- Why Motorcycle Accidents Happen
- Types of Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents
- Legal Information for a Lawsuit
- Measuring the Value of Your Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit
- Motorcycle Accident Verdicts
- Peacock v. Monterrosa
- Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit Compensation
- Statute of Limitations on Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits
According to pure numbers, motorcycles are more dangerous than vehicles. There are more vehicles than people in the State of California, and there are nearly 9 million registered motorcycles. The motorcycles, though, make up a larger amount of accidents and injuries. There are many reasons for this, some of which are due to the inherent lack of safety on motorcycles.
There are nearly 100,000 injuries per year in motorcycle accidents. The reason is simple: even a small crash can cause an injury because of the lack of safety. To make matters worse, each year, more than 5,000 people die in motorcycle accidents. These numbers fluctuate from year to year, climbing and dropping but tending to stay in the same general range. Some of the accidents may not have resulted in death if more individuals had worn helmets – only about 65% of motorcycle riders wear a helmet at all times. It is common for riders to wear the helmets while on the highway, but some forgo the protection for shorter rides or when they feel too encumbered.
Over 6 times as many people are hurt in motorcycle crashes than in passenger vehicle crashes. Further, 25% of motorcycle crashes involve drivers who were drinking alcohol and were at or above the legal limit of 0.08.
In sum, the raw numbers of motorcycle accidents and injuries is much less when compared to passenger vehicles. However, when weighed against the number of total motorcycles, the ratio is shocking.
It is no surprise, therefore, that with the high number of motorcycle accidents and injuries, many lawsuits are filed. A motorcycle accident lawsuit can be filed by an individual who was hurt in the accident or whose family member or loved one passed away in the crash.
Why Motorcycle Accidents Happen
Motorcycle riders are generally involved in accidents because of the negligence of other individuals. Many people are not safe while on the road; they speed, tailgate, drive while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, run red lights and stop signs, and fail to properly observe right of way laws. They may also not turn properly or use signals to indicate their directions. These tendencies and actions result in accidents quite often, but in some cases, drivers can see other cars and stop themselves in time.
This is not always the scenario with motorcycles. The motorcycles and their drivers are much harder to see than the cars are. Motorcycles are not bulky and do not take up a lot of space; they do not have as many headlights and do not give off as much light; they easily get caught in blind spots and hard to see locations on the road. It is not uncommon for a car to change lanes only to strike a motorcyclist whom he did not see, despite the way looking clear.
Other motorcyclists heavily and actively participate in lane splitting. Lane splitting is legal in California and it allows motorcycle riders to weave in and out of traffic lanes. They are often precariously close to car doors and mirrors, and it can be hard to see a motorcycle creeping up either side. This practice becomes more dangerous at high speeds because of the quickness at which drivers make decisions to turn or switch lanes.
Many motorcycle accidents are disputed. To correct this issue, riders have taken to wearing helmet cameras to record their rides and show liability or fault, much in the same way that individuals have invested in dashboard cameras.
In addition to the negligence of other drivers, some motorcyclists may be affected by road conditions. It can be very difficult to control a motorcycle in snowy or rainy conditions, or when there are numerous potholes and defects on the road. The streets may not have been adequately paved and the holes could throw the motorcycle in the air, making it hard to control when it lands. Further, there could be defects with the motorcycle, such as poorly attached sidecars, engine troubles, brake failure, and more.
It is important that you identify the cause of the motorcycle accident so you can take appropriate legal action against the responsible party. You may be left severely injured afterwards, and if you do not reach out and file a claim, you will not be able to secure compensation for your injuries.
Types of Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accident injuries are often more severe and debilitating than any other type of crash. The reason is simple: you are not protected nearly to the same extent as you are in a passenger vehicle. In cars, there are airbags, seat belts, cushions, and more to protect you if an impact happens, and the car may even be outfitted with automatic brakes and sensors to detect impending crashes.
Motorcycles do not have seat belts or anything that would help reduce impact. The lack of seat belts is meant to protect riders who may get pinned or dragged; it is not a good result if you are attached to the motorcycle while it is thrown through the air or slammed into a wall, as the crushing force can easily kill you. Thus, it is preferred for riders to be ejected from the seats. For this reason, riders must wear helmets to protect their heads in the case of impact. In addition, other riders wear special motorcycle clothing and boots to reduce as much risk as possible.
