Any kind of motor vehicle accident can result in a variety of monetary costs that can take a heavy toll on a person’s finances. But motorcycle accidents can be especially costly due to the serious injuries that a rider can suffer from an accident.
Unlike people in cars, SUVs and trucks, motorcyclists are only protected by the safety gear that they wear while riding, like a helmet and padded outerwear. Thus, even accidents that would be minor for people in other kinds of vehicles can leave a motorcycle accident victim with debilitating injuries such as broken bones or head and neck injuries. Among other economic costs, these kinds of injuries can mean that the victim is unable to work for long periods of time, resulting in lost wages.
According to data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the costs of a fatal motorcycle accident average about $1.2 million. But even non-fatal accidents cost anywhere between $2,500 to a whopping $1.4 million. In total, the GAO data showed that the direct cost of motorcycle accidents in just one year was about $16 billion.
Although this data from the GAO is now a few years old, it still gives insight into just how much motorcycle accidents can cost. Victims may not only have to deal with the high costs of immediate medical care, but also with the expenses of longer-term treatment and rehabilitation, as well as the potential costs of having to take time off of work.
If a motorcyclist in the Orange County area is involved in an accident, he or she may want to consider looking into any available legal options for getting compensation for the accident-related costs. When the accident was caused by someone else, or a group of other people, those people may be legally responsible to the accident victim.
Motorcycle accident data shows mixed results
Anytime that a motorcyclist takes to the road, serious injury and death are a possibility. Most riders try to take all appropriate precautions to avoid such a grim outcome, but sometimes, accidents happen, and when they do, the Californian motorcyclist is particularly susceptible to injury.
According to preliminary data from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), deaths from motorcycle accidents surged in 2015. Although the data is not yet final, the estimates are that more than 5,000 people died in motorcycle accidents last year. That would be about a 10 percent increase from the number of motorcycle accident deaths in 2014. Also, it would be only the third year ever that motorcycle accident fatalities have eclipsed 5,000. The last year that the death toll was that high was 2008.
Despite the high number of motorcycle deaths across the country last year, the news was not all bad. In 16 states, including California, accident deaths declined in 2015. In fact, California led the country in having the largest year over year decline in motorcycle accident deaths. The state’s decline of 38 deaths between 2014 and 2015 made it one of only two states in the country to have a decrease of more than 20 deaths.
One of the authors of the GHSA’s preliminary data opined that increased speed limits and lax helmet laws were among the reasons for the fatality increases in certain states. California is one of only 19 states in the country that requires all people to wear a helmet while they are riding a motorcycle.
Helmets help to protect riders from fatal head injury, but not even a helmet can save a rider from every accident. California motorcyclists, and drivers in other motor vehicles, should do all that they can to keep reducing the number of motorcycle accident fatalities in the state.
Groups of motorcycle riders deserve respect on the road
A previous post on this Californian blog talked about what groups of motorcycle riders can do to protect themselves from serious motorcycle accidents. These tips are certainly helpful, as motorcycle riders should do what they can to protect themselves from harm. However, other drivers on California’s highways and other roads cannot use the fact that motorcyclists are traveling in a group as an excuse for negligent or careless driving.
Packs of motorcyclists have the same rights, and deserve the same respect, on the road as do any other car, truck or semi. Drivers who are around a group of motorcyclists must follow all traffic laws and be careful.
Unfortunately, even the authorities can sometimes assume after an accident that a motorcyclist must somehow have been at fault, especially when there were a group of riders involved in the accident. At our law office, we understand that we may have to work extremely hard to investigate and pursue a legal case on behalf of our injured clients, who were injured while on their motorcycles. Still, in any case, we will advocate for the rights of motorcyclists who were injured while traveling in the Los Angeles, California, area.
Our office has successfully represented victims of motorcycle accidents and their families, securing compensation for these victims and their families, even when there was some initial indication that the motorcyclist bore some of the responsibility for the accident. We work hard to identify those responsible for the accident and get compensation for what are often, debilitating injuries that our clients will have to live with for the rest of their lives.
Lane splitting may save your life, but it could injure you, too
It may be safe to say that the congestion of California’s freeways is legendary. You could spend hours sitting in stop and go traffic to get to your destination. If you ride a motorcycle, these circumstances put you a particularly precarious position since other drivers could stop suddenly in front of you or not stop behind you.
If you stay in the flow of traffic, you could end up seriously injured. This is why you and other motorcycle riders may travel in the space between the lanes under these circumstances. It limits the possibility of another vehicle striking you.
What the state of California says about lane splitting
In 2013, the California Highway Patrol issued guidelines to motorcyclists regarding lane splitting. Even though there was no law allowing it at that time, it was a generally accepted practice by the CHP. It wasn’t until 2016 when lane splitting was made legal by the state legislature that the CHP’s guidelines held any weight. Of course, the law doesn’t require you to use lane splitting. It just gives you the choice.
