Essentially, there is no such thing as a fender-bender motorcycle wreck. These collisions almost always cause extremely serious injuries. In fact, during a collision, motorcyclists are twenty-eight times more likely to die than vehicle occupants.
Largely because of these serious injuries, a Marietta personal injury attorney may be able to obtain substantial compensation for these crash victims. Compensation is also high because, in many cases, tortfeasors (negligent drivers) do not maintain a proper lookout for motorcycle riders and have a rather cavalier attitude about the injuries they cause.
However, for the reasons outlined below, these claims are also rather easy for insurance company lawyers to defend. So, your attorney must have a great deal of experience and tenacity. Otherwise, it’s very difficult for victims to obtain fair compensation.
What Causes Motorcycle Wrecks?
As mentioned, lack of visibility causes many of these wrecks. In some parts of the world, these wrecks are called SMIDSY crashes, for “sorry, mate, I didn’t see you.” This acronym captures both the lack of visibility aspect and the callousness which many drivers feel in these situations. Indeed, most riders who have gone down probably heard the tortfeasor say something like “I never even saw you” or “You came out of nowhere.” These excuses imply the rider was operating recklessly. But they really mean the tortfeasor was looking out for other cars, but not for motorcycles.
Some form of driver impairment also causes a number of motorcycle wrecks. Some common kinds of operator impairment include:
- Alcohol: This substance impairs both motor skills and judgement ability. So, it is very dangerous to drink and drive, even if the tortfeasor has only had one drink. Alcohol is responsible for about a third of the fatal crashes in Georgia.
- Drugs: In some jurisdictions, there are more “drugged” drivers than “drunk” drivers. Many of these drivers are impaired because they took powerful opioid painkillers or other prescription drugs. Over-the-counter sleep aids and cold remedies also make many drivers very groggy.
- Fatigue: Many drivers would never drink and drive or use drugs and drive, but they would drive home after a long day at the office and not give the mater a second thought. Fatigue and alcohol affect the brain in the same way. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level.
Medical conditions, such as epilepsy or diabetes, are another common cause of impairment. These conditions may cause a sudden loss of consciousness.
Motorcycle Crash Injuries
These wrecks almost always cause head injuries. Motorcycle wrecks combine all three of the most common head injury causes, which are:
- Motion: The force of a collision usually knocks riders off their bikes. When that happens, their brains slam the insides of their skulls. The effect is like shaking an egg and scrambling it without breaking the shell.
- Trauma: Georgia has a motorcycle helmet law. Protective headgear reduces, but does not eliminate, trauma-related head injuries. Foreheads, necks, and other vulnerable areas are completely unprotected.
- Noise: Most witnesses say that car crashes sound like explosions. These sudden loud noises produce shock waves which disrupt brain functions.
No matter what caused the head injury, the wound is always permanent. Once brain cells die, they never regenerate. However, extensive physical therapy can address the symptoms. A physical therapist can train uninjured areas of the brain to assume lost functions. This process is long and costly.
Severe blood loss is another serious issue. The same forces which knock riders off their bikes cause internal organs to bump and grind against each other. Since they have no protective skin layer, these organs often bleed profusely. Such internal bleeding is difficult to detect and also difficult to stop. So, many victims are on the edge of hypovolemic shock by the time doctors begin treatment.
The lack of visibility which causes motorcycle crashes also gives insurance company lawyers some possible defenses. Contributory negligence is probably the biggest one. This doctrine shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim.
Assume Tim is riding slightly above the speed limit when Alex makes an unprotected left turn against traffic and pulls directly into Tim’s path. If the insurance company tries to use the contributory negligence defense, Tim’s Marietta personal injury attorney has two opportunities to respond.
First, the insurance company must convince the judge that Tim’s excessive speed contributed to the crash in a meaningful way. If Time was only riding a few miles per hour above the limit, that’s probably not the case. Therefore, the contributory negligence defense is legally inapplicable. Second, if the judge allows the defense, Tim’s lawyer could make the same argument to the jury.
If jurors determine that both Tim and Alex were at fault, the jurors must divide fault on a percentage basis. Georgia is a modified comparative fault state with a 50 percent threshold. So, even if Tim was 50 percent responsible for the crash, he is still entitled to a proportionate share of damages.
The last clear chance defense is a related rule. In the action between Tim and Alex, the insurance company could argue that Tim had the last clear chance to avoid the crash, perhaps by stopping suddenly or changing lanes quickly.
But such emergency maneuvers are difficult to perform on a motorcycle. That’s especially true if traffic or environmental conditions were less than ideal. In these situations, sudden movements might cause a worse crash than the one the rider is trying to prevent.
Some motorcycle crash defenses are not found in any law book. Nevertheless, they can be effective, especially if the victim’s attorney is not prepared to deal with them.
The motorcycle prejudice sometimes comes into play in these situations. Some jurors believe that motorcycle riders are reckless operators in the tradition of the Hell’s Angels. This prejudice is not as strong as it was in the 1970s, but it’s still common in older jurors.
In the Peach State, the motorcycle helmet defense is also in this category. Georgia has a mandatory helmet law. So, the insurance company could argue that, if the rider was not wearing a helmet, the tortfeasor is not legally responsible for the rider’s head injuries. However, there is no statutory authority for the motorcycle helmet defense in Georgia. So, an attorney must know how to argue fine legal points.
Contact an Assertive Lawyer
Substantial compensation is available in motorcycle crash claims, but these cases are factually and legally complex. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Home and hospital visits are available.