Of course, some of these protections do not help. The possibilities of injuries are still present. For example, motorcyclists run the risk of suffering severed limbs and body parts when they hit vehicles. A leg can easily be severed if a car hits a motorcycle at a sharp angle.
Some of the injuries that can stem from motorcycle accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Torn muscles
- Nerve damage
- Crushing injuries
- Puncture wounds
- Lacerations and abrasions
- Knee and hip damage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Herniated discs
- Neck damage
- Internal organ damage
- Severed limbs and digits
Motorcycle accident injuries can be severe simply from a small or low-speed accident. Because of the natural protection of cars, small bumps from behind or to the side may only cause cosmetic damage to the vehicles and no actual harm to the drivers. On the other hand, even the lightest touch from a vehicle can cause a motorcycle to lose control and swerve, resulting in injuries that may cause permanent damage.
Legal Information for a Lawsuit
While traveling on the road, all motorists must abide by the laws and not place anyone in harm’s way. Those who are in passenger cars must pay extra attention to their surroundings because of how hard it can be to see motorcycles, and those on motorbikes should be cautious as well and assume that nobody is paying them attention.
To file a personal injury lawsuit, you must show that you were a victim of negligence. All personal injury lawsuits must have these four points shown or the lawsuit will be thrown out. These can be troublesome to prove, which is a primary reason that an attorney is often suggested.
The points are:
- You were owed a duty of care: Every motorist on the road must take care not to harm others
- The duty of care was breached: A driver may have run a red light or tailgated you
- The breach of duty led to an accident: His actions directly caused an accident to happen
- The accident resulted in physical injuries: Real harm was the result of the incident
All of the points must be true if you wish to file a motorcycle accident claim. If even one is untrue or thrown out, the entire claim will suffer and you will not be able to file a new motion. For instance, if you were not hurt in the motorcycle accident, it would be nigh impossible for you receive coverage for hospital bills and other damages. Instead, you would only be able to pursue a claim to receive reimbursement for your lost income and property damage.
Furthermore, to file an effective claim, you will need ample evidence. Your evidence should include the following:
- Photos of your injuries
- Pictures of the scene of the accident
- Contact information of the responsible party
- Pictures of the damage done to your vehicle
- Eyewitness statements from anyone who saw the incident happen or who were similarly involved
- Medical receipts and notes
- Security camera footage
- Dashboard camera videos or helmet camera videos
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Immediately after an accident, you should get medical attention from a doctor or from paramedics. If you wait too long to get help, you will have a lesser chance of success; the insurance agent handling your claim can state that you were not as heavily injured as you made out to be because of the gap in treatment.
It is beneficial to your claim to get help quickly, but it is also recommended to preserve your health. After an accident, you will likely have a lot of adrenaline in your veins, which can mask injuries and make you not feel some damages. Once this adrenaline dies down, the full extent of your injuries will be revealed to you. A paramedic or doctor can determine if any of your injuries are likely to result in additional damages and if you will need future treatment.
An attorney can gather this evidence together in a single package to submit to the insurance agency. He can then craft a demand letter requesting compensation for your damages. It is a good idea to let an attorney handle the aspects of your case that you cannot, as you will not have the experience he does.
Lawyers who have litigated motorcycle accident claims can negotiate fair deals from the insurance agents, fill out necessary documents, and ensure that you are protected throughout the case. If you were going to try and handle the claim alone, though, you would face many more opportunities for your case to be thrown out. While an attorney handles the legal aspects of your incident, you can focus on recovering and dedicate yourself to physical therapy or to productivity.
Measuring the Value of Your Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit
A common question involves the monetary value of a lawsuit. Some cases are worth more than others for no specific reason; they are simply inexplicably different. Others may be identical cases but because the victims were in alternate positions at their careers or different ages, the value could be dissimilar.
A lawsuit’s worth is determined by the insurance agent handling the claim. There is no calculator that allows you to simply plug in your damages and request a satisfactory amount of money. Instead, insurance agents are tasked with the difficult jobs of reading over demands and the accompanying evidence then making an offer based on what he believes to be true. It is the primary goal of insurance agents to keep the profits for their companies clean and positive, so in many cases, you will not receive a worthwhile offer the first time.