You will need to follow the CHP’s guidelines in order to do it legally, however. If you end up in an accident in which you were not following the guidelines, you could face liability. Drivers who do not ride motorcycles often don’t understand lane splitting and often think you are just trying to get ahead of the traffic. In fact, motorcycle riders involved in accidents while lane splitting often face blame for their own injuries by the other driver involved.
Lane splitting doesn’t mean you caused the accident
If you suffered injuries in an accident while you were legally lane splitting, the other driver may be at fault. You may file a personal injury claim pursuing compensation for your injuries. During the course of those proceedings, you will need to provide the court with evidence that the other driver’s negligence caused your injuries. Of course, that driver may attempt to blame the crash on your lane splitting.
Easton & Easton LLP handled such a claim. The motorcyclist suffered significant injuries when a shuttle bus crashed into him while illegally crossing the double yellow line to get into the carpool lane. The motorcycle rider was legally lane splitting at the time, and the bus company attempted to lay the blame at his feet. The evidence successfully proved two important things:
- The rider was legally lane splitting.
- The bus driver was illegally changing lanes.
The court ruled that the bus driver was in the wrong, and the motorcyclist received an award of damages in 2016. If you wonder whether lane splitting will deny you much needed compensation if you suffer injuries due to another driver’s negligence, you may benefit from a thorough review of your case before moving forward with your claim.
The risks a motorcyclist may face, even with protective gear
People throughout California choose motorcycles as a favorite means of transportation for a variety of reasons — to save on fuel costs, simply to enjoy the feeling of riding, or to get where you’re going more quickly than if you were in a larger vehicle.
While motorcycles offer you a certain level of freedom and excitement, as well as a practical way of traveling, unfortunately bikes cannot offer you the level of physical protection that a car or truck might. The reality is that a single collision could be devastating to your health.
Common injuries resulting from motorcycle accidents
Every accident has the potential to end in disaster, regardless of the type of vehicles involved. However, with less available protection, bikers face additional risks on the road. Some of the most common injuries involving motorcycles include:
- Head or brain injuries: Head and brain injuries are often serious in nature, and they can have a substantial impact on the life of a biker. While wearing a helmet can reduce the severity of an injury, a helmet might not always be enough, as studies show that head injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in motorcycle accidents.
- Broken bones: Following the initial collision, it can be nearly impossible to stay upright on a bike, and the subsequent fall to the pavement or ground could do a great deal of harm. Having a motorcycle fall on top of you or using arms and legs to try and break your fall could result in broken bones.
- Road rash: A fall to the ground can also place you at risk of suffering severe road rash. These injuries can range anywhere from redness of the skin to removal of the outer layer, the latter of which can be exceedingly painful.
As a biker, you have the same rights to the road as any other vehicle, but this may not always guarantee your safety. If a driver fails to notice your bike, you might have little to no time to react and avoid collision, and you could be the one who suffers the consequences.
Safety tips for taking to the open road with your motorcycle club
You may enjoy a solitary ride on occasion to clear your head, have some time to yourself or just enjoy California’s beautiful scenery on your own. If so, you are in good company since many other motorcycle enthusiasts feel these are some of the many benefits that come with this form of transportation.
Even so, riding with a group builds camaraderie. It provides a way to socialize with friends who share the same interest. In addition, these rides often go greater distances than solitary rides, which gives riders the opportunity to see new places and participate in new activities. Group rides provide a different experience than going it alone, and as the saying goes, there is often safety in numbers. However, these rides are only safe if everyone is on the same page.
Make your group ride enjoyable…and safe
Nothing spoils the fun like an accident, getting lost or a mechanical breakdown. In order to help avoid these eventualities, group rides often need to follow some safety rules, which include the following:
- All riders in the group should meet before heading out to determine pit stops and route.
- Getting everyone acquainted with useful hand signals can provide a method of communication that doesn’t require trying to have a conversation at highway speeds.
- The group should choose someone to lead the group and someone to take up the rear in order to ensure that no one falls behind. Both should have plenty of riding experience and know the experience levels of the other riders.
- All motorcycles should be in good working order and full of gas. This helps avoid extra stops since everyone will more than likely need gas at the same time. It would also be a shame to have to leave the group due to a preventable mechanical issue.
- Riders should stagger themselves in one lane to have room to maneuver if needed.
- Leave enough room between you and the rider in front of you in case of emergency stops or maneuvers. Most people recommend a two-second window.
- Riding single file helps when visibility is bad or around sharp corners.
- Keep your eyes on the road. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to focus only on the bike ahead of you without realizing it.
- When it comes time to take a break, make sure everyone gets off the road quickly and efficiently. In addition, make sure that wherever you intend to stop, there is enough room for everyone.
Following these simple safety tips could save a life — perhaps even yours.
