At Estey & Bomberger, our motorcycle accident lawyers in San Diego, CA support motorcyclists. By understanding California motorcycle laws and the rules of the road, knowing your rights in terms of insurance and product liability, and staying updated on motorcycle accident statistics, we are able to protect your rights to a safe roadway and reparation in the event of an accident.
Motorcycle accidents occur on a daily basis. For riders, it’s important to be aware of potential dangers, understand motorcycle law, and practice safe driving at all times. While the combination of these things will not prevent all accidents, proper adherence to safety rules and regulations can certainly play a part in reducing the severity of ensuing accidents.
Motorcycle Accidents: By the Numbers
It is common knowledge that motorcycle operation comes with its dangers. However, taking a more comprehensive look at motorcycle accident facts and statistics may better inform motorists and motorcyclists, as well as inspire more cautious roadway behaviors for everyone involved.
Sadly, the lack of protection and restraint mechanisms in motorcycles often lead to serious accidents resulting in death. Here is a look at some of the most recent data:
- The number of deaths resulting from motorcycle accidents in 2015 was 4,976.
- A motorcyclist is 27 times more likely to die in a collision than a motor vehicle passenger.
- Head injury is the number one killer of motorcyclists involved in accidents.
- More than 50 percent of motorcycle fatalities involved at least one motor vehicle.
- 1,791 fatalities in 2009 involved only the motorcyclist. 48 percent were speeding and 42 percent had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 or higher.
- Each year, 93,000 injuries are reported as a result of motorcycle accidents. These only account for those reported at the hospital or by the police, and do not include unreported, self-treated injuries.
- An individual riding a motorcycle is 6 times more likely to suffer a fatality than a motor vehicle driver or passenger involved in the same accident.
California Motorcycle Accident Statistics
For most motorcycle riders, a motorcycle is much more than a means of personal conveyance – it is a hobby and lifestyle. Motorcycles are incredibly fun but also inherently more dangerous than other vehicles for a multitude of reasons. It’s vital for California motorcyclists to understand the risks of riding and take steps to prevent serious accidents.
Safety Statistics for Motorcycles
In 2015, while the rest of the country witnessed a disturbing spike in motorcycle-related fatalities, the mortality rate for motorcycle accidents in California actually fell by 7%. However, this statistic is a bit misleading since California had the second-highest total number of motorcycle deaths after Florida in 2015. Despite this apparent decrease in fatalities, California motorcyclists should use proper caution and remember a few key points about motorcycle safety:
- Department of Transportation (DOT) approved helmets save lives. The DOT recently released a study that showed helmets reduce the likelihood of a head or brain injury in a crash and decrease the chance of dying in a crash by 37%. California state law requires all motorcycle riders and passengers of all ages to wear a DOT-approved helmet while riding.
- Motorcycle deaths comprise 17% of all road fatalities in California. However, only 3% of all registered vehicles nationwide are motorcycles, and motorcycles only account for 1% of vehicle miles driven.
- The highest share of the total number of motorcycle deaths was in the 20-29 age group at 25%.
- Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) save lives. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that the fatal crash rate is 31% lower for motorcycles with ABS compared to those without these systems.
- In 2015, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured and 4,976 died nationwide. This shows an 8.3% increase in deaths from 2014 and a 4.3% decrease in injuries from 2014.
- Riding under the influence of alcohol is one of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents. Driving while intoxicated is extremely dangerous in any vehicle, but the nature of motorcycles vastly increases this danger.
Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Even small passenger vehicles afford their drivers a measure of protection from external forces. When a car is in a collision, the vehicle will absorb a great deal of the impact, limiting the damage done to the driver. The same cannot be said for motorcycles. Motorcyclists are almost completely unprotected from external forces. Some of the injuries that commonly result from motorcycle accidents include:
- Broken or crushed bones. Any part of the body can sustain bone and joint sprains, fractures, and breaks as a result of motorcycle accidents. The most common break sites include arms, legs, wrists, ankles, and collarbones.
