With approximately 800,000 registered motorcycles, California has the largest number of motorcycles in the U.S. With this huge number of motorcycles on highways; it's inevitable that California has the most motorcycle accidents than any other state. Consequently, you should know both the risk of injuries and what to do should an accident happen. To learn more, read the article further prepared by Orange County Personal Injury Attorney. We are an experienced legal team that has been representing motorcyclists who have suffered injuries due to somebody else's negligence for many years.

When Can You Bring a Legal Action after a Motorcycle Accident?

A person who caused the motorcycle accident should be held accountable for the injuries. It can be the city, a motorist, another motorcyclist or even a pedestrian. You can seek compensation by bringing a personal injury claim where you could be awarded damages for physical injuries, medical expenses, lost income, motorcycle damage, and future treatment.

If you are injured by a car, consider speaking with your personal injury attorney before talking with the motorist's insurance provider. The insurance company will want to settle the claim fast. That could mean you will not get the compensation you deserve. Allow your attorney to handle the insurer as you pay attention to your recovery.

Motorcycle Accident Prevalence in California

According to Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), approximately 11, 8780 riders were involved in accidents in 2013 where 480 died. Most of these collisions took place in Southern California counties including Orange County.

Motorcycle Collision Risk Factors

Every road user, even the experienced cyclist, can be a victim of a severe road accident that can result in injury or death. Nonetheless, some factors place cyclists at a higher risk of an accident than others. They include:

  • Use of Helmet

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), argues that one of the most effective methods to prevent deaths is through imposing a universal helmet rule. As stated by Vehicle Code 27803 VC, all cyclists and motorcycle passengers in California should wear a helmet. The motorist will be ticketed should they or their passenger isn't putting on a helmet.

According to a report released in 2015 by National Center for Statistics and Analysis, helmets saved approximately one thousand seven hundred and seventy-two riders. The report goes on to report that the helmets lowered the possibility of sustaining head injury and death by sixty-nine percent and thirty-seven percent, respectively. 

  • Age

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that from the 1970s to 2005, motorcycle riders below 29 years of age were at a higher risk of accidents. However, in the recent past, the injury rate for rider above 50 years has gone up. In 2016 alone, more than thirty-five percent of motorcycle deaths involved cyclists above 50 years of age.

  • Sex

Ninety percent of motorcycle accident-related fatality involves male cyclists. 

  • Unlicensed Motorcyclists

Over 25% of all motorcyclist death involved unlicensed motorists. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that in 2016, out of the total four thousand and six hundred motorcycle-related accidents, one thousand two hundred and fifty involved motorists with no valid driver's license.

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

Because of the alarming statistics, you should be acquainted with the most common causes of accidents. It will help you lower your level of risk.

Head-on Collisions

As stated by a blog post available on Nolo.com, accidents involving vehicles and motorcycles account for fifty-six percent of total motorcycle deaths. The majority of these accidents are a result of a vehicle striking a motorcycle from the anterior. More often than not, this type of accident is deadly to the motorcyclist.

Vehicles Turning Left

Another fatal scenario for a rider is when a vehicle is making a left turn. These accidents account for about forty-two percent (42%) of all collisions comprising a motorcycle and a vehicle. Ordinarily, the turning vehicle strikes a bike when the rider is:

  • Overtaking the vehicle,
  • Passing the vehicle, or
  • Going straight through an intersection.

This form of a motorcycle accident is not uncommon between two vehicles. This is due to the motorcycle's small size; hence, the motorcycle is less visible to the turning car. Moreover, riders who pass a vehicle within the same lane are vulnerable. This is because drivers are caught by surprise by the maneuvers.

Generally, a car that hits another car while turning left-hand will be found responsible for the road accident. However, if you were over-speeding or in the incorrect lane, you could be found to be partly liable for the motorcycle accident.

Lane Splitting

This takes place when you drive between lanes of stopped or slowly moving vehicles, especially in traffic jams. It is a major cause of accidents due to:

  • Reduced space for the motorcycle to maneuver.
  • The fact that drivers don't expect any road user other than pedestrians to pass them in stopped or slowed traffic, and
  • The close proximity of the motorcycle to the vehicle.

Speeding and Alcohol Use

Almost half of the motorcycle accidents involving a single motorcycle are due to the use of alcohol and speeding. Since motorcycles don't offer a shield to the rider, this type of accident is likely to lead to a severe injury or death.

Road Hazards

As a motorcyclist, you are more vulnerable to road hazards than to cars. As a result of the small size and unstable nature of a motorcycle, uneven heights in lanes, potholes, slick pavements, and dead animals pose a threat to you.

Accidents between Fixed Substances and Motorcycles

Motorcyclists striking fixed substances account for 25 percent of motorcycle-related deaths. Again, this is as a result of the rider not being protected and is more likely to be thrown hard.

What are Common Injuries Sustained from Motorcycle Accidents?

