Motorcycle Accidents: Overview
Motorcycle riders are in a unique position on the road. They enjoy the freedoms that come with their chosen form of transportation, but they are also left exposed to dangers not met by automobile drivers and other motorists. The lack of any substantial protective barriers between a motorcycle and the road, as well as the difficulty that other motorists may have in anticipating and seeing a motorcycle, leave riders prone to serious injury in the event of an accident. Motorcycle riders, therefore, must be aware of their legal rights and remedies if they are involved in a traffic accident. The insurance laws in your state may be very different with respect to motorcycles versus automobiles; consequently, it is very important to consult with an attorney regarding the applicable laws in your state.
The Risks of the Road for Motorcycle Riders
The risks that motorcycle riders face, and the need to protect their rights of recovery after an accident, become readily apparent through a review of the following statistics:
- In two-thirds of motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle, the driver of the other vehicle violated the motorcycle rider's right of way and caused the accident.
- Motorcyclists are about 26 times more likely to die in a crash than someone riding in a passenger car, and are 5 times as likely to be injured.
- Per mile traveled in 1998, motorcyclists were about 16 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die, and about 3 times as likely to be injured, in a motor vehicle crash.
Some of the unique problems faced by motorcycle riders on the road include:
- Visual Recognition: Motorcycles make smaller visual targets, which are more likely to be obscured by other vehicles, or by road and weather conditions. This is an issue especially at intersections, where approximately 70 percent of motorcycle-versus-vehicle collisions occur.
- Road Hazards: Hazards that are minor irritations for an automobile can be a major hazard for a motorcycle rider. These include potholes, oil slicks, puddles, debris, or other objects on the roadway, ruts, uneven pavement, and railroad tracks.
- Speed "Wobble" Accidents: Especially at higher speeds, the front end of a motorcycle may become unstable and begin to shake or "wobble." This problem may be due to a misalignment of the front and rear tires of the motorcycle. If an accident is caused by such a high-speed wobble, the manufacturer of the motorcycle might be held financially responsible for any resulting injuries, under a product liability theory.
- Riding Skills; Familiarity: A motorcycle requires much more skill and physical coordination to operate than a car. Many motorcycle accidents are caused in whole or in part by a rider's lack of basic riding skills, or failure to appreciate the inherent operating characteristics and limitations of the motorcycle.
Determining Legal Responsibility for a Motorcycle Accident
Like most motor vehicle accident cases, motorcycle accident claims are almost always governed by the legal concept of negligence. Go here to learn more about the law of negligence and personal injury.
Defective Motorcycle Design or Manufacture
Motorcycles lack crashworthiness and occupant protection. Unlike a car, a motorcycle is lightweight; it has no door, no roof, no airbags, and no safety belts. A motorcycle is less stable than a car because it only has two wheels. Although several factors can contribute to a motorcycle accident, especially operator inexperience and failure to appreciate the limitations of a motorcycle, a defect in a motorcycle's design or manufacture should be considered as a potential cause of an accident, especially one where only the motorcycle rider is involved. An experienced personal injury attorney will be familiar with any relevant product liability issues or recalls involving certain motorcycle models, and can help determine whether you have a claim against the motorcycle manufacturer.
Getting Legal Help for a Motorcycle Accident
If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident, the most important step in protecting your legal rights is to meet with a skilled attorney to discuss your case. Issues in your potential claim, including compliance with traffic laws, motor vehicle regulations, medical treatment issues, and liability determinations, all require the expertise of an attorney who is experienced in the area of motorcycle accident liability. In light of legal deadlines for filing injury claims, meeting with an attorney to evaluate your case as soon as possible is recommended.
Go here to learn more about the role of an attorney in a motor vehicle accident case.
Click here to locate an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney near you.