Summer, especially in the Northeast, brings out the motorcyclists in droves. Riding a motorcycle can be fun and exciting as well as a cheaper and often faster way to get around town or to head to the Cape. They are quick off the draw, agile and highly maneuverable, and easy to park in congested downtown areas. However, riders have no protection between them and the roadway or another vehicle, and their smaller size means they are nearly invisible to other motorists, especially those who are distracted. Even a minor collision where motorists and passengers would simply walk away with no injuries can result in catastrophic injuries to a motorcycle rider and passenger. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 80% of all motorcycle accidents result in either an injury or death to the rider or passenger.
Factors in Motorcycle Accidents
There are numerous factors that can cause a motorcycle accident:
- Object in the road
- Unsafe lane change from motorist
- Motorist making left turn in front of approaching motorcycle
- Sudden stops
- Impaired driving due to alcohol, drugs or a combination (43% of accidents)
- Lane splitting (illegal in Massachusetts and all other states except California)
- Lack of licensing and training (One-third of all fatal crashes involve unlicensed bike riders)
- Distracted motorists
Most accidents involving motorcycles occur at intersections when vehicles make a turn in front of the bike. When questioned after such collisions, the motorists will inevitably say that they never saw the bike. In a fair number of these cases, the motorist was distracted, often by texting or using a cell phone in some manner.
Distracted driving is a major culprit in an increasing number of accidents but more and more states, including our own, have finally recognized the threat posed by smartphone use while driving and have imposed more wide-spread bans on hand-held use of cell phones by all drivers, regardless of age.
However, stricter distracted driving laws are apparently saving the lives of motorcyclists. According to a joint study by the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University, those states with moderate to strong bans on cell phone use have shown an 11% decrease in motorcycle fatalities. This same study seemed to show that there was not much effect on overall traffic fatalities. But since motorcycle accidents account for a much higher percentage of traffic fatalities, this could account for the finding.
About 94% of all traffic accidents are caused by human error. Each day about 9 people are killed and 1,000 are injured by distracted drivers. Educating motorists about the dangers of smartphone use, stricter enforcement, and encouraging drivers to turn off their phones while driving can help to decrease tragic accidents even more.
Liability in Motorcycle Accidents
In an accident, police officers and insurance adjusters will somtimes look at the motorcycle rider as the cause of the accident given the historical assumption that motorcycle riders are reckless, lawless and irresponsible. While a fair number of riders are inexperienced or even unlicensed, many accidents are due to distracted or impaired motorists or because they did not see the approaching motorcycle.
A Massachusetts motorcycle lawyer who is familiar with motorcycles, how they operate, and is aware of the prevalent conduct of driver distraction and inattentiveness, is essential to getting you the compensation you deserve. If necessary, an accident reconstruction expert can investigate the circumstances of a contested liability claim and show that fault lies with the motorist. If distracted driving is a possibility, the cell phone records of the motorist can be subpoenaed. Police at the scene can determine if the driver was impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Safety Tips for Motorcyclists
If you are a rider, are considering becoming one, or returning to the road after years of thinking about riding again, here are some important safety measures you can take to decrease your risk of being in an accident:
- Never drink and drive or take any drugs before riding
- Wait at least 30-minutes after a rainstorm before riding
- Obey all traffic laws
- Do not speed
- Do not take unnecessary chances
- If riding in a group, maintain a safe space between the rider next to you
- Always wear protective clothing —gloves, boots, pants, long sleeved shirt, and a full helmet
- Be seen when riding—wear something bright
- Look where you want to go
- Learn how to safely navigate tight curves
- Be wary of large trucks that can cause wind turbulence
- Never ride tired—stop and rest if on a long ride after 75 or 100 miles
- Take a rider safety course before riding or if you have never taken one before
- Only ride a bike that you are comfortable riding and be aware of your limitations as well as that of the bike
- Always drive defensively —assume that other motorists do not see you
- Check your tires, brakes, lights, fluids, and brakes on a regular basis
- Do not lane split–it is illegal in Massachusetts
- Do not tailgate
Damages in Motorcycle Accidents
You are entitled to damages if your motorcycle accident was caused by the negligence of another motorist. Damages typically include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Emotional distress
- Diminished quality or enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
If the accident was fatal, the administrator for the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the immediate family members and claim:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses for emergency services and final treatment and care
- Lost potential income over the working life of the decedent
- Loss of the decedent’s love and companionship
- Pain and suffering of the decedent if he was visibly observed to have suffered prior to his death
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent
Retain Motorcycle Lawyers Burns and Jain
Motorcycle accidents often result in life-altering injuries as well as challenging and complex issues that only an experienced and resourceful car motorcycle lawyer should handle. Call us at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim and see how we can get you the compensation your claim deserves.