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Motorcycle Accidents


The rising cost of gasoline and increased traffic has caused many people to ride motorcycles. Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents are increasing with the vehicle's popularity. Motorcyclists are extremely vulnerable to injury during accidents, especially when an automobile or truck is also involved.

Motorcycle Accident Injuries

The accident and injury statistics for motorcycle accidents are overwhelming. According to reports by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTS) in 2005, motorcyclists were about 8 times more likely to be injured and 37 times more likely to be fatally injured than passenger car occupants. Whether a cyclist collides with a stationary object or involved in an automobile or trucking accident, he or she may suffer a range of injuries, ranging from broken bones to spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.

Types of Injuries

The elements of a motorcycle injury are often interrelated, and it is easy for a defense attorney to try to blame a cyclist for his own injuries. Hiring a motorcycle accident lawyer is crucial because attorneys experienced in this area of law can untangle the factors contributing to the accident and defend the victims’ rights.

Compensation for Injuries

A motorcycle accident victim is entitled to seek compensation for his injuries. In accidents involving another motor vehicle, the other driver may be at fault, and even in single-vehicle accidents, the motorcycle manufacturer may be held liable for product defects or the local government for hazardous road conditions. A talented attorney will hold the appropriate parties responsible so that victims are appropriately compensated.

Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

Numerous factors can contribute to a motorcycle accident. Because of a motorcycle’s limited crashworthiness, they do not protect a cyclist in a collision. Additionally, road and weather hazards pose a greater risk to cyclists than to automobile passengers. Since the majority of motorcycle accidents involve another motor vehicle, driver impairment and disobedience to traffic laws also play a significant role in motorcycle collisions.

Motorcyclist/Driver Obedience to Traffic Laws

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) reports that more than 51 percent of motorcycle collisions involve auto accidents (collisions with another motor vehicle). Operators of motor vehicles – motorcycles and automobiles alike – play a role in the safety of motorcyclists.

Drivers have the most responsibility for motorcyclists’ safety because an automobile can seriously injure a cyclist. A driver who is intoxicated is more likely not to notice a motorcyclist, as is a driver who is not paying attention, disregarding traffic laws, and driving at night or during inclement weather.

As statistics about motorcycling accidents indicate, the cyclist, too, plays a role in his safety on the road. Impairing factors for a motorcyclist include whether a cyclist wears a helmet and protective gear, stays out of drivers’ blind spots, remains audible to surrounding vehicles, drives during daylight hours, stays off the road during inclement weather, and obeys traffic laws. Additionally, cyclist sobriety should not go unnoted, since, in 2006, 27 percent of all fatally injured motorcyclists had a BAC of .08 or higher.

Road and Weather Conditions

Motorcyclists are more vulnerable to adverse weather and road conditions, since a motorcycle’s wheel has less surface area than a car tire and clings more tenuously to the road, and since motorcyclists make turns by leaning. Road and weather conditions that would pose little threat to an insulated automobile passenger – particularly wetness, bumps and potholes, and even painted stripes on the road – can pose a threat to a cyclist’s safety. In addition, mechanical problems that occur on the road pose a greater threat to a cyclist’s safety than mechanical problems in an automobile would.

What to do at the Scene of the Accident

  • First and foremost, seek medical attention.
  • Stay at the scene of the accident.
  • Take pictures of your injuries and of the accident scene right away, before the highway patrol cleans up the debris.
  • Gather information from other parties involved, including witnesses’ contact information.
  • Keep comments to a minimum, particularly about your health, driving, or role in the accident. Don’t acknowledge guilt under any circumstance, even if you believe the accident was your fault.

What to do in the Days and Weeks after the Accident

  • Keep meticulous records about the scene and accident. Start documenting what happened right away. Since you may be shocked or dazed in the days after an accident, your initial recount is likely to be the clearest.
  • Don’t be in a rush to talk to the other party’s insurance company, especially without your attorney present. Insurance companies are trained to put words in victims’ mouths that will cancel out evidence against the defendant.
  • Don’t have your bike repaired until all the damage is documented. This damage is an essential part of the accident reconstruction and investigation.
  • Hire a motorcycle accident lawyer immediately. He or she will navigate the helmet, insurance, and accident laws pertaining to your case and make sure your rights are upheld.

Investigation and Reconstruction

Investigating the crash and reconstructing the scene of a motorcycle accident is important for several reasons. Evidence at the scene of the accident can indicate how the vehicles collided, the trajectory of each vehicle, and which vehicle caused the collision – crucial information in determining who was at fault. Additionally, if a cyclist cannot remember the details of the accident, the investigation may be the primary source of evidence for their case. If you have been in a motorcycle accident, contact a talented attorney immediately to gather all the evidence necessary to defend your case.

