The number of motorcycle rider fatalities recently hit a ten-year high. During vehicle collisions, steel cages and multiple restraint layers protect most victims. But during motorcycle collisions, victims have almost no protection from oncoming cars.
Lack of visibility causes many of these collisions. Riders can do some things to increase their visibility, such as honking their horns every few blocks or weaving slightly in a traffic lane. But there is little scientific evidence on this point. Additionally, such behaviors might only antagonize drivers who do not particularly like motorcycle riders in the first place.
Due to the serious nature of these crashes, and the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) culpability, a Marietta personal injury attorney may be able to obtain substantial compensation in these claims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
What Causes Motorcycle Crashes?
Excessive speed, combined with inattention, causes many motorcycle wrecks. Most riders who have gone down probably heard the other driver say something like “You came out of nowhere” or “I never saw you.” Excuses like these imply that the rider was operating recklessly. But that’s normally not the case.Instead, many drivers simply do not look for motorcyclists.
Moreover, there is a direct relationship between the tortfeasor’s speed and the severity of the crash. Speed multiples the force in a collision between two objects.
Probably because of these inattention issues, alcohol is a larger factor in motorcycle wrecks than car crashes. Alcohol clouds judgement. So, alcohol-impaired drivers are less able to determine distance. Alcohol also gives drivers an unnatural sense of well-being, so they take more risks then they should. Finally, alcohol slows reflexes. As a result, impaired drivers are less able to react to emergency situations.
Drowsiness is just as dangerous as alcohol, yet fatigue receives much less attention. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. Furthermore, just like there is no quick cure for intoxication, there is no quick cure for fatigue. Old tricks like turning up the air conditioner normally do not work for more than a few minutes.
Obtaining Compensation in Motorcycle Crash Claims
All these causes involve either ordinary negligence (breach of a legal duty) or negligence per se (violation of a safety statute). In both these cases, victim/plaintiffs must establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Fatigued driving is a good example of ordinary negligence. Fatigue itself is not enough to establish liability. Instead, the victim/plaintiff must prove the tortfeasor’s fatigue was severe enough to violate the duty of reasonable care. Evidence on this point includes:
- Time of day or night,
- Amount of rest the tortfeasor got the night before the crash,
- Tortfeasor’s inability to recall the last few miles of driving, and
- Any medical condition, such as sleep apnea, which could affect rest.
Breach of duty is easier to establish in commercial driver matters. Uber drivers, truck drivers, and other commercial operators normally have a duty of highest care. In this context, they must be even more rested than noncommercial drivers.
The negligence per se shortcut is available in many speed-related motorcycle wrecks. Tortfeasors are liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety law, and
- That violation substantially caused the crash.
Speed may also involve ordinary negligence. Sometimes, emergency responders are too busy at the scene to give the tortfeasor a ticket. Other times, the tortfeasor’s speed may not violate the law, but it may violate the duty of care. For example, if the tortfeasor was driving a heavy vehicle, like a truck or SUV, during a rainstorm, the tortfeasor had a legal duty to slow down and be more careful.
Insurance Company Defenses in Motorcycle Crash Claims
In many motorcycle wrecks, both the victim and tortfeasor are partially at fault. For example, the victim might roll through a stop sign at the same moment the tortfeasor speeds around a curve.
Situations like this one involve the contributory negligence defense. This doctrine shifts responsibility for the crash from the victim to the tortfeasor. Since Georgia is a modified comparative fault state with a 50 percent bar, the victim could be 50 percent responsible for the crash and still receive a proportionate share of damages.
The last clear chance defense often comes up in motorcycle wrecks as well, especially in left-turn motorcycle crashes.
Assume the tortfeasor is waiting to make a left turn against traffic. When she thinks she sees a break in traffic, she suddenly accelerates to shoot through the gap. But she does not see an approaching motorcycle rider.
In these situations, the insurance company often argues that the rider could have avoided the crash, perhaps by stopping or changing lanes suddenly.
But this defense only applies if the victim had the last clear chance to avoid the wreck. Stunt motorcycle riders in movies make emergency maneuvers look easy. But quick lane changes and other fast moves are very hard to make on two-wheel-vehicles. That’s especially true if there was any debris on the road, the road was wet, or there was a pothole. Even experienced riders often lose control of their bikes in these situations. That loss of control might cause a worse wreck than the one the victim tried in vain to prevent.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Lawyer
Motorcycle crashes often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.