Many Californians prefer riding bikes because they save fuel and are quicker, especially when traffic congestion occurs. But riding a motorcycle exposes you to a considerable risk of being rear-ended when you stop at a traffic light or slow down due to traffic congestion. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we will discuss motorcycle rear-end accidents to help you recover compensation if you are injured in these accidents.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Rear-End Accident
When an accident occurs involving a motorcycle and a vehicle, people, especially the authorities, assume the rider’s recklessness caused the accident. However, this is untrue because drivers cause the majority of motorcycle accidents. Some of the acts of negligence that result in rear-end motorcycle accidents include:
Speeding Beyond the Prescribed Limit
Driving beyond the designated speed limit when approaching an intersection can leave a driver with little time to stop, thus rear-ending a motorcyclist who is slowing down due to congestion or has stopped to allow the traffic light to change.
California is among the states in the country with the most stringent rules regarding texting or calling when driving. But despite these rigorous rules, drivers still call or text when driving. Keep in mind that taking your eyes or focus from the highway for a second can result in an accident. Therefore, when drivers engage in distracted driving habits like texting, grooming, or call, they take their eyes off the road and might not see a motorist ahead of them, thus hitting him or her from the back.
Drugs or Alcohol
People choose to drive while drunk or drugged despite knowing that drunk or drugged driving increases the risk of accidents. Drugs or alcohol impair your judgment or slow down your reaction time. When driving under the influence, a driver might misjudge the distance between their car and the motorcyclist ahead, thus hitting the motorcycle’s rear-end. Also, if the bike ahead of a drunk or drugged driver stops suddenly, the intoxicated driver might be slow to react, thus causing a motorcycle rear-end accident.
Inclement weather often affects the visibility of drivers, especially at night. That, coupled with the small size of motorcycles, hinders the drivers' visibility, increasing the risk of hitting the motorbike ahead. The road might be slick also during lousy weather, causing rear-end motorcycle accidents. These accidents can be prevented by encouraging drivers to drive defensively and keep a reasonable distance between them and the motorcycle ahead to allow for enough reaction time.
Drivers are discouraged from following motorcycles too closely from behind because even the motorcyclist's slight braking would result in a fatal rear-end motorcycle accident.
Poor Road Conditions
The law requires that all cities and towns build and maintain safe roadways. However, it’s almost impossible to maintain safe roads. Although poor road conditions might not directly cause a motorcycle rear-end accident, they make the accidents worse. Common road conditions that contribute to motorcycle rear-end accidents include untreated roads during winter, poor traffic management near construction zones, road debris, and missing or damaged road signs.
When roads are left untreated during winter, it’s easy for drivers to rear-end motorcyclists because the ice on the road causes slippage. Also, in intersections, where traffic lights and signals are damaged or missing, the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection might rear-end the motorcyclists ahead because there are no traffic signs to provide guidance. A driver trying to avoid a pothole or cracks on the road surface might also hit a motorcycle from behind, thus causing an accident.
If you look at the above causes of motorcycle accidents, you will realize these collisions are avoidable. Drivers need to obey traffic rules and stay focused on the road always. Authorities in charge of various roads, on the other hand, should ensure proper designing and maintenance to keep the roadways and highways safe.
Common Injuries in Motorcycle Rear-End Accidents
Unlike occupants of cars or trucks, motorcyclists are at a high risk of suffering severe injuries, even with their protective gear and helmets. The reason you are more exposed to injuries is the fact that when a rear-end accident occurs, there are no seatbelts, airbags, or metal frame found in bikes as is the case in trucks or vehicles. Your body acts as the barrier between you and the road. Sometimes you are thrown off the bike landing anywhere or on anything. Chances of sustaining catastrophic injuries in these types of motorcycle accidents are very high.
When these accidents occur, the motorcycle is smashed by a car at the rear-end, lifted, or flipped forward onto the road. If the vehicle is at high speed, the driver might not have ample time to stop or lower the speed, thus running over the motorcyclist. Other times, a car rear-ends a motorcycle forcing it to crash with the vehicle ahead. As a result, the bike and rider are crushed between the two cars with no protection. Accidents that occur in any of these ways are often fatal. Some of the injuries that you might sustain include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck injuries
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Severe lacerations and cuts
- Fractured bones and ribs
- Traumatic bone injuries
- Ruptured disks
Neck or spinal cord injuries are critical because they might cause temporary or permanent paralysis. Some people lose senses and functionality in the areas below the injury, resulting in loss of motor skills or the capacity to walk or breathe normally.
