Motorcycle Riding and Motorcycle Accidents
Ever since I was nine years old I’ve enjoyed riding and racing motorcycles. My first mini bike was a Honda 70 and 41 years later, I still enjoy riding.
To the left is a picture taken by a friend of me getting a bit of air on my Honda CRF 450 out on the local motocross tracks. When it comes to street riding, there is nothing my wife and I enjoy more (OK- maybe just me but she’s a good sport and goes along with it) than taking an afternoon ride on the winding coastal roads found on the Hawaiian Islands.
Have said this, I also understand and appreciate the unfortunate risk and hazards with riding on the track and on the street. The problem I’ve notice over the years is that regardless of how good and safe a rider you are, there is always the chance that someone or something else can ruin your day as quickly as you and I can twist the throttle or release our clutch lever of your motorcycle. Of course, there are things that we can all do to minimize this from happening, but the reality of the situation is that no matter how safe or careful we are, there is always the chance of being a motorcycle accident victim.
Not too long ago, I arrived at one of our local motocross tracks and relaxed unloading my bike while sipping on a hot cup of coffee and talking with friends. I had just had my bike’s suspension and top-end worked on by Pro Circuit and to get familiar with the new feel and power, started the morning off with slowly “rolling” the track.
Sure enough, despite the fact that I was riding way over on the right side of the track, some yahoo decided it would be smart to try and jump by (over?) me on a medium size step-up jump. While the top of my helmet doesn’t make a very good landing area, the accident was not as bad as it could have been and I’ve simply chalked it up to another close call. The fact of the matter is that I was doing everything right but because of someone else’s negligence, a very serious accident could have taken place.
On the way home that afternoon, we passed two street bike motorcycle accidents which looked pretty bad. I’m not sure how the accidents happened but this section of winding road on the Ortega Highway is a frequent riding area for street bikes. In the past, I’ve seen autos and trucks passing other vehicles on blind corners and with a 500′ cliff on one side of the street and a solid rock wall on the other. One morning I actually watched a guy on his bike blow past me, pop a high speed wheelie and then ride that wheelie around a blind corner. What part of “a recipe for disaster” did this rider not understand?
Just this past week, my firm resolved a horrible motorcycle accident case which involved a wonderful client who had spent the past 30 years with the army’s special forces. He was happy to recently retire and did not have a scratch on his body.
While riding a motorcycle in downtown Los Angeles, California, he entered an intersection pursuant to a green light when all of a sudden, an inexperienced 16 year-old driver decided it would be a good idea to make an illegal left-turn directly in front of our client. Needless to say, he suffered multiple broken bones and despite healing very well, is expected to experience a life-time of discomfort. The $1,200,000.00 policy limit settlement was only a first step in helping this rider get back on his feet and back on his bike.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics (several of our case results can be viewed here…)
Because of the physics involved in motorcycle accidents, the extent of personal injury or death is unusually high. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released new statistics showing that motorcycle fatalities have increased for the seventh year in a row. With more than 1,000,000 motorcycles being purchased each year (this figure has increased each of the past 14 years), the additional number of riders has resulted in fatalities increasing at an alarming rate of 89% from 2,116 in 1997 to 4,008 in 2004.
The numbers reflect that the average age of these riders is 20-29, with speeding being the number one cause of these fatal accidents. According to Motorcycle Industry Council findings, there is a high increase in the number of motorcycles purchased by riders over the age of 40 and a corresponding increasing number of fatalities with riders in this age group.
The highest percentage of fatal motorcycle accidents involved alcohol. More than 72 percent of these riders were in the age group of 40-49. One positive aspect of this statistic is that the number of alcohol related fatalities has actually decreased over the past 10 years.
More than 70% of motorcycle fatality accidents take place on undivided highways. I would suggest that this is a combination of a lack of rider education, training, inattention, excessive speed or third-party negligence (the driver of another car or truck was careless and caused the accident).
