Motorcyclists have similar duties and rights like any other road users. However, some laws regarding motorcycles might differ from those of passenger vehicles. In California, the law acknowledges that motorcycles are more comfortable to maneuver around than other cars, and practices like lane sharing and splitting are debatable. However, these can lead to major accidents that lead to severe injuries, especially on the rider. Some cases involve irresponsible drivers who decide to flee the scene of the motorcycle accident and become liable for a ‘hit and run’ offense.
Hit and run incidents are disastrous because the fallen rider becomes susceptible and can be hit by another vehicle on the road. California law is stringent on drivers who flee the motorcycle accident scene, and the defendant can easily face jail-time. In case you or someone close to you is involved in a hit and run motorcycle accident in California, The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm will assist you in navigating the California law system and ensuring that you get the compensation you deserve for the damages caused by the at-fault driver.
Prevalence of Hit and Run Motorcycle Accidents in California
Motorcycle accidents with hit and run incidents are common in California. Among the recent events was a Camaro driver who rear-ended a motorcyclist at an intersection and threw him into oncoming traffic. Another accident entailed a hit and run defendant who dodged the authorities but was arrested by authorities one-month after the accident killing a rider. The driver was charged with felony hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter. In 2016, California recorded the highest number of hit and run accidents as well as the most critical incidents over the past decade. The AAA Foundation for traffic safety notes that 2016 had over 335 deaths caused by a hit and run in California. The figure represents a 60% increase in the number of fatalities recorded a decade ago. The report also notes that the number of hit-and-run deaths has increased by an average of 7% since the start of 2009. A significant percentage of the victims include motorcyclists. Therefore, it is crucial to have a skilled personal injury attorney to help you deal with the process of investigating, filing a claim, and seeking compensation for the damages suffered.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in California
Over speeding – In many hit and run motorcycle accidents, the speed of the driver is the primary determinant of the survival rates of the motorcyclists. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Agency (NHTSA), there is only a 20% chance of survival when a motorcyclist or a pedestrian is hit by a car traveling at 40mph. Over-speeding can cause fatal injuries on the rider
Driver Distraction – Driver distraction occurs in many forms and takes the driver’s attention from the road. It ranges from using a phone while driving to using the navigation system. A distracted driver has more likelihood to crash and is unlikely to make the instantaneous maneuvers to avoid a motorcycle accident.
Driving Under The Influence – Drunk driving is a major cause of motorcycle accidents in California. In many cases, the driver fails to identify the motorcyclist because of impairment. When such drivers cause the accident, many of them decide to flee the scene according to the AAA records.
The California law recognizes fleeing the scene as an offense because it reduces the victim’s chances of getting the immediate medical attention that he or she needs. Lack of immediate medical attention could worsen treatable injuries and make the rider develop complexities, fatal impairment, or even death. A hit-and-run crash can complicate the process of seeking compensation and justice for the suffered consequences. Some of the common complexities associated with hit-and-run motorcycle accidents include:
- Locating the at-fault driver who fled the scene
- The need for the defendant to have enough insurance coverage
While some victims are lucky enough to have cases where a hit-and-run driver is located and has sufficient insurance coverage, many of them are not. Note that motorcyclist victims of a hit-and-run accident where the driver cannot be located can still make a recovery as stipulated by the uninsured/underinsured clause of their insurance policy. Note that unlike in the statute of limitations in personal injury lawsuits, motorcyclists with the underinsured insurance policy have a maximum of one year to make a claim. Having this coverage is beneficial because it ensures that the victim is buying equal protection as that he or she is buying for other people. It is also important even in cases where the at-fault drivers are located as they might lack insurance coverage to cover all the damages incurred by the motorcyclist. While some victims assume that the criminal cases against the drivers might help, they discover that criminal cases only focus on the criminal and not civil financial liability.
Injuries Caused By Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents can cause catastrophic injuries to the victim, and some of the common injuries are as follows:
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is a sensitive body part and functions as the primary information channel of the human structure. Even the smallest injury to the spinal cord can have a temporary or even permanent effect on the victim. In fatal cases, spinal cord injuries can result in paralysis that prevents the victim from engaging in normal activities.
In some hit and run motorcycle accidents, the victim can experience bone fractures that may need special medical attention, such as surgery. Some fractures are complicated and might require pins to reposition the broken pieces and promote healing. Some common types of these injuries include femur fractures, broken hips, as well as tibia and fibula fractures.
Brain injuries are common in many hit and run accidents. When the rider does not have a helmet, there are high chances of getting head injuries that might affect your brain. Fatal cases can make the victim go into a coma and cause temporary or long-term brain damage.
