The statistics on riding motorcycles are dismal: motorcyclists were about 35 times more likely than car passengers to die in a crash and five times more likely to be injured (mostly involving severe head injuries). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death. In spite of this, motorcycle riding appears to be becoming more and more popular each year.
Motorcycles Are More Vulnerable to Accidents in General
The composition of a motorcycle – the open nature of the rider’s exposure to traffic and the roads, how much lighter and smaller it is compared to cars, the lack of a protective metal frame surrounding riders and access to a seat belt, etc.– make motorcycles dangerous in a unique way. Motorcycles turn differently, stop differently, and require a completely different set of skills. It is more likely that an accident which leaves car passengers alive and relatively unharmed could seriously injure or kill a motorcycle driver because of these differences. It is also more difficult to see motorcycles as a car driver on the road, and many minor road hazards that would barely affect a car could send a motorcycle driver into a serious accident (potholes, poor weather conditions, etc.).
Poor Regulatory Mechanisms
The last major safety study done the causes of motorcycle accidents and recommendations for law enforcement and legislation (the “Hurt” Report) was done in 1981, and will hopefully be updated soon in order to provide states with more concrete recommendations on how to improve motorcycle safety.
In 2012, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report, Increasing Federal Funding Flexibility and Identifying Research Priorities Would Help Support States’ Safety Efforts, finding that the costs of motorcycle crashes was approximately $16 billion in 2010 and pointing out that laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets are the only strategy proved to be effective in reducing motorcyclist fatalities.
Florida has several relevant motorcycle laws in place for bikes while on the road:
- headlights required (on) during the daytime;
- eye protection must be worn at all times; and
- Lane splitting is forbidden.
The state of Florida does not require that motorcycle riders wear helmets if they are over 21 years of age, increasing the chances of drivers dying in accidents (off-road, helmets are only required for anyone below the age of 16).
Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries
The most common injuries experienced by motorcyclists include:
- Road rash: tissue damage from skidding on the road (reduced if wearing protective apparel);
- Concussion/brain damage: if head smashes against object (although reduced if wearing a helmet);
- Facial disfigurement: if face slides across the road or hits an object (reduced if wearing a full-face helmet);
- Shoulder and/or pelvis break;
- Chest and/or abdominal injuries;
- Biker’s arm: where arm could become paralyzed from nerve damage during a fall.
Similarly to car accidents, motorcycle accident claims are based on arguing that one or more drivers behaved negligently, ultimately leading to the injury or death in question. An argument for negligence depends on what “duty,” the driver owed, and that includes acting as a reasonable person would act in accordance with state and federal law. If the motorcyclist is partially to blame for the accident (i.e. perhaps both the car driver and motorcyclist were not observing the law), liability can be adjusted based on that fault (this is known as comparative negligence).
In addition to not complying with state requirements listed above, other accidents can occur due to not using turn signals, ignoring traffic stops, speeding, driving while under the influence, vehicle defects, etc. Many motorcycle accidents that do not involve another vehicle are due to the motorcyclist speeding.
Safety is Key
If you chose to ride a motorcycle, it is crucial that you first obtain training, practice before riding on major roads, and maintain safety equipment upgrades and constant vigilance while riding. It is also crucial that you use personal protective equipment every time you ride, including a helmet, gloves, boots, and reflective jackets and pants. Some companies even offer airbags in motorcycles now, and others produce wearable airbags to place inside a jacket.
Contacting a Motorcycle Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident which was the result of someone else’s negligence, or if a loved one has been killed in a motorcycle accident, you need to speak with an experienced attorney. Covering costs related to medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering can be essential to proper recovery..An experienced attorney will be able to provide the experts you need to reconstruct the accident and work with the insurance companies to ensure you are compensated for the accident.
The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm, have the necessary experience and will be able to assess your particular situation. Our free initial consultation will help determine the merits of your case, and guide you in the right direction.