Another disturbing but not necessarily surprising statistic is that about 80% of all motorcycle accidents result in injury or death. This statistic reflects the fact that regardless of fault, there is little protection for a motorcycle rider in an accident. Unfortunately, the pain I feel in my knees, back and right shoulder while writing this article are a constant reminder to me of this very real fact.
My research shows that since the enactment of the Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, more than 128,000 motorcyclists have sustained fatal injuries. In 2004 alone, more than 4,000 riders died and another 76,000 were injured.
Looking at the numbers, this means that about 12 motorcycle riders are involved in fatal accidents each day on our roadways. With more than four million registered motorcycles in the United States, this equates to about 11 motorcycle riders dying each day and another 208 riders sustaining injury on U.S. roadways.
Based upon our own experiences and the experiences that our clients have had, most motorcycle riders are injured because of either their own negligence or the wrongful conduct of other drivers. Other causes include mechanical defects and hazards in the roadway.
Common rider injuries include broken bones, burns, road rash, facial fractures, amputations, spinal cord injuries, paralysis and traumatic brain injury. Wearing a helmet is a smart precaution to take but unavoidable accident factors like speed and angle of impact can make the use of a helmet almost ineffective.
When it comes to safely riding a motorcycle on or off the roadway, common sense and good training will go a long way to helping make sure you make it home at the end of the day. Ride safely and enjoy the open road.
What Compensation are Motorcycle Accident Victims Entitled To?
When it’s all said and done, a personal injury or wrongful death case is all about compensating the victims for their loss. It’s about maximizing the money damages that you are entitled to by law. In a civil case, no one is going to jail and no one is going to be found guilty of a crime.
Having said that, the question we normally get is, “What compensation am I entitled to in my personal injury or wrongful death case?”
Before sharing our detailed response, we do want you to know that in our opinion, the ability to maximize the amount of compensation you receive in a case has more to do with the experience and reputation of your lawyer than it does with the rules and laws discussed below.
What we mean is that good lawyers know what legal “buttons need to be pushed” to get the insurance company for the other side to offer their insurance policy limits during settlement negotiations. If a jury trial becomes necessary, these same lawyers know how to effectively present evidence and argue your case to maximize your chances of the jury returning with a high verdict in your favor.
Frankly, it’s as much of an art as anything else. Good lawyers are perceptive and know how to “read” the witnesses, opposing party, and even a jury of 12 strangers. While all cases are different, experienced trial lawyers know how to develop rapport with your jury so that early in the trial, the jury is already on your side and the only question remaining is how much are they allowed to award you in their verdict.
Having briefly touched upon the very real “art” of maximizing your compensation, let’s talk a bit about what the law provides for.
In most California cases and at the very least, a person who has been injured or a family who has lost a loved one through the fault of another is entitled to “be made whole” or to be restored insofar as is possible to his or her pre-injury status through “compensatory” damages. In California, this right is established by Civil Code Sections 3281 and 3333.
Generally speaking, this includes being fully compensated for all economic damages such as medical bills, property damage and lost wages and non-economic damages such as emotional distress and pain and suffering. Past, present and future damages are normally discounted to their present lump sum value. In many instances, experts are used to help establish and prove these damages.
Depending on the facts of your case, these damages might include one or more of the following…
An injury victim is entitled to the reasonable value of all medical expenses that have been incurred, and are reasonably expected to be incurred in the future, as a result of the injury or death. Medical bills, diagnostic tests, medical reports and doctors’ testimony are all used to prove these damages.
Loss of Earnings
When your injury prevents you from being able to work, you are generally entitled to the reasonable value of working time lost or expected to be lost on account of the injury or death. Wages, commissions, bonuses, fringe benefits and all other earnings are compensable damages. This also includes an “impaired earning capacity” which simply refers to the extent to which the injury has interfered with an injured person’s ability to advance to a better paying position or alternative career.
