Motorcycle accidents are quite simply very different from ordinary car accidents. These accidents have much higher fatality rates, more severe injuries, and face a jury pool predisposed to think of riders as Marlon Brando figures steeped in leather and crime. If you have been in a collision involving a motorcycle, you will need experienced and knowledgeable motorcycle accident counsel.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
As with all vehicle accidents, the common causes of motorcycle accidents include:
- Recklessness and speeding – Speeding increases the risk of getting into a motorcycle accident and reduces the rider’s ability to react to any bad situation that does arise. Riders are particularly vulnerable because of the lack of physical protection provided by an enclosed vehicle. Nonetheless, according to the NHTSA, the average speed in a motorcycle accident is surprisingly less than 30 miles per hour.
- Driving under the influence – Almost half of all fatalities in motorcycle accidents feature alcohol as a factor. In single-vehicle motorcycle crashes, that number increases, especially on weekends.
- Lane splitting (driving between lanes of cars) – Lane splitting is illegal in 49 states (California permits it). Although generally safe at moderate speeds, lane splitting can cause accidents when the rider is moving faster than a car driver attempting to change lanes expects. In general, lane splitters are not using alcohol, are wearing better helmets, and are observing speed limits. Not surprisingly, based on this data, their injury rates tend to be lower than average as well.
- Distracted driving – As with many modern drivers, motorcycle riders are distracted and fail to pay attention to the task at hand. Just like drivers in cars, motorcyclists often think they can ride and text at the same time. Unfortunately, however, distracted driving by others also often causes accidents involving motorcycles. An accident can occur when another distracted driver fails to see the bike, thus causing the collision.
- Turning corners – Turning corners at high speed is also a frequent cause of motorcycle accidents, primarily because of the challenges presented by mid-course corrections at high speed on a sharp turn.
- Failure to be seen – Despite all of the other factors, however, the number one cause of motorcycle accidents is the failure of other motorists to be aware that the motorcycle is even there. This failure to be seen is a factor in almost half of motorcycle accidents.
- Another driver’s violation of the right of way – Two-thirds of motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle are caused by the other vehicle failing to grant the motorcycle rider the right of way to which the rider is entitled. Improper right of way usage leads to the motorcyclist who is appropriately taking the right of way being hit by the other motorist coming through the intersection.
- Inexperience – More than half of the drivers involved in motorcycle accidents had been riding the involved motorcycle for less than five months, even though they had an average of three years’ riding experience.
- Lack of training – Nearly all of the drivers in motorcycle accidents lacked formal motorcycle driver’s training. This kind of training reduces accidents and can also reduce the severity of injuries in the event an accident does occur.
Common Injuries From Motorcycle Accidents
Because a motorcycle rider is essentially entirely exposed to the effects of a collision, unlike a driver or passenger in a car or truck, the injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents can be, and often are, very severe. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), motorcycle accidents account for nearly 14% of all traffic fatalities, even though they represent only 3% of vehicles on the road. Injuries commonly resulting from motorcycle accidents include:
- Head and neck injuries – Roughly one in five motorcycle accident injuries, says the CDC, is a head or neck injury. These can result in concussions and traumatic brain injury. These injuries can worsen when the rider is not wearing an approved helmet at the time of the accident. Florida law does not require that adults wear helmets, but those who choose not to do so must carry at least $10,000 in medical benefits insurance. Minors must wear approved helmets, and there is no minimum age limit for minors as passengers on motorcycles.
- Back and spinal cord injuries – Again, motorcycle accidents can result in severe back and spinal cord injuries because of the lack of protection provided by an enclosed vehicle. These kinds of injuries can be life-changing because of the potential for paralysis and loss of motor skills and sensation. Long-term medical expenses and loss of employment can be a factor in any settlement or award.
- Injuries to the torso and pelvis – Rolling after falling and hitting the road can cause dislocated hits and pelvic fractures, both of which involve long and immobile recoveries. Fractured ribs are also not uncommon and can result in damage to internal organs.
