With warmer weather on the way, people are gearing up to get outside and feel the freedom of the open road on their motorcycles. Riding a motorcycle comes with greater risk than being in a car as riders face a unique set of factors and let’s face it, being enclosed in a large piece of metal is often times safer than being exposed on the roads and highways. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2016, there were 5,286 motorcyclists killed which is an increase of 5.1% from the previous year. While at first glance, a motorcycle accident may appear similar to a car accident, they are in fact quite different. Motorcycle accident causes, injuries, and liability issues can be very different for car accidents.
Unique Issues for Motorcyclists
1. VISUAL RECOGNITION
A motorcycle is more likely to be obscured by other vehicles because it is physically smaller. Often drivers may fail to see a motorcyclist in their mirrors or pay attention to riders at intersections thus resulting in a crash. Factors such as construction and the weather also play a significant role in the obstruction of motorcyclists.
2. ROAD HAZARDS
Cars and other vehicles are often immune to various road hazards due to their size and shape. What is a minor irritation for a car, can be disastrous for a motorcycle rider. These hazards include problems with the road itself such as potholes, ruts in bridges, uneven pavement, and railroad tracks. But they can also include items on the roadways such as debris, oil slicks, and other foreign objects as well as weather-related hazards such as wet pavement, ice, and puddles. In each instance, the road hazard poses more harm to a motorcycle than a car.
3. REDUCED STABILITY
The reduction in stability comes from motorcycles having two wheels instead of four. When breaking or swerving during an emergency situation, motorcycles are more likely to crash. At higher speeds, the front end of a motorcycle can wobble or shake due to misalignment of the tires which becomes a product liability issue with the manufacturer.
4. SKILL LEVEL
In order to operate a motorcycle, a certain level of physical coordination and skill are required. Many riders lack basic training in riding skills. And some may not appreciate the physical demand or talent involved in operating a motorcycle safely on the road.
5. NO BARRIERS
There are no barriers between the rider and the road when on a motorcycle. The lack of protection such as seatbelts and airbags drastically increases the consequences of an accident. Depending upon the state in which you live, you may be required to wear a helmet. A helmet is the single most important piece of protective equipment a rider can wear. However, even if the state in which you live has a mandatory helmet law, your failure to comply will probably not prevent you from recovering a settlement due to your injuries as long as someone else caused the accident. But, the amount can be severely reduced if it is shown that your failure to wear a helmet contributed to your injuries.
6. HIGH-RISK BEHAVIOR
Motorcycles are powerful and weigh much less than other vehicles which enables them to accelerate faster thus encouraging speeding and other high-risk behavior.
Motorcycle Injuries Are Often More Severe
Motorcycle accidents are more likely to result in serious injury or death because motorcycles are much smaller and lighter than cars and the riders are less protected. Motorcycle wrecks often leave the driver permanently disabled. Injuries from wrecks are both physically and financially disastrous. The most common injuries from motorcycles accidents include concussions and brain damage, breaking of joints such as the elbows, shoulders, and pelvis, skin and muscle damage when the body slides across the pavement, permanent paralysis of arm movement, and facial disfigurement.
Fault And Responsibility Issues
Accident claims involving motorcycles are almost always governed by the legal concept of negligence. A person is considered negligent when (s)he behaves in a careless or thoughtless manner which causes injury to another person. All drivers must avoid injuring other motorists on the road, regardless of their type of vehicle. If a driver is negligent, (s)he is then liable for injuring the accident victim.
Comparative negligence allocates fault based on the level of carelessness of the driver in relation to the accident. For motorcyclists, this could be having a light out on the front or rear or the motorcycle. If a motorcyclist is found partially at fault, (s)he may not receive full compensation for the damages done under the contributory negligence principles.
In most motorcycle accidents, the other driver is often negligent. There are two ways that drivers are most often negligent: (1) doing something they should not have done such as speeding or running a stop sign or (2) failing to do something that should have been done such as checking the side mirror or using a blinker to change lanes. In a small number of cases, the motorcyclist is deemed negligent. For example, swerving in front of another car which causes them to crash.
Fundamentals Of A Negligence Claim
To file a negligence claim, there are four basic requirements by the plaintiff:
• The law required the defendant to be reasonably careful.
• The defendant was not careful. In order to determine if the defendant was careful, the law compares the driver’s behavior with that of a “reasonable person.”
• The defendant’s behavior caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
• The plaintiff was injured or suffered some form of a loss.
It is important to consult a qualified attorney in order to determine whether you have a valid claim for damages. Issues in such as compliance with traffic laws, motor vehicle regulations, medical treatment, and liability are different in each case. At Hoffmaier & Hoffmaier, P.C., our personalized representation puts the law to work for you. If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, we will evaluate your specific case to provide you with an honest and accurate assessment of the compensation you can expect. Reach out to us via our website or call us today at (212) 777-9400.