Pain and Suffering
Physical and emotional pain and suffering can be devastating to a personal injury victim. In many instances, this is usually the most valuable element of a bodily injury claim and includes compensation for the past, present and future pain and suffering an injured person goes through or is expected to go through because of an accident. Reasonableness is the only limit on the amount of pain and suffering damages which can be awarded. Civil Code Section 3259.
In some cases, an injured party may be entitled to reasonable compensation for all fear, anxiety and other emotional distress suffered or to be suffered in the future. Additional related “intangible damages” may also be awarded to compensate an injured victim for the impaired enjoyment of life (an inability to enjoy life), disfigurement and the shorting of life expectancy.
Property losses such as damage to personal property or to an automobile in a vehicle collision are also recoverable damages. Civil Code Sections 3281. If property is lost, completely destroyed or beyond repair, damages are usually based upon the fair market value at the time of the loss. However, if the property can be repaired, then the proper damages are either the cost of repairs or the difference in the property’s value before and after the accident.
If it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the responsible party is guilty of oppression, fraud or malice, an injured party may also be entitled to punitive damages in an amount to punish the defendant. Civil Code Section 3294(a). Developing case law is setting limits at to the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in any given case.
Wrongful Death Cases
When negligent or wrongful conduct causes a wrongful death, the damages are slightly different. For example, each wrongful death claimant is entitled to damages for all detriment suffered and is likely to suffer in the future. This not only includes the “necessities of life” (food, clothing, shelter) but also any financial contributions the decedent would have made.
Lost services, advice or training are compensable damages in a wrongful death case. Out of pocket funeral and burial expenses are also normally included in most wrongful death cases.
Most families who experience a wrongful death are surprised to learn that a claimant’s grief, sorrow and mental suffering relating to the wrongful death are not compensable damages. Having said that, these victims are entitled to receive compensation for the loss of love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, solace or moral support.
If it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the responsible party is guilty of oppression, fraud or malice, an injured party may also be entitled to punitive damages in an amount to punish the defendant. Civil Code Section 3294(a). Developing case law is setting limits at to the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in any given case. With few exceptions, punitive damages are also not normally allowed to claimants in a wrongful death case.
Motorcycle Accident Case Overview
When you or a family member is involved in a personal injury or wrongful death case, it’s extremely important to act quickly and make smart decisions from the very beginning of your case.
Being seen and properly diagnosed by an experienced and well respected health care provider shortly after your accident is important for two reasons. First, making sure you get proper medical treatment is important to your short and long-term recovery. Second, it’s absolutely necessary in personal injury cases to have your doctors properly document (medical records, reports, photographs, x-rays, CT/MRI scans…) all of your injuries and treatment. This record or history will be used to confirm all of your injuries and injury related issues later in the claim, litigation, or trial process.
Doctors such as orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, physical therapists and chiropractors may be needed to help you recover as fast as possible. Economists, life-case planners, as well as experts in vocational rehab are sometimes necessary to help calculate, explain and prove your financial losses.
Investigation and Protecting Evidence
When it comes to investigating the incident that caused your injuries and damages, it’s important to keep in mind that evidence can be difficult to locate as time passes. Objects get moved or removed from the accident scene. Skid marks wash away with rain and other evidence such as broken asphalt, walls, and buildings get repaired or replaced. Damage to vehicles may get repaired before being photographed and the memories of defendants and witnesses fade over time (or after being coached by the other side). In some cases these people simply “disappear.”
To avoid having this happen to you, photographs and video should be taken and all evidence preserved. Investigators should be used to talk to and record the statements of the people involved in your incident and to interview all witnesses.
In most cases, experts in areas such as accident reconstruction or bio-mechanical engineering should be retained and used to review the facts and help establish liability, force of impact, and damages in your case.
