As a motorcyclist, you understand the possible dangers you may face while riding. You understand that you can easily be involved in an accident, and as a result, probably sustain severe bodily injuries.
However, you may not know the best steps to take to obtain fair compensation. You may also not know which parties should be held liable.
The uncertainty is why you will require our help. At The LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we are extensively experienced in helping motorcycle accident victims obtain fair compensation. We can help you identify the parties responsible for the crash and file a claim against them for compensation.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident in Los Angeles, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis. Contingency means that you will not pay us any fee until your case is won.
In this article, we will provide answers to your most frequently asked questions about motorcycle accidents. Let us get started.
Are Motorcycle Accidents Common?
Yes, motorcycle accidents are common in the country. Generally, motorcycles are less visible while on the road, in comparison to other motorists. They are also less stable than motor vehicles. This greatly increases the risk of a crash.
Riding a motorcycle requires a wide variety of mental and physical skills. When there are other road hazards and poor weather conditions, a motorcyclist is more prone to becoming involved in an accident.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), in 2017, 5172 motorcyclists were killed in motorcycle accidents. Also, up to 89,000 injuries were sustained in motorcycle accidents. Motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to be killed in accidents in comparison to motor vehicle drivers. Finder asserts that motorcyclists make up 14% of all road accident deaths.
Just in 2019, California was among the top three states that recorded the highest number of fatalities in motorcycle accidents. According to RevZilla, there were around 842,543 registered motorcycles in California in 2019, and 23.59% of them were involved in fatalities.
What are the Common Risk Factors for Motorcycle Accidents?
All motorcyclists have a risk of getting injured in an accident while riding. Even the most experienced ones can be involved in serious crashes. However, various factors significantly increase the risk of a motorcycle accident, including the following:
- Helmet use
- Time of the year
- Alcohol impairment
- Unlicensed riders
As highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most effective method to reduce the magnitude of head injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident is wearing helmets. California Vehicle Code 27803 states that all motorcyclists should wear helmets while on the road. Helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and the risk of sustaining head injuries by 69%.
Most motorcycle accidents occur during summer. It is during this season when most motorcyclists are out there on the road.
From the 1970s to around 2005, motorcyclists in the 0 – 29 age bracket had the greatest risk of being killed in an accident. Currently, motorcyclists who are over 50 years old are most likely to be involved in fatalities. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in 2016, over 35% of motorcycle accident deaths involved individuals in the 50s age bracket.
A motorcyclist who is riding while intoxicated has a high risk of getting into an accident. According to the IIHS, more than 25% of motorcycle accident fatalities involved motorcyclists with a blood-alcohol limit that was or exceeded 0.08%.
Moreover, over 25% of motorcycle accident deaths involved unlicensed riders. For instance, in 2016, out of the total 4,600 deaths in motorcycle accidents, 1,250 were unlicensed motorcyclists.
The IIHS illustrates that male riders are more prone to motorcycle accidents in comparison to female riders. Over 90% of motorcyclists who are involved in accidents are male.
What are the Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?
There are various causes of motorcycle accidents in California. Some of them include:
- Collision with stationary objects
- Poor weather conditions
- Motor vehicles pulling in front of motorcycles
- Parts malfunction
- Motor vehicles merging into motorcyclists’ lanes
- Hazardous objects and loose gravel on the roadways
- Dangerous road conditions
What are the Most Common Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents?
Motorcycle accident injuries can either be fatal or simple. In most cases, injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents are simple, and they do not require extensive medical treatment. In fact, as per the NHTSA, road rash is the most common type of motorcycle accident injury. However, as illustrated by RevZilla, around ¼ of the total motorcyclist crashes in California result in fatalities.
Often, motorcyclists who have been rear-ended, side-ended, or hit by motor vehicles sustain catastrophic injuries. This is because these motorcyclists are exposed and unprotected, making them more vulnerable to severe bodily injuries.
Here are the most common injuries in motorcycle accidents:
- Muscle damage – A motorcycle rider may sustain a simple muscle sprain, or his/her muscle tissues may tear. To heal from this injury, you will require long-term medical attention.
- Biker’s arm – This is an injury at the arm, and it may include fractures, bruises, broken bones, tendons, and muscle injuries. This injury occurs when a motorcycle rider spreads out his/her arms to limit the fall’s impact in an accident scene.
- Leg injuries – A motorcyclist may sustain muscle injuries, cuts, bruises, sprains, and breaks at his/her legs. Leg injuries are quite common because the legs are usually the first body part in contact with the ground during a fall.
- Head injuries – Helmets reduce the risk of head injuries. But, even a motorcyclist who has worn a helmet can still sustain a head injury in an accident. Head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries, are usually catastrophic, and they can result in negative, life-altering consequences.
