Accidents involving motorcycles occur as frequently as any other vehicle accidents. However, the degree of injury is often more severe due to the fact that motorcycles reach higher speeds than most other vehicles. Another reason would be because motorcycles do not provide the same level of protection as other vehicles.
The following are some examples of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents:
- Head-on Collisions: A head-on collision is also known as a frontal crash, and is a type of auto collision that can cause extremely serious injury and auto damage. This is due to the nature of the impact, in which both drivers are facing each other head-on and are very close to the site of impact; this can often result in fatalities. The family members of the victim may be able to sue for wrongful death in such incidents;
- Left Turn Accidents: This accident occurs when a vehicle is attempting to make a left turn, and it hits the car that is going straight. Generally speaking, the person who is making the left turn is at fault. However, if the vehicle that was going straight was speeding or doing some other dangerous activity, the person turning may be less at fault. This would be because the person who was hit contributed to their accident by driving dangerously;
- Lane Splitting: Lane splitting is a type of road maneuver that is mostly associated with motorcycles. It involves the motorcyclist riding in between lanes of vehicles, usually to cut through traffic by passing in between the slower vehicles. When an accident occurs, fault is determined by whether lane splitting is permissible in that state;
- Speeding and DUI: Just as with other vehicles, motorcyclists are not allowed to speed nor drive under the influence. When they do get into accidents involving speeding, fatalities are more likely to occur than when two vehicles get into an accident; and
- Road Hazards: Motorcycle accidents caused by potholes, uneven lanes, or objects on the road are more likely than when a car experiences the same road hazards. When such an accident occurs, the city could be held responsible for any resulting injuries. However, this would depend on whether the city is reasonably aware of the hazardous condition, and whether they took any actions to remedy or prevent the condition from recurring.
Can I File a Lawsuit if Another Driver Caused My Injuries From a Motorcycle Accident?
A plaintiff may file a negligence claim against another rider who they believed caused their injuries. Negligence is the legal theory that allows injured parties to recover for the carelessness of others. A person would be considered negligent if they acted carelessly, given the circumstances.
In order to prove negligence and recover for injuries sustained, there are four elements that must be met. However, it is important to note that even if those four elements are proven, and negligence is established, a legitimate defense could still mitigate how much a defending party must pay.
- Duty: Here, the term “duty” refers to the responsibility one person owes to another. Generally speaking, people going about their day-to-day lives owe a duty of “reasonable care.” Reasonable care refers to the level of care that any ordinary and prudent person would utilize in the same situation. An example of this would be how if a person is driving during a rainstorm, they would be exercising their duty of reasonable care by driving slower and having their headlights on to increase visibility. Alternatively, a person would not be exercising reasonable care if they instead were driving over the speed limit, or did not attempt to increase visibility in any way;
- Breach: A breach of duty occurs when an individual’s care falls below the level that is required by their duty. In the above example, the person driving over the speed limit in inclement weather breached their duty of reasonable care;
- Causation: The breach of a duty must be the cause of injury; meaning, no other factors contributed to the injuries in need of legal recovery. Although the legal test for causation is complex, it can be simplified as a basic test that is ‘but for’ one parties actions, the injury would not have occurred. In the example presented under the definition of duty, if the person speeding during a rainstorm did not have enough time to stop before hitting another vehicle, they have breached their duty of reasonable care which then caused injury to the other car. This would be a simple example of causation; and
- Damages: Generally speaking, there must be some sort of quantifiable damage or harm that occurred. The type of injury can vary from property damage and lost wages, to emotional stress and PTSD.
All four of these elements must be present in order to successfully determine whether the other party was negligent. If one of the elements cannot be proven, negligence cannot be established.
Defenses to negligence accusations generally consist of comparative and contributory negligence, and assumption of risk. Contributory and comparative negligence ask whether the injured party is in some way responsible for the injury they suffered. Depending on state law, either contributory negligence or comparative negligence may apply to the case.
Assumption of risk is a defense that implies that the injured person knew they were doing something inherently dangerous, and chose to do it anyway. When this defense is successful, the defending party will not be ordered to pay damages. An example of this would be skiing, which is an activity that nearly everyone understands could result in breaking a leg. However, people chose to ski anyway.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Involved in a Motorcycle Accident?
Because of the nature of a motorcycle, a motorcycle crash is often much different than a typical car accident. This is due to the fact that the motorcycle driver is exposed, and is often driving at high speeds. Motorcycle crashes can involve very serious injuries to the motorcyclist as well as the driver of the other vehicle.
If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident:
- File a Report with the Police. It is important to report the incident to the police, as the resulting police report can be used as evidence should you need to file a lawsuit;
- Gather information from any witnesses and parties involved. You should record important information, such as driver’s licenses, license plate numbers, and contact information;
- Maintain records of hospital expenses and associated costs. If you have received treatment for injuries resulting from the accident, keep all records and receipts from your hospital visits. Additionally, keep records of any lost wages you experienced due to those injuries; and
- Create a written account of what happened. You should record, in writing, what you believe happened before, during, and after the accident. This should be done soon after the accident, while the smaller details are still fresh in your mind.
How Is Liability Determined in a Motorcycle Accident? What Type of Recovery is Available for Motorcycle Accident Claims?
When a motorcycle is involved in an accident, the court may consider many different factors in order to determine who is liable for the accident and resulting injuries. These factors may include, but may not be limited to:
- Whether the parties involved in the accident were following traffic rules;
- Weather conditions present during the accident;
- Photographic and video evidence of the accident;
- The condition of the vehicles involved;
- Whether the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet or other protective gear;
- Any past histories of reckless driving for all parties involved;
- Eyewitness testimony, if available; and
- Physical evidence, such as skid marks or broken pieces of the vehicle left on the road.
It is important to note that there may be slight differences between the words “accident” and “crash”. The word “accident” or “collision” generally implies that more than one vehicle is involved, while the word “crash” may mean that only one driver was involved in the incident. Although the terms have been used interchangeably throughout this article, there are some differences in a legal context.
Generally speaking, recovery for motorcycle accidents is processed through insurance claims, especially when no other vehicles were involved. However, for injuries caused by a collision between a motorcycle and another vehicle, the motorcyclist may have sustained serious injuries. For such claims, the motorcyclist could file a lawsuit with the court in order to recover damages for their injuries.
A monetary damages award may cover expenses related to the injury, such as:
- Hospital bills;
- Attorney’s fees;
- Court costs;
- Lost wages; and
- Loss of future income.
The exact amount of recovery will depend on the nature of the accident, as well as differing state laws.
Do I Need an Attorney If I Have Been Involved in a Motorcycle Accident?
You should consult with an experienced local motorcycle accident attorney if you have been involved in a motorcycle accident of any kind. Because state laws vary regarding motorcycle crashes and accidents, an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer would be best suited to helping you understand how those laws may affect your legal options.
An attorney will also be able to represent you in court as needed, while helping you work towards a suitable damages award, when available.