It can be in your benefit negotiation-wise if you were not injured and you submit a simple claim. Lost wages and mechanic estimates seldom result in hundreds of thousands of potential dollars, so an insurance agent will be more likely to talk out the payment and perhaps even grant you full coverage.
The insurance agent will use the following points to determine an offer for your case:
- Your injuries: First and foremost, he will look at your injuries, such as how injured you were, how extensive the damages were, and how much of an impact the damages had on your daily life and career. If you were only minorly injured and you can return to work with no changes in your life after a handful of treatments, your case value would likely be very low. If, however, you would need to get a new job and change the structure of your home to account for a wheelchair, or if you were afflicted with permanent damages and no way to care for yourself, your case value would likely be much increased. However, the insurance agent will still dispute the necessity of some treatments, the degree of your injuries, and anything else he can to try and reduce the offer made to you.
- Your age: Individuals who are younger and heal quicker or do not have a lot of responsibilities, family to take care, or bills to pay may not receive as large of a settlement. The insurance agent will likely look with more favor or pity on those who are older and have less ahead in life.
- Your job type: The amount offered to you for lost wages will depend on your job type, as well as how the injury affected your job and future career opportunities. If you are a surgeon and you suffer permanent hand damage your case would be worth more than if you were a professional orator.
- Your level of negligence: Comparative negligence is the process in which an insurance agent or court will declare both parties negligent in the incident. For example, drivers who drive at night without their lights on may be held partially responsible if someone hits them while driving drunk and speeding. If you played a large role in your incident or you contributed to it in some way, the insurance agent can claim that you should not receive nearly as much money. Similarly, the jury can decrease your verdict by a percentage amount relative to the level of fault you hold for the incident.
Insurance agents are notorious for making small offers or for downplaying damages. If an insurance agent does not make a timely offer or if he makes an offer that is unreasonably small, he may be held in bad faith. It is difficult to prove this, though, and you may not know how to go about filing such a claim. It is up to your attorney to negotiate the fairest deal and ot ensure that you are covered.
Learn more about your options for compensation by calling (213) 389-3765.
Motorcycle Accident Verdicts
To better understand how some motorcycle accidents play out in court you can read these summaries of other cases. The lawsuits showcase victories for both plaintiffs and defendants, including situations in which breaking the law does not yield any compensation whatsoever and how a company can be held responsible for its employees’ actions.
Lazarowitz v. Watanabe
In Corry Lazarowitz v. Tadashi Watanabe, Nada Bus Inc., a motorcyclist was struck by a bus driver who was on the freeway.
Lazarowitz was operating his motorcycle in the carpool lane, or left most lane, on the freeway. He was suddenly struck as a large bus operated by Watanabe changed lanes in front of him. Watanabe did not signal and claimed that Lazarowitz was lane splitting, or driving in between lanes, at the time of the accident, and therefore, was in the bus’s blind spot. Lazarowitz claimed that Watanabe drove across the yellow lines that prohibited lane changing.
In the crash, Lazarowitz crashed into the rear of the bus and pinned his leg between his motorcycle and the bumper. He then crashed down, slid across the asphalt, and came to a rest. He suffered degloving injuries that separated skin and tissue from the bone, pelvic trauma, fractures to his lower back and legs, and torn muscles in his knee. He was hospitalized for over a month, but eventually needed three surgeries to repair his knee and had to attend dozens of physical therapy sessions.
Watanabe and his defense counsel denied negligence due to Lazarowitz allegedly lane splitting and not driving safely. However, in the end, Watanabe’s company, Nada Bus Inc., settled for roughly $3 million.
Rossi v. Knuppe
In Anthony Domenick Rossi v. Travis James Knuppe, a Highway Patrol officer was struck by another driver negligently changing lanes.
Rossi was on his motorcycle while on patrol on the highway. He was traveling in the number two lane at about 50 to 55 mph. Traffic in the number one lane next to him began to slow down, and Knuppe switched lanes. Knuppe did not see Rossi and clipped him. The parties disagreed about the nature of the accident. Knuppe claimed tht Rossi was lane splitting and in the way when he was trying to turn, while Rossi claimed that he was not lane splitting and that Knuppe was speeding and did not keep a proper lookout.
As a result of the crash, Rossi suffered numerous serious injuries. He had herniated discs at two vertebrae in his back, bad road rash and bodily damage, back pain, and a concussion that lingered and exhibited post-concussion syndrome of dizziness, reduced cognitive capabilities, headaches, and more. Rossi was forced to abdicate from patrolling the highway and had to take a separate job at a reduced salary.