Safety tips for California motorcyclists
Motorcycles are a preferred mode of transportation throughout Orange County and LA. Still, despite the high number of motorcyclists on the roads, many drivers of cars and trucks fail to see bikes.
While you can’t necessarily predict a negligent driver’s behavior, there are some precautions you can take as a motorcyclist to help ensure your safety.
Basic Safety Measures
Serious injuries result from motor vehicle accidents every day, but crashes involving motorcycles tend to be some of the most catastrophic. To reduce your odds of suffering serious harm, here are some basic tips to help you safely make it to where you’re going:
- Watch ahead for drivers’ behavior: This is always important — really for anyone on the road — but especially for motorcyclists, and especially when deciding whether to split the lanes. In heavy traffic, car and truck drivers sometimes make erratic lane changes, and watching a good distance ahead you and mentally noting the behavior of certain drivers can help you avoid a crash.
- Don’t assume that oncoming vehicles see you. On the road, you are bound to have to make a left turn as an oncoming vehicle approaches. Just be aware that many serious collisions happen when oncoming cars and trucks are going too fast and end up hitting riders who turn left into the oncoming lane. If you can, take a moment to really assess the speed of the oncoming vehicle.
- Wait to make sure cars at a stop sign actually stop. In some cases, motorcycle riders are seriously injured after stopping appropriately at a stop sign, but another driver fails to see the bike and rolls through the intersection, hitting the rider.
- Take care of your bike: It may seem obvious, but proper bike maintenance is crucial. If you have doubts about your bike’s parts or maintenance, try to avoid using it if you can and until your can get the matter fixed.
- Wear good gear: When you’re on your bike, protective gear may be all that stands between you and the pavement, and good gear could make a lot of difference in the severity of your injuries in the event of a collision.
How can Orange County bikers be safer?
Orange County, with its scenic routes and favorable weather, is a great part of California for enjoying a bike ride. Some area residents may even rely on their bicycles as a primary mode of daily transportation. Of course, not all of Orange County includes bike trails or even specific bike lanes. This means that in many situations, bikers must share roadways with motor vehicles.
Because a bicycle offers so little safety for the rider, bicycle accidents with a motor vehicle can result in devastating injuries or even death for the rider. Accordingly, safety is imperative for anyone who is riding a bicycle on or near a roadway with motor vehicle traffic. In addition, riders should always be looking for ways to improve their safety. So what can bikers do to be safer?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has numerous suggestions for bicycle safety. In a campaign that it calls “Be a Roll Model,” the NHTSA lays out some tips for promoting bicycle safety. At the top of the list is maintaining focus; bicyclists should not ride while they are talking on the phone, texting or doing anything else that might distract them from riding safely.
Another important safety tip is for bikers to always be prepared and to anticipate riding obstacles that would ordinarily be unexpected. Likewise, riders should always follow the rules of the road. Like operators of any other vehicle on the road, bicyclists are entitled to certain rights, but that also comes with the same responsibilities of motorized traffic. In addition, bikers should always be cognizant of motor vehicles and share the road appropriately.
All of these NHTSA safety tips not only apply to bicyclists, but also to drivers in motor vehicles. In too many incidents, bicycle accidents are caused by a negligent driver who fails to look out for the safety of a biker. Both riders and drivers are responsible for ensuring the safety of each other and helping to avoid bike accidents.
Representing injured motorcyclists after accidents
Many people in Orange County enjoy riding motorcycles on California’s scenic highways and byways, and they have every right to do so. After all, the rules of the road apply equally to motorcyclists and other motorists, and they each have a legal and even moral obligation to look after each other.
Unfortunately, there are many sad cases in which an inattentive driver simply does not watch out for the motorcyclists on the road and, as a result, causes a serious accident that leaves the motorcyclist permanently disabled or even dead, even if the motorcyclist is wearing a helmet and other protective clothing. When this happens, a motorcyclist, or his or her family, is entitled to compensation for the profound economic and emotional loss.
However, there is still some prejudice against motorcyclists, even among the police and other officials who investigate and determine the cause of an accident. People often assume that because they have seem some bikers not being careful on the highway, it means any accident involving a motorcycle is somehow the motorcyclist’s fault.
This is why it is so important for injured motorcyclists to get legal assistance should they need to file a claim for injuries after an accident. In this respect, our law office has successfully represented injured motorcyclists in getting million-dollar verdicts, even when there was some question about the motorcyclist’s fault. We will confront the stigma motorcyclists have head on, and we will fight for the compensation our clients deserve.
Our office has considerable experience with representing motorcyclists, and we understand what other motorists and their insurance companies might do to defend against paying compensation. We are also willing to pursue all parties responsible for an accident, including, in the right circumstances, the governmental entity in charge of maintaining a defective road.
GHSA.org, “New Data: Motorcyclist Deaths Surge 10% in 2015,” accessed on June 2, 2016
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Being a Roll Model,” Accessed on Oct. 10, 2014