Accidents that involve motorcycles occur just as frequently as any other vehicle accidents. However, the degree of injury is generally more severe due to the fact that motorcycles reach higher speeds when compared to most other vehicles, such as two passenger vehicles involved in a similar accident. Another reason for this difference would be because motorcycles do not provide the same level of accident protection as other vehicles.
The following are some examples of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents:
- Head-On Collisions: A head-on crash is also known as a frontal crash, and is a type of auto collision that can cause considerably 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 close to the impact site.
- Head-on collisions frequently happen when one driver goes the wrong way down a one-way road or highway, or when one party to the accident was driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Especially when the head-on collision involves motorcycles, this can often result in fatalities. The family members of the victim may sue for wrongful death in such incidents;
- Left Turn Accidents: Left turn accidents occur when one vehicle is attempting to make a left turn, and hits another vehicle 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 otherwise driving dangerously, the person who was 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 refers to a type of road maneuver that is mostly associated with motorcycles. Lane splitting involves the motorcyclist riding in between lanes of vehicles, usually in order to cut through traffic by passing in between the slower vehicles. When an accident occurs due to lane splitting, fault is determined by whether lane splitting is permissible in that specific state, as the legality of the act varies from state to state;
- Speeding and DUI: Just as with all other types of vehicles, motorcyclists are not allowed to speed, nor may they drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. When they get into accidents involving speeding, fatalities are more likely to occur than when two other types of vehicles get into a similar accident; and/or
- Road Hazards: Motorcycle accidents that are caused by potholes, uneven lanes, or objects on the road are more likely to occur than when another type of vehicle experiences the same road hazards. When such an accident occurs, the city may be held responsible for any resulting injuries. However, this would largely depend on whether the city is reasonably aware of the hazardous condition, and whether they took any actions to remedy and/or prevent the dangerous condition from recurring.
Can I Sue The Other Driver If They Cause My Injuries In A Motorcycle Accident?
An injured plaintiff may file a negligence claim against another rider who they believed caused their injuries. Negligence is the legal theory allowing injured parties to recover for the carelessness of others. A person is considered to be negligent if they acted carelessly, given the circumstances.
In order to prove negligence and recover for any injuries sustained, there are four elements that must be met. However, it is important to note that even if those four elements are met and negligence is established, a legitimate defense could still mitigate how much a defending party must pay.
These four elements are:
- Duty: Here, the term “duty” refers to the responsibility that one person owes to another. Generally speaking, people going about their lives owe a duty of “reasonable care” to each other. Reasonable care refers to the level of care that any ordinary and prudent person would utilize in the same situation;
- Breach: A breach of duty occurs when a person’s care falls below the level that is required by their duty;
- Causation: The breach of a duty must be the cause of the injury; meaning, no other factors could have contributed to the injuries that are in need of legal recovery. The legal test for causation can be simplified as ‘but for’ one parties actions, the injury would not have occurred; and
- Damages: Generally speaking, there must be some sort of quantifiable damage or harm that occurred as a direct result of the incident. The specific type of injury can vary from property damage and lost wages, to emotional stress and post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”).
To reiterate, 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, especially in cases involving motorcycle accidents, generally consist of comparative and contributory negligence, or assumption of risk. Contributory and comparative negligence consider whether the injured party is in some way responsible for the injury that they suffered. Depending on state law, either contributory negligence or comparative negligence may apply to the case.
Assumption of risk is a defense implying that the injured person knew that 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 any sort of damages. An example of this would be skiing, which is an activity that most reasonable and prudent people understand could result in breaking a leg. However, people chose to ski anyway.
How Is Liability Determined In A Motorcycle Accident?
The court may consider many different factors in order to determine who is liable for the accident and resulting injuries. These factors include, but may not be limited to:
- Whether the parties involved in the accident were adhering to traffic rules;
- Weather conditions that were present during the accident;
- Photographic and video evidence of the accident;
- The condition of the vehicles involved in the accident;
- Whether the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet, and/or other protective gear;
- Any past histories of reckless driving for all parties involved in the accident;
- Eyewitness testimony, when available; and
- Physical evidence, such as skid marks or broken pieces of the vehicle left at the accident site.
It is important to note that, in a legal context, there may be 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 vehicle was involved in the incident.
Generally speaking, recovery for motorcycle accidents is addressed through insurance claims, especially when no other vehicles were involved in the incident. However, for injuries that were caused by a collision between a motorcycle and another vehicle, the motorcyclist may have sustained serious injuries. Such claims may allow the motorcyclist to file a lawsuit with the court in order to recover damages for their resulting injuries.
To reiterate, a monetary damages award may cover expenses associated with the injury, such as:
- Hospital bills;
- Attorney’s fees;
- Court costs;
- Lost wages; and/or
- Loss of future income.
Do I Need An Attorney For A Motorcycle Accident?
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, you will need to consult with an area motorcycle accident attorney, or a personal injury attorney. An experienced and local personal injury lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.