- Arm and leg injuries – These injuries often occur when the rider is attempting to protect himself or herself when thrown from the vehicle. Leg injuries, including sprains, fractures, and torn ligaments and muscles, account for approximately one-third of all motorcycle accident injuries. These injuries can require surgical intervention to repair fractures or tears and may also require long periods of physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
- Fractures – Again, because motorcycle riders have so little physical protection in a collision, they are far more likely to suffer fractures than those in a car accident. Fractures can result from hitting the ground or from being hit by the other vehicle. Fractures may require surgery to repair or set and can, depending on the location of the fracture, require extensive healing time, rehab, and physiotherapy.
- Road rash – Road rash can, at first glance, appear to be simple and to involve a relatively easy recovery. However, in the more severe cases, where the rider was not wearing much protective gear and suffered extensive rash, it can require skin grafts and a lengthy recovery period, leading to permanent scarring.
The Long-Term Impacts of Motorcycle Injuries
The types of injuries commonly suffered in motorcycle accidents, coupled with the lack of protection offered to the rider in such accidents, meaning that the long-term impact can be life-changing and catastrophic.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) – Often suffered by riders not wearing helmets, TBIs can result in coma and memory loss. It can also result in personality changes and loss of motor and cognitive skills. Finally, there can be visual impairment and ongoing pain issues.
- Spinal cord injuries – Spinal cord injuries can, depending on the severity and the location of the spinal injury, result in paralysis, ongoing pain, impairment of bladder and bowel functions, breathing difficulties, and even permanent loss of motor function.
- Road rash – Road rash may sound minor, but in severe cases, there can be long-term scarring and related psychological issues, as well as the need for skin grafts and other plastic surgery. These wounds are also prone to infection.
- Injuries to limbs – Injuries to legs and hands, as well as elbows and knees, can result in long-term loss of dexterity and motor skills. There may be physiotherapy expenses and other long-term medical costs.
All of these injuries can lead to long-term costs. There may be ongoing medical expenses, expenses for assistance with everyday tasks, physical and psychological therapy, and loss of wages due to resulting loss of mental or physical function. Experienced counsel can help to evaluate and analyze these future costs to better calculate your damages.
A Step-by-Step Guide for What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident
Note that this list assumes that you have the ability following the accident to do these things. Given the severity of your injuries, you may have to delay some or all of these steps.
- Get medical treatment immediately – Treatment for the injured party has to be the immediate priority. Delaying treatment delay can cause further damage. You will want to get treatment quickly to prevent further injury or complications. Be sure to obtain records of the diagnosis and treatment, as well as copies of all bills and other expenses.
- Report the accident – You cannot legally leave the accident scene and must speak with law enforcement officers on the scene. However, your statements and information given for the officer’s accident report are privileged under Florida law. Try to get a copy of any citations and accident reports as soon as you can.
- Document and photograph everything – Get names and contact information of witnesses. Take pictures if you have your phone with you. Make sure those pictures show any hazards that contributed to your fall. Create your own written record of what you were doing when you fell. Hold on to everything you were wearing and keep it safe since it might be evidence later.
- Create a case file – In other words, pick some safe place to keep all those documents and photos you create concerning your fall. Your medical bills, pay stubs (for lost wages), accident reports, and other out-of-pocket expense records should go here as well.
- Make your statement to officers on the scene – Under Florida car accident law, any statements you make at the accident scene are privileged and cannot be used against you in a later trial or settlement negotiation. Breath, urine, and blood tests, however, are admissible. Be careful as well about what you say on social media. Remember that the other side will search for and use any comments you make online.
- Contact experienced motorcycle accident counsel – Following an accident is not the time to try to become an expert. Even settlement negotiations in motorcycle cases can be long and complex. A good lawyer on your side can make all the difference.
Why Should I Contact a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?
You should contact an attorney with solid experience in motorcycle accident cases as soon as possible after your accident. Counsel can help you file claims with your insurance claims and evaluate and analyze your case for litigation purposes. An initial evaluation and consultation visit is usually free and can give you valuable guidance on proceeding.
