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Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle Accident Lawyers

It is ironic that the very reason riding a motorcycle can be so exhilarating is also the reason motorcycle accidents can be so disastrous. For it is your freedom from a car that makes you so vulnerable in an accident. 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:

  • Whiplash;
  • 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;
  • Burns;
  • Limb amputations;
  • Spinal injuries;
  • Full or partial paralysis;
  • Concussion; and/or
  • Traumatic brain injuries.

How motorcycle accidents happen

According to studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 75% of all motorcycle accidents and 50% of fatal accidents, involve two vehicles. The second is usually a car, and the motorcyclist almost always fares worse.

The most common factors in motorcycle accidents include:

  • Inexperienced riders or drivers
  • Speeding
  • Alcohol & drugs
  • Distractions (texting, talking on a cell phone, eating)
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Not using a turn signal
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Tailgating
  • Lane splitting
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Unexpected obstacles
  • Under-cornering
  • Over braking
  • Vehicle defects
  • Road defects (potholes, broken asphalt)
  • Harassment and road rage
  • Failing to wear protective gear (helmet, leather)

The high cost of motorcycle accidents

In most cases it is the front of the motorcycle that is hit. This is also the point of impact 1that results in the most incapacitating and fatal injuries. If you have been in a motorcycle accident, you may already have a good idea of its cost, including physical and emotional pain, expensive medical bills, lost wages and property damage.

Identifying every potential factor in an accident is important in determining who is at fault or what percent each is at fault and who is financially responsible.

Fault can be a complex question on which you, the other driver, police and emergency responders, and insurance companies do not agree. It is even further complicated if there were equipment failures, poor road conditions, public vehicles, or obstacles involved.

An attorney can help prepare your strongest arguments, and may even retain a private investigator to help build your case. But you must act quickly. The insurance companies will want to settle as quickly as they can. They will not want to wait to discover that you have long-term medical and disability issues. To them, it's just business. To you, it is your future. Do not agree to any settlement without talking to an attorney.

An experienced motorcycle accident attorney can help you:

  • Understand your legal options
  • Conduct an investigation into the accident
  • Challenge the police report's findings
  • Help prevent insurance companies from settling too soon
  • Ensure that your long-term medical, psychological and financial needs are identified
  • Fight for compensation

Recovering from a motorcycle accident can be a long, hard road. And it is a road you should not head down alone.

What is a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?

A motorcycle accident lawyer is a lawyer who specializes in handling motorcycle accident cases. A motorcycle accident case can be different from a regular vehicle accident case and your lawyer will be aware of those differences and how to best present your case.

Motorcycle accidents occur just as frequently, if not more frequently, than other types of accidents. In motorcycle accidents, however, the driver is more likely to sustain injuries, and such injuries are often more severe than those resulting from a passenger car accident.

Motorcycle accidents are in the legal category of personal injury, which is a subcategory of tort law. It is important to note that motorcycle laws can vary by state, so having a knowledgeable motorcycle lawyer on your case will improve your chances of recovering monetary damages.

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.

    1. 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;
    1. 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;
    1. 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 legal test for causationn 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
  1. 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.

Why is it Important to Have a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?

Motorcycle accidents can be more devastating to the driver than vehicle accidents. Having a motorcycle accident lawyer on your case will help you get the monetary damages necessary to compensate you for your injuries. Since these accidents often cause more serious injuries, it is likely to cost more to treat and rehabilitate the injured driver.

A motorcycle lawyer will be familiar with the local motorcycle laws in your area. Your lawyer will be able to review your case and determine exactly what compensation is necessary. A lawyer will also represent you during any court proceedings, if you are required to present your case in court.

It is important to note that in some accident cases, especially those involving commercial vehicles, the defendant will want to reach a settlement with the plaintiff, or injured party. While it may be tempting to accept an amount of immediate cash, it may not be sufficient to compensate you for your injuries. An attorney can help you negotiate a settlement that meets your needs.

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