash injuries can be severe or even fatal.
After a motorcycle injury crash, you will need the help of many different professionals, such as physicians and physical therapists. You will also need the help of a skilled motorcycle accident lawyer.
A lawyer can review the circumstances of your motorcycle accident to determine if you should pursue your rights to recover your damages. Most motorcycle accident lawyers offer free initial case reviews, so you don’t need money to find out if you have a potential injury claim. In addition, most of them work on a contingency fee basis. This means you owe nothing upfront if you hire an attorney to handle your claim. If and when they settle your claim or obtain a court award on your behalf, their payment will come from those funds. You owe them nothing if they don’t obtain any money on your behalf.
If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, reach out to a motorcycle accident lawyer today to learn more about your legal rights and the protections they can provide for you. They can handle all communications with insurance companies, ensuring you receive the best possible settlement or award from the liable party. Seek help today.