When to File a Motorcycle Accident Claim
As with all Florida personal injury cases, the statute of limitations for a motorcycle accident is four years. Given how much is necessary to prove your case, contacting experienced counsel sooner rather than later is critical to a beneficial outcome of your case.
Why You Need an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
Motorcycle accidents are simply not the same as car accidents. Your potential injuries are usually more severe because of the lack of protection around you. You are fighting a subtle and often unacknowledged prejudice in the juror pool against riders. Experienced motorcycle attorneys are aware of these issues, and of the financial pressures you may be under. These pressures can tempt you to take an early settlement offer, where experienced counsel will put the insurance company on notice that someone who really knows what the case is worth is in your corner. Experience and expertise matter; let counsel provide it for you.
What Is Unique About Motorcycle Personal Injury Claims?
Motorcycle accident claims are different in part because riders are different. They see themselves as risk-takers who also take safety precautions. They are seen by a lot of society as risk-takers who belong to gangs and commit crimes. These prejudices have to be overcome when facing a jury. However, there are also more concrete reasons that motorcycle accident claims differ from car accident claims.
Higher rate of fatalities and injuries
There is not much between a rider and the road, or a rider and another vehicle, in a motorcycle accident. This lack of the protection that an enclosed vehicle offers leaves a motorcycle rider far more vulnerable to catastrophic injury than a car accident victim. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle riders are 25 times more likely to die in an accident than those in a car. In contrast, fully 80% of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death. The corresponding figure for car crashes is 20%. These statistics alone demonstrate the need for the expertise of an experienced motorcycle accident attorney.
Like all Florida negligence claims, motorcycle accidents are subject to a four-year statute of limitations and Florida’s pure comparative negligence doctrine. While this latter can mean that your award will be reduced by the percentage to which you are found to be liable, it also means that even if that percentage is 99%, you would still recover 1% of your damages. Florida’s no-fault auto insurance rules do not apply to motorcycle accidents.
Calculating a potential settlement, then, requires looking at your damages and then looking at your policy limits and the policy limits of the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Your damages should factor in the severity of the damage to your vehicle and the severity of your injuries, and any long-term expenses that will arise from them.
How Can an Attorney Help You With Your Motorcycle Accident Claim?
Iscoe Law has long been assisting clients with motorcycle accident claims. Contact us today for a free analysis of your case and a free initial consultation. An experienced motorcycle claim attorney can help you in several ways.
- Identifying the potential parties liable for your damages – Your case will not necessarily be solely against the other party or parties to the accident. There may have been other causes (such as adverse weather conditions, defective lighting, or poorly lighted or signed road hazards) any number of conditions that can create other defendants in your case. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney will be able to spot these potential additional defendants better than you.
- Assisting with filing your insurance claim – Your insurance claim is likely to be complicated, even in a no-fault state like Florida. You have to make your motorcycle policy claims and your PIP claims, and then claims involving the third parties’ insurance. And once you have made your claim, your attorney’s expertise can be potentially even more critical. No-fault does not apply to motorcycle accidents, so this process may differ significantly from making an auto accident claim in Florida.
- Negotiating a settlement – Insurance company attorneys negotiate settlements every day. It is what they do for a living, and they do it for the insurance company’s benefit, not for you. You do not have the experience to know the difference between a reasonable settlement of your claim and the bare minimum the company could offer. Plus, your attorney is not emotionally tied to your case the way you are. This emotional distance makes your attorney far better able to negotiate with experienced insurance company lawyers than you are.
- Filing and litigating a lawsuit, if that becomes necessary – Filing a lawsuit, if that is what it takes to get you made whole, is the lawyers’ business. Do not try to be your own counsel. Your attorney’s skill and expertise will be worth to you in the long run.
Call Our Car Accident Attorneys After Your Motorcycle Accident
The attorneys at Iscoe Law PLLC have been handling motorcycle accidents for many years. With their free case evaluation and analysis, they can use that experience to guide you through the insurance claim, settlement, and litigation process in the least painful way possible with a skillfully reached result for you. Contact Iscoe Law today.