Most motorcycle accidents in California are caused by faulty bike parts, reckless drivers, and dangerous road conditions. Any person who has been injured in a motorcycle accident can file a personal injury lawsuit against the individuals responsible for causing the accident. Moreover, family members can institute wrongful death claims to obtain compensation for their loved ones who died due to motorcycle accidents. Read on to know more about motorcycle accident lawsuits, as discussed by our lawyers at The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm.
Personal Injury Lawsuits for Motorcycle Accidents
When you institute a personal injury motorcycle accident lawsuit, the court will hold liable the person who caused the accident. This person may be the driver, the local governmental authorities, another motorcyclist, or even a pedestrian.
You will be entitled to compensation if your personal injury claim is successful. This compensation will depend on the magnitude of the physical injuries you incurred because of the accident, the value of your lost wages and medical bills, the amount of money you may spend for future treatment, and the extent of damage to your motorcycle.
If you have been involved in a car-motorcycle accident with another driver, you should first reach out to a personal injury attorney before contacting the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident. The primary aim of most auto insurance companies in the United States is to settle car accident claims as quickly as possible but using the least amount of money to reap huge profits. If you decide to deal with the auto insurance company by yourself, you may not receive the payment which you rightfully deserve. Let your attorney handle your claim with the company as you concentrate on recovering from your injuries.
How Common are Motorcycle Accidents in the United States?
The number of motorcycle accidents in the United States has continued to grow rapidly over the past years. For instance, in the year 2016, around 5000 people in the United States died due to motorcycle accidents. In fact, motorcycle deaths account for 13% of all motor vehicle deaths in the United States, though the number of registered motor vehicles is 16 times that of registered motorcycles.
As illustrated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), motorcycles are more prone to road accidents when compared to motor vehicles. The risk of death for a motorcycle rider is 25 times higher than that of motor vehicle passengers.
Motorcycles tend to be less visible and less stable than cars, yet they still have high-performance capabilities. They are also unprotected since they lack an enclosed passenger seat. All these factors make motorcyclists extremely vulnerable to road accidents that may result in both severe physical injuries and death.
What are the Risk Factors for Motorcyclists?
As a motorcycle rider or passenger, you will always be vulnerable to an accident while out on the road. Even motorcyclists who are highly skilled and well-experienced can still face a serious road crash. However, there are various factors that may place you at a higher risk of being involved in a motorbike accident. Some of these factors include:
- Helmet use
- Alcohol impairment
Here is a brief explanation of each of these factors:
1. Helmet Use
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the most effective ways to prevent motorcycle accidents is enforcing a universal helmet law. The state of California has this law, and all its motorcyclists have to observe it fully. However, at least half of the states in the USA have enacted a partial helmet law instead of the universal one, including neighboring Arizona.
According to California’s Vehicle Code section 27803, all the passengers and riders of motorcycles should put on a safety helmet. It is also the responsibility of the motorcycle driver to make sure that his passenger has worn a helmet. In case a law enforcement officer finds out that either the driver or the passenger has not put on a helmet, he will ticket the driver as a punishment for breaking the law.
In 2015, safety helmets saved the lives of 1772 motorcycle riders. Helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by 69% and the risk of death by 37%.
It has been widely known that motorcyclists who are below 29 years are more prone to road accidents. From 1970 – 2005, such motorcyclists recorded the highest rate of deaths and injuries as a result of accidents.
Currently, this situation has begun to change drastically. The fatal death and injury rate of motorcycle riders who are above 50 years has started to rise. Just in 2016, around 36% of deaths caused by motorcycle accidents involved riders of ages 50 years and over.
Over 90% of motorcycle accidents that occurred in the United States were presumed to be caused by male riders. Generally, female riders tend to be more careful, and they can quickly notice roadside hazards and refrain from riding carelessly. This makes them less prone to motorcycle accidents.
4. Alcohol Impairment
Alcohol reduces the concentration of motorcycle riders, and it lowers their capacity to operate their motorbikes safely. More than 25% of motorcycle accidents in California involved a motorcyclist who had a blood-alcohol content level which exceeds the legal limit of 0.08%.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries and Causes
There are various potential causes of motorcycle accidents. Here are some of them:
- Hazardous weather conditions
- Collision with stationary objects such as lamp posts and road signs
- Malfunctioning of the parts of the motorbike
- Cars pulling in front of a motorcycle
- Loose gravel on the roadway
- Vehicles merging into the motorcyclist’s lane
- Temporary metal plates on the ground
- Tailgating a motorcyclist
- Poor road conditions
There are specific types of physical injuries that may occur due to motorcycle accidents. The severity of most of these injuries usually depends on how the bike falls over during the crash and whether the motorcyclist was sufficiently protected while riding. Here are some examples of motorcycle accident injuries:
- Road rash
- Hearing damage
- Joint breakage (especially fingers, shoulder, pelvis, wrists, hips, and knees)
- Eye injuries
- Broken bones
- Spinal and neck injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Head injuries
- Loss of limbs
- Nerve damage
- Facial disfigurement
What to Do After You Have Been Involved in a Motorcycle Accident
Here are the steps which you should take after you have been involved in a motorcycle accident:
1. Seek Medical Attention
This is the first step which you should take after you have been involved in a motorcycle accident. Remember that your health and physical well-being should always come first.
