Ultimate Motorcycle Accident Overview
With nearly nine million motorcycles on the road, it is small wonder that close to 5,000 motorcyclists die every year and close to 90,000 are injured. With a fatality rate for registered motorcycles that is 26 times greater than that for deaths in car accidents for each mile traveled, the inherent risk of riding a motorcycle is clear.Top Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Without the enclosed protection other types of vehicles provide, motorcycle-related accidents are often serious. There are several common ways that motorcycle accidents happen.
- An automobile turns left: This is one of the most common ways a motorcycle accident happens, causing up 42 percent of all crashes. Generally, as the car or truck turns left, it collides with a motorcycle alongside the vehicle. In some cases the biker is trying to pass while in the same lane or simply traveling through an intersection. This often happens because the driver is distracted or did not see the motorcyclist. Many times, the driver mistakes the absence of other cars or trucks for the lack of other types of oncoming vehicles. This includes motorcycles.
- 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.
- Lane splitting: 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 one to get out of harm’s way.
- 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.
- 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.
- Road Hazards: Small road hazards can be dangerous for a motorcyclist. While other motor vehicles can tolerate potholes and road surface irregularities, a motorcycle cannot always do that. Debris left on the road or wet roads can also cause control problems for a motorcyclist. Being aware of the roadway is a top priority for motorcyclists.
- Animals: Deer or small animals often wander into the road, and trying not to hit them is at times futile. This can cause the motorcyclist to lose control, ending in an accident.
- Riding while impaired: Over 42 percent of all crashes involve the use of alcohol. Drinking and riding interferes with cognitive ability, coordination and judgment.
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 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.Motorcycle Insurance in Your State
There are some states that don't 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 that is caused by vandalism, flooding, accidents with animals 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 your loan is paid.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. They may require a lengthy investigation, and question anyone who was at the accident site, including witnesses.Paying a Deductible
Many people worry that if their insurance pays for the damage and injuries they suffer, they will be required to pay a deductible. If the insured is not at fault for the accident, the insurance company of the other driver 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.Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist
Many people are underinsured or uninsured. 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, and 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/underinsured coverage, the insurance will pay if the other driver caused the accident and is uninsured or underinsured.
Options for Insurance Coverage
It is important to carry enough uninsured/underinsured insurance coverage. If possible, $100,000 in coverage would help you cover bills related to an accident such as damage to your motorcycle and health care costs you may incur.
An umbrella policy, usually covering homeowners and auto/vehicular insurance, protects your assets if you are in an accident or facing a lawsuit. The cost is relatively low compared to the protection it provides to ensure peace of mind. By extending your liability insurance in this way, you are covered no matter what happens up to the policy limit.
It is important to make sure you have a copy of your insurance policy. Reviewing it to make sure it is up-to-date is a good idea.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. When that happens, their insurance is responsible for 100 percent of the damages. In other cases, one driver may be 60 percent responsible, while the other person is 40 percent responsible. This determines the amount an injured driver can collect. For instance, if the damages are set at $10,000, the driver who was 40 percent at fault can still collect $6,000 from the other driver.Repairing Your Motorcycle
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 was at fault, his or her insurance will be responsible.Fair Market Value
If the motorcycle was totaled in the accident, the insurer will pay out the amount a comparable motorcycle would be worth when the accident happened. This is called the fair market value. In some cases, the motorcycle was purchased for a considerable amount more since the value of a motor vehicle depreciates as soon as it is purchased or driven off the lot.
If a motorcycle was financed, it might be that what remains on the loan exceeds the fair market value. In this case, the motorcycle owner will now be required to pay off the amount that exceeds what was paid by the insurer despite the fact that the motorcycle is now unusable. One way to protect yourself from this is to purchase gap insurance, which will pay the difference between what the insurance company pays and the amount that is stilled owed on the loan.
You can keep your motorcycle even if it is considered totaled, however, you will receive less money. Say that your bike has a salvage value of $500, and you decide to keep it. The insurance company would have received that money. Since you can now sell it to a salvage yard or decide to fix it, the insurer will deduct the salvage value from what it would have paid you.Insurance Disputes
During the life of an insurance claim, there are several types of disputes that may occur:
- 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, it may be necessary to provide evidence detailing how the accident happened. 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 will be able to use documented evidence to show how the accident occurred and who was at fault.
