With miles of breathtaking shoreline and vast tracts of canyon and alpine mountain roads, Southern California offers some of the best motorcycle riding in the nation. The sunshine, year-round warmth, and diversity of stunning scenery has made it a top destination for motorcycle enthusiasts across the US. Residents of the state also frequently use motorcycles for regular travel and commuting, and California currently has the highest number of registered motorcycles of any state in the country. Although years of extensive research have demonstrated that motorcyclists are in fact some of the safest motorists on the road, the alarming number of motorcycle accidents that occur has led many people to mistakenly assume that motorcyclists operate their machines dangerously or recklessly.
In fact, the majority of motorcycle accidents do not occur as a result of the rider’s actions, but because passenger vehicle drivers tend to be inattentive, intoxicated, or otherwise distracted behind the wheel of their vehicles and fail to properly share the road with these riders while driving. Motorcycles offer only limited protection, and when a small, lightweight motorcycle connects with another vehicle, even the most state-of-the-art helmets and protective gear are often insufficient in defending these vulnerable riders from devastating injuries. Regardless of how cautious or safe the motorcyclist is when operating their vehicle, they are statistically much more likely to sustain severe bodily damage, ranging from fractures to traumatic brain injuries. When combined with the heavy traffic that travels the state’s roadways, even a seemingly minor motorcycle collision can rapidly become life-threatening for riders and their passengers.
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, review the information below to learn how you can obtain compensation for your damages, then contact McLachlan Law to discuss your accident. Our team of personal injury attorneys understands the complex nature of motorcycle injury cases and the various challenges that must be overcome to resolve them. We can fully investigate the accident, determine the extent of your damages, negotiate with insurance companies to deliver a fair settlement, and aggressively advocate on your behalf in court. With our help, you can secure the compensation you deserve to recover and move forward with your life.
Motorcycle Accidents are Worse Than Car Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents send over 2 million Americans to the hospital emergency departments each year and comprise the leading cause of accidental death for young adults aged 29 and younger. The risk of life-threatening injury is intensified for motorcycle riders, as they do not receive the same level of protection found in passenger vehicles, such as steel reinforced supports, airbags, seatbelts, cameras, and collision early warning systems. Although helmets and durable armored gear help to mitigate the harm during a collision, riders are still incredibly vulnerable in such collisions, and the injuries they sustain are nearly always more serious and widespread than injuries among passenger vehicle occupants.
Because a motorcycle balances on two wheels instead of four, these vehicles are less stable, more challenging to maneuver (especially when cornering or braking), and more susceptible to tipping over or crashing due to changes in weight distribution. Poor road conditions, like potholes, debris, uneven surfaces, and other obstacles can also be more dangerous to encounter on a motorcycle than in a car. Something as seemingly harmless as gravel, leaves, grass clippings, or slightly slick roads can force riders to swerve or brake to avoid a collision, only to have their front wheels lock up and be thrown from the vehicle. The smaller size of motorcycles also makes them less visible to other motorists, and a large portion of accidents happen because passenger vehicle drivers fail to check their blind spots when driving, mainly before turning, yielding, changing lanes, or making sudden stops.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
The most common injuries among motorcyclists who seek treatment are head and brain injuries, thoracic and abdominal injuries, internal organ damage from the force of the collision, and fractures of the shoulders, upper arms, ribs, legs, knees, and pelvis. Soft tissue injuries from severe burns and road rash, internal bleeding, facial disfigurement, and spinal cord injuries are also frequent reasons for hospital admission, and severe damage can result in amputation or paralysis due to permanent nerve damage.
The size of the motorcycle and speed at which they are traveling can further worsen injuries, as larger vehicles at higher rates of speed are more likely to overturn and strike other objects or structures in the roadway. If the rider survives the collision, they typically require immediate hospitalization and weeks or months of rehabilitative treatment to recover. Riders who die in crashes typically suffer multiple injuries, but head and brain injuries are cited in around 30% of these cases as the primary cause of death.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 80% of motorcycle accidents result in injury or death, compared to 20% of injuries and deaths among accidents with only passenger vehicles. Motorcyclists are four times more vulnerable to receiving an injury in an accident than a driver or passenger in a car or truck, and they are 28 times more likely to die due to the severity of their injuries. More than 80,000 riders are injured each year from traffic collisions, and over 5,000 die due to their injuries. Although motorcycles only comprise 3% of registered vehicles in the US, they account for over 14% of traffic fatalities.
Roadway type, location, light conditions, and weather also have a significant impact on fatalities:
- 91% of fatalities occurred on non-interstate roadways vs. 9% on interstates
- 34% at intersections vs. 66% at non-intersection areas
- 61% in urban areas vs. 39% in rural areas
- 57% during daytime vs. 38% at night
- 97% in cloudy or clear conditions vs. 2% in rain and 1% in snow, sleet, or fog
Helmets can make a difference, but they do not offer complete protection. Even when a rider wears a helmet, this device is only 67% effective at preventing traumatic brain injuries, 37% effective at preventing injury-based fatalities in riders, and 41% effective at preventing such fatalities among passengers. Of all annual motorcycle fatalities, 61% of fatally injured riders and 47% of fatally injured passengers wore helmets. However, the NHTSA estimates that helmets save the lives of nearly 2,000 motorcyclists each year. Researchers claim that for every 100 non-helmeted motorcyclists who were killed in a collision, if all of them had been wearing a helmet during the accident, 37 could have survived the collision.
Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
The most common causes of motorcycle accidents consist of the following:
- Distracted drivers operating their passenger vehicles while talking, eating, adjusting the radio, entering information into a GPS, or engaging in any other activities that divert their attention and reduce their ability to respond to dangers
- Drivers intoxicated from alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances
- Drivers who do not check their blind spots before making left-hand turns, trapping the motorcyclist at an intersection or forcing them to pass at a dangerous time/move onto the shoulder
- Drivers failing to properly yield at the right time onto entrance or exit ramps
- Drivers who unexpectedly merge into a rider’s lane without using turn signals
- Drivers making sudden stops, especially when following a motorcycle too closely
- Drivers opening car doors or sticking their arms out of the window while motorcyclists are lane splitting (a legal practice in California)
- Poor road conditions, including potholes, damaged or uneven pavement, and debris
- Inclement weather that causes the surface of the road to become dangerously slick, reduces visibility, lengthens the distance required to make stops, or otherwise increases the difficulty of controlling the motorcycle
- Mechanical problems within the motorcycle, such as brake failure, suspension issues, faulty headlights or taillights, wheel bearing failure, or chain link failure
Proving Negligence in Accident Claims Involving Accidents
Proving fault in a motorcycle accident claim is a necessary component of establishing grounds for a valid personal injury claim. When the negligent or careless behavior of another motorist causes a motorcycle collision and the rider sustains an injury, they can be held legally responsible for the accident and liable for the damages that result from the injury. To establish negligence, your attorney must prove the following four elements of your case:
- The defendant owed you a “duty of care” when operating their vehicle on the roadway, meaning they are expected to exercise the same level of care as a reasonably cautious driver and follow the rules of the road.
- The defendant breached this duty of care with actions such as excessive speeding or failing to pay attention to traffic signs and lights.
- This violation directly contributed to the accident and the injuries you sustained.
- You suffered specific damages due to your injury.
In cases of minor injuries, the other driver’s insurance company will typically cover your damages. However, substantial injuries involve higher settlements, and many insurance companies will argue against the validity of your claim or offer a settlement award that does not cover your damages, meaning you must take further legal action to obtain compensation. These companies are well aware of the negative bias that exists against motorcyclists and can use this prejudice to avoid paying the compensation you deserve. They often attempt to minimize your injuries, reduce your damages, or refuse your claim altogether. An attorney can anticipate these strategies and conduct negotiations to reach a fair settlement or litigate your case in court.
Recovering Damages in Motorcycle Accident Claims
Recovering compensation in a motorcycle accident claim depends on the extent of the compensable damages you incurred as a result of your injuries and the severity and long-term impact of your losses. After proving that your injuries occurred due to the negligence of the other driver, your motorcycle accident attorney can help you recover the following damages:
- Medical expenses – all current and ongoing medical treatment required to treat your injury and aid in the recovery process, including emergency department care, hospitalization, surgical procedures, medications, physical therapy, other rehabilitative care, assistive devices, and travel costs for driving to and from medical appointments
- Property damage – the cost of repairing your motorcycle (if the cost of repair exceeds the value of the vehicle, compensation would equals this value so that you can replace it)
- Loss of income and future earning potential – lost wages from missing work due to your injury and the recovery process, lost employment or career opportunities, and the loss of future earning potential if your injury prevents you from returning to your previous position or requires you to transfer to a different industry
- Pain and suffering – physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, and scarring, disability, or disfigurement that permanently reduces your quality of life
If your spouse died due to injuries they sustained in a motorcycle accident, you can file a wrongful death claim to recover all of the damages listed above, as well as burial and funeral expenses and loss of consortium (which refers to the companionship, affection, comfort, love, moral support, assistance, sexual relations, ability to have children, and other aspects of the romantic relationship affected by the loss of your spouse).
Secure Legal Representation With a Motorcycle Accident Attorney in Hawthorne Now
If you or a loved one sustained a serious injury from a motorcycle accident, it is imperative that you get in touch with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney right away. For more than three decades, the team of personal injury attorneys at McLachlan Law has represented clients in Hawthorne and throughout Southern California, including Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, and Manhattan Beach. Our law firm has a long track record of successful personal injury claims for injured motorcycle riders and we provide dedicated, compassionate, and comprehensive legal services to help our clients recover compensation. We understand the dishonest, manipulative tactics insurance companies use to fight against personal injury claims made by motorcyclists and we are prepared to conduct negotiations to obtain a settlement. We are also ready to fiercely advocate on your behalf in court if they deny your claim or fail to offer fair compensation for your damages.
Visit our website today to schedule a consultation with McLachlan Law. When you retain the services of our law firm, our experienced personal injury attorneys will complete a comprehensive investigation of your motorcycle accident, provide expert legal counsel to help you explore your options, and hold the responsible party accountable for your injuries. You can expect attentive, responsive service, regular communication, and superior litigation skills from the very beginning of your case until we deliver the results you deserve.