Motorcycle accidents cause severe injuries and fatalities more often than crashes involving typical passenger vehicles. This is because motorcycles offer their riders and passengers no physical protection from crash impact forces. However, motorcycles continue to be incredibly popular in California and throughout the United States despite their inherent dangers. As a result, it is vital for everyone who rides a motorcycle to understand the risks involved with using these vehicles.
Statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Insurance Information Institution, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration all provide useful insights into the dangers of riding a motorcycle. Everyone who enjoys motorcycle riding must understand these statistics. While some may be jarring, it is important to remember that personal responsibility and attentive riding are two of the best ways to prevent becoming a statistic.
Does Every Motorcycle Rider Crash?
Not every motorcycle rider will experience a crash, but motorcycle riders are far more likely to crash than passenger vehicle drivers. Motorcycles are more susceptible to environmental forces like rain, snow, ice, and high wind than larger vehicles. They are also more susceptible to crashing due to sudden momentum shifts that cause a rider to lose their balance.
Motorcycles are inherently less stable than cars, so motorcycle riders are overrepresented in traffic fatalities throughout the United States. While there is no guarantee you will eventually crash while riding a motorcycle, you are far more likely to crash while riding a motorcycle than while driving a car.
How Likely Are You to Crash on a Motorcycle?
The NHTSA notes that motorcycle riders are approximately 27 times more likely to receive fatal injuries in a crash than a car driver. While only about 13 of every 100,000 passenger vehicles will be involved in a fatal accident, about 72 motorcycles of every 100,000 will be involved in a fatal accident. Not only is the risk of experiencing a crash more likely on a motorcycle, but the crash is also more likely to be fatal.
Are Motorcycle Accidents Common?
Passenger vehicle accidents are far more common than motorcycle accidents simply because there are far more passenger vehicles than motorcycles on the road. The bottom line is that motorcycle accidents are far more deadly than passenger vehicle accidents, and motorcycle riders face a higher risk of experiencing an accident.
Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents Vs. Car Accidents
When a motorcycle rider experiences an accident, they face a 98% chance of suffering an injury. The risk is much lower in passenger vehicle accidents because modern cars have many standard safety features that protect drivers and passengers during an accident. The risk of suffering injury in a motorcycle accident is about five times greater than the risk of injury in a passenger vehicle accident.
Many motorcycle accidents cause catastrophic injuries, which often include:
- Broken bones.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Spinal cord injuries.
- “Road rash,” or friction burns from sliding on pavement.
- Internal organ injuries.
Some motorcycle accident injuries can be immediately fatal or require immediate medical intervention to prevent the death of the victim.
How Do Motorcycle Accidents Happen?
Motorcycle accidents can happen due to many of the same reasons that cause passenger vehicle accidents. Driver inattention, speeding, dangerous driving, and moving violations all contribute to the motorcycle accident rate in the US. However, these factors are more dangerous for motorcyclists because motorcycles lack the safety features of most passenger cars. Motorcycles are also harder for other drivers to see, especially in heavy traffic, at night, and during periods of poor visibility.
Some of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents in California and throughout the US include:
- Driving under the influence (DUI). Drivers who cause accidents due to DUI face criminal prosecution in addition to civil liability for their victims’ damages.
- Distracted driving, such as eating or using a cell phone behind the wheel. California upholds strict laws banning driving while using cell phones without employing hands-free technology.
- Aggressive driving, including speeding, sudden lane changes, and tailgating. If you notice any driver engaging in aggressive driving, it is best to keep your distance as much as possible.
- Failure to use turn signals where appropriate. This prevents other drivers from anticipating when others will turn or change lanes.
- Poor road conditions, including debris, oil, and rainwater on the road.
While it is impossible for any rider to accurately predict the actions of other drivers, there are a few things motorcycle riders can do to reduce the chances of experiencing an accident.
How to Minimize Your Risk of Injuries in a Motorcycle Accident
There are a few steps every rider should take to minimize the risk of severe injury in an accident. First, always wear appropriate safety gear, including a Department of Transportation approved helmet. Wearing a helmet reduces the chance of a fatal head injury by nearly 40%. Authorities estimate that about 80% of motorcycle riders who sustain fatal head injuries were not wearing helmets. California state law requires all motorcycle riders and their passengers to always wear appropriately fitting helmets while riding.
Riders should also refrain from speeding and aggressive driving while operating motorcycles. For example, lane-splitting, while not technically illegal in California, is incredibly dangerous. Lane-splitting is the act of passing between lanes of slower-moving traffic. Motorcycles are small, light, and highly maneuverable, and this, unfortunately, tempts some riders to engage in risky maneuvers. Motorcyclists are safest when they drive defensively.