The defense did not agree that many of Rossi’s injuries were caused by the accident. They claimed that age was the primary factor in his back damage and that his pain was gone after nearly two years; any additional pain was caused by time or other injuries. Further, because he was able to return to work, the defense believed him to not deserve certain expenses.
The jury sided with Rossi and found that Knuppe’s negligent action on the road was the primary cause of the injuries that Rossi suffered. They did not find Rossi at fault at all for the incident and awarded him nearly $900,000 for his numerous expenses.
Lo v. Consolazio
In Jason Lo and Nina Lo v. Dominick Consolazio and Southern California Gas Company, Lo was involved in a serious motorcycle accident that culminated in a hit and run.
Lo was at the red light when he was struck by Consolazio, who was driving the gas truck for his job. Lo and his motorcycle were pinned beneath the truck, but Consolazio did not get out and call the police or fire department; instead, he remained where he was and then turned to proceed to the freeway. Lo was dragged beneath the truck for nearly 500 feet before the truck was stopped by other drivers. Consolazio claimed that he suffered a seizure during the incident and was in a compromised state.
Police arrested Consolazio and charged him with a hit and run.
Lo suffered fractures, a degloving injury, and a partial amputation of his leg. He suffered heavy blood loss at the scene due to a severed artery. He required numerous surgeries, skin grafts, and treatments to not lose his whole leg. His permanent injuries include a long-lasting limp, disfigurement, and heavy scarring. Lo claims that he will need plastic surgery at least three times in the future and that the risk of amputation is always present.
The plaintiff’s counsel claimed that Consolazio was directly responsible for the incident, especially due to the fact that he continued to drive despite having suffered multiple seizures prior to the crash. The Southern California Gas Company should also have been more active in preventing Consolazio from driving given his medical history.
The defense countered that the injuries were not as permanent as Lo claimed and that he was likely to improve. They also claimed that he did not suffer too much income loss despite being out of work for more than half a year.
Lo’s wife also filed a claim for loss of consortium. The jury honored both her and Lo’s requests, granting a total of $46 million for the damages and expenses, as well as actions of the driver and company.
Hernandez v. Reynolds
In Esiquio Hernandez; and Aurelia Garcia, individually and as guardian ad litem for Angela Hernandez, a minor, Angel Hernandez, a minor, and Juleyssa Dedios, a minor v. First Student, Inc.; Silver Valley Unified School District; and Lisa Marie Reynolds, a man was hit by a bus while on his motorcycle.
Hernandez was riding his motorbike and proceeded through an intersection when he was struck by Reynolds. Hernandez’s mother, siblings, and girlfriend all saw the incident and rushed over to try and help. Hernandez was pinned beneath the bus and could not escape; paramedics and the fire department had to extricate him. Hernandez claimed that the bus cut him off and led to him crashing into the rear of it.
Reynold’s defense counsel, however, stated that Hernandez was not in the location he stated prior to the crash. He emerged onto the paved road very suddenly; he was not in the rearview or on the sides of the bus, according to Reynolds and those inside.
In the accident, Hernandez suffered an anoxic brain injury, foot and ankle degloving, fractures in his spine, and a compression fracture in his lumbar spine. He was in a coma for 10 days after the incident and underwent surgery and therapy. He complained of lasting pain after the incident and the inability to work due to cognitive damage.
The defense countered that Hernandez only suffered an anoxic brain injury and did not have any personality or severe cognitive changes due to his past record as a disruptive student. He was also unemployed at the time. Further, it was shown that he was not insured and was illegally operating the motorbike on the highway without any safety features like headlights or brake lights. The defense stated that his lack of insurance and a driver’s license prevented him from receiving certain damages per California law.
Hernandez requested $3 million for various damages, while Hernandez’s mother also sought compensation for the emotional trauma she and her children witnessed after seeing her son in an accident. The jury did not honor either request and found that Reynolds was not negligent due to Hernandez’s actions placing himself in harm’s way.
Peacock v. Monterrosa
In Zachary Peacock v. FNS, Inc. and Ernesto Al Quellar Monterrosa, Peacock struck a truck, but the details of the crash were highly disputed between the two parties.