If you notice that you have been injured, call 9-1-1 or reach out to a reliable friend or family member to take you to the hospital. If you have not been physically hurt, thoroughly check the accident scene to ascertain whether someone else was injured. Then, make sure that any person injured in the accident scene has received medical attention.
The injuries of a motorcycle accident can be quite tricky. You may feel healthy and not notice any injuries after the crash, but they may manifest themselves later. Most neck, head, and back injuries take a long time to show any symptoms. Therefore, you should visit your doctor immediately after the motorcycle accident for your health to be evaluated and to know if you incurred any injuries. The sooner your doctor evaluates these injuries, the higher the chance you have of recovering and preventing severe and long-term side effects.
2. Gather Information
A typical motorcycle accident may involve a motor vehicle driver, another motorcyclist, multiple cars, and one or more pedestrians. After you have been treated, try to gather all the information you can get concerning the accident.
You should find the license plate, identification numbers, year, color, model, and make of all the vehicles and motorcycles in the accident scene, the name and contact information of other people who were present during the accident, and the insurance information of the motor vehicle drivers. Some people who are involved in the crash may not be willing to cooperate, and they may withhold vital information from you. In such instances, you should report them to the authorities who will compel them to give you all the details you require.
You can also take videos and photos of the motorcycle accident scene using your smartphone. Make sure you record the number plates of all the motorcycles and cars involved in the accident and take pictures of your bodily injuries.
3. Reach Out to a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
You should reach out to a California personal injury attorney who is experienced in handling motorcycle accident cases. Sometimes, the insurance company may present you with an offer and attempt to make you quickly sign a waiver for you to get your check.
Talk to a lawyer who will explain to you your rights before entering into any agreement with the insurance company. This way, you will get the value of compensation you deserve.
Be Careful About What You Say After the Motorcycle Accident
It is quite common for most victims of motorcycle accidents to apologize over what had happened after the crash. However, while apologizing, be careful about what you say and don't make any statement which can be interpreted as you admitting that you should be held responsible for the accident.
Other people involved in the accident may yell at you and blame you for causing the accident. They may try to get you to admit that you were at fault. Even if you believe that you have caused the accident, you should never admit fault since there may be other factors that may have resulted in the crash and you didn't know that they exist. For example, the other motorcyclist or motor vehicle driver could have been speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or concentrating on his phone.
It is only the jury who has the right to decide the person who was ‘at-fault' at the time when the accident occurred. Your attorney will deal with other people who were involved in the crash; including the drivers, local authorities, and the insurance company on your behalf. If it is found out that another person caused the accident, you will obtain compensation for your injuries.
How to Know if the Motor Vehicle Driver Caused the Motorcycle Accident
In many car-motorcycle accidents, it can be hard to discern the person who should be responsible for causing the accident. As per California’s negligence laws, a driver who is negligent and caused a car-motorcycle accident should be liable to the injured motorcycle rider.
For you to assert negligence of the motor vehicle driver and convince the court to hold the driver liable, you must prove that the driver owed you a duty of care and he breached it by acting negligently. Generally, a person who operates a vehicle on any road in California owes a duty of care to other drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. If the negligence of the driver was a substantial factor in causing the accident, the driver would be responsible for the motorcyclist's injuries.
Negligence Per Se
In some instances, the injured motorcyclist does not have to show that the motor vehicle driver acted negligently. This is especially in situations where the motor vehicle driver was violating a particular traffic law at the time when the accident occurred. In such circumstances, the court will consider the driver to be ‘negligent per se.'
As illustrated by California’s laws, negligence per se is usually presumed on the offending party if he violated any law, statute, or ordinance. For the injured rider to show negligence per se, he must prove that the defendant violated a traffic law which was primarily meant to protect him, and this violation resulted in the motorcycle accident. For instance, he can demonstrate that the motor vehicle driver was speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, following too closely, running a stop sign, and driving distractedly and recklessly.
