Motorcycle crashes result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities more often than vehicle crashes, in large part because a motorcycle does not protect as much as a car or truck. Passenger vehicles are also larger and much heavier than motorcycles, so bikes and their riders tend to suffer more damages in a collision.
A report from the Governors Highway Safety Administration found that, in a given year, there are around 5,000 motorcycle fatalities in the U.S. Interestingly, most states reported the majority of fatal crashes were single-vehicle crashes. The report also emphasized the importance of helmets, which have saved nearly 1,900 lives in one year. Still, fatal motorcycle accidents are not uncommon. It’s good to know how to prevent them, and how to recover compensation if someone else’s wrongdoing injured you.
Ways to Prevent Motorcycle Wrecks
Motorists often claim that they did not see a motorcyclist before they hit them. Passenger vehicle drivers must pay more attention to what is in front of them, and motorcyclists can also prevent accidents.
Making Left Turns
Passenger vehicles may crash into motorcycles if they fail to notice a motorcycle and make a left turn into the motorcycle. When making a left turn, a passenger vehicle motorist should watch carefully for all traffic around them and pay particular attention to motorcyclists. Motorcyclists should keep an eye on motorists about to turn left. They should also look for signs that the motorist has failed to notice them, such as if they failed to slow down as if they saw the motorcyclist and needed to give the motorcyclist the right-of-way.
Pay more attention to intersections. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that more than half of non-Interstate motorcycle crashes happen at intersections. Again, passenger vehicle drivers should have motorcycles on their minds before they maneuver through an intersection. Motorcycle drivers should watch for vehicles that do not see them.
Vehicle drivers must give the road their full attention. Glancing down to adjust the stereo or even turning to the back of the car because the kids are arguing is more than enough to fail to notice a motorcyclist, with potentially fatal consequences. Motorcyclists should also not become distracted, even by their own thoughts.
Always look twice before changing lanes. Many vehicles have blind-spot assistance technology, but you should never completely rely on it to clear your blind spots. Always check your blind spots yourself and use your turn signals before changing lanes so that a motorcyclist avoids slipping into your blind spot without you noticing.
Give a Motorcyclist Plenty of Space
When following a motorcycle, be sure to stay a safe distance behind it. If the motorcycle blows a tire or hits a slick spot on the road, the motorcyclist could very easily lose control. While they might sustain damage from their single-vehicle crash, the damage will only be worse, and perhaps fatal, if you are following too closely and can’t brake or take other evasive maneuvers to avoid crashing into them.
The same applies when passing a motorcyclist. Don’t try to split a lane with the biker. Move all the way into the passing lane. You could easily force a motorcyclist off the road if you try to split the lane.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Injuries that a motorcyclist could suffer include:
- Bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, and scratches.
- Road rash.
- Chemical and muffler burns.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles.
- Other soft tissue injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and penetrating brain injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Secondary injuries such as infection.
If you have a compromised immune system, whether from a disease or because of medications such as chemotherapy, your injuries could take longer to heal, and you are more prone to become infected. Because you would not have suffered those injuries or exacerbated your underlying conditions were it not for the accident, a defendant may be responsible for the expenses your secondary injuries cause.
Recoverable Damages in a Motorcycle Wreck
You might recover compensatory damages if you suffered injuries or if you lost a loved one due to a motorcycle accident. A passenger vehicle driver could be responsible for paying a motorcyclist’s life-long medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages, or for damages and impacts to a decedent motorcyclist’s family. Courts order two types of compensatory damages in motorcycle wreck cases: Economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages have a tangible monetary value while non-economic damages do not.
You might also recover punitive damages if you can show that the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional. Unlike compensatory damages, which a court orders to make a victim whole again, punitive damages do not compensate the victim for their specific expenses or impacts, but punish the defendant for egregious conduct.
Economic damages, also referred to as special damages, include:
- Past medical expenses for those incurred before a settlement or court award
- Future medical expenses anticipated following a settlement or court award
- Past and future lost wages
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses
Non-economic damages, also referred to as general damages, include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress, if you suffered injuries in a motorcycle wreck
- Emotional distress, if you lost a loved one in a motorcycle crash
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of companionship, if you can no longer enjoy or take part in family events and activities
Loss of consortium, if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand or foot
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as eyesight or bladder
- Amputation, whether the accident severed the limb or if doctors later found amputation medically necessary because they couldn’t save it.
- Excessive scarring or disfigurement
- Inconvenience, if you have to hire someone to do your normal chores and tasks