Motorcycle accidents have unique risks that are less prevalent in many other forms of vehicle wrecks. Because riders are more exposed to collision forces and impacts, they may be more likely to sustain severe injuries. Here are some of the facts behind motorcycle accidents and tips on how to cope with their aftermath.
The Risks Motorcycle Riders Face
The comparative dangers of riding a motorcycle instead of occupying a passenger vehicle are well known. In 2014, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely to experience fatal crashes per mile traveled, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports.
What causes the heightened risk rate for bikers? There are a number of important factors, including:
- Visual Recognition: An estimated 66 percent of deadly motorcycle wrecks occur when motorists in other vehicles either don't see riders at all or don't see them in time to avoid a collision. Drivers commonly neglect to look for the small profiles of motorcyclists among traffic.
- Motorcycle Type: IIHS statistics reveal that the proportion of fatal wrecks involving motorcycles with larger engine sizes has increased from 1985 to 2014.
- Riding Skills: Randomized controlled studies have shown that even after participating in a short skills course, bikers exhibited safer riding behaviors, including better speed control and positioning on the road.
- Stability Accidents: Motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and other single-track vehicles can exhibit a phenomenon called wobble, where their front wheels begin to oscillate from side to side. This can result in a loss of control at dangerous speeds. Maintenance factors like improper tire inflation can contribute to the likelihood of wobble incidents, and some motorcycles may be more prone to dangerous shimmying.
- Road Hazards: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that many legally accepted highway standards pose potential risks to motorcyclists. Untapered ridges in pavement, metal expansion joints and slick asphalt sealers can all compromise a rider's control.
Many other circumstances impact the likelihood and severity of motorcycle accidents. For instance, riding with passengers can significantly change the way motorcycles handle. State governments recommend even experienced riders refrain from carrying passengers on new motorcycles that they're unaccustomed to. Gusts of wind created by passing trucks can suddenly move riders in unexpected lateral directions. Motorcycle operators need to maintain constant awareness of numerous factors to stay safe.
Determining Legal Responsibility for a Motorcycle Accident
Motorcycle accidents involving other vehicles may involve negligence if motorists didn't do their due diligence to avoid the collision. As with other accidents, however, court decisions rely on verifiable proof.
The details and records associated with motorcycle wrecks can be used to determine who was at fault. For instance, if a motorist drifts into oncoming traffic and hits a biker, they may be deemed negligent because they were in a place they shouldn't have been. If their swerve was the result of another accident or mechanical failures, however, they might not be held responsible. The outcome of each case will depend on the facts and evidence of the accident.
Courts can also hold motorcycle riders and other injured victims partially responsible for collisions. A biker who drove at reckless speeds might receive a reduced damage judgment even after proving that another motorist failed to react to their presence in time to prevent an impact.
It may not be enough for plaintiffs to gather evidence to support their arguments. They may also need to establish the facts of their cases in a manner that disproves other possibilities.
The Role of Motorcycle Design and Manufacture Defects
Motorcycles with defective or unreasonably dangerous designs may place drivers at higher accident risk. Manufacturers like Harley-Davidson have been sued over the alleged tendency for some of their bikes to wobble. A Texas man filed a suit against Yamaha after experiencing a paralyzing accident that he believed was caused by a defective throttle mechanism. Even though these kinds of accidents aren't caused by motorists or riders, courts can decide in favor of victims who file defective products lawsuits against manufacturers.
Talk with an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Surviving a motorcycle crash is a life-changing event. A motorcycle accident lawyer can help determine the next steps in filing legal actions and seeking compensation.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.