Ultimate Motorcycle Accident Overview
In recent times, there has been a noticeable increase in motorcycle accidents. With nearly nine million motorcycles in operation, it's not surprising that nearly 5,000 motorcyclists lose their lives each year, and approximately 90,000 sustain injuries. The inherent danger associated with motorcycle riding is evident when you consider that the fatality rate for registered motorcycles is 26 times higher per mile traveled compared to car accidents.Top Causes of Crashed Motorcycles
Motorcycle-related accidents are often severe without the enclosed protection other vehicles provide. There are several common ways that motorcycle accidents happen.1. An Automobile Turns Left
This is one of the most common ways a motorcycle accident happens, causing up to 42 percent of all crashes. Generally, as the car or truck turns left, it collides with a motorcycle alongside the vehicle. Sometimes, the biker tries to pass while in the same lane or simply traveling through an intersection. This often happens because the driver is distracted or not seeing the motorcyclist. The driver often mistakes the absence of other cars or trucks for the lack of other oncoming vehicles. This includes motorcycles.2. An Automobile Changes Lanes
This results from drivers not checking carefully before changing lanes or not seeing a motorcycle due to a blind spot. Because of the motorcycle's low profile, it is often hidden from the driver's view.3. Lane Splitting
In states like California, motorcycles are allowed to travel between lanes of traffic. This often results in an accident since other vehicles are not expecting the motorcycle to be there. It also occurs due to the closeness of the motorcycle to the other vehicle. Even if the motorcyclist or the car/truck driver is cautious, there is often little room for either to get out of harm's way.4. Opening of a Car Door
This happens when a driver in a vehicle parked along a roadway suddenly opens their door without checking to see if a motorcyclist is approaching.5. Speeding
When a motorcycle is traveling at a high speed, the biker is less likely to be able to control their bike. Speeding is particularly dangerous when going around a corner.6. Road Hazards
Minor road hazards are dangerous for a motorcyclist. While other motor vehicles can tolerate potholes and road surface irregularities, a motorcycle cannot always do that. Debris on the road or wet roads can also cause motorcyclist control problems. Being aware of the roadway is a top priority for motorcyclists.7. Animals
Deer or small animals often wander the road, and trying not to hit them is sometimes futile. This can cause the motorcyclist to lose control, ending in an accident.8. Riding while Impaired
Over 42 percent of all motor vehicle accidents involve the use of alcohol. Drinking and riding interferes with cognitive ability, coordination, and judgment.Injuries from a Motorcycle Accident
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 80 percent of motorcycle accidents end in significant injury or are fatal. Specific body areas are more prone to injuries. For instance, the legs and feet are injured approximately 30 percent of the time in a motorcycle accident. Fractures are the most common.
Brain injuries occur, particularly to bikers who refuse to wear a helmet. About 80 percent of those who die in a motorcycle accident die due to a traumatic brain injury. Spinal cord injuries due to a motorcycle crash can cause life-altering changes, resulting in paralysis. They are common since motorcyclists are often thrown from their bikes in an accident. Other injuries, such as dislocations, particularly of the shoulder, occur routinely.What You Should Know About Motorcycle Insurance1. Motorcycle Insurance in Your State
Some states do not require motorcycle insurance, including Montana, Florida, and Washington. For the ones that do, they have specific insurance requirements. For example, the California requirements are:
- $15,000 per person for injury or death
- $30,000 for multiple people
- $5,000 for property damage to another vehicle