- “Road rash,” or friction burns. These injuries are caused by sliding along the road after being thrown from a bike. Burns and rashes are easily sustained among motorcyclists who are not properly clothed and equipped to ride. In these cases, rehabilitation can require anything from minor bandaging to large skin grafts. The result of serious road rash and burns is permanent and unsightly scarring.
- Internal damage from impact or being thrown from a bike.
- Traumatic brain injuries. Often the most serious injuries involve damage to the head and/or brain. These include fractures, bruises, concussions, and traumatic brain injury. The latter is extremely serious and can lead to a lifetime of limitations, disabilities, and chronic pain. While wearing a helmet certainly reduces the likelihood of incurring serious head or brain injuries, riders with proper protection are not completely immune.
- Head, Neck, or Spinal cord damage. A motorcycle rider who is thrown from a bike may suffer serious damage to the neck or spine, which can often result in permanent disabilities or death. This occurs when cyclists land on their head, neck, or back and sustain herniated discs, fractured vertebrae, and other injuries of the central and peripheral nervous system. Long-term effects often include chronic pain, spinal misalignment, and paralysis.
This is not an exhaustive list; motorcycling is a fun but risky pastime, so it is crucial to exercise caution and ride responsibly. If you are a motorcycle rider who was hit by another driver, address your medical needs first, then reach out to an experienced California motorcycle accident attorney who will fight for your rights in court and help you secure the compensation you need to carry on with your life.
A motorcycle accident case can result in compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, property damage, and lost income. If you need to speak with an attorney, reach out to the team at Estey & Bomberger for a free case evaluation. We’ll meet with you to discuss the details of your motorcycle accident and help you get a better idea of what type of compensation you may be eligible to collect.
Motorcycle and Helmet Laws
The best way to prevent serious injury or fatality when operating a motorcycle is to follow California motorcycle laws. Here are a few of the basics:
- All riders in California must wear a helmet at all times.
- California accepts motorcycle endorsements from other states but does not accept rider education completion cards from other states.
- In the state of California, daytime use of your headlight is required for any motorcycle manufactured after 1978.
- Eye protection is not required – but is recommended – in California.
- Lane splitting is authorized in California.
- In California, motorcycles must have one working side mirror at minimum, and be equipped with a working muffler and turn signals.
- For a comprehensive, organized look at California motorcycle regulations, visit the American Motorcyclist Association website.
Representative Cases Involving Motorcycles
While our motorcycle accident attorneys have experience representing a variety of cases in both mediation and court, we primarily deal with motorcycle accidents involving:
- Motor vehicles and big-rig trucks: In this case, a motorcycle is often struck due to low visibility either from behind, as part of a left turn execution, or as the result of a cutoff.
- Another motorcyclist: In similar situations as those above, or in cases where cyclists are being careless and reckless, two motorcycles can collide and cause serious damage or injury.
- Bicyclists or pedestrians: In most cases where a motorcycle is involved in a collision with a bicycle or pedestrian, the motorcyclist is at fault. If you are a cyclist or pedestrian who was struck by a motorcycle and would like to file a claim, visit our pages on cycling accidents and pedestrian accidents.
- Poor riding conditions: Valuable claims can be made against the Department of Transportation and other local entities when roadway conditions are unsafe or inadequate. Poor riding conditions include potholes, insufficient road signs, and excessive roadway debris.
- Product failure: In the event your motorcycle is in an accident due to some type of equipment or product malfunction, the manufacturing company may be liable for damages.
After an accident, proper steps must be taken to receive appropriate medical attention, repair damages, and determine reimbursements. However, preventing accidents before they happen is preferable. Often, motorcycle accidents can be prevented by understanding causality and other related factors. According to research and data, the primary causes of motorcycle accidents include:
- Poor weather conditions: In some cases, weather can play a significant role in motorcycle accidents. Extreme conditions can cause slick or icy roadways, poor visibility, and lack of control for both motor vehicles and motorcycles. It is best to avoid riding in rain, sleet, ice, snow, or other similar conditions when possible.