- Facial injuries – Just like head injuries, helmets can prevent facial injuries. But, you can still sustain cuts, bruises, or concussions at your face while wearing a helmet, especially if it is not full-sized.
- Spinal injuries – You can sustain a spinal injury if you are thrown above the bike’s handlebars and onto the ground. You can also sustain if you hit large or fixed objects at an accident scene, including trees or guard rails.
- Road rash – Road rash is the most common injury at a motorcycle accident scene. It is a bone or skin abrasion, and it can lead to permanent scarring.
- Burn injuries – You can sustain severe burns in a motorcycle accident with a motor vehicle in fuel explosions. These burn injuries can result in temporary or permanent disfigurement.
Take note that the magnitude of your injuries will determine the amount of compensation you will receive. For instance, a person who has sustained a traumatic brain injury will most likely receive a higher compensation amount than someone who sustained a simple bruise at the leg.
What Should I Do After Getting into a Motorcycle Accident?
The first step that you should take after you get into a motorcycle accident is to seek medical attention. If you have sustained an injury, call 9-1-1. In some situations, other people at the accident scene who have been uninjured may help you get medical assistance.
Take note that you should still seek medical help even if you believe that you were not injured. Injuries in a motorcycle accident can be quite tricky. They can take a long time to manifest themselves. This is why medical check-up is necessary. The sooner your injuries are diagnosed, the higher the chances you have for recovery.
Also, try to gather as much information as possible about the crash, such as:
- Witness contact details
- Vehicle registration numbers
- Color, year, model, and make of any motor vehicles
- Insurance information on the at-fault party
- Contact details of other persons involved in the accident
If someone at the accident scene refuses to cooperate in giving information or behaves aggressively, you should contact the police. If you have a smartphone with you at the accident scene, you should attempt to take some of its photos and videos. Make sure you capture vehicle information, your bike, and your physical injuries.
You should never admit fault while at an accident scene, even if you believe that you somehow caused the accident. The other motorist can start blaming you for the crash. You never know – there might have been other factors that contributed to the accident. For instance, the other motorist may have probably been drunk or was using his/her phone while driving. Do not apologize for anything.
Leave the question of determining who was ‘at-fault’ to your attorney. Once you have hired a lawyer, let him/her handle all the communication with the insurance company and other motorists. If another person caused the crash, you are entitled to compensation.
When Should I Sue After a Motorcycle Accident?
The first step to obtaining compensation is to file a claim with the insurer of the liable party. You should only institute a personal injury lawsuit if the insurance company fails to offer you fair compensation.
This means that after you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, you must first identify the at-fault party. Then, you should contact this party’s insurer and file a claim with it.
When the insurance company receives your claim, it will investigate it. Then, it may issue you a settlement offer.
As a general rule, you should not accept the first offer of settlement by an insurance company. Most insurance companies are in business to make quick bucks, and therefore, they may undervalue your claim. Often, the first settlement offer doesn’t reflect the magnitude of your injuries.
Also, remember that some motorcycle accident injuries do not manifest themselves immediately. They show up after a considerably long time. If you had already accepted the first settlement offer, you would not receive further compensation for these injuries.
If you refuse the first settlement offer, the insurance company may attempt to negotiate with you. We advise that you should not enter into negotiations with an insurance company without first consulting a personal injury lawyer. This is because you may unknowingly admit liability or relinquish your claim.
Insurance adjusters may appear kind and friendly, but they cannot act in your best interests. Insurance adjusters are paid to ensure you receive the lowest amount of compensation possible. These adjusters can mislead you, provide you with false information, or even attempt to make you admit liability.
You will institute a personal injury lawsuit if these negotiations with the insurance company fail. In most cases, these negotiations will span through a couple of months.
According to the California Statute of Limitations, a motorcycle accident victim should institute a personal injury lawsuit within three years from the date when the crash occurs. If these three years lapse, you will lose your legal rights to claim for compensation. This is why you must speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A competent personal injury attorney can shorten the negotiation process. Also, he/she can easily determine whether or not the insurance company is willing to provide fair compensation. If your attorney believes that the insurer is undervaluing your claim, he/she will quickly institute a personal injury lawsuit.
Who Can be Held Liable for a Motorcycle Accident?
Depending on the facts and circumstances of your situation, various parties can be held liable for a motorcycle accident. Some of these parties include:
- Governmental entities
- A motor vehicle driver
- A pedestrian
- Another motorcyclist
Remember that you should file a claim for compensation with the insurance company of the liable party. This is why it is essential to identify the group or person responsible for the accident.
