While motorcycles offer a fuel efficient and environmentally conscious way to commute to work or enjoy the open road on weekends, motorcyclists are far more vulnerable to serious injury than occupants of passenger cars, trucks and SUVs. Motorcycles provide less stability and a smaller margin of error when riders confront a road hazard or dangerous situation created by an unsafe driver. Motorcycle operators confront a higher probability of being involved in a crash, and they also almost invariably suffer injury because they do not have the benefit of safety equipment like a reinforced passenger compartment, airbags or seat belts.
At The Reeves Law Group, we understand the devastating impact of a motorcycle accident on the lives of crash victims and their families. Our California motorcycle accident lawyers work closely with motorcycle crash reconstruction experts, so we can analyze the factors that cause crash and craft a clear legal and factual basis for our client to obtain the maximum recovery.
Unique Aspects of Motorcycle Crashes Raise Challenging Issues
There are unique factors and issues involved in motorcycle accidents, which make it imperative to have an experienced motorcycle accident attorney on your side. While all personal injury lawyers can represent a client in pursuing a motorcycle accident claim, the extent to which a law firm is familiar with the special issues that pertain to these claims can significantly impact your financial recovery. Some of the unique issues involved in motorcycle accidents include:
- Severity of Injury: Although the number of motor vehicle fatalities has declined over the last decade and a half, the number of people who died in motorcycle accidents has increased nearly every year during that period, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Although motorcycles account for only 2 percent of registered vehicles on U.S. roadways, they were involved in 14 percent of fatal collisions during a recent one-year period. Riders are 30 times more likely to die in a collision and five times more likely to be injured on a per mile traveled basis than occupants of passenger cars. Because motorcycle crash victims have no protection from injury, they frequently suffer catastrophic or even fatal injuries. When you suffer severe injuries or the loss of a loved one, you need lawyers with the expertise and experience to effectively present evidence of negligence, causation and damages.
- Anti-Motorcycle Bias: While rider demographics have changed dramatically during the last couple decades, many people still harbor negative stereotypes toward motorcyclists as reckless or even criminal. These biases can impact witness and jury perceptions, so motorcycle injury lawyers must be prepared to use the voir dire process in jury selection or cross-examination to neutralize these biases. These stereotypes often lead to false assumptions about a rider’s speed prior to a collision from witnesses who base their opinion on the sound of a motorcycle engine.
- Police Reports Favoring Motorists: Many riders are discouraged because law enforcement accident reports from crashes often assign fault to the motorcycle operator. Since motorcyclists typically suffer severe injuries, the driver of the passenger car frequently is the only party available to relate the circumstances of the crash. Our motorcycle accident lawyers routinely conduct an independent investigation, often with the assistance of accident reconstruction experts. Our law firm has successfully obtained compensation for our clients even when the police report indicated that our client was speeding or otherwise at-fault. Under California law, you may still recover for your injuries even if the judge or jury determines you are partially at-fault, but the amount of your damages will be reduced in accordance with your degree of fault.
Proving Liability: Common Factors Contributing to Motorcycle Accidents
Human Error by Motorists
According to a pilot study conducted by the NHTSA regarding the causes and outcomes of motorcycle accidents, the number of motorcycle fatalities has more than doubled during a recent ten-year period. When motorcyclists are involved in multi-vehicle accidents, the driver of the other vehicle is responsible for causing the collision sixty percent of the time, according to a ten-year study of motorcycle crashes conducted by the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research. The researchers report that motorists are predisposed not to notice motorcycles. This tendency of drivers of passenger cars not to notice motorcycles is a function of the smaller size of motorcycles and their ability to travel in areas where cars will not fit.
The tendency of drivers of cars, trucks, or SUVs not to notice motorcycles is compounded when motorists engage in practices like distracted or impaired driving. Liability of the other driver in a motorcycle accident generally will be based on unsafe driving practices, violation of traffic safety laws, or failure to perform vehicle maintenance. Some of the forms of negligence by drivers of passenger cars and other four-wheeled vehicles that cause motorcycle accidents include:
- Traveling at an unsafe speed
- Failure to observe right of way rules
- Not looking for motorcycles before turning or changing lanes
- Texting messaging behind the wheel
- Talking on a cell phone
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Blowing through traffic signals and lights
- Failing to observe a safe following distance
These are just a few of the common examples of negligent driving practices by drivers of passenger cars that often cause motorcycle crashes. Our motorcycle accident attorneys review law enforcement reports, witness accounts, vehicle damage, roadway features, skid marks, and other evidence so that we can identify the negligent conduct that caused our client’s injury.
Government Entities: Dangerous Roads
While careless and inattentive drivers pose the most serious risk to motorcyclists, sometimes the failure of government entities to design, construct, or maintain roadways so that they are safe also causes motorcycle crashes. Potholes that are not repaired or sharp curves are not properly marked can play a substantial role in causing a motorcycle collision. When a public entity fails to address safety issues in terms of poorly designed roads or intersections despite a history of crashes, near misses, or public complaints, the government entity might be held financially responsible for injuries or fatalities.
Vehicle Manufacturers: Defective Vehicles
When a product defect associated with the passenger car or motorcycle plays a role in causing a collision, the manufacturer might be liable based on product liability law. For example, the brakes on the passenger car might fail or the motorcycle might experience speed wobble. When vehicle defects constitute a significant factor in a collision, any entity involved in the design, manufacture, or retail chain might be liable for the defect. A motorcycle helmet and other safety gear can also be defective and expose a rider to more serious injury. Counterfeit helmets (or novelty helmets) that do not meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218, for example, are becoming increasingly common. These helmets may even have the DOT designation even though they do not meet minimum federal safety requirements.