Elements of the Investigation/Reconstruction

In the accident investigation and reconstruction, an attorney examines the following:

  • Gouge and skid marks, oil stains, and scattered debris, shattered glass, and pieces of the vehicle(s) strewn at the scene.
  • Damage to the bike and helmet. This can indicate how the bike was hit, from which direction, and how fast.
  • Pictures of the scene and victims’ injuries.

Why do I need an attorney for the investigation?

It is important to have an experienced motorcycle accident attorney reconstruct the scene of the accident for several reasons:

  • Motorcycle accident lawyers are well-versed in the laws pertaining to this particular type of accident.
  • An attorney with experience in motorcycle accident law knows what to look for in the investigation and what to expect from the defense and insurance companies.
  • Police reports may not adequately describe the accident scene, and they may even be biased in the automobile driver’s favor.

Who Can File Suit in a Motorcycle Accident?

There are several factors that can affect a motorcyclist's potential claim after a motorcycle accident. Among these are the motor vehicle and insurance regulations in your state, medical treatment issues, compliance with traffic laws (by the motorcyclist as well as the other motorist), the crashworthiness of the motorcycle, and liability and negligence laws. Depending on the cause of the motorcycle accident, proving fault may be especially difficult, particularly if the motorcyclist's actions contributed to the collision. Therefore, it is crucial to hire an attorney with experience in motorcycle law. Lawyers well-versed in this type of motor vehicle accident law can navigate the specifics impinging on your potential lawsuit and work to protect your rights.

What Will Happen If I File Suit?

If you decide to file suit after a motorcycle accident, there are several possible outcomes. The case may go to trial, or it may be settled in arbitration or through a settlement. Hiring a practiced motorcycle accident attorney is usually your best defense against insurance companies' attempts to settle the claim for far less than you deserve. Learn more about motorcycle accident damages and well-known settlements.

Why do I need a Motorcycle Accident Attorney?

Each state has its own laws pertaining to determining fault for motorcycle, automobile, and trucking accidents, as well as helmet, traffic, and wrongful death statutes. Hiring a skilled attorney will assure you are not overwhelmed by the complexity of the legislation involved or cheated by the other party’s insurance company.

Pursuing Compensation

Injured persons are often entitled to compensation for their injuries, but the total amount of damages awarded to the victim depends on the injuries sustained, who was at fault for the accident, insurance issues, and other factors. The surviving family members of a wrongful death victim may also be entitled to compensation for their losses.

However, it is not easy to obtain compensation because insurance companies work to minimize or eliminate the amount they have to pay. It can also be difficult to collect evidence at the scene of the accident. An attorney who is well-versed in the laws pertaining to motorcycle accidents will seek damages by collecting evidence at the scene, disputing charges by the defendant’s insurance company, and providing aggressive legal defense throughout the proceedings.

Proving Fault

Proving who is at fault in a motorcycle accident can be complicated because it involves a complex set of negligence and liability laws. If you or a loved one has suffered a head injury, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or another type of personal injury in a motorcycle accident, it is important that you hire a motorcycle accident attorney. An experienced attorney can make sure that the appropriate party or parties are held accountable for your injuries.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Motorcycle Accidents?

Motorcyclists are held to the same traffic laws as other motorists. In the event of an accident, a motorist is not protected by law in the same way as a pedestrian. When a motorcyclist is injured in a motorcycle accident, under "comparative negligence," liability can be split between more than one party, including the motorcyclist. For example, if a motorcyclist is involved in an auto accident, he or she may be held partially responsible for the accident if his or her reckless driving, motorcycle malfunction, or failure to wear a helmet contributed to the accident.

Alternatively, depending on the circumstances of the accident, the other motorist may be held fully responsible for the motorcyclist's injuries. However, even if a motorcyclist is held partially liable for his or her injuries, this does not mean that the motorcyclist is not able to pursue damages. Given the complex nature of personal injury and motorcycle accident law, it is best to seek the advice of an experienced attorney to make sure your rights are not overlooked or taken advantage of in your negotiation and trial.

Reasons for Statutes of Limitations

There are two main reasons for the adoption of statute of limitation laws in personal injury cases:

  • To protect potential defendants from unending risk of being involved in a lawsuit
  • To make certain that legitimate lawsuits are filed while evidence and memories remain fresh

Determining Statutes of Limitations

Establishing the time frame for filing your motorcycle accident lawsuit is best determined by consulting with an attorney. In most instances, the statute of limitation begins on the date the injury occurred, after which time a victim typically has at least one to two years to file a claim for damages. It is critical that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible, in order to properly submit your claim prior to this deadline.