When proving your claim both in court and to the insurance company, you will be asked to identify how the liable party caused the accident. Take note that the burden of proof in California civil cases is on the plaintiff, and the standard of proof is on a balance of probabilities.
A governmental entity may be held liable for a motorcycle accident if the accident occurred on a dangerous road. To prove the governmental body’s liability, you must assert that it knew about the condition, and it didn't make any reasonable steps to rectify it.
Other road users can be held liable if they acted negligently. According to California's personal injury laws, road users have a duty to care. Road users should exercise reasonable care and caution while on the move. For example, motor vehicle drivers should not drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If, for instance, there was a drunk motor vehicle driver involved in the accident, you can hold him/her responsible for it.
When determining liability in a personal injury lawsuit, you will be required to prove the negligence of the at-fault party. To demonstrate negligence, you will have to prove the following three elements:
- The defendant had a duty to care
- The defendant breached this duty
- As a result of the breach, you sustained an injury
You can easily prove a breach of duty to care if the defendant broke a traffic law. Note that you must assert that the defendant's negligent actions led to your injuries for you to be awarded compensation.
If you were partly liable for the crash, you could still obtain compensation under California’s Comparative Negligence Laws. Here, the court will award you damages based on the percentage the other at-fault party contributed to the crash.
What if a Motorcycle Malfunction Caused the Accident?
A motorcycle malfunction can cause an accident. No matter how experienced you are, you cannot account for a motorcycle part malfunction that comes out of the blue.
There are two possible explanations as to why a motorcycle part may malfunction. First, you probably did not maintain the motorcycle in good working condition. Second, you purchased a defective motorcycle part.
You have a duty of care to maintain your motorcycle in good working condition. You should repair any faulty parts. If you fail to do so, you will be held liable in the event a defective part causes an accident.
On the other hand, if you had purchased a defective motorcycle part, you can sue the motorcycle manufacturing company or the motorcycle distributor for compensation. Under California’s product liability laws, you will not be required to prove whether the company or the distributor was negligent.
Any business that manufactures, sells, distributes, or designs defective products can be held liable for the injuries resulting from the use of the product. In a motorcycle accident lawsuit, the court can impose strict liability on certain businesses if it finds out that there were manufacturing or design defects.
As the plaintiff, you must prove that:
- The defendant manufactured, designed, sold, or distributed a defective motorcycle.
- You used the motorcycle in a reasonable and foreseeable manner.
- The accident was caused by the defective motorcycle.
Take note that product manufacturers, sellers, distributors, and designers have a legal obligation to warn consumers of any defects in their products. They will be held liable if they fail to do so.
What Types of Damages can I receive in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?
You can receive up to three kinds of damages in a motorcycle accident personal injury lawsuit. These damages include:
- Special (economic) damages
- General (non-economic) damages
- Punitive damages
Special damages cover losses expressed monetarily. Typically, they cover medical expenses, motorcycle damage, and lost earnings. To be awarded special damages, you will have to provide proof of your medical expenses and lost earnings. You can do this easily by producing your medical and earning reports.
On the flip side, general damages cover for non-monetary losses. Usually, general damages cover pain and suffering, depression, and mental anguish.
It is rare for a California court to award punitive damages in a motorcycle accident personal injury lawsuit. Their main goal is to punish the liable party for his/her reprehensible conduct. They can only be awarded in cases where the plaintiff proves that the defendant acted in complete disregard of human life. The amount of punitive damages can be thrice the total amount of both special and general damages.
Can I Get Compensation if my Loved One Died in a Motorcycle Accident?
Yes, you can receive compensation if your loved one was killed in a motorcycle accident. What you need to do is to file a wrongful death claim with the insurance company of the at-fault party.
The procedure for filing a wrongful death claim is similar to that for filing a personal injury claim. If the insurance company is adamant in offering you fair compensation, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
According to California’s wrongful death laws, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim to obtain compensation. Here are the family members who can claim for compensation for the death of their loved ones:
- The spouse or domestic partner
- The children
- The grandchildren
- Any other family member who was dependent on the deceased
Damages awarded in wrongful death lawsuits can cover all the financial costs incurred due to the loss of the family members, including funeral and burial expenses and lost earnings. You will also be compensated for the loss of support and companionship.
Generally, the damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit are usually higher than those granted in personal injury lawsuits. This is why wrongful death claims are sometimes referred to as 'high-dollar' claims. Insurance companies battle them aggressively. This is why you will require a competent attorney to represent you.
Find a Los Angeles Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Near Me
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any more questions about motorcycle accident personal injury claims. We are here to help you.
We take pride in offering high-quality service to each of our clients. Call The LA Personal Injury Law Firm today at 310-935-0089 for a free consultation.