Collision and comprehensive cover damage to your motorcycle. Collision is used when your motorcycle is damaged by colliding with another vehicle or an object, such as a tree or wall. Comprehensive covers damage c caused by vandalism, flooding, animal accidents, and other things, such as windshield damage and fire. Collision and comprehensive are not required by the state. However, if you are paying off a loan, the dealership may require it until it is paid.2. Fault or No-Fault
If a motorcyclist is at fault for an accident, his or her insurance will pay for the damage done to the other person. However, if the other party to the accident was at fault, that person's insurance is responsible for the damage. Since it is not in their best interests to accept that the insured was at fault for the accident, they will try to find a reason to defer fault.3. Paying a Deductible
Many worry that if their insurance pays for the damage and injuries they suffer, they will be required to pay. If the insured is not at fault for the accident, the other driver's insurance company will be obligated to repay the deductible. This is referred to as subrogation. In addition, some insurance companies will waive the deductible and recover it from the other insurance company directly.4. Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist
If a biker is in an accident and the other person lacks insurance, your insurance will pay if you have collision and comprehensive. If not, your bike is damaged, or you are hurt in the accident, your insurance will not pay. On the other hand, if you have opted for uninsured or underinsured coverage, the insurance will pay if the other driver caused the accident and is uninsured or underinsured.5. Property Damage, Medical Costs, and Your Options for Insurance Coverage
It is essential to carry enough. If possible, $100,000 in coverage would help you cover bills related to an accident, such as damage to your motorcycle and medical costs. A typical umbrella policy, which typically combines coverage for your home and vehicle, offers protection for your assets in an accident or a legal dispute. Despite its relatively affordable cost, it offers substantial peace of mind. Extending your liability coverage in this manner will give you comprehensive protection up to the policy's maximum limit. It's crucial to possess a copy of your insurance policy, and it's advisable to periodically review it to confirm its current status.6. Liability in Your State
Some states are no-fault states, while others use comparative fault. For example, California is a state that uses comparative fault. In other words, drivers in an accident may be assessed a certain amount of fault. It might be that one driver is 100 percent liable for the accident. Their insurance is responsible for 100 percent of the damages when that happens. In other cases, one driver may be 60 percent responsible, while the other is 40 percent responsible. This determines the amount an injured driver can collect. For instance, if the damages are $10,000, the 40 percent at-fault driver can still collect $6,000 from the other driver.7. Repairing Crashed Motorcycles
Damage to your motorcycle is paid by the insurance company, and the amount is dependent on the insurance policy. This is usually covered by comprehensive/collision insurance if the accident was your fault. If the other driver is at fault, his or her insurance will be responsible.8. Fair Market Value
If the motorcycle is deemed a total loss due to the accident, the insurance company will provide compensation equal to the fair market value of a comparable motorcycle at the time of the accident. This fair market value represents the motorcycle's worth. It's important to note that, in many cases, the motorcycle's actual purchase price is significantly higher than this value, as the value of a motor vehicle depreciates rapidly upon purchase or as soon as it is driven off the dealership lot.
If the motorcycle was financed, there's a possibility that the remaining loan balance exceeds the fair market value of the motorcycle. In such a scenario, the motorcycle owner will be responsible for paying off the difference between what the insurer provides and the outstanding loan amount, even if the motorcycle is no longer usable. One effective way to safeguard against this situation is to purchase gap insurance, which bridges the gap between the insurance company's payout and the remaining loan balance.