The majority of victims of motorcycle rear-end accidents suffer serious injuries that prevent them from working while others spend vast amounts of money in hospital. For this reason, it is wise to pursue compensation for your financial strain and pain and suffering. You will need to work closely with a personal injury attorney to recover these monetary damages.
Statutes of Limitations in Motorcycle Rear-End Accidents
If you sustain injuries after another driver has rear-ended your motorcycle due to negligence, you should immediately file a personal injury claim. The time limit for taking action is two years from when the accident happened. If the accident occurred because of a government agency's negligence or involving a government vehicle, the time limit would be reduced. You will have only six months from the date of the crash to file a claim. If this duration expires before taking action against the at-fault party, you will lose the legal right to recover damages. Don’t wait until it is too late to file a claim. Reach out to a personal injury attorney so that we can help you with the process of filing a claim and obtaining damages.
Actions to Take After a Motorcycle Rear-End Accident
No matter the precautionary measures you put in place as a motorcyclist to ensure your safety and that of other road users, the chances of being involved in a rear-end accident due to a driver's negligence is high. When this happens, you are entitled to compensation for the injuries sustained and the damages on your motorcycle. But recovering the costs is not a simple task because you will need legal guidance as well as proof. It is advisable to take action right away after the crash by gathering information about the accident before leaving the scene.
If you find yourself in a motorcycle rear-end accident, the first thing to do is seek medical attention. Remember, motorcycle accidents have delayed symptoms, which means you might be injured without knowing. For this reason, it’s wise to seek treatment whether you have sustained injuries or not. Also, you might want to keep proper records of all medical documents and receipts. These will act as evidence when preparing a suit. The other things that you should do after a motorcycle rear-end accident include:
Call Law Enforcement Authorities
If you haven’t suffered significant injuries, you should call 911 and wait for the police to get to the scene. The good thing with having the police at the scene is that they make it easier to gather evidence. Police will talk to witnesses at the scene, speak to the driver responsible for the accident, and give their professional opinion on what might have caused the accident. All this information is put together in the form of a police report.
Make sure you get a copy of this report once the police complete their investigation. Make sure that your motorcycle is safely kept because accident reconstruction experts hired by your attorney might need it to reconstruct the nature of the motorcycle rear-end accident. If the police don’t show up the scene, you have to collect your evidence and file a police report.
Explore the scene of the collision and take pictures of skid marks, traffic signs, damage done on the vehicle involved, and your motorcycle. If you have any injuries, take photos of them as well. All the information is pivotal in explaining how the accident happened. You might also want to take note of the collision's time, the location, weather conditions at the time, and the state of the road.
On top of that, you need to exchange information with the car driver responsible for the collision. Write down the license plate number of the vehicle, model, color, and the driver's information, including contact and insurance information. If any people witnessed the accident, you should approach them and get a statement from them about the events that unfolded, leading to the accident. The comments alone are not enough, so note down the physical addresses and contact information of these witnesses. If you are injured to the extent, you can’t take the notes, request someone else to do it on your behalf.
Do Not Implicate Yourself
Although it is advisable to check on those other people that might be involved in an accident and ask if they are okay, avoid things like apologizing even if you think you are at fault. It’s essential to let the investigators do the work of determining who is at fault. Also, the only questions you should answer honestly are those asked by the police. Any discussions with the insurance company of the driver at fault should be left to your insurer because you might say something that might implicate you, thus preventing you from recovering damages.
Call Your Insurance Policy Carrier
The next essential step is notifying your insurer that you have been involved in a motorcycle rear-end accident. Make sure you don’t disclose more information to the insurance company than it is necessary unless after speaking to your motorcycle accident attorney.
Keep in mind that after receiving treatment, you should adhere to the doctor’s instructions carefully to ease the recovery process. If you focus on filing the personal injury claim on your own while recovering, it will take long to heal. You will end up focusing more on treatment than on recovering damages. Therefore, ensure that you work with a personal injury attorney. We will focus on compensation while you take time to receive treatment and heal.
Liability Issues in Motorcycle Accidents
California uses a comparative negligence system. It means that if the driver who rear-ended your motorcycle can demonstrate that you contributed to the accident, the number of damages to be awarded will decrease by your percentage of fault. During the trial, you will have the opportunity to prove the defendant was at fault. The defendant will also have the chance to refute the claims using their evidence. The jury then evaluates the case based on the evidence presented by the two parties to allocate a percentage of fault. Note that in California, even if the negligent driver is responsible for 99% of the accident, if they can provide evidence to show that you were 1% at fault, you will still have to compensate the at-fault party by having your total compensation reduced by 1%.
