How to Ensure That You Receive Full Compensation for Your Motorcycle Accident Claim
While any motor vehicle collision poses a potential for injury, motorcycles can be especially dangerous because of a bike’s unique design characteristics. The instability of motorcycles increases the probability that a motorcycle will be in a collision. Motorcycles are also relatively small, so they can maneuver into areas that drivers of passenger cars do not expect them. Since motorcycles also lack the safety equipment of passenger cars like airbags, a reinforced passenger compartment, and seatbelts, riding enthusiasts also tend to suffer serious or even catastrophic injuries when they are the victims of unsafe drivers of cars, pickups, SUV and other motor vehicles. When a rider suffers permanent disability or disfigurement, the physical, financial, and emotional impact of a crash can take a devastating toll on the victim and his or her family.
Our motorcycle accident lawyers at Parker Waichman LLP navigate substantive and procedural legal issues and insurance company traps. Our primary goal is to handle your legal claim, so you can focus on your rehabilitation and full recovery.
Negligent Drivers Are Especially Dangerous to Motorcyclists
Drivers that are speeding, intoxicated, or distracted endanger everyone on roadways, but a wealth of evidence substantiates the special threat to motorcycle enthusiasts. Motorcycle crashes tragically claimed the lives of 4,693 during the most recent year for which government data is available. Motorcycle riders are 27 times more likely to be killed in a collision than passenger car drivers on a per mile driven basis according to data from the federal government. Although traffic-related fatalities have declined in recent years because of motor vehicle safety innovations, twice as many people died in motorcycle crashes during a recent 12-month period than during the same time period 18 years earlier.
Motorcycles lack the protective benefits of a reinforced passenger compartment and safety equipment such as airbags and seatbelts, but helmets can make a significant difference in the outcome of a crash. Because impact to the head constitutes the most frequent cause of fatal injuries suffered by motorcyclists, helmet use often saves riders’ lives. Motorcycle helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatalities and 67 percent effective in the prevention of brain injuries according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Motorcycle Accidents Caused by the Negligence of Passenger Car Drivers
When motorcycles are involved in multi-vehicle accidents, the other driver typically causes the collision by violating the rider’s right of way according to the Hurt Report, a famous study that analyzed motorcycle accident risks and causation factors. A motorcycle rider typically has less than two seconds to compensate for an error or the inattention of a passenger car driver. The rider also cannot engage in the same exaggerated countermeasures, such as slamming on the brakes or oversteering, to avoid a collision. Some of the negligent practices of other drivers that cause motorcycle accidents include:
- Left Turn Accidents: Motorists often make left turns across traffic directly in front of a motorcycle traveling straight in the opposite direction.
- The Opening of Car Doors: Although the process of opening a car door might seem innocuous, failure of the vehicle occupant to look first can be extremely dangerous for the rider.
- Sudden Stops: Tailgating is an unsafe driving practice under any circumstances, but there is no such thing as a “minor rear-ender” when the vehicle struck from behind is a motorcycle.
- DUI/DWI: Alcohol and drug-impaired drivers often fail to slow down or perform any evasive action prior to a crash, which is extremely dangerous to an unprotected rider.
- Improper Lane Changes: When the driver of a passenger car fails to look before executing a lane change, a motorcyclist can be left with virtually no opportunity to avoid the crash especially if the driver also fails to use his or her turn signal.
- Speeding Drivers: Drivers who violate the speed limit or fail to compensate for weather, road, visibility, or traffic conditions.
- Distracted Driving: Drivers who text message behind the wheel can mean disaster for exposed motorcyclists because a car traveling at 55 mph can cover the length of a football field in the same amount of time that it takes to read a text message.
- Driver Indifference: Many passenger car motorists do not understand motorcycle handling limitations or drive with indifference to the safety of motorcyclists. Execution of a lane change that cuts off another vehicle is always dangerous, but a motorcycle rider cannot activate the brakes as aggressively as the driver of a car, pickup, or SUV.
Parties Financially Responsible for Motorcycle Accidents
While the negligent driver of another vehicle often will be the financially responsible party, there are situations where your motorcycle accident attorney might need to consider the liability of third parties. Potential defendants besides the other driver who hit your motorcycle might include:
- Public Entities: When a public entity knows or should know that a roadway is unreasonably dangerous because of its design or maintenance, a municipality or other government entity might be liable. Shoddy roadside maintenance constitutes an especially serious threat to riders because potholes and other defects in the roadway surface can impact a motorcycle even though they would not be noticeable to someone in a passenger car.
- Vehicle Manufacturers: If a defective part, system, or vehicle play a significant role in causing a crash, any entity in the manufacturing or distribution chain might constitute a viable defendant.
- Motorist’s Employer: If the negligent driver was engaged in the course of employment when running into a motorcyclist, this could result in the rider’s negligence being imputed to the employer.