- Motorist negligence: A majority of motorcycle accidents are caused by the negligence of motorists on the road. This usually involves an inability or neglect to see motorcyclists while changing lanes, turning, or stopping at an intersection. Poor visibility is a huge cause of these types of accidents; however, some motorcycles are in plain sight and simply not offered space to comfortably maneuver.
- Motorcyclist negligence Motorists are not the only roadway occupants who cause accidents; motorcyclists can often be at fault for driving too fast, inadequately signaling, improperly equipping the motorcycle with lights, or being generally reckless on the road.
- Alcohol or other impairment Whether it’s the motorist or motorcyclist, alcohol often impairs judgment and causes serious accidents and injuries. Other forms of distracted driving are equally as dangerous, including talking on the phone, texting, eating, drinking, or looking away from the road.
- Vehicular fallacy The cause of motorcycle accidents sometimes has nothing to do with the drivers involved. In some cases, engines fail, brakes give out, or steering is disrupted. In these situations, the manufacturer of the vehicle or motorcycle may be liable for the resulting damage.
- Roadway hazards Potholes and roadway debris, among other hazards, cause many accidents. Drivers or motorcyclists are often reluctantly or involuntarily forced into other lanes in these situations. If you’ve been injured due to another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact our San Diego motorcycle accident lawyers for help.
Dealing with Insurance
Insurance companies will do everything possible to avoid paying for the mistakes of their policyholders – it’s the nature of business. However, the law can require companies to pay, and that’s where legal defense can be a major game changer for victims of motorcycle accidents. We advise that you do not speak to your insurance company or the insurance companies of other involved parties. Insurance companies are adept at offering decent settlement to avoid court, but we are adept at getting you a better one.
Steps to Follow
Follow these steps to be sure you are protected and get the most from your motorcycle accident claim:
- Call 911 Immediately after an accident, it is important to seek prompt medical attention for any injuries sustained. In serious cases, first responders will require you to visit the emergency room. Other times, injuries can be properly dealt with on-site. After calling 911, police should also be dispatched to the scene of the accident. The police will gather details from all parties and witnesses involved. The ensuing report will play a major part in your case.
- Gather details Be sure to acquire all necessary details about the other involved parties, including names and other identifiers, insurance providers, and makes and models of involved vehicles. Avoid prolonged conversation with these individuals to most easily avoid conflict or accidental admittance of fault.
- Tell your side Be sure to share your perspective of all occurrences with the police officer, including how you viewed the situation to have occurred and what your intentions were when you made the turn, crossed the intersection, or whatever other movement controlled your part of the accident. Also, if you made a choice on your motorcycle based on the misaction or inaction of the involved motorist, get it on record. Police have a tendency to speak with motorists far more than they do with motorcyclists, so you must advocate for yourself to be heard.
- Employ witnesses Determine if any stopped individuals or bystanders saw what happened and would be willing to speak on your behalf. Obtain the contact information of those individuals and provide your lawyer with these details. If they are willing to provide a statement to the police at the scene, it will be more accurate and detailed than revisiting this information after the fact.
- Document everything Commit to memory and later write down everything you remember about what happened at the time of the accident, including your rationale and assumed actions of the other person. This includes where other cars were on the road, what you did and why, and what actions the other drivers took. Do not admit any fault in your record.
- Track injuries Every time you meet with a doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, or medical professional regarding injuries sustained in the accident, keep all documents and provide them to your lawyer. Further, record all prescribed medications and related expenses. This information will help prove your case and validate the settlement amount.
- Collect evidence Do not repair your motorcycle until your lawyer sanctions it, as photographs and expert evaluations may be necessary to better defend your claim. Photographs at the scene and damage to clothing or personal belongings may be useful as well. Any point of proof will assist your lawyer in negotiation with insurance companies or in court representation if needed. A good motorcycle accident lawyer can also help you negotiate with health insurance companies in the event they try to force reimbursement following your claim settlement.