It's worth noting that you can choose to retain ownership of your motorcycle even if it is declared totaled. However, the insurance settlement you receive will be reduced in this case. For example, if your motorcycle has a salvage value of $500, and you decide to keep it, the insurance company will deduct this salvage value from the amount it would have originally paid you. This allows you to sell it to a salvage yard or undertake repairs to restore its functionality.Insurance Disputes
During the life of an insurance claim, there are several types of disputes that may occur:1. Dispute as to Fault
Sometimes, a dispute may arise over who was at fault in the accident or, if fault is shared, what percentage of fault exists. In such cases, providing evidence detailing how the accident happened may be necessary. Pictures taken at the scene are invaluable for this purpose. Accident reconstruction experts can also help. Having a seasoned motorcycle accident attorney can help, too. He or she can use documented evidence to show how the accident occurred and who was at fault.2. Dispute over Damages
It is to the insurer's benefit to offer an amount lower than what you demanded. Most of the time, the first offer is considerably lower. It is common for an injured party to be besieged by medical bills and be unable to work or not be able to get there due to motorcycle damage. So, accepting an offer sometimes seems a good idea, even if it is below what you calculated as necessary. Don't do it. Talk to an injury attorney to see what your options are. Remember, once you have accepted payment from the insurer and signed a waiver saying that you will not hold them liable afterward for anything to do with the accident, you will not receive one penny more.3. Negotiations
Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance company, providing evidence that supports your claims. The attorney will draft a demand letter outlining what you consider to be a fair payout. There may be some back-and-forth demands, but ultimately, the insurer knows what the accident is worth. If not, the attorney can file a lawsuit demanding that the other driver and insurer pay the appropriate amount.Things You Must Do After a Motor Vehicle Accident
Immediately after a motorcycle accident, you need to do certain things to protect yourself from harm both financially and physically.1. Take Care of Physical Injuries
If your injuries suggest you must be taken to the hospital, call 911 and ask for an ambulance. If not, ensure you see your medical provider or go to an emergency room as soon as possible to be evaluated. Sometimes, the adrenaline of the situation masks symptoms.2. Check on Others
If it is safe, check on others involved in the accident. Call 911 immediately if someone is badly hurt.3. Call the Police
Sometimes, the police may not come if the accident is minor. Call your local highway patrol officer if you are on the main highway. If you are in a rural area, you may want to call the county sheriff, while if you are in a town or city, local police may have jurisdiction. Calmly explain the situation and provide the most precise directions you can. It might be a good idea to keep the phone numbers you need on your cell phone.
4. Take Pictures
Again, if it is safe, take pictures of the accident scene using your phone. Note the position of the vehicles and if any marks are present on the pavement. The latter include skid marks indicating that a vehicle applied its brakes. Take a picture of any damage to your motorcycle and others involved in the crash. If you don't have a phone, keep copious notes about the details. Once the site is cleared, it will be impossible to obtain this information. Any part of it may be essential to a lawsuit.5. Obtain Information
If you find yourself in a situation where it's safe to do so, and you're not on a bustling highway where abandoning your motorcycle would pose risks, it's crucial to collect contact details from individuals present at the accident site, including potential eyewitnesses. Gathering information from fellow motorists who were part of the incident is vital, such as their license and registration details, name and phone number, and insurance policy information. During this process, you must refrain from apologizing for the accident, as such statements could be used against you later.6. Notify Your Insurance Carrier
You do not need to elaborate on your situation. Simply inform the company that you were in an accident and that you or your attorney will be available for further questions.Statute of Limitations
Everything has time limits, which is true with motorcycle accidents. From the date of an accident, an injured motorcyclist has two years to file a lawsuit. This statute of limitations can be extended if the injured party is disabled or a minor. Otherwise, if the case is filed after the period lapses, it will be refused by the court.