- Another Driver: The driver that hit you might have been forced to do so by the unsafe driving of another motorist, which could make the third-party driver liable.
This is only a partial list of parties that might be liable for your injuries, but third-party liability can be especially important when you suffer severe injuries. The insurance coverage of the other driver might not be adequate to fully compensate you for your loss. Alternatively, the other driver might even be uninsured. Our motorcycle lawyers conduct a thorough investigation of our clients’ cases to determine all potential defendants and available insurance coverage.
Coping with Anti-Rider Bias in Motorcycle Accident Cases
Despite the widespread popularity of motorcycles with people from all walks of life, which includes many celebrities and high-level executives, antiqued notions of motorcyclists as “bad boys” and “risk takers” must be understood and overcome in litigation. These biases often lead witnesses to overestimate the speed of a bike or to assume a rider was engaging in other high-risk activity.
These inherent biases and misconceptions even impact law enforcement crash reports. Riders frequently experience severe injuries that require transportation to a hospital by ambulance. Motorcycle passengers also tend to be relatively rare, but they also are highly likely to suffer a significant injury. Since the investigating officer often relies heavily on witness statements when drafting an accident report, the conclusions frequently favor the driver and passengers in the other vehicle who are available to provide their version of events. While the police report generally may not be admissible evidence at the personal injury or wrongful death trial, the officer’s testimony will generally conform to his findings and conclusions in the report. Our motorcycle accident attorneys anticipate these issues and utilize effective cross-examination of witnesses, discovery tools, and expert witnesses to prevail in the face of these preconceived notions.
Understanding the Impact of Motorcycle Helmets
Motorcycle helmet use affects both rider safety and litigation strategies. Riders who do not survive a motorcycle crash most typically suffer a fatal brain injury. A study published in the Injury Epidemiology Journal found that motorcycle injury health care costs and the rate of head, brain, and facial injuries were substantially lower in states that had universal helmet laws. The study also found that riders were more than twice as likely to be wearing a helmet during a crash in states that require all riders to use an approved helmet when compared to states with partial helmet laws. States that have eased universal helmet requirements in recent years have seen increases in motorcycle accident fatalities and hospitalizations, which reinforces the safety benefits of strapping on a helmet.
Evidence regarding helmet use would not be relevant if a plaintiff’s injuries did not include an injury to the head or neck. However, the insurance company and/or defendant will argue for a reduction in a motorcycle accident victim’s recovery based on comparative fault if the plaintiff suffered an injury that could have been prevented by use of an approved helmet.
Claims Motorcycle Helmets Interfere with Rider Safety
Although a plethora of statistical data exists establishing the benefits of motorcycle helmet use, some contend that helmets increase the risk of a crash or contribute to more serious injuries. Since a helmet covers the ears and might affect peripheral vision, the contention has been made that the decision to forgo a helmet might prevent crashes by improving visibility and hearing. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a study entitled The Effects of Motorcycle Helmets on Seeing and Hearing that reached a contrary finding. The researchers tested vision and hearing with and without a helmet while riding a motorcycle. The results revealed no adverse impact on seeing or hearing from the use of a motorcycle helmet.
Some critics of universal helmet laws also contend that motorcycles might cause a rider to suffer a more serious injury to the neck or cervical spine. These conclusions originate primarily from a study over thirty years ago by JP Goldstein. Subsequent studies widely criticized the methodology and reliability of the results. An important study, published in a 2016 issue of Accidents Annual Prevention that tried to reproduce the Goldstein conclusions, found that helmet use results in a markedly lower risk of head and fatal injuries. The researchers also found a moderately lower but statistically significant risk of neck injury.
Types of Compensation from Motorcycle Accident Claims
The harm experienced by a motorcyclist involved in a collision because of a negligent driver will include both tangible and intangible damages. The task of proving tangible damages like lost wages, diminished earning capacity, medical bills, and vehicle repairs require obtaining payroll records, medical billings, repair/replacement estimates, and more. Sometimes forensic accountants, vocational counselors, or other experts are needed to quantify future lost income to a sufficient degree of certainty.
Negligence law also permits motorcycle injury victims to be compensated for intangible losses that are more difficult to quantify. This type of damages includes compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and even punitive damages in cases of egregious conduct. These damages are more subjective in their calculation. Persuasive advocacy that helps a judge or jury understand the level of physical and emotional suffering the victim was forced to endure and the fundamental ways the plaintiff’s life has been negatively impacted could dramatically affect the damage award.
Overview of Injuries Suffered in Motorcycle Accidents
While no two motorcycle accidents are identical, there are certain injuries that are more common in motorcycle collisions.
- Road Rash: Although this can be a milder form of injury suffered in a motorcycle crash, these injuries can be more than scrapes, cuts, or abrasions. Severe cases can involve surface nerve damage and infection.