- Dispute over damages: It is to the benefit of the insurer to offer an amount that is 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 to be a good idea even if it is below what you calculated as necessary. Don’t do it. Talk to an 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.
- 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 in the end, the insurer knows what the accident is worth. If not, the attorney can file a lawsuit demanding that the other driver and his or her insurer pay the appropriate amount.
Immediately after a motorcycle accident, you need to do certain things to protect yourself from harm both financially and physically.
- Take care of physical injuries: If your injuries suggest that you need to be taken to the hospital, call 911 and ask for an ambulance. If not, make sure that 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.
- Check on others: If it is safe to do so, check on others involved in the accident. If someone is badly hurt, call 911.
- Call the police. Sometimes the police may not come if the accident was minor. If you are on a main highway, call your local highway patrol officer. 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 try to provide the most precise directions you can. It might be a good idea to keep the phone numbers you might need on your cell phone.
- Take pictures. Again, if it is safe to do so, 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, which indicate that a vehicle applied their brakes. Make sure to 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.
- Obtain information. If you are not on a busy highway where leaving your motorcycle is dangerous, obtain contact information from others at the accident scene, including possible witnesses. It is important to get information from other drivers involved in the accident such as their license and registration numbers, their name and telephone number and their insurance policy information. When you are doing this, it is critical that you do not apologize for the accident. This can be used against you later.
- 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.
Everything has time limits, and that is true with motorcycle accidents too. 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 was disabled or a minor. Otherwise, if the case is filed after the time period lapses, it will be refused by the court.
There are different sets of time limits depending on which you state you live in. For example, in California when the liable party is a government entity. In this case, an injured party must file an administrative claim within six months from the time the accident occurred. The government must respond within 45 days. If this initial claim is denied within the 45 days, you or your motorcycle accident attorney can file a lawsuit within 6 months. If the government fails to reject your administrative claim, you have two years to file a lawsuit. Government lawsuits can be filed for failure to maintain roads, ridding them of potholes and other surface problems that could cause a motorcycle accident.Why You Need An Attorney 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 segments of the process from initial dealings with the insurance company to using evidentiary material during trial. Since not all cases go to court, it is a good idea to retain an attorney with a full repertoire of experience.
- The first consultation with an attorney is free. You have the chance to explain what happened. The attorney, after listening to your case, 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 lawyer can provide that. If you decide not to pursue your case with the attorney, you can choose another attorney or go it alone.
- 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, it is preferable to have your attorney speak with them.
- 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 make sure that it covers costs such as medical treatment that may be necessary down the road 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.
- 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.
- Taking a case to court: If negotiations are not fruitful, the case will be taken to court. This generally means dealing with a jury although some cases are just heard by the judge. Bias against motorcyclists exists and is an important factor in picking a jury in a motorcycle accident case. It is not usually possible to pick 12 motorcycle enthusiasts, but questioning prospective jurors about their prejudices when it comes to motorcyclists is useful.
- An attorney works on a contingency basis for personal injury cases, including motorcycle accidents. This means that the lawyer’s fees are paid only if you win and are paid out of the verdict or settlement amount.
The most important thing you can do is to wear a helmet. 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.Keep It Conspicuous
Maintaining conspicuity 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. By following such safety rules, your attorney can diffuse arguments that even a prudent driver would not have seen the motorcycle.Passengers
When a passenger shares a motorcycle with a biker, the rider needs to educate the passenger on where to place their feet during the ride, and make sure the passenger wears a helmet. If an accident happens due to the motorcyclist’s failure to be observant, ride while intoxicated or disobey the rules of the road, a passenger may file a claim against the biker. This is particularly true if the motorcycle accident was not the fault of anyone else.Pedestrians
The same rules that apply to other motorists are applicable to motorcyclists particularly when it comes to pedestrians. While on some occasions the pedestrian may be deemed partially at fault such as when no attempt is made to use a crosswalk or wear bright colored clothing, a motorcyclist must be observant for 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 set of circumstances. This is true even if later on it was shown that the choices the motorcyclist made were not the best.
Thank you for reading this article. Take some time to learn the laws for dealing with an accident in your state. If you would like to learn more about personal injury law, you can check out the rest of this website.
Photo Attribution: https://pixabay.com/en/action-adult-adventure-bike-biker-2178691/; https://pixabay.com/en/umbrella-dollar-concept-money-2891882/; https://stocksnap.io/photo/5JENKYKT7S
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