- Get a lawyer Insurance companies are skilled at taking advantage of unrepresented individuals. Acquire an experienced and unwavering ally in your corner who can take the burden off your shoulders. An attorney can help you obtain police reports and medical records and will collaborate with expert witnesses on your behalf while you focus on getting your life back in working order.
Motorcycle Accident FAQs
While you may be a safe motorcyclist who follows the rules of the road, accidents can still occur. If you or a loved one is injured in a motorcycle accident, it is important to know your rights. For your convenience, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to assist you with the process.
I was in an accident on my motorcycle; what should I do next?
- If possible, obtain photos or physical evidence from the site
- Gather the contact information of any available witness
- Obtain the other driver’s information
- Write down everything you remember about the accident
- Keep a full record of medical expenses, lost days of work, and repair costs
Am I required to inform police of my accident?
Yes, you must notify the police any time you are in a vehicle collision.
Will I have to appear in court for this lawsuit?
It depends. Many cases like yours can be settled out of court through the motorist’s insurance company and representation from a San Diego vehicle accident attorney. In the event that an insurance company won’t budge, we will take them to trial and settle your case more vehemently. Either way, collaboration with a lawyer is essential.
What damages can I receive as a result of my accident?
A successful personal injury lawsuit can result in:
- Coverage of motorcycle repairs or replacement
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Pain & Suffering
How long will it take to wrap up my case?
This varies based on insurance company cooperation and the duration of your treatment and recovery. We will want to assess the full scope of your medical bills, including recovery therapies, to determine the real figures before settling with the insurance company.
Should I release my medical records to the motorist’s insurance company?
Definitely not! Consult with a lawyer before submitting anything to the other motorist’s insurance company as this could hurt your case.
What if I am at partial fault for the accident?
The court will determine percentage of fault between you and the other motorist. They will split the damages in accordance with this fault breakdown, also known as comparative negligence.
Do other motorists have a duty or responsibility to motorcyclists?
In general, yes. Motorists should give extra care to watching for motorcycles. It is a motorist’s duty to leave extra space when driving or stopping behind a motorcycle as well.
What are the dangers of an automobile/motorcycle collision?
Along with being more susceptible to collisions, motorcyclists also face greater dangers when a collision occurs. A fully outfitted, helmeted motorcyclist can suffer back injuries, brain trauma, burns, loss of limbs, and fatality resulting from a vehicle collision.
What are the common causes of accidents involving motorcycles?
- Visibility, including blind spots and motorist’s left turns
- Negligent automobile drivers
- Negligent motorcyclists
- Poor conditions, including potholes and other road damage and inclement weather
- Faulty Equipment, including the motorcycle and the motor vehicle
Am I required to wear a helmet when I ride my motorcycle?
In California, every motorcycle rider is required to wear a helmet at all times by law.
If I am in an accident without my helmet can I still file a claim?
Absolutely. Your claim may be adjusted by the fact that had you worn a helmet, less injury may have occurred. However, if you sustained bodily injury elsewhere, or if the accident is 100% the fault of the other individual, you probably have a case. You will likely still be ticketed for breaking the law, however.
If my health insurance covered some or all of my medical treatment following the accident, can I still file a claim?
Absolutely; however, you may find that your health insurance company expects reimbursement. Handling every step of this process with an experienced lawyer can help protect you.
What can I do if the other driver is uninsured?
This depends upon your insurance, which may cover you in the event of an accident with an uninsured motorist. An experienced San Diego, CA motorcycle accident lawyer can help you determine what your options will be. Contact Estey & Bomberger today to learn about your rights.
Choosing the Right Motorcycle Lawyer in San Diego
At Estey & Bomberger, our San Diego auto accident attorneys believe motorcyclists deserve representation at the highest level. That’s why we provide our clients with a relentless attitude that doesn’t settle until you’ve received what you rightly deserve.
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We would be happy to meet with you and discuss the details and information regarding your situation.