With roads packed with millions of cars, motorcycles, and large trucks, there is always a risk of suffering injuries or death when using open roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 38,824 people lost their lives in road accidents in 2020 alone. Up to 5,579 were motorcyclists, accounting for 14% of all traffic fatalities. While there are certain similarities between car and motorcycle accidents, there are also many differences in the cause of a crash and the likelihood of suffering catastrophic injuries or death.
Motorcyclists are over-represented in fatal road accidents and are 27 times more likely to succumb to injuries in a crash than vehicle occupants. Crashes often involve property damage, severe injuries, or death. If you have sustained damages during a motorcycle accident caused by another person's negligence, it is crucial to hire a personal injury attorney to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
Main Differences between Motorcycle and Car Accidents
An accident involving a car or a motorcycle can cause severe and debilitating injuries. However, there are noteworthy differences between car and motorcycle crashes, mainly regarding the levels of injuries suffered and the legal challenges involved when filing claims.
Higher Likelihood of Being Involved In an Accident
A motorcyclist is more likely to be involved in an accident than a person driving an average-sized car. Motorbikes are smaller, increasing the risk of a driver not seeing them, especially when hidden by larger objects like a truck. Also, motorcycles are less visible at intersections, making certain spots highly dangerous.
Greater Risk of Suffering Catastrophic Injuries
A motorcycle offers less protection compared to a car. There is no metal surrounding a rider, not to mention that motorbikes also lack safety features like airbags and seat belts. While wearing a helmet and protective clothing can reduce a rider's vulnerability to certain injuries, there is still a greater risk of suffering catastrophic injuries or death in an accident.
The sheer size and weight of vehicles compared to the smaller size of a motorcycle also pose a higher likelihood of suffering severe injuries. Motorcyclists often suffer the crash impact force directly. The impact force of a car on a cyclist is equal to the vehicle's weight multiplied by its acceleration.
Increased Likelihood of Fatalities
One of the major causes of car accidents is speeding, which makes motorcyclists more susceptible to great bodily injury following a collision. This also increases the potential number of fatalities resulting from the crash.
The higher fatality rate in motorcycle accidents is hinged on the lack of safety features and reduced stability of the two-wheeler upon impact. Even a minor hit can make a motorcyclist lose control and suffer injuries. In case of a head-on collision with a vehicle, the impact force throws the cyclist in the air. The fall force can increase the magnitude of injuries already suffered.
Unique Challenges When Filing Motorcycle Claims
Motorcycle accidents differ from car accidents, especially regarding the challenges faced when filing claims. It is common for insurance adjusters to fight their claims because of the severity of injuries and the high cost of both economic and non-economic damages. When an insurance company risks losing millions of dollars in a single claim, it will likely use all possible strategies to downplay a rider's injuries or shift liability to reduce the cost of a claim.
Unfortunately, numerous negative stereotypes of motorcyclists exist, and misplaced mainstream ideas often influence the public. For instance, police officers, insurance adjusters, judges, and even jury members could have a false preconceived perception that all motorcyclists are speed freaks and reckless daredevils.
You need a skilled attorney to prove that you suffered injuries because of someone else's negligence. Your attorney can set the truth from biased beliefs and ensure you receive the justice you deserve. The right personal injury attorney will understand the best strategies to establish the liable party in a motorcycle accident.
Common Causes of Accidents; Motorcycle vs. Car Crashes
A motorcyclist is more likely to be involved in an accident than a car driver. Statistics show that even though you have a decent chance of surviving a motorcycle accident, you are less likely to walk away from the wreck without a scratch. The figures are more decent when considering the probability of a vehicle passenger being involved in an accident or suffering injuries.
Motorcycle accident victims tend to suffer more severe injuries than car accident victims. Some of the common injuries suffered include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Severe fractures or amputated limbs
- Broken ribs
- Organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Soft tissue injuries
- Road rash
The most common causes of motorcycle accidents include:
A 2017 report by NHTSA shows that 29% of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes lacked a valid license at the time of an accident. In the same year, only 13% of passenger vehicle drivers in deadly accidents lacked proper driving permits.