Claim and Lawsuit Filing Deadlines
In almost every case, you only have a certain period of time to file a claim or lawsuit. If you fail to properly file or serve the required legal documents in a timely fashion, you will forever lose your legal right to pursue a claim or case against the responsible party. The requirements and time period you have to file a claim against a governmental entity such as a city, county or state is different than when dealing with a private party or company in a slip and fall or automobile, motorcycle, or large truck accident case. Medical malpractice cases also have their own unique requirements and limited time periods to take action.
Legal documents called claims, pleadings, and motions are normally prepared to file with the court to protect your rights and maximize your chances of obtaining a full and complete settlement or verdict. Settlement demand packages are also sometimes necessary to attempt settlement of a case before the need for a lawsuit becomes necessary. Mediation, arbitration and trials are all used to obtain a final decision in a personal injury and wrongful death case.
Who Pays in a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Motorcycle Accident Case?
When it comes to recovering damages in most vehicle accident cases, most experienced personal injury law firms look to the responsible party’s automobile liability insurance or homeowners insurance. If the person who caused your injuries was employed with a company at the time he or she caused the accident and, was in the scope and course of employment, we may also pursue a claim against the employer company based upon a legal theory of respondent superior (the employer is liable for the wrongful conduct of its employees while on the job).
Other theories of liability may also be reviewed and pursued which might include a dangerous or defective product claim against the manufacturer or a maker of one of the vehicles parts or components (defective brakes, tires, unsafe/exploding gas tank design…).
If the other party has insufficient insurance or no insurance at all, you may be entitled to bring an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist claim available against your own insurance company. In these circumstances, we will also use experts to undertake an asset background check to see whether or not there is any real property, bank accounts, home equity, or other significant assets to cover your losses. In many cases where the other party was either uninsured or insufficiently insured, we’ve been able to use these techniques to get payment on a large judgment against the other side.
The bottom line is that no settlement should take place and no settlement releases should be signed until you have full and complete answers to all of the above questions and issues.
Motorcycle Accidents- Get Your Questions Answered Today!
Since 1986, we’ve truly enjoyed helping people, not big corporations and insurance companies. Our daily focus involves protecting the injured, the wronged, and the voiceless, not large businesses that routinely trample, abuse, and exploit the rights of the less fortunate.
Our drive and motivation has always been devoted to leveling the playing field for our clients and families against the self-serving goals of corporate greed and higher corporate profits.
We truly look forward to answering any questions you may have about your personal injury or wrongful death case. Please do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call at 800-661-7044. If you like, you may also contact us via chat, the convenient web form below or through our main web site at www.JacksonandWilson.com
More About How and Why We Can Help You with Your Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case…
Jackson & Wilson has been helping victims of personal injury and wrongful death since 1986. The firm and partners have received numerous awards over the past 25 years including a top “AV” rating by Martindale-Hubbell (highest rating in ability and ethics) and a prestigious listing in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers.
Senior Partner, Jon Mitchell “Mitch” Jackson, is proud to have been named Orange County Trial Lawyer of the Year for his successful jury verdict in a very difficult wrongful death case and, has repeatedly been named a Southern California Super Lawyer by Law and Politics Magazine.
Senior Partner, Lisa M. Wilson, has secured one of the largest first party insurance bad faith settlements in Southern California and is a multiple time member of the Million Dollar Advocate Club which is an organization reserved for only those who have obtained a settlement or verdict in excess of One Million Dollars.
Jackson & Wilson is a top-rated personal injury and wrongful death law firm. Since 1986, we’ve been helping personal injury and wrongful death victims put their lives back together. Both Lisa and Mitch have received the top “AV” rating for ability and ethics by Martindale-Hubbell and their firm is listed in the prestigious Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. They are also proud to be multiple time members of the Million Dollar Advocates Club with membership limited to only those lawyers who have achieved a settlement or verdict of $1,000,000 or more.
Also feel free to call with your legal questions or needs: 800-661-7044
Copyright 2010: Jackson & Wilson