It is also best to avoid riding at night, during severe weather, and during periods of poor visibility. These factors can hamper a rider’s ability to quickly adjust for changing road conditions. Additionally, riders should be proactive with bike maintenance and address any mechanical problems with their motorcycles as soon as they discover them.
Determining Fault for a Motorcycle Crash
If you or a loved one receive injuries in a motorcycle accident and believe another driver is responsible for your damages, it is vital to consult an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options for legal recourse. California operates under a fault rule for vehicle accidents. This means that if another driver hits your motorcycle and causes an accident, you have the right to file an insurance claim against their auto insurance policy. While an insurance claim may not fully cover your losses, filing your claim is the first step toward financial recovery after your accident. You will need to prove the other driver’s liability for the incident if you intend to secure an insurance claim payout and/or pursue additional legal action against the at-fault driver.
Determining liability for a motorcycle accident requires establishing four basic components of negligence:
- You must prove the other driver had a duty of care in the given situation. All drivers and motorcyclists have a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely and heed traffic signals at all times.
- You must prove they breached their duty of care in some way, such as inattention, speeding, reckless driving, or operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
- You must provide evidence that their breach of duty caused actual harm or some measurable loss such as physical injury, damaged property, or other tangible damages.
- You must establish causation, meaning you must prove your claimed damages resulted from the other driver’s negligence and not some other cause.
An insurance company will typically look for any and all justification they can find to deny your claim or reduce the amount you receive from your claim. This will include challenging your declaration of the other driver’s liability. Working with an experienced attorney is the best way to reduce the chance of experiencing unjust pushback from an insurance company against your claim. If you cannot secure full compensation for your losses through an insurance claim, your attorney can also help you explore further legal remedy through a personal injury lawsuit.
Most Commonly Claimed Damages in Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits
If you need to pursue a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for causing your recent motorcycle accident, an attorney can help you calculate the full amount of claimable damages available in your case. Most motorcycle accident claims involve economic damages, including:
- Medical expenses. This includes immediate medical expenses like your hospital bills, ambulance fees, and prescription medication costs. You can also claim long-term medical expenses resulting from your motorcycle accident, such as the cost of physical rehabilitation if you suffered a severe injury. If your injuries leave you permanently disabled and in need of ongoing in-home care, you can claim these costs as well.
- Lost income. Motorcycle accidents tend to cause severe injuries that require extensive time in recovery, during which the victim may be unable to work. You can secure compensation for your lost wages until you reach maximum medical improvement. If your injuries leave you unable to resume work or work at all in the future, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you secure compensation for your lost future earning potential based on the number of years you would have continued working had your accident not occurred.
- Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing your motorcycle that was damaged or destroyed in the accident.
It is also possible to claim noneconomic damages for your pain and suffering. While it may seem difficult to calculate something abstract like pain and assign it a monetary value, personal injury attorneys can use several methods for determining an acceptable amount of pain and suffering compensation to claim on their client’s behalf.
For injuries that will eventually heal completely, the victim may secure “per diem” pain and suffering compensation for each day until they reach maximum medical improvement. For more severe injuries, it is more likely that the victim’s attorney will argue for a lump sum based on their amount of claimed medical expenses, the overall severity of their injuries, and the potential for long-term medical complications arising from those injuries. For example, an injured rider left completely paralyzed will likely secure much more pain and suffering compensation than an injured rider who suffered bone fractures that will heal within a few months.
Why Do I Need a Motorcycle Accident Attorney?
If you or a loved one suffer injuries due to the negligence of another driver, you are likely to incur significant financial losses from the incident, some of which can create incredible financial strain. For example, serious injuries will require expensive medical treatment, and the victim may be unable to work while they recover. Medical bills and lost income can quickly translate into inability to pay other bills and maintain a household. This economic strain will worsen very quickly if the victim does not secure legal counsel as soon as possible. The sooner you secure legal representation for your motorcycle accident, the better your chances are of securing expedient compensation.
Your motorcycle accident lawyer can pursue compensation for your losses on your behalf while you focus on recovery. Instead of trying to navigate the court’s strict procedures while managing your injuries, you can leave your case in the capable hands of a trustworthy lawyer while you rest. Your attorney will keep you informed of your case’s developments as they unfold and guide you through your legal proceedings with greater confidence.
Seek Representation from a Motorcycle Accident Attorney Now
California provides a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This means that if you intend to take legal action against the driver who caused your motorcycle accident, you have two years from the date the accident occurred to file your claim. This may seem like a generous window of time, but the reality is that time is a critical factor in any personal injury claim.
If you need legal counsel after a motorcycle accident in California, contact the Kreeger Law Firm and schedule a complimentary case evaluation with our team. We understand the devastating effects a motorcycle accident can have on you and your family and will help you determine the best possible approach to securing recovery for your losses. Securing skilled representation is the first step in achieving physical, emotional, and financial recovery from a traumatic motorcycle accident.