Some motorcycle accidents are fatal and might completely damage a rider’s limb bones that are irreparable even with the best medical intervention. Such incidents require physicians to perform a surgical procedure to remove the limb. Some victims can suffer irreplaceable burns that surgeons cannot mend. Despite the reason, the loss of a limb can completely interrupt a person’s life and cause major physical and psychological damages. An amputation limits certain abilities and you might be forced to stop working. Even with the help of prosthesis, an amputee rarely regains full capabilities.
Many hit-and-run motorcycle accident victims succumb to catastrophic injuries. A large percentage of people who succumbed to these accidents were motorcyclists. Studies show that riders are killed 26 times more often than passenger car riders on a per-mile basis. While some victims die at the scene, others might incur costly medical care before they succumb to their injuries.
Actions that a Hit and Run Motorcycle Accident Victim Should Take
Contact the Police
If you are still capable, you should attempt to collect the license plate details, contacts, and names of individuals who were at the scene of the accident. You should then contact the police to help arrest the suspect.
Inform your Insurance Company
It is crucial to call your insurance company even if you cannot recognize the hit-and-run suspect. The reason is that you can still get compensated through individual uninsured motorist coverage. This covers a maximum of $15000 per individual injured for medical costs and has a maximum of $30000 per accident. The uninsured coverage also includes $3500 of property damage though you can qualify for more if you applied for higher limits. Another possible coverage is the collision and bodily harm coverage. However, it fails to cover all the losses incurred in a motorcycle accident.
Contact a Motorcycle Accident Attorney
However, if you are not in a position to collect these details immediately, you should contact your motorcycle attorney to help you with the investigations. Qualified attorneys collaborate with reconstructionists, assessors, and forensic professionals to identify how the accident occurred and the possible location of the suspect. This latter is achieved by retrieving surveillance records and names of potential witnesses. An attorney can also contact people that reside within the locale to give an account of what happened and the description of the vehicle that caused the accident.
Why Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
Hit and Run motorcycle accidents can be sophisticated compared to other types of accidents. The reason is that the liable person cannot be immediately located, and this jeopardizes the chances of compensation. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney helps in kick-starting the investigations and tracking the suspect to help you get the appropriate liability. The attorney assesses the primary cause of the accident and regulations violated by the driver to seek the necessary justice.
Hiring an attorney is critical in conducting thorough investigations of the available evidence. The process might require additional experts such as forensics and reconstructionists who assist in identifying the cause of the accident and driver of the car. This is critical because it enables you to focus on your recovery, knowing that someone is handling the investigation.
Dealing with Motorcycle Laws and Regulations
Motorcycle laws and regulations in California differ from other automobile laws. Because of their smaller size, they are expected to have more capacity to maneuver easier than other vehicles. This has resulted in other debatable practices such as lane sharing and splitting, which are a significant source of accidents. A motorcyclist is expected to have a helmet on while riding. Depending on the features of the incident, your attorney will know the best legal strategy to pursue.
Hiring an attorney is crucial in a hit and run accident because it increases the probability of locating the suspect driver and facilitating the claim process. Without an attorney, it is difficult to deal with all the necessary investigations to
Motorcycle Laws in California
California has various laws regarding motorcycling. These are as follows:
California Vehicle Code 27803 – This code stipulates that riders must have helmets that meet the standards set by the U.S Department of Transportation.
California Vehicle Code 26709 – A motorcycle must be equipped with both side mirrors
California Vehicle Code 27801- A motorcycle’s handlebars should not be structured in a way that puts the rider’s arms more than six inches above the shoulder height while sitting.
Lane splitting is a practice that happens when a rider passes between two traffic lanes to maneuver around vehicles. The state legalized lane splitting on all its roads for motorcyclists. Specific laws in California can protect motorcyclists when they lane split. The California Vehicle Code 22400 prevents drivers from driving very slowly that they block the sensible traffic flow except in situations when it is required for safety reasons. Furthermore, California Vehicle Code 22517 prevents motorists from opening doors or leaving them open unless it is logically safe to do so. California lacks a law that mainly addresses the issue of lane sharing. The latter occurs when two riders are side-by-side on a single traffic lane.
What Translates to a Hit-and-run in California?
California law affirms that hit-and-run occurs when a driver flees or leaves the accident scene without sharing his/her contact information with the other driver. Another definition that applies to more severe cases stipulates that it is an offense that happens when the driver leaves the accident scene before law enforcement authorities arrive. A major example is when a motorcyclist is rear-ended, and the other driver continues with the journey. Note that if you are involved in a motorcycle accident, involved drivers should provide reasonable assistance to help the victim receive proper medical attention. However, there are exceptions, especially when the driver leaves to get individual medical care. But even in these cases, such drivers are expected to provide their contact information and insurance details to the rider.