The number one cause of motorcycle accidents is inexperience. While most motorcyclists have decent riding skills, some have not undergone proper training. They lack in-depth skills that allow them to gauge situations and respond appropriately to protect themselves from potential harm.
The small size of motorbikes increases the probability of a car driver not seeing them when making left turns. Unfortunately, most car drivers fail to exercise their duty of care and look for motorcycles and bikes before they turn left at intersections. A crash that occurs when a car turns left while the motorcyclist is passing, overtaking another vehicle, or traveling straight ahead often results in catastrophic injuries or death.
Operating a motorcycle requires the rider to have razor-sharp reflexes and a fast reaction time to hazardous situations. A blood alcohol concentration over .08 impairs judgment and increases the likelihood of a crash.
In 2016, 25% of fatal motorcycle accidents involved a cyclist or driver impaired by alcohol or drugs. In 2018, about 25% of all fatal accidents involved alcohol-impaired riders, while only 21% of crashes involved intoxicated drivers.
Collision With Fixed Objects
A motorcyclist is more likely to suffer severe injuries or death if they collide with a fixed object like a pole or tree. A car driver is less likely to hit a fixed object in comparison. Moreover, the driver has better chances of walking away scratch-free after a collision.
Motorcyclists are more likely to be involved in accidents if they ride above the recommended speed limits or travel at high speeds based on the road or weather conditions. In 2017, 32% of motorcycle fatalities were caused by speeding.
A car accident can cause devastating injuries, although the probability of a crash, injuries, or fatalities is much lower than a motorcycle accident. Some of the common injuries victims suffer following a car accident include
- Soft tissue injuries
- Concussions and brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Limb loss
Also, car and motorcycle accidents differ in common causes of a collision. Some of the common causes of car accidents include:
- Distracted driving
- Driver fatigue
- Drunk driving
- Over speeding
- Aggressive driving
If you or your loved one is involved in a motorcycle accident, you stand a better chance of receiving fair compensation if you hire a skilled personal injury attorney. If you were not the at-fault party and are injured because a car driver was impaired or failed to recognize you on the road, an attorney can help you file a claim and fight for the compensation you deserve. Seeking legal help as soon as possible after an accident ensures that your lawyer can do thorough investigations and gather concrete evidence to support your claim.
Quantifying Damages Sustained in Motorcycle Accidents
The catastrophic injuries sustained from motorcycle accidents leave victims under immense financial pressure. Apart from costly medical bills, the recovery time can be long, increasing the extent of damages suffered.
If you have suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, you recover compensation if you can establish the following elements:
- The at-fault driver owed you a duty of care
- The at-fault driver failed to exercise their duty of care
- You suffered damages because they breached their duty of care
Furthermore, it is essential to establish the at-fault party. If you can prove that you suffered injuries because of another person's negligence, you are more likely to obtain compensation. Some of the evidence that can help point out the at-fault party includes:
- Police reports
- Witness accounts
- Photos of an accident scene and your injuries
- Footage from traffic or surveillance cameras
Sometimes, a motorcycle accident victim can not gather evidence in a timely fashion. However, a motorcycle accident attorney can help to ensure you have proof that supports your claim. While claims differ based on the cause of an accident, the at-fault party(s), and the extent of injuries suffered, victims can expect compensation for two main types of damages. They include
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
Economic damages are expenses incurred because of an accident. They have direct financial value, and your attorney can quantify them using documents, records, or receipts from your doctor, employer, etc.
Some of the typical economic damages incurred because of a motorcycle or car accident include:
Because of the severity of injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident, hospital bills can quickly pile up. Some of the direct expenses incurred include the cost of transportation to a medical facility, treatment, surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy, and rehabilitative treatments. It is also common for motorcycle victims to undergo psychological treatments to help them deal with the trauma and emotional challenges caused by a collision.
The typical injuries suffered during a motorcycle accident can leave victims unable to work for weeks, months, or years. Apart from lengthy recovery periods, some victims also encounter limitations that prevent them from resuming their old jobs after healing. This deprives the family of the income they need to cover recurrent bills.