From the causes of motorcycle accidents discussed-above, it is not a secret that riding a motorcycle is dangerous. Most accidents result in death or life-threatening injuries that leave victims suffering for the rest of their lives. Some of the common injuries include:

Traumatic Brain Injury

TBI is one of the most severe injuries. The human brain is a delicate organ, and any damage can leave you severely or permanently disabled. It occurs when the skull or head suffers a trauma. The trauma may be due to a blunt force like your head hitting a pavement or sharp force trauma where a road barrier or vehicle part penetrates the skull.

Severe TBI can lead to paralysis, loss of motor control, emotional and psychological disorders, loss of memory, and difficulties with speech.

Facial Injuries

These are life-altering injuries; most people associate their looks with self-worth, identity, and confidence. Severe disfigurement can cause both emotional and psychological trauma. The most effective way to protect yourself from facial injuries is by putting on a helmet.

Leg Injuries

Most of the non-fatal injuries involve damage to the lower extremities like legs. Leg injuries can be grouped into amputations, broken bones, foot injuries, and soft tissue injuries.

Road Rash

Road rash refers to abrasion injuries that happen when a rider is ejected from their motorcycle or trapped between the road and motorcycle. Sliding along concrete, gravel or asphalt can shred through your clothing and in a second leave, your skin exposed. Then the abrasive surface cuts the skin and tenders the tissues beneath. 

What to Do After an Accident

The moments after an accident are paramount and can affect your future legal action as well as rights. Here are the most critical steps you should take immediately after the crash:

  1. Report the Accident

Unless you are taken away from the accident scene by an ambulance, call law enforcers and report the accident. An officer will be sent to the scene, and they will draft a police report. The police report will take into account the accident's facts, parties involved, insurance details, and witnesses.

  1. Be Cautious of Any Immediate Danger

An accident scene is dangerous since spills and fuel leaks can result in an explosion or fire. Consequently, one of the first steps you need to take is walking away from the scene of the accident following the crash.

  1. Document the Accident

If possible, take photographs of the accident scene; those pictures can be used as evidence. Ask the other parties what they saw as well as remember. Check whether there are witnesses and collect their names, phone numbers, and addresses.

Also, make sure you get a copy of the police report and dispute anything that you don't agree with.

  1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention

If you're hurt in the accident, you need to seek prompt medical attention. In most cases, the body has gone through a traumatic collision. Chest and head injuries are the leading cause of motorcycle-related deaths. Therefore, it's out of medical importance that you undergo a comprehensive medical examination. To document any injury, you should get the necessary diagnostic tests such as MRIs and x-rays.

  1. Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Hiring a renowned attorney as soon as possible protects your legal claims and rights. Moreover, there is a lot of investigation and legal paperwork that should be done after the collision, and it is good to work on it before witnesses or evidence disappears.

Any competent lawyer will make sure your claim is professionally handled from the onset. They will also ensure you get the best medical attention, particularly if you don't have a primary healthcare provider or medical insurance.

How to Tell Who Is At-Fault for the Accident

After a motorcycle accident, it is possible that you might not know who caused the accident. According to the law, a negligent person should be held accountable for injuries suffered by another person.

Negligence can be defined as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to self or others from happening. A person is considered to be negligent when they do something that any reasonable individual in a similar situation wouldn't do.

To receive compensation for the injuries suffered, you ought to prove the following elements of negligence:

  • That the motorist owed you a duty of care,
  • The motorist breached the duty of care by acting negligently, and
  • The motorist's negligence was a significant element in causing injuries to you.

Motorists in California don't require knowing that they owe motorcycle riders a duty of care. Generally, any person driving a vehicle owes a duty of care to motorcyclists, other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Negligence Per Se

There are instances you may not be required to prove that the driver was negligent. If the driver was breaking a traffic regulation tailored to prevent these kinds of road accidents, the motorist is well-thought-out to be negligent per se.

Negligence per se is breaking of a statute, ordinance, or law.

To prove negligence per se, you should prove that:

  • The driver broke a regulation, ordinance or statute,
  • The violation destroyed property, hurt or killed somebody else,
  • The injury or death was due to an action the ordinance, regulation or statute was tailored to prevent, and
  • As a victim, you belong to a group that the ordinance, regulation, or statute was tailored to protect.

When it comes to motorcycle accidents, negligence per se could be proved by breaking traffic laws like speeding, failing to yield, reckless driving, texting when driving, distracted driving, and drunk driving.

Comparative Fault Law

After the collision, the other motorist could get angry even if they caused the collision. They may even try to force you to admit that you caused the accident. If this takes place, don't admit the fault. Instead, tell them to call your lawyer. After all, liability is something that ought to be determined by a judge.

California follows comparative fault rule when more than one person shares fault and the judge apportion fault as well as damages. That means the percentage of your fault will reduce your total damages.

For instance, if you're forty percent accountable for your injuries, you will be in a position to receive only sixty percent of the full amount of damages from the other party.

Who is To be Held Accountable Should a Malfunction Cause an Accident

Sometimes accidents are a result of a defective part.  With a malfunction, it is hard to tell what took place or the part to blame. Fortunately, with product liability laws, the firm that sold, manufactured, or designed the defective product or part is accountable for the injuries caused.