Protecting Your Rights: How to Proceed in the Wake of a Motorcycle Crash
If you are involved in a motorcycle crash, there are important steps to take that can help preserve your rights and remedies. When you are coping with physical pain and the shock of a collision, your judgment can be adversely impacted, so you make regrettable decision that compromise your legal claim. Our motorcycle collision lawyers have provided suggestions for safeguarding your legal claim.
- Seek a Safe Location: Although any motorcycle accident can cause serious injury, a broken leg or another injury that compromises mobility can leave a motorcycle victim stranded in the roadway following a crash. The most urgent step is to get to a location of safety so you do not suffer further injury.
- Do Not Admit Fault: When people are involved in a crash, they often feel a sense of regret, regardless of their degree of fault. These feelings may be expressed in the form of an apology, though no admission of fault is intended. Insurance companies often latch onto such statements, especially when there is a significant factual dispute regarding negligence (fault). Even if you genuinely think you are to blame for the crash, you should not say anything to the other driver or vehicle occupants that could be construed as an admission of fault.
- Seek Medical Attention: If emergency responders want to transport you to the hospital in an ambulance or administer medical attention, you should not refuse treatment. While you might feel that you only suffered minor injuries, early medical intervention can reveal more serious medical problems. If you seek prompt medical care, submit to diagnostic screening, and complete all treatment and rehabilitation protocols, you improve your prognosis while also preserving evidence of your injuries.
- Gather and Preserve Evidence: If you are physically able to collect evidence, you should take photos, get witness contact information, and ascertain the law enforcement accident report number for your crash. Photos of vehicle damage, vehicle position, injuries, skid marks, roadway features, and environmental factors can provide valuable evidence.
- Avoid Communicating with the Other Driver’s Insurance Company: Injured motorcyclists that are not represented by an attorney sometimes make the mistake of trying to deal directly with the other motorist’s insurance company. When the adjuster for the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, the adjuster’s objective is to obtain information that will minimize the amount the insurance company pays out on the claim.
- Seek Legal Advice: There are many ways to compromise a motorcycle accident claim, so you should obtain legal advice as soon as possible to protect your rights. Insurance companies handle thousands upon thousands of motor vehicle accident claims, which makes it imperative you put some experience in building a personal injury claim on your side.
Types of Motorcycle Accident Injuries and Forms of Financial Recovery
Eighty percent of all motorcyclists involved in crashes suffer injury or death, according to the federal government. Some of the common types of injuries sustained by motorcycle riders include:
- Head injuries/traumatic brain injuries
- Injury to the spinal cord
- Severe burns and road rash
- Injury to the back and neck (joints, muscles, broken bones and fractures)
- Leg injuries
- Joint injuries (knee, shoulder and wrist)
- Paralysis including paraplegia and quadriplegia
- Permanent disability
- Wrongful death
These types of injuries can mean skyrocketing medical bills, long periods off work, and permanent disability. The Reeves Law Group is committed to pursuing the maximum compensation under California law for our clients. Although the precise facts of your motorcycle accident claim will determine the types of damages that you are entitled to receive, we might seek recover for some or all of the following:
- Lost wages (past, present and future)
- Expenses associated with medical care and rehabilitation
- Pain and suffering
- Adverse impact on enjoyment of life
- Property damage
- Diminished earning ability
- Burial/funeral costs (wrongful death cases)
- Punitive damages (cases of egregious conduct)
The Reeves Law Group Can Make a Difference for Motorcycle Accident Victims
Because of the serious permanent injuries commonly experienced by motorcyclists, the post-crash quality of life of injury victims can be significantly impacted by the settlement or verdict obtained in a personal injury claim. Because The Reeves Law Group has handled thousands of motor vehicle accident cases and hundreds of motorcycle accident cases, we have the expertise and experience to obtain the recovery you need and deserve. Our law firm can provide valuable assistance to motorcycle crash victims in the following ways:
- Conducting an investigation to gather necessary evidence
- Identifying all parties who might be financially responsible for your injuries
- Determining what insurance coverage is available to satisfy a judgment or settlement
- Negotiating with the other driver’s insurance company
- Conducting discovery to obtain the factual evidence needed to prove liability, causation and damages
- Retaining accident reconstructionists, neurologists, economists, actuaries and other experts
- Defending against claims that the victim failed to mitigate damages
- Countering efforts by the insurance company to blame the motorcyclist
- Handling communications with insurance companies
- Ensuring compliance with deadlines like the statute of limitations
- Preparing and filing appropriate court documents
The California motorcycle accident lawyers at The Reeves Law Group represent injury victims who have suffered serious injuries because of the failure of motorists, public entities and vehicle manufacturers to exercise reasonable diligence for the safety of others. We invite you to call and schedule an immediate free consultation to learn about your rights and remedies at (800) 644-8000.
Department of Transportation (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Press Release
Motorcycle Accidents and Outcomes: Pilot Study (NHTSA)
Motorcycle Crash Causation Study (Federal Highway Administration)
Sun-Sentinel citing University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Study
Anatomy of a Motorcycle Accident (NHTSA)