Remember that even if you are the victim of the motorcycle rear-end accident, the court might find you partly responsible for the accident. The reason for this is that motorists are always an inherent danger, and things like riding helmetless or lane splitting might reduce the amount of compensation. The driver of the car can argue that although he or she rear-ended you, the injuries are not as a result of the accident but by failure to wear a helmet. Even if you conducted yourself lawfully at the time of the accident, the amount of compensation would reduce. The defendant will argue that although the accident caused your injuries, the injuries would not have been severe if you wore a helmet. Note that helmet use is not compulsory, so using this argument will not impact the judge’s percentage of fault.
Filing a Claim with Your Insurance Company
You must negotiate with the insurer of the driver who rear-ended you for a settlement before you go the litigation way. To begin the process, your attorney will prepare the necessary paperwork and present it to the responsible party. Remember the municipal government in charge of the roadway where the accident occurred or the manufacturer of the faulty parts might also be the responsible party.
The insurance adjuster will evaluate your claim to determine the amount they will be willing to pay for your injuries. You should allow your attorney to negotiate with the insurance adjuster to obtain maximum damages. If the two parties fail to arrive at a settlement, it is when these cases end up in court. If there is no settlement and the case proceeds to trial, your personal injury attorney will avail all the necessary resources to ensure that the verdict of the judge or jury is in your favor.
Factors that Determine the Amount of Compensation you Receive for your Claim
No personal injury attorney will guarantee you a particular amount as compensation for your claim. The reason being the process of settlement involves negotiations. Some of the factors that will determine the amount of payment you will receive include:
Estimating the amount you will receive for a personal injury claim is difficult, mainly because the jury is the one that decides the amount you get for the injuries. Also, the amount depends on the following things:
- Your medical bills, including the amount of money spent on emergency services, surgery, therapy, medical equipment, transportation, and medications
- Lost wages, if the injuries sustained after the accident leave you unable to work. The amount of money to be awarded depends on your salary before the injuries. You will receive payment for the period between the date of the accident and the date the case is settled.
- Pain and suffering will also play a role in the amount of compensation you receive. You should document the pain and the extent which you suffered because of the injuries. Failure to appropriately document pain and suffering reduces the amount of compensation you receive.
- Scarring and disfigurement will affect the amount of compensation as well. If the accident left you with severe disfigurement, you could pursue these damages because they will increase the amount you will be awarded.
- Loss of quality life if you were an active person before the injuries, but after the accident, you lost a limb, thus being unable to take part in various activities and sports, you can pursue damages for loss of quality life.
- In case the accident left you permanently disabled, you could recover damages for loss of future earning capacity.
The number of damages to be awarded often depends on the unique circumstances of your case. If you underwent emotional trauma because of the injuries, you could also seek compensation for the psychological trauma.
Possibility of the Defendant being Found Liable
The chances of the defendant being found liable for negligence will determine the amount you receive from a settlement. If, after a motorcycle rear-end accident, you didn’t bother to gather any evidence to prove that the defendant was at fault, the amount of compensation will be relatively low.
Even if the damages in the case appear to be high, the insurer of the at-fault party will be ready to try their chances in a trial because the evidence against them is weak. Also, if you have little evidence to prove you are the victim in the accident, you will not be willing to risk litigation because you might end up losing. For this reason, you might be forced to opt for a low settlement to avoid trial.
Juries are unfavorable to motorcyclists because of the assumption that motorcycle riders drive recklessly. Even if the accident wasn’t your fault, they might award you low damages even after presenting strong evidence. If the defendant knows that the jury might give a verdict in their favor, they will offer you a small settlement amount. However, note that although the jury at times might not favor the motorcyclist, it doesn’t mean all decisions are in favor of the defendant.
The Amount and Availability of Insurance
The jury might give a verdict of an amount exceeding the insurance limit of the defendant. In such cases, you must turn to the assets of the defendant to collect the full amount. Not all defendants have assets that you can go after. For this reason, you might have no other option apart from accepting an amount equal to the insurance limit, even if it doesn’t provide coverage for all damages.
The Party Involved in Valuing the Case
As a plaintiff, when valuing the amount of compensation you are likely to receive, you might want to guess the number of damages to be awarded by the jury. Also, you might want to consider the amount the defendant will be willing to settle. The most crucial things that will determine the value of the case are the number of damages you are pursuing and the likelihood of the defendant being found liable by the court.
Find a Motorcycle Accident Attorney Near Me
If you or a loved one is a victim of a motorcycle rear-end accident, we invite you to contact San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm at 619-478-4059. Our motorcycle accident attorneys will ensure you receive payment for your injuries and motorcycle damage.