If you are a motorcycle car accident victim there are some key things you need to be aware of when you approach your claim. These issues are important and can all the difference in whether you are properly compensated or not.
This article is a primer designed to tell you everything you need to know about motorcycle accident claims. In the following, we’ll explore….
Let’s get started….
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
The most common causes of motorcycle accidents fall into two categories:
- Driver error – Sometimes (often) drivers are not paying attention or have trouble seeing a motorcyclist. Typical errors include:
- Road rage
- Drunk driving
- Using cell phone while driving
- Young drivers behaving recklessly
- Slow reflexes (elderly or handicapped drivers)
- Traffic law violation – People make mistakes or they intentionally break traffic laws and this makes up the second big category of causation. Typical scenarios include:
- Illegal lane changes
- Failure to give right of way to another driver
- Exceeding the speed limit
- Ignoring traffic signals
Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries
The unfortunate truth of motorcycle accidents is that they often result in far worse outcomes than typical car-on-car accidents.
Motorcyclists are 29 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured. 
You will see many of the same injuries with motorcycle accidents as other car wrecks. The difference is often severity, and there are some unique injuries too.
- Lacerations, scrapes, bruises – When a motorcycle crashes it will often slide along the ground and many times drag its driver with it. One effect of this is called “road rash” and it’s very common.
- Torn ligaments, sprains, contusions – All the physics of a normal accident apply to motorcyclists but they have none of the protective barriers a normal driver does. It’s very easy to get banged up or tear something.
- Whiplash – Whiplash is generally associated with car accidents but it is very common in motorcycle accidents too. In many motorcycle accidents, the jerking motion can snap riders head back and lead to injury
- Burns from the exhaust or manifold – There are many parts of a bike that can get very hot as you ride it. If you’re unexpectedly thrown off or lose your balance it’s not hard for your skin to come into contact with searing metal, 2nd or 3rd-degree burns are not infrequent.
- Traumatic brain injury – Even wearing a state of the art helmet, getting in a motorcycle accident places you at a relatively high risk for brain injuries.
- Internal bleeding, broken bones, organ damage – The impact of a motorcycle accident can easily lead to bones breaking and damage occurring on the inside of the body.
Who is at Fault in A Motorcycle Accident?
Who pays for damages in a motorcycle accident boils down to two things, the state you live in and the circumstances that led to the crash.
If you are injured in a motorcycle accident in a no-fault state, you will need to seek compensation for your injuries by filing a claim with your own insurance carrier.
If you are injured in a state that takes fault into consideration when deciding who pays for an accident, then you will need to file a claim with whatever insurance company is covering the at-fault driver.
Beyond the consideration of state laws, the focus turns to who violated their duty of care. According to the DMV this duty of care includes:
- Driving the speed limit.
- Keeping your eyes on the road.
- Avoiding distractions (texting and driving).
- Maintaining vehicle safety
- Stopping at red lights and stop signs.
- Yielding when necessary.
Essentially taking reasonable care to not crash into others. Violating this duty of care usually comes in the form of driver error or breaking traffic laws (as mentioned above).
This is determined through the usual sources: reviewing accident reports, weather and road conditions, how fast the vehicles were traveling, witness statements and whether the drivers were tired or drunk.
A final note on fault. Motorcyclists will often lane split. Lane splitting is something that occurs when a motorcycle (or bicycle) goes between two lanes of stopped or slowly moving cars.
Lane Splitting is not explicitly legal or illegal in many places, and how courts view it can vary. That said, motorcyclists are often blamed for lane splitting related accidents as the burden of safety is mostly on them.
How Much is Your Motorcycle Accident Claim Worth?
There is no perfect way to estimate this but we can run through some important factors that help you put a dollar value on your claim.
Liability — If you cannot show negligence on the part of the other driver (because there was none or you simply can’t prove it) the value of your claim will go down. If another person is not acting negligently they don’t owe you anything.
Damages — Obviously the value of your claim will be at least in part, dictated by the size of the damages (property damage, medical, pain and suffering) you incurred. The more severe your damages the higher the value of your claim should be.
Some other factors such as lost wages, earning potential or loss of consortium can also be included.
Overall these two primary factors interplay with each other (and the other circumstances of your accident) to help determine your overall claim value.
Let’s check a few examples.
Example # 1
A motorcyclist was struck by a vehicle merging into his lane unexpectedly at around 25 MPH. The motorcyclist injured his knee and it ultimately required an amputation.
He sought damages from the driver of the car and had numerous witnesses to back up his account that the other driver hit him. The other driver disputed liability and at trial, the jury sided with the driver of the car.
The motorcyclist did receive $100,000 pursuant to a high-low agreement before an appeal — but this shows that sometimes motorcyclists are not sympathized with.
Example # 2
A man was killed when the motorcycle he was driving was struck by a truck on the highway. The driver of the truck claimed the motorcyclist was partially at fault because he was driving too fast and did not have the proper license. This wrongful death/survival action claim settled for $750,000. This case settled for less than its full value because of the size of the insurance policy and the family’s wish for resolution.
Motorcycle car accidents are often tragic and/or lead to severe injuries. Associated claims take on a flavor and nuance all their own so it’s important to know the details:
- Most motorcycle accidents are caused by either a driver error or by someone breaking a traffic law.
- Motorcycle accident injuries are either “soft” or “hard”, it’s not uncommon for serious brain injury or internal damage to occur along with road rash.
- Determining fault in a motorcycle accident comes down to state law and circumstances of the accident (police report, conditions, witness statements, etc)
- The value of the motorcycle claim depends on the clarity of liability and the scope of damages. Settlements can be small or easily run into millions of dollars.
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