What if the Motor Vehicle Driver Blames You For the Accident?
Even if the motor vehicle driver was at fault, he may blame you and claim that you should be responsible for causing the accident. He may also attempt to make you admit fault.
In such instances, you should never admit that you were responsible for causing the accident. Just tell the motor vehicle driver to reach out to your attorney and talk to him about the crash.
Even if your reckless acts may have resulted in the accident, the court may still hold the other driver to be partially liable for your injuries. According to California's comparative fault laws, if more than one party caused a motorcycle accident, the jury has the power to apportion damages and fault.
This implies that the damages of the injured party could be reduced to reflect the shared fault level. For example, the motor vehicle driver may be 70% to blame for the motorcyclist's injuries, and the injured rider may be responsible for causing the accident by 30%. In such a situation, the injured motorcyclist will recover 70% of their damages from the motor vehicle driver.
Who to Blame if Poor Road Conditions Caused the Motorcycle Accident
Motorcycles are very sensitive to road conditions. If a motorbike hits a poor road condition, its rider may lose control and cause an accident. On the other hand, cars can smoothly run over potholes, gravel, or rough pavements without even feeling them.
Some examples of poor road conditions which can easily cause motorcycle accidents include broken light posts, metal plate coverings, water leaks, potholes, cracked cement, faulty road signs, lifted asphalt, uneven sidewalks, and loose gravel. Under California's premises liability laws, the owner of the property should repair any poor road conditions that may lead to motorcycle accidents. If the property owner fails to repair and maintain the road, the court will hold him liable for any injuries or losses an individual suffered because of the motorbike crash.
Any person who owns a particular piece of property must regularly maintain and inspect it, and repair and give proper warning of any potentially dangerous condition. Even if it is a governmental agency that owns the property, the court will still hold it responsible for any poor road conditions.
You can file a personal injury claim against the city, county, or state government agency. However, as the plaintiff, there are various factors that you must prove to receive monetary compensation in a claim against the government. Some of these factors include whether the governmental agency which you have sued controlled the property and had known the poor road condition but failed to take any steps to repair it, whether the road was in poor condition when the accident occurred, and whether the poor road condition was the main cause of the crash.
Who to Blame if a Malfunction Caused the Motorcycle Accident
Even an experienced rider may not be able to prevent an accident caused by malfunctioning of the parts of the motorcycle. Some motorbikes may have defective parts that can make their riders crash or unable to stop.
According to the product liability laws of California, any business which designed, sold, or manufactured a defective product should be held liable for the injuries caused by that product. Sometimes, you may have bought a defective motorbike; and you may be caught out of the blue when it malfunctions.
In product liability cases, you don’t have to prove that the company which designed the motorcycle was negligent. Instead, the court will impose strict liability on the motorcycle company for manufacturing and design defects and failure to warn the users of the defects.
For an injured rider to recover damages in a product liability lawsuit, he must demonstrate that the defendant manufactured, designed, or sold the defective product, the product was defective when it left the defendant's premises, he used it reasonably, and the defect made him incur injuries. Product defects in motorcycle accidents cover custom motorbikes, aftermarket parts, custom parts, and mass-market products. Even if a particular product wasn't explicitly designed for a specific bike, its manufacturer would still be liable for damages if he didn't warn users, yet he was aware of the problem.
Damages in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit
You will receive monetary compensation in the form of damages for any financial loss you have incurred due to the motorcycle accident. These damages will cover your medical and hospital bills and lost wages. Furthermore, you can be compensated for lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, loss of consortium for a spouse or domestic partner, loss of limbs, disfigurement, and scarring.
Wrongful Death Claims in Motorcycle Accidents
If your loved one was killed in a motorcycle accident, you can institute a wrongful death claim to be compensated for the loss. According to California’s wrongful death laws, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim even if their loved one is not able to. Such family members include the surviving spouse or domestic partner, any children, any grandchildren (only if the individual’s children are deceased), and any other person who is entitled to inherit the property of the individual under California’s succession laws.
The damages in a wrongful death claim are quite different from those awarded in a personal injury lawsuit. Typically, these damages cover all the costs associated with the loss of a family member such as funeral and burial expenses, lost financial earnings the accident victim would have been entitled to, had he survived, and compensation for the loss of support and companionship.
Find a California Motorcycle Accident Attorney Near Me
You need professional help to obtain compensation for your motorcycle accident injuries. As a victim of a motorbike accident, your priority should be recovering from your injuries; and not preparing legal documents and fighting with insurance companies for compensation. At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we can handle all the details of your motorcycle accident case. Call us today at 619-625-8707 to make your first consultation.