When calculating lost wages, it is essential to consider the income not earned because of missed work days. Furthermore, it would be best to consider the income you stand to lose in the future because of an impairment caused by the collision. Sometimes, victims can recover compensation for lost wages and loss of future earning capacity.
The crash impact between a motorbike and a car typically results in property loss. Your motorcycle may need to be repaired or replaced depending on the damage. A collision caused by the fault of another driver must encompass the expenses related to restoring your motorbike or purchasing another one of the same value.
Other Out-Of-Pocket Expenses
A motorcycle accident can leave you with a host of expenses, including the cost of modifying your home after losing a limb and buying medical equipment like crutches or a wheelchair. Also, the extent of injuries could force you to hire an in-house nurse or a housekeeper to help you manage your health and hygiene. Keeping records showing your bills and expenses is vital to maximizing your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.
It is also necessary to consider the non-economic damages from a motorcycle accident. These are damages that lack quantifiable costs. They include:
Pain & Suffering
Pain and suffering are the most sought-after types of non-economic damages. It is a broad term that highlights an accident's adverse effects on the quality of your life. Apart from the pain of nursing injuries, this type of compensation also covers the suffering endured because of mental anguish caused by anxiety, fear, shock, emotional distress, depression, anger, sleep loss, mood swings, and even loss of appetite.
Pain and suffering are quantified by considering the severity of the injuries suffered. You can also present supportive evidence in the form of testimonies from experts and close family members or even records from your therapist. Generally, insurance companies use the multiplier method, where they multiply the value of your economic damages by a number between 1.5 and 5.
Some of the factors considered when determining the multiplier include:
- The severity of injuries
- The length of your recovery period
- The permanency of injuries suffered
- The potential for future health concerns
Loss of Consortium
Adjusting to the new normal is challenging, especially for the spouses, children, or parents of motorcycle victims that have suffered catastrophic injuries. Loss of consortium is a form of compensation for the damage an accident leaves on their relationships.
Loss of consortium is suffered differently by each family member. An injured partner for a spouse means they have to contribute 100% of the household expenses. For a child, an injured parent means they will miss out on the guidance, support, and attention they would have received if it were not for the accident.
You are eligible for numerous other types of compensation for non-economic damages, including:
- Emotional distress
- Mental suffering
- Loss of companionship, etc.
Unlike economic damages, it is tough to quantify non-economic damages. Having a competent personal injury attorney in your corner is crucial to ensure you gather facts and evidence that support your claims for non-economic damages. A qualified attorney can also pursue punitive damages, ensuring you obtain the maximum compensation to see you through the recovery period.
The Statute of Limitations
Motorcycle accident victims who suffer injuries or wrongful death are entitled to compensation from the at-fault party(s). The statute of limitations sets the deadline for victims to file their claims. In California, you have two years from the date of a motorcycle accident to file a claim.
The ideal time to speak to an attorney is right after an accident because some exceptions apply to the statute of limitations. For instance, the rule is shorter when dealing with a government vehicle or wrongful death. On the other hand, the timeline is extended if the victim is under 18 or suffers mentally debilitating injuries following an accident. An experienced lawyer can provide personalized guidance based on your unique situation.
A qualified attorney can make a big difference in your insurance settlement. It is typical for insurance adjusters to approach motorcycle victims before they even file their claims. The promise of fast cash could sound enticing, although you must remember that adjustors always offer the lowest compensation possible. Once you accept the payment, you waive your right to seek another settlement in the future. You should seek legal counsel before you speak to any insurance adjuster.
Find a San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you are a victim of a motorcycle accident or a car accident, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The expert can help identify the at-fault party and gather evidence to support your claim. Personal injury attorneys also help manage communications with insurance companies that are typically reluctant to cooperate with accident victims. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we understand the need to receive compensation that can make you "whole." Call us today at 619-478-4059 to speak to a competent lawyer and receive expert help quantifying your injuries. Consultation is 100% free and confidential.