Note that the definition of a hit-and-run offense is not dependent on the individual at-fault. The notion means that even though you were not responsible for the accident, leaving the scene of the accident amounts to a hit-and-run offense. The reason is that fleeing depicts some measure of guilt, and it makes it difficult to prove to the insurance company that you were not liable for the accident.
Investigations and Evidence of Hit-and-run Motorcycle Accidents
After reporting the accident to the police, the responding officer focuses on the available facts. The first move by the officer will be to collect your statement and that of other witnesses. The officer then gathers any available evidence at the scene of the accident. The photographs of the scene of the accident that you took might be important evidence. Other types of evidence that the officer looks for include brake marks on the road, and any available traffic footage. A report is submitted to the police station and the department of motor vehicles. Notifying the police functions alerts them that there is a hit-and-run driver in the area, hence launching an investigation to make him or her accountable.
Statute of Limitations
The California law stipulates that a victim of a hit-and-run has up to two years to file a claim for a hit-and-run. However, the faster you file the claim, the easier it will be to gather the evidence, locate the driver, and get compensated if he/she has adequate insurance documents.
Experienced and skilled attorneys pursue compensation for the past, current, and future damages allowed by the law. Some of these include:
Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering entail damages caused by the anguish, shock, anxiety, and emotional distress caused by the accident. A personal injury attorney helps you pursue these damages. Hit-and-run accidents can be fatal and cause physical pain, suffering, and emotional harm.
These entail medical care expenses that the victim and his or her family incur. Motorcycle accidents are catastrophic, and these damages can total to even hundreds of thousands as there can be a need for specialized medical attention. A personal injury attorney also helps you seek future medical expenses caused by the severe injuries that require long-term care.
Property damage refers to the loss of property such as the motorcycle, as well as other personal items such as laptops and mobile phones.
Loss of Consortium
In fatal hit-and-run motorcycle accidents, the victim can be impaired to the degree that he or she cannot enjoy his or her partner’s companionship. Such an accident can also cause the loss of someone’s partner and hence the loss of consortium.
Lost wages and the potential to earn
A hit and run motorcycle accident can lead to major injuries that can stop a person from working either temporarily or permanently. If you are a victim of a hit and run motorcycle accident and are unable to resume work, you should be compensated for the value of the lost wages. This should include loss of earning capacity as well as benefits such as retirement benefits and bonuses.
In case the victim succumbs to the injuries of a motorcycle accident, the at-fault driver should compensate the family for all the damages associated with the funeral arrangements.
Criminal and Civil Charges
After a driver is arraigned in court there are criminal and civil charges that are handled separately. The criminal court has a duty of deciding which penalties the hit-and-run driver will be awarded, including fines, jail time, community service, or a combination of all of them. On the other hand, a civil trial is where the motorcycle accident attorney will assist the victim-rider in getting compensation for the damages. Note that even if the driver is acquitted of any criminal offenses, you should still file a civil suit with the help of your personal injury attorney.
Be Cautious About Insurance Companies
Insurance companies, in many cases, will try to convince the victim to agree for a minimal amount of money for the injuries suffered. You should not engage with such agents in the absence of your personal injury attorney. The reason is that while such companies seem concerned about your well-being, they are only attempting to pay you a minimal amount.
Physical Contact and Hit-and-run Claims
California court cases stipulate that accidents triggered by ‘phantom drivers’ are not covered by uninsured motorist coverage. These are drivers who trigger the occurrence of an accident without making physical contact. An example is a driver who makes a sudden entry into a lane making other motorists swerve to prevent hitting another vehicle and hitting another property.
Settlement of Hit-and-Run Claim
Other than the physical contact prerequisite, a rider must notify the accident to the insurance agent within 24 hours after the accident. He or she should also make a claim to the insurance company within 30 days after the accident. Even if you missed the deadlines, you might still be able to have successful claims but expect some disputes. Therefore, it is crucial to contact your personal injury attorney to assist with the negotiations. Having an attorney enhances your likelihood of getting fair compensation, depending on the facts of the case.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm Near Me
If you or your loved one is involved in a hit-and-run motorcycle accident in California, the possible damages can be extensive. You should focus on the recovery process of the victim through uninterrupted medical attention and care. During this time you do not need to deal with the time-consuming activities of filing a claim to seek compensation. The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm can help you understand different legal frameworks associated with the hit-and-run motorcycle accident in California and the possible compensation. We can also help you in gathering evidence that can help you to get the best possible compensation. Contact us at 619-625-8707 for more information.