If you fail to file within the allotted amount of time, the court will likely dismiss your case. There are extenuating circumstances, however. Some injuries may not be discovered for months or years after an accident. In these cases, statutes of limitations may begin on the date of discovery of the injury or the date on which the victim should have discovered it. The latter date is determined by a judge who decides when it is fair to say the victim should have been aware of the injury, whether or not he or she actually knew about the injury.

Damages

When the negligent actions of another party are the direct cause of a motorcycle accident, victims may be entitled to compensation for damages and losses related to the accident. However, the types of compensation that the victim is able to pursue may vary from state to state. In addition, a number of factors, including the severity of the injuries the victim sustains, and whether or not the injuries affect the victim's ability to perform the basic functions of their job, often determine the amount of compensation to which victims are entitled.

Medical Expenses

Medical care following a motorcycle accident can be expensive. Some injuries, such as brain and spinal cord damage, can necessitate extensive rehabilitative treatment, sometimes for the extent of the victim's life. This can put an extreme burden on the financial well-being of both the victim and the victim's family, as unfortunately, medical insurance is not always adequate to cover the bulk of the expense. Representation by an experienced attorney can be crucial in obtaining compensation for these expenses.

Lost Wages

Many serious motorcycle accidents can leave victims temporarily unable to perform the essential functions of their job. However, some injuries, such as severe brain and spinal cord injury, can result in permanent disabilities that make it impossible for victims to continue to work. As a result, they may be able to obtain compensation for both the loss of current and future wages.

When a motorcycle accident results in a wrongful death, the victim's family may also be entitled to compensation for the loss of the victim's estimated future earnings.

Property Damage

Victims may be able to recover the cost of their motorcycles in the event they are wrecked beyond repair. They may also be able to obtain compensation for repair costs as well as the costs of interim rental vehicles.

Pain and Suffering

In addition to the physical injuries they may suffer, victims can also experience severe emotional trauma that lingers beyond the immediate effects of the accident. Compensation for pain and suffering in a motorcycle accident case addresses those damages beyond the basic recovery of economic losses related to medical expenses, lost wages, and repair or replacement costs.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages may be assessed against the other motorist in accidents entailing extreme negligence or malicious action. Punitive damages are not compensatory, but instead are intended to punish or to deter future behavior.

What affects a motorcyclist’s insurance premium?

An insurance company considers several factors to determine what a cyclist’s premium will be. These factors include the:

  • The type of bike
  • The cyclist’s driving record
  • How often the bike is driven
  • How far the bike is driven when used
  • The driver’s age
  • Special training (ie. completion of a motorcycle training program)

What type of insurance are motorcyclists required to have?

Every state requires that motorcyclists be registered, licensed, and insured just like automobile drivers. However, the minimum requirement laws and laws requiring helmets and protective gear vary by state. Minimum coverage of Bodily Injury Liability and Property Damage Coverage is typically required to pay claims against the policyholder if he or she is liable for an accident.

Is there uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for motorcyclists?

Yes, although the limitations of uninsured (UM) and underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage vary state by state, as do whether or not UM and UIM coverage is mandatory. UM and UIM coverage protects a motorist who suffers injuries by another motorist who does not have insurance or has inadequate insurance.

Crashworthiness & Auto Defects

A motorcycle’s crashworthiness, or its ability to withstand a collision with minimal injury to the cyclist, is a strong factor in motorcycle accident injury, since, on a bike, even a small collision can cause severe personal injury and even fatalities. A motorcycle’s crashworthiness depends largely on the quality of its construction and design. A talented motorcycle attorney can hold manufacturers responsible for product defects that contributed to a cyclist’s injury.

Improved Motorcycle Design

Motorcycle manufacturers have made significant improvements on their products over the past several decades to advance riders’ safety on the road. The following developments, in particular, have increased motorcycle crashworthiness:

  • Tires have been made more durable with better traction for turning and stopping.
  • Braking systems have been modified to improve a cyclist’s ability to brake quickly in a short distance. Some of these systems include hydraulically actuated disc brakes (which self-adjust for wear and are more resistant to wet conditions than older brakes), linked braking (which slows both wheels with the same control), and/or antilock braking systems.
  • Motorcycle-mounted rider protection systems, leg protectors, and airbags are being tested by some manufacturers.

Safety Problems with Motorcycle Design

Even on the most crashworthy motorcycle, a cyclist still faces a much higher risk of injury than automobile passengers. Several factors of a motorcycle’s design increase this risk:

  • A motorcycle’s fuel tank or engine (in the front of the bike) can cause severe pelvic injury to the cyclist
  • Instruments and controls on the fuel tank can cause uro-genital injuries in a crash
  • Windshields that are too large can impede a cyclist’s line of sight
  • Tires can explode or blow out, causing road hazards

Locate a Talented Motorcycle Accident Lawyer near You

If you or a family member has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you need the best legal representation available. Locate a talented attorney near you to make sure you receive compensation for your injuries.

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