Peacock was traveling on the road in the left lane of a two lane avenue. He was traveling 10 mph below the 45mph speed limit. Monterrosa was stopped in the center turn lane waiting to turn into a lot. Peacock collided with Monterrosa in the center lane; stated that Monterrosa suddenly tried to turn in front of him, only to correct his turn when he noticed an oncoming vehicle. Peacock braked and swerved but ultimately could not react in time or avoid the collision.
As a result of the crash, Peacock suffered numerous fractures in his arms and leads, as well as many tears and lacerations. He needed various surgeries to repair the breaks and was eventually relegated to a wheelchair, and later, a walker. He was left with numerous scars from the incident and the ensuing surgeries. In addition to his physical wounds, Peacock claimed that he lost tattoo work that held meaning to him, that his career as an artist and burgeoning career as a skateboarder were both shortened, and more. The plaintiff’s surgery expert stated that he would likely need many more surgeries, will likely acquire arthritis, and will live with a lifetime of constant pain.
Monterrosa disputed the statement surrounding the cause of the accident and claimed that Peacock had lost control of his motorcycle prior to the crash and that he had not yet started to turn. Monterrosa said that Peacock didn’t notice the truck until he could not avoid it, and that the distance was adequate enough that if a turn had occurred, Peacock easily could have avoided it.
The defense stated that the injuries were caused by the accident, but that the accident was in no way Monterrosa’s fault. The counsel claimed that some of the medical expert’s opinions were false, such as the development of arthritis.
Ultimately, the jury found that Monterrosa was not negligent in the incident and denied the full verdict. A high/low agreement was reached prior to the case, and Peacock recovered $100,000
The jury plays an important role in the result of the case. A lawyer may request that the entire claim be thrown out, or if a verdict is reached, for the damages to not be excessive. Proving the fault of a driver in a motorcycle accident is not easy, but there are ample cases of motorcycle accident victims walking away with favorable verdicts.
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Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit Compensation
Because of how debilitating am motorcycle accident can be, it is recommended that plaintiffs pursue the maximum damages available to them. To pursue anything less is risking not receiving ample coverage. Your lawyer can work to secure you full payment for many expenses. These damages are both non-economic and economic and can include the following:
- Medical bills for surgery, hospitalization, medication, ambulatory transportation, future medical treatments, rehabilitation, and more
- Property damage for lost belongings, damaged goods, motorcycle repairs, and replacement of broken personal items
- Missed wags from days you could not work, including promotion benefits, normal benefits, bonuses, tips, and more, as well as future lost wages if you must undergo additional medical treatments or if you must recover from injuries and procedures
- Disability pay if your injuries prevent you from working for an extensive period of time
- Pain and suffering damages to cover the emotional trauma you sustained in the incident, which may include PTSD, fear, anxiety, psychological scarring, and more
- Punitive damages, which are handed out when an party acts with gross negligence or deliberately tries to harm you; these damages are substitutes for jail time in civil cases and are simply additional amounts of monetary compensation, but they are often viewed as harsh and excessive by judges and juries and are very difficult to win
Wrongful death expenses, which can be won if a family member or loved one died in the motorcycle accident; these damages may cover the funeral and burial costs, loss of consortium, loss of relations, loss of expected savings and inheritance, pre-death medical bills and pain and suffering, and more
Statute of Limitations on Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits
Per California law, you only have 2 years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit against the responsible party after am motorcycle accident. If you do not meet the time limit to file a claim, you will be prevented from doing so in the future and you will not be able to receive any compensation for your injuries. The time limit exists so that claims do not sit for long periods wit h no resolution and so that all evidence is neat and not corrupted. Some memories of witnesses may fade if many years pass, and photographs cam be lost. It is in your best interest to sue as quickly as possible once you have gathered all of your necessary evidence.
There are a few situations in which your statute of limitations can be suspended, though. They are as follows:
- You were underage at the time of the incident, so your statute would begin when you turn 18 years old, as minors cannot sue
- You were left mentally or physically incapacitated afterward and in no condition to file a lawsuit, so the limit would start when you return to functioning health or presence of mind
- The defendant left the state for a period of time, so the statute would resume when he returns, as you cannot serve a civil lawsuit to someone in another state
You should pay careful attention to the statute of limitations. An attorney can make sure that you do not miss any important deadlines.