- Severe Burns: Because motorcycles frequently leak fuel when they are involved in a crash, riders face a disproportionate risk of experiencing extensive burn injuries. Burns can be excruciatingly painful and permanently disfiguring.
- Fractures/Broken Bones: Although broken bones often can completely heal, these injuries might be accompanied by permanent disfigurement, disability, and nerve damage.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs): TBIs constitute the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. Even when riders survive a TBI suffered during a collision, this type of injury can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life by affecting cognitive skills, communication ability, mobility, judgment, mood, and more.
- Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs): When motorcyclists are fortunate enough to survive SCIs, these injuries can result in lifelong disability. Damage to your spinal cord could cause paralysis below the site of the injury, loss of movement, and the need for long-term assisted care.
- Wrongful Death: The loss of a loved one can have a devastating toll on surviving family members. Financial hardships associated with the death of a household breadwinner complicates the process of grieving and recovering.
Why the Selection of a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Makes a Difference
Our motorcycle crash and injury attorneys recognize that clients have options when retaining legal representation. While the victim in a negligent rider case can technically retain any attorney to handle the matter, this does not mean that all lawyers are equally qualified to effectively litigate your personal injury claim. There are several ways your choice of motorcycle attorney might affect the outcome of your insurance claim or lawsuit.
- Analyzing Potential Issues: Skilled and experienced motorcycle accident lawyers will be able to review the unique facts and evidence surrounding your accident and anticipate the key issues that will impact the outcome. Based on this analysis, our law firm can construct a persuasive presentation on such issues with witness testimony, expert witnesses, medical records, and other relevant information.
- Experience Handling Motorcycle Cases: While experience is important no matter what your situation, the value of that experience to you should be based on its relevance. Our law firm has handled thousands of motor vehicle accident cases, and we have recovered over two billion dollars for our clients in throughout the nation. We understand the unique handling features of motorcycles and the biases of witnesses that often find their way into law enforcement accident reports. Our law firm works to establish our client was operating his or her vehicle in a prudent, lawful, and reasonable fashion. We will guide you through the pitfalls and traps for the unwary that can derail your motorcycle accident claim.
- Litigation War Chest & Network of Experts: Our national personal injury law firm has the financial resources and established relationships with renowned experts to provide exemplary legal representation. Because of our long tenure and success in the courtroom, insurance defense lawyers know we will not hesitate to take a case to trial to obtain the best outcome for our client.
- Contingency Fee Representation: We handle cases on a contingency fee basis, so we do not recover attorney fees unless we prevail in obtaining a financial recovery. You must win for us to get paid.
- Catastrophic Injury Cases: Our law firm understands the unique challenges involved in litigating catastrophic injury cases. A compelling and persuasive presentation that enables the judge or jury to feel the injury victim’s loss is needed to obtain the fullest recovery.
- Demystifying the Civil Litigation Process: Many of our clients have never been involved in civil litigation or even worked with an attorney prior to their accident. Our attorneys understand the process is complex with sophisticated evidentiary and court rules, civil procedures, and legal standards. We explain the process in plain English and guide you throughout the litigation process.
- Avoiding Insurance Company Traps: While the insurance company adjuster for the other driver might seem cooperative and amicable, this individual’s motivations are completely aligned with the insurance carrier. When injury victims communicate directly with the insurance company, they risk inadvertent disclosure that can damage their case. Insurers might ask you to sign a release of information or to participate in a recorded statement. The best practice is to let your knowledgeable motorcycle accident attorney handle communications with the other party’s insurance company and to refuse to sign anything without legal advice from your lawyer.
Why Clients Place Their Trust in Parker Waichman LLP
Our clients recognize the advantages of being represented by attorneys that have over 350 years of collective experience. Our law firm has recovered over $2 billion dollars for our clients. At Parker Waichman LLP, our attorneys recognize our clients want more than masterful legal skills and centuries of experience.
Our Promise to You
We make sure every client understands that their case is a priority, so they will not be passively shuffled from attorney to attorney or from attorney to support staff. We focus on keeping you reasonably informed and answering your questions to demystify the litigation process at all stages of your case.
Awards and Accolades
Our reputation is evidenced by just a few of our recent accolades and awards:
- Rating of 9.8 (out of 10) by AVVO
- Recipient of Highest “5 Dragons” Award
- Acknowledged by Respected Martindale-Hubbell Publication as “Preeminent Lawyers”
- Awarded Highest “AV” Peer Review Rating by Prestigious Martindale-Hubbell Publication
- Included Among “Best Lawyers” as Reviewed by Peers
Speak with Our National Motorcycle Accident Lawyers Today!
Our national motorcycle accident law firm represents clients throughout the state of New York, and throughout the U.S. We welcome you to contact us for more information and an initial consultation, so contact us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529), fill out our case inquiry form, or visit us in person.
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