In California, the liable party is a government entity. In this scenario, a person who has been injured must submit an administrative claim within six months from the date of the accident. The government is then obligated to provide a response within 45 days. If the initial claim is rejected during these 45 days, you or your motorcycle accident attorney can initiate a lawsuit within six months. However, if the government accepts your administrative claim, you have a two-year window to file a lawsuit. Such government lawsuits can be pursued in cases where there has been negligence in maintaining roads and addressing issues like potholes and other surface problems that could lead to a motorcycle accident.Why You Need a Lawyer After a Motorcycle Accident
An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer comes equipped with all the resources and tools needed to deal with the intricacies of recovering compensation for the client. This covers all process segments, from initial dealings with the insurance company to using evidentiary material during trial. Since not all cases go to court, retaining an attorney with extensive experience is a good idea.1. The First Consultation with an Attorney is Free
You have the chance to explain what happened. After listening to your case, the attorney will be able to let you know if, in their opinion, you have a viable case. Either way, the attorney can explain what they feel your options are going forward. This is invaluable information without cost to you. Deciding what to do after an accident requires professional insight, and a seasoned attorney can provide that. If you decide not to pursue your case with the attorney, you can choose another attorney or do it alone.2. Dealing with the Insurance Companies
From the moment the accident happens, the process has started. Talking to the insurance company is often taxing for a client, and the company uses techniques to extract information that may be misleading and damaging to your case. For this reason, having your attorney speak with them is preferable.3. Obtaining an Insurance Company Payment
Insurance companies are notorious for paying out the least amount possible. They usually make an early offer that is below what is needed. If an individual accepts that offer, they are free and clear of any subsequent damages associated with the accident. An attorney will evaluate the offer and ensure that it covers costs such as medical treatment that may be necessary due to accident injuries. Once enough information is available, experts can say what will be needed to care for the individual, even in the future.4. Filing Papers on Time
As noted above, missing the time frame in which to file can cost you a great deal. An attorney will not let that happen.5. Taking a Case to Court
If negotiations fail to yield a resolution, the matter will be brought before a court, typically involving a jury, although a judge may hear some cases. When it comes to selecting a jury for a motorcycle accident case, the presence of bias against motorcyclists is a significant consideration. While assembling a panel of 12 motorcycle enthusiasts may not be feasible, it is valuable to inquire about potential jurors' preconceived notions or biases regarding motorcyclists during the jury selection process.6. Attorneys Operate Under Contingency Basis
A lawyer works on a contingency basis for personal injury cases, including motorcycle accidents. This means the lawyer's fees are paid only if you win and are paid out of the verdict or settlement amount.
Roughly 40 percent of fatalities and almost 70 percent of traumatic brain injuries can be avoided with the use of a helmet.
If a motorcyclist suffers a traumatic brain injury as a result of an accident and does not have a helmet on when the accident occurred, this information may be used against the biker. The biker may be accused of being partially responsible for the injury and forfeit a corresponding portion of the damages.2. Keep it Conspicuous
Maintaining is another way of saying motorcyclists need to make themselves highly visible on the road. This is particularly true in bad weather and at night. Using headlights and wearing reflective, bright clothing can help the motorcyclist stay safe. It can alert drivers to the motorcycle's presence. Following such safety rules, your attorney can diffuse arguments that even a prudent driver would not have seen the motorcycle.3. Educate the Passenger
When a passenger rides alongside a motorcyclist, it is essential for the rider to provide instructions to the passenger regarding proper foot placement during the journey and to ensure that the passenger is wearing a helmet. If an accident occurs due to the motorcyclist's lack of attentiveness, riding under the influence, or disregarding traffic regulations, the passenger may have the option to pursue a claim against the motorcyclist. This becomes especially relevant if the motorcycle accident cannot be attributed to anyone else's actions.4. Always Watch Out for Pedestrians
Motorcyclists are subject to the same regulations as other drivers, especially regarding interactions with pedestrians. While there may be situations where pedestrians share some responsibility, like when they don't use a crosswalk or wear conspicuous clothing, motorcyclists should always exercise caution and remain attentive to pedestrians.Sudden Emergency Doctrine
When a motorcyclist is in an emergency situation precipitated by another entity or person, negligence cannot be claimed against the motorcyclist as long as he or she reacted as a prudent person would be given the same circumstances. This is true even if, later on, it was shown that the motorcyclist's choices were not the best.
Regulations on motorcycle insurance vary per state, so it's essential to be familiar with your state laws before buying one. Learn more about motorcycle insurance in this video by eHow:
An accident doesn't end with just a crashed motorcycle. As this article details, claiming insurance, seeking medical attention, and talking with a lawyer are among the things that happen after a motor vehicle accident. It is best to stay proactive and vigilant to avoid mishaps altogether.
Editor's Note: updated 11.13.23 Image by iStock [cs 3287]