Although many people believe that motorcycle accidents are similar to other motor vehicle accidents, there are some pronounced differences. Motorcycles are smaller and lighter than cars and the motorcycle operator does not have an enclosed protective space, as a person driving in a car or van has. Also, due to their smaller size, motorcycles are also less visible to cars and other vehicles on the road. The legal implications of motorcycle accidents will be discussed thoroughly here.
Unfortunately, because of their speed, when motorists are injured in accidents, the injuries tend to be severe. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 2,000 motorcyclists are killed in accidents every year in the United States. This does not include the 50,000 people, both motorcyclists and pedestrians, who get injured each year. Therefore, it’s clear that motorcycle accidents are not an anomaly. In fact, the chance of death for a motorcyclist is higher than someone driving a regular motor vehicle. Specifically, a motorcyclist is almost 16 times more likely to die in an accident than in a car collision.
In 2020, there were about 81 motorcycle accident-related fatalities in the state of Louisiana. This does not include the approximately 1,200 injuries that resulted from motorcycle crashes. Although the number of injuries has been trending down, motorcyclists still face a high risk of severe injuries and / or death. This becomes even more apparent when comparing the total number of motorcycle crash deaths to the overall number of motor vehicle accidents. From the 807 traffic-related fatalities in Louisiana in 2020, motorcycle accident-related deaths comprised over 10% of all deaths in the state. I have been in a motorcycle accident, so I have first-hand experience of how stressful the incident can be. I also know the importance of hiring a skilled, knowledgeable, and dedicated lawyer for this type of accident.
What information should I bring to the initial consultation?
Here are the following pieces of information you should bring to the first meeting with your lawyer. These include, but are not limited to, a photo ID, the police report of the accident, insurance information, pictures of the accident (including property damage and injuries), information from witnesses, medical records regarding the injuries sustained, medical bills, and documentation of any lost wages.
What can I expect after hiring my motorcycle accident lawyer?
In your initial interview, we will talk with you about what happened. We can refer you to a doctor who is conveniently located, and who will be able to treat your specific type of injury. If you are not satisfied with your insurance offer, we will file suit and go to court.
Who is responsible for your injuries?
When another motorist or some other party acts either recklessly or negligently (which are two different legal concepts), they can typically be held liable for the injuries you sustained, and for any damage that occurred to your property. Since Louisiana follows a fault-based legal system, specifically regarding motor vehicle accident claims, you will need to prove that the other party was at least partly responsible for the crash. Also, it’s important to note that you may be eligible for financial compensation if the accident occurred because of poor road maintenance, defective construction vehicles, or things wrong with the vehicle you bought (defective breaks, missing engine components, etc.).
What are some special considerations for motorcycle accident claims?
Motorcycle accident cases are similar, yet distinct, from standard car accident claims. Specifically, motorcycle accidents are far more likely to lead to catastrophic, life-altering injuries. Unfortunately, most people believe in the common misconception that motorcycle accidents are caused by motorcyclists themselves. It’s also important to remember that insurance companies often try to use this to their advantage by offering either low settlements and / or avoiding paying out altogether.
When it comes to motorcycle safety, helmets are the most important pieces of equipment that riders can use. The United States Department of Transportation conducted a study and found that the quality of helmets has improved dramatically in recent years. This is due to many factors including, a greater awareness of helmet safety (and the negative aspects of head injuries) and because of greater technological improvements in the material of helmets themselves. Helmets are known to be about 37% more effective in preventing rider deaths. Because of the benefits of wearing motorcycle helmets, many states have implemented laws regarding safety equipment. The Louisiana state legislature makes it compulsory for anyone who operates / rides a motorcycle to wear a suitable helmet. Specifically, the law requires riders to strap the helmet with a sustainable chinstrap whenever the motorcycle is in motion. The helmet must also have a sufficient amount of padding, as well as a visor.
Since motorcyclists have little protection compared to other motor vehicle drivers, and because they often get thrown off their bikes, the resulting injuries can be especially devastating. Most of the injuries are similar to auto accident injuries, however, there are some unique ones.
Accidental amputation: An amputation is the removal of a body part. This can be done in a hospital or can occur in an accident of some sort. There are two main types of amputations, complete and partial. The former involves a body part being completely removed, and the latter involves a body part being partly removed. Both situations can occur in a car accident.
Broken bones: In a car accident any of the bones in your body can be broken. However, the most common ones include the following: lower legs, arms and wrists, clavicles, ribs, facial bones and even the skull.
Burns: Burns from car accidents are classified based on their severity. First-degree burns are those that only affect the top layer of skin. Second-degree burns reach the second layer of skin and therefore cause more intense blistering of the skin and other body parts. Third-degree burns reach under the skin and can cause permanent damage to blood vessels, tissue, and nerves. It’s important to remember that burns may show one degree of severity at the scene of the accident but can evolve to a much worse situation later.
Brain injuries: An open brain injury (also called a penetrating brain injury) is one in which your scalp breaks and part of the skull may enter the brain. On the other hand, a closed brain injury is anyone that doesn’t involve the skull being broken. Specifically, a closed brain injury is caused by a rapid forward or backward movement which causes the brain to shake inside the skull. Note that it can be hard to assess how serious a head injury is by just looking at it, meaning an x-ray by a medical professional is usually needed.
Cuts and lacerations: A laceration is a deep tear in the skin or flesh. This type of wound is often irregular and jagged. There are various types of cuts and lacerations that can happen in a car accident (mainly from car parts flying off, or from shattered glass). These kinds of cuts can also occur when a victim is pinned under the vehicle, and they try to get out from under it. Specifically, the types of lacerations include, but are not limited to, cut-type lacerations, over-stretching, grinding compressions and split lacerations.
Herniated discs: A laceration is a deep tear in the skin or flesh. This type of wound is often irregular and jagged. There are various types of cuts and lacerations that can happen in a car accident (mainly from car parts flying off, or from shattered glass). These kinds of cuts can also occur when a victim is pinned under the vehicle, and they try to get out from under it. Specifically, the types of lacerations include, but are not limited to, cut-type lacerations, over-stretching, grinding compressions and split lacerations.
Spinal cord injuries: Injuries of the spinal cord that are associated with a car accident are often caused by trauma to the neck or to the back. Specifically, this kind of force occurs when a vehicle collides either with another vehicle or with an obstacle. Accidents from persons driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are one of the most common causes for spinal cord injuries in victims. In severe cases, when spinal cord injuries result in either partial or complete paralysis, an injured person will require considerable treatment over the long term.
The dynamics around motorcycle accidents tend to be diverse, mainly due to the fact of the varying conditions and situations that motorcyclists experience. We will discuss a few common scenarios below.
Lane Changes: This happens when a car / truck driver makes a dangerous lane change, resulting in a collision with the back of a motorcycle at a stoplight. This abrupt lane change could also result in the driver cutting off the motorcyclist. Also, in these types of cases, bad judgment, driver distraction, and impairment from drugs / alcohol can also be a cause.
Poorly Designed Equipment: Defective manufacturer equipment can result in an accident in two main ways. First, it can cause mechanical problems with the motorcycle itself. This can be the most dangerous, as a defective motorcycle can result in the rider’s death, especially if they are riding at a fast speed on the highway. Second, there may be failures of the safety equipment. This can also be very dangerous, however, it can be detected and fixed quickly. In these two situations, it may be possible to pursue compensation from the maker of the faulty product.
Harmful Roadways: Sometimes municipal corporations negligently engineer roads, or sometimes these roads, although well engineered, are poorly maintained. This can give rise to claims against a range of entities, including but not limited to, contractors, governmental bodies, and municipal corporations.