In general, most vehicle accident lawsuits are based on negligence claims, unless they involve some sort of intentional or severely reckless behavior. Motor vehicle accidents can refer to:
- Car-to-car crashes;
- Trucking accidents;
- Car-to-pedestrian accidents;
- Vehicle rollaway accidents; and
- Motorcycle crashes.
A plaintiff may file a negligence claim against another person who they believe caused their injuries. This often includes another motorcycle rider. Negligence is the legal theory involving exercising the same standard of care that an ordinary person would under similar or same circumstances. Meaning, if the reckless rider engaged in risky behavior while on their motorcycle, and that risky behavior was the cause of the motorcycle accident, the rider could be held liable for the accident.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Motorcycle Accident?
In order to properly discuss who can be held liable in a motorcycle accident, we must first look at how liability is determined. In terms of a motorcycle crash, the court may examine many different factors in order to determine who is liable for the accident, as well as the resulting injuries.
Some examples of these factors include, but may not be limited to:
- Whether the parties involved were following traffic rules;
- Weather conditions at the time of the accident;
- Photographs and videotape of the event;
- Conditions of the vehicles involved, both prior to and after the incident;
- Whether the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet;
- Past histories of reckless driving;
- Eyewitness statements; and/or
- Physical evidence, such as skid marks or broken pieces of the vehicle left on the road.
It is important to note that there is a difference between the words “accident” and “crash”. “Accident” or “collision” typically implies that more than one vehicle is involved in the incident. The word “crash” may mean that only one driver was involved in incident.
There are a number of parties who may be held liable in a motorcycle accident. Most commonly, it is the other driver(s) involved in the accident that causes the motorcyclist’s injuries. Another example would be the motorcycle’s manufacturer in cases involving product failure.
What Types of Injuries are Involved in Motorcycle Accidents?
Because of the general nature of motor vehicles, accidents result in some very specific types of injuries. Some examples of these injuries could include:
- Head, neck, and spine injuries;
- Cuts, bruises, or abrasions; and/or
- Broken bones and other serious injuries.
Specific injuries commonly involved in motorcycle accidents include the following:
- Road rash, which is a specific type of friction burn;
- Facial fractures;
- Facial disfigurement;
- Broken bones;
- Limb amputations;
- Spinal injuries;
- Full or partial paralysis;
- Concussion; and/or
- Traumatic brain injuries.
What Are Some Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?
One of the common causes of motorcycle accidents is lane splitting. Lane splitting involves riding in between lanes or vehicles. It creates blind spots that other drivers may not be accustomed to; however, studies indicate that motorcycle accidents and fatalities are significantly reduced by lane splitting when traffic is heavier and slow moving. This is due to the fact that the motorcyclist is more visible to motorists, and as such is able to see and react to traffic patterns and hazards.
Lane-splitting may also be referred to as:
- Stripe-riding; and/or
Other common causes of motorcycle injuries include:
- Head-on Collisions: These occur when a vehicle and a motorcycle crash front-to-front against each other. Because of the nature of head-on collisions, they often result in fatalities. The family members of the victim may choose to sue for wrongful death in such incidents;
- Left Turn Accidents: Left turn accidents occur when a vehicle is attempting to make a left turn, and hits the motorcycle that is going straight. Typically the person making the left turn is at fault; however, if the person who is going straight was speeding or participating in some other dangerous activity, the person turning may be less at fault;
- Speeding and DUI: As with other vehicles, motorcyclists are not allowed to speed. Nor are they allowed to drive under the influence. When motorcyclists get into speeding accidents, fatalities are more likely to occur than when other vehicles get into similar accidents; and/or
- Road Hazards: Potholes, uneven lanes, or objects on the road can all cause a motorcycle accident. The city may be responsible for the motorcyclist’s injuries, depending on whether the city has notice of the hazardous condition, and whether they took any actions to prevent it.
Does the D.C. Area Have any Special Motorcycle Laws?
Laws governing motorcycles and motorcyclists vary by state. According to D.C. laws, if a motorcycle can drive more than thirty miles per hour, the following apply:
- Your driver’s license must present a motorcycle endorsement;
- Motorcycles are to be registered, inspected, and insured;
- A safety helmet must be worn at all times;
- Eye protection, such as goggles or a windshield, are to be utilized at all times;
- All motorcycles must be equipped with a left side rearview mirror;
- Motorcyclists must utilize a daytime headlight, or a modulating headlight;
- Handlebars may not exceed fifteen inches above the seat;
- Mufflers may not be modified;
- Motorcyclists are not to use any equipment to amplify sound above 86 decibels;
- The possession and use of radar detectors is prohibited;
- When carrying a passenger, motorcyclists must have a passenger footrest as well as a passenger seat; and
- Motorcycles may not be parked on any sidewalk.
Do I Need a D.C. Lawyer for Help with a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident in the D.C. area, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable D.C. lawyer immediately. An experienced attorney that specializes in personal injury may be especially beneficial. An attorney can ensure you are aware of all applicable laws while protecting your rights.
An attorney can also help you file a lawsuit against those who may be liable for your accident and injury. Finally, an attorney can represent you in court, as well as determine whether there are any defenses to contributory negligence available to you.