In a product liability lawsuit, you don't need to show that the firm was negligent. Rather strict liability in the detect case will be enacted for design defect, failure to warn consumers of the defect, and manufacturing defects.

Damages Available in Motorcycle Accident

Any experienced personal injury attorney will tell you that predicting the dollar value of a motorcycle accident claim is almost impossible. This is because every accident is unique.

Given the accidents' nature, you are prone to all kinds of outcomes and injuries. Compensation awarded depends primarily on factors like the seriousness of injuries and impact on your life and career. Your attorney will help you obtain the following damages:

  • Medical Bills

Surgeries, rehabilitation, ambulance charges, emergency treatment, and hospital stays are expensive. Fortunately, with motorcycle accident lawsuits, you can be compensated for both the future and present medical expenses.

  • Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering damages are designed to compensate for the emotional and physical trauma you have suffered.

  • Mental Anguish

Mental anguish is in a different category, particularly if the injuries cause you grief or hinder you from engaging in family activities or your hobbies.

  • Loss of Earning Capacity

Most victims are left not capable of performing their normal job responsibilities, at least temporarily. Severe injuries can lead to permanent disability hence leaving you without any stable source of income. Your attorney should be in a position to assist you in getting compensation for your present and future income.

  • Property Damage

Depending on the accident's circumstances, you could receive compensation for motorcycle repair costs. The damages could also cover the full cost of the motorcycle if it was destroyed beyond repair.

  • Punitive Damages

If the responsible party acted egregiously or maliciously, you're entitled to receive punitive damages. These damages aren't compensatory. Instead, they are designed to penalize the liable party for their actions.

How Motorcycle Accident Damages are Calculated

Usually, damages in personal injury cases are categorized into two:

  • Special damages (damages that can be determined with an exact calculation), and
  • Damages that cannot be determined without an exact calculation.

Special damages include your past, current, and future lost wages, lost earning capacity, medical expenses, among other financial losses. They can be determined using the exact calculation because they are determined to the dollar.

There is no guideline on how to determine pain and suffering. Consequently, the judge will instruct the jury to use its  experience and background to determine the value.

Calculating future lost earning capacity, on the other hand, is more complicated. Therefore, it requires your attorney to engage an economic expert who will present the lost earning capacity accurately to the jury since it involves the present value concept.

Statute of Limitations

Statute of limitations can be defined as the amount of time you have to file a claim against the responsible party. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims primarily depends on who the liable party is. Below are the most common defendants:

  • Other motorcyclists and motorists- two years
  • Manufacturers and distributors of defective motorcycle parts- two years
  • Government agencies tasked with highway and road maintenance- An administrative claim should first be brought to the government entity within six months or 180 days from the date of the accident. Then you have two years from the date of the motorcycle accident to bring a claim.

It is worth noting that the law allows tolling or exemptions of the statute of limitations under the following circumstances:

  • Minor below eighteen years of age – the 2-year statute of limitations doesn't run until the minor turns eighteen,
  • Physical incapacitation after the accident, and
  • Mental incapacitation after the accident.

Motorcycle Accident Claim Process

When your attorney can't reach a settlement offer that you are satisfied with, they will file a claim. The steps below are what you should anticipate in a personal injury case:

  1. Contact Your Attorney

Insurance adjusters are experts employed to bring an insurance firm's profits. That is why you should not agree to take a settlement offer before consulting your attorney. The importance of having a lawyer by your side cannot be emphasized enough.

  1. Issuing a Demand Package

Basically, a demand package is a summary of your case's value. It is founded on investigations conducted by your attorney to determine the total value of the claim. The demand package is issued to the liable party's insurer.

  1. Receiving a Settlement Offer from the Defendant's Insurer

After sending your demand package, the insurance adjuster will analyze it and then send a counteroffer that is known as a settlement offer. Your motorcycle accident attorney will evaluate whether the offer covers both current accident-related and future expenses. If the offer is fair, you will accept it and settle the case. If not, you will file a lawsuit.

  1. Filing a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit

Once you have decided to take the case to a court of law, you will be required to bring a complaint to the civil court system and start a discovery process. The discovery process involves attorneys of both sides exchanging relevant documents. Your attorney will also collect evidence like recorded sworn testimonies and depositions.

  1. Proceeding to Trial

Normally, when the liable party realizes that you're serious, they will settle out of court. If that doesn't occur, your case will proceed to trial where each party will present their case before a judge. Then the judge will give the final verdict.

Find an Excellent Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

If you've been involved in a motorcycle accident, there is a likelihood that you don't know what steps you should take. This is because several factors should be put into consideration in the settlement process. One of these factors is whether the case will be settled at the insurance claim stage or whether it will proceed to trial. As a result, it is essential to hire a law firm like the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney who has the knowledge, expertise, and insight needed to help you receive the best possible compensation. To get started with the motorcycle accident settlement process, contact us at 714-876-1959.