Riding motorcycles is a popular activity and total motorcycle registrations increased 51% between 2000 and 2005. In 2006, Americans bought over 1.1 million motorcycles. 2 Despite their popularity, the inherent nature of motorcycles makes riding them a potentially dangerous undertaking. Unlike cars and other vehicles, motorcycles offer drivers and passengers no protection. There is nothing between the rider and the open road other than the clothes the rider is wearing and possibly a helmet. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can explain your legal options.
Motorcycle Crash Statistics
Motorcycles are less visible on the road than other cars and trucks and are less stable on rough or slick roads, which leads to accidents. In addition, because motorcycles are not enclosed like cars, riders and passengers often suffer more serious injuries in accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of deaths per mile traveled in 2006 on motorcycles was approximately 35 times the number in cars. 3 Since 1997, fatalities among motorcycle drivers and passengers have more than doubled. 3 Accidents involving a motorcycle and another vehicle made up half of all fatal motorcycle crashes in 2005. 3 In fatal crashes between two vehicles, 78 percent of the motorcycles involved were hit in the front and 5 percent were hit in the rear. 3
Causes of Action
Like other personal injury cases, a motorcycle accident case will generally be brought under the theory of negligence. To establish negligence, the plaintiff (the injured party) must prove that the defendant (the party the plaintiff is suing) owed the plaintiff a duty; breached that duty; caused the plaintiff's injuries; and that the plaintiff suffered injury or damage. Negligence claims are common in situations in which another driver hits the motorcyclist.
If a person was injured because of a defective motorcycle or motorcycle part, he or she may be able to bring a strict liability claim against the manufacturer of the motorcycle or part. For example, if a motorcyclist is injured when the brakes on his bike fail, he may be able to assert product liability claims against the manufacturer of the brakes.
Building Your Case
If you or a family member was injured in a motorcycle accident, it is important to take certain steps, in addition to consulting with an attorney, to protect your rights and build your case for recovery of damages. If the police arrive at the accident scene, give them basic information such as your name and address and the relevant facts about the accident. Do not admit blame or fault for the accident. After the accident, seek immediate medical help if needed and keep your medical records. In addition, keep any bills related to medical treatment, and keep track of any other expenses related to your accident such as repair expenses, rental vehicle costs and wages lost because of missed work. All of this information is relevant to the calculation of damages.
If you are able to do so, try to talk to other drivers or pedestrians who witnessed the accident. At the very least, try to write down their names and phone numbers before they leave the scene. While some witnesses may wait for the police to arrive and collect their information, others may leave before the police get there so it is important to have their contact information. In addition, exchange names, addresses, telephone numbers and insurance information with the driver(s) of the other vehicle(s) involved in the accident. As soon after the accident as possible, take photographs of the scene to record evidence and the road conditions. Photographs of your injuries and damage to your motorcycle or other property are also important to have.
Depending on your situation, it may be necessary to engage expert witnesses to assist with building your case. Experts in crash reconstruction or motorcycle mechanics may be able to assist with determining the cause of the crash and the defendant's potential fault.
If you bring a negligence action against another driver, that driver may argue that your own negligence is at least partly responsible for your injuries. The doctrine of comparative negligence may reduce or limit your recovery if you are found to be partly at fault for your injuries. In states that have adopted a "pure" comparative negligence rule, an injured party whose negligence is not the only proximate cause of the injuries can recover an amount that is reduced by his or her proportionate share of fault. In states that have adopted an "equal to or greater than" rule of comparative negligence, the injured party's fault is not a bar to recovery if his or her negligence is not as great as the negligence of the defendant, with a reduction in damages proportionate to his or her degree of fault.