Motorcycles are a popular mode of transportation in the United States, accounting for 3 percent of all registered vehicles in 2014. That year there were around 8.4 million motorcycles on the road, including over 800,000 in California. People use motorcycles for a variety of reasons, from regular transportation to recreational fun on the weekends. Though motorcycles are a common sight on the roadways, motor vehicle drivers are not always careful to watch out for these vehicles when driving, which can result in serious consequences for the motorcycle driver and any passengers riding on the bike.
Motorcycle accidents are especially dangerous and deadly for the motorcycle rider and any passengers because a motorcycle offers very little protection to its riders. A motorcyclist who gets into a crash may face serious injury or even death. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that there was an increase in the number of traffic fatalities in the United States. 35,092 people lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents. Several categories of motor vehicle fatalities increased, including motorcycle fatalities. According to the NHTSA, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes in 2015, which is an 8.3% increase from 2014 when 4,594 people died. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you want a knowledgeable, competent, and compassionate attorney on your side, like those at the law firm of Woods Williford. Please do not hesitate to contact our office today.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents happen every day across the country. The causes of these crashes vary, but there are some scenarios where a motorcycle rider is more likely to be involved in an accident, including:
Left Hand Turns
A common cause of motorcycle crashes is when a car is turning left and strikes a motorcycle. The crash can occur when a motorcycle is going straight through the intersection and the car fails to see them or account for the distance between the car and the motorcycle. In addition, accidents can occur if a motorcycle is trying to pass or overtake a vehicle.
Rear End Accidents
Rear-end accidents are a common type of car accident. However, while there may be only minimal damage when the accident occurs between cars, if a motorcycle is rear-ended, it can result in serious injury to the motorcycle rider.
Another cause of motorcycle accidents is a lane-splitting. Lane splitting allows motorcycle drivers to pass "other vehicles by riding between them along the lane line." California became the first state to formalize this practice in mid-2016. Prior to the state legislature enacting this law, the practice had been neither legal nor illegal but has been accepted by California law enforcement agencies.
The measure officially legalizing lane-splitting had both proponents and opponents in the state. Those that objected to the bill questioned the safety risk that lane-splitting poses to motorcyclists, who can get hit when a driver changes lanes. According to NBC 7, a study done by University of California at Berkley looked at motorcycle accidents that occurred between June 2012 and August of 2013. During this time period, the study reported that there were 5,969 motorcycle accidents in the state. Of these, 17%, or 997 accidents, involved lane-splitting.
Open Car Doors
Motorcycle accidents can also occur when a door is opened unexpectedly while a motorcycle is passing a parked car. For example, this can occur if a motorcyclist is attempting to pass traffic and drives along the side of the road next to park cars. If a vehicle occupant is not careful to look out for oncoming traffic, including motorcycles, then the motorcyclist may hit the open car door. This could cause the motorcycle rider to go flying or veer out into other cars.
In addition, other factors may contribute to motorcycle accidents including alcohol, speed, and driver distractions.
Types of Injuries In Motorcycle Accidents
A motorcycle rider is more likely to suffer serious injuries or death if he or she is involved in an accident because motorcycles do not afford riders the same protections that a motor vehicle does to its occupants. There is no steel frame to absorb some of the impact of a crash, nor are there usually seat belts or airbags to help prevent injury.
The type and severity of the injuries that a motorcycle rider can suffer varies, but about "80% of motorcycle accidents result in injury or death." Some of the most common types of injuries that motorcyclists suffer in accidents are bone fractures, road rash, and head injuries.
Broken And Fractured Bones
Leg fractures are one of the most common types of broken bones. The 2008 NHTSA study stated that these injuries occurred about 27% of the time. Thigh injuries, such as femur fractures, were also common, occurring 11% of the time. Ankle, foot, knee, and pelvic fractures can also occur in a motorcycle crash, as well as dislocated or fractured hips.
If a biker is thrown or otherwise going to impact the ground, he or she likely will use an arm to try and lessen the impact. This can result in immediate pain and injury to the arm, as well as long-term or permanent injuries.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Another type of injury that can happen as a result of a motorcycle crash is a spinal cord injury. A spinal cord injury occurs when there is "damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or discs of the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself." These injuries can result in severe disabilities for an individual, especially if the spine is completely severed. According to the Mayo Clinic, " [a]uto and motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for more than 35 percent of new spinal cord injuries each year."
Head injuries can also occur in motorcycle accidents, especially if the motorcycle driver or passenger is not wearing a helmet. Suffering a head injury can be particularly devastating as it can leave an individual with permanent brain damage and in need of life-long care.
Time Limits To File A Claim
If you have been injured it is important to be aware you can lose your right to file a claim if you wait too long. The law sets a limit on the amount of time an individual has to bring a legal claim, called a 'statute of limitations'. The amount of time available will depend on the type of claim that a person has. In California, a plaintiff generally has two years to file a lawsuit if he or she has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, but there are scenarios where the time limits are less. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1.
Contact A California Attorney
If you or your loved one has been injured while riding a motorcycle please do not hesitate to contact the law firm of Woods Williford. Our attorneys have extensive experience practicing personal injury law in California. We genuinely care for our clients and strive to provide the best representation possible. We fight to get our clients the just compensation that they deserve after an accident. Call our firm today at (888) 340-2440, or click here to fill out our online form.