Many people are attracted to motorcycles by their power, their image in our culture which historically associates them with freedom and rebellion, the relative ease of maneuverability, and the experience of traveling at speed without a metal compartment separating you from the outdoors. Many of those same factors, unfortunately, also make motorcycles much more susceptible to accidents than passenger cars and trucks.
The openness of the rider to the outdoors also means that accidents, when they do occur, tend to produce severe injuries.
That lack of a reinforced passenger compartment and of common safety devices like seat belts and airbags exposes riders to tremendous physical forces when an accident occurs.
Helmets and protective clothing can only help so much when a motorcyclist hits macadam at 50 miles an hour, or when a car traveling 50 miles an hour smashes into the motorcycle.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for 2013 paints a grim picture of motorcyclist accidents and injuries:
In Maryland in 2013, 56 motorcyclists died in crashes; of those, 27 percent had blood alcohol levels of .08 or more; 37 percent had levels of at least .01. Metropolitan areas tend to have the highest concentration of motorcycle crashes; in Maryland from 2008 to 2012, half of all crashes occurring in the Baltimore metropolitan area.
Many motorcycle accidents involve no other vehicle—the motorcycle simply skids and crashes, runs into a guardrail, or the like. That doesn’t mean that the motorcyclist is necessarily responsible for the accident, though. Many of these accidents occur because of conditions that other people caused, for example:
Unfortunately, many police officers investigating the crash are tempted to put single vehicle accidents down to the motorcyclist’s speeding, inexperience, or general inattention. Potential defendants suffer the same temptation for obvious reasons. These can be tricky cases, with the outcome depending on how deftly the motorcyclist’s lawyer handles the evidence.
Virtually any injury may result from a motorcycle accident, many of them potentially fatal and life-altering. Among them are:
Motorcycle accidents frequently involve claims that the motorcyclist was at fault, as a result of such behavior as:
Maryland has a very harsh contributory negligence rule, so it is crucial for injured motorcyclists to refute all claims that the accident was their fault. That’s best done by an attorney with long experience in handling motorcycle accident cases, who can quickly gather all the potentially useful evidence, spot the potentially troublesome aspects, and carefully build a wall of evidence to block the defendant’s attempt to avoid responsibility.
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. As the weather improves, more and more riders are getting out on the roads. Inevitably more serious and fatal crashes will occur.
Every year an average of 70 motorcyclists lose their lives in Maryland in traffic crashes, according to the Motor Vehicle Administration. A further 1,400 riders and passengers are injured each year on motorcycles on Maryland’s roads.
Motorcyclists are more likely to suffer serious injuries or deaths in accidents than other road users. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclist deaths occur 27 times more frequently than fatalities in other vehicles. The statistics are based on 2014 data.
The following are some frequently asked questions about motorcycle accidents.
About half of all fatal motorcycle crashes occurred in collisions with other vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Often drivers fail to see riders when making a left turn and either hit the motorcyclist or are hit by the rider.
Sudden lane changes by vehicles are another major cause of motorcycle wrecks in Maryland. A driver may not see a rider in his or her blind spot and hit the motorcyclist.
Motorcycles are often powerful machines that can reach high speeds. When riders go fast, they have less time to react and may not see obstacles ahead on curves. Riders of sports bikes are four times more likely to be killed than riders of cruisers.
Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist drives between two lanes of stopped or slowly moving cars, usually in traffic congestion. This practice can be unnerving for drivers of larger vehicles and they may fail to see a rider.
Features of badly maintained roads that can be an annoyance for car drivers pose a deadly hazard to motorcyclists. Gravel on a road is a major danger for riders as well as potholes. Wet weather that causes slippery roads is also a significant cause of rider deaths and injuries.
The notion of a safe motorcycle crash seems like a contradiction of terms. However, the question of whether a rider can crash a motorcycle safely is often asked in the motorcycling community. While there is no such thing as a safe crash, certain actions may help shield riders from injuries, namely:
If you can control where you are going to crash, avoid hard objects like walls and trees or oncoming traffic. If you are going to hit a vehicle or a building, aim to collide sideways if possible.
Riders who stay on their bikes during crashes are more likely to survive. You should also avoid laying the bike down. Riders who are thrown off their bikes may slide for a long distance sustaining serious injuries and often end up in the path of oncoming vehicles.
If you are heading for an obstacle, apply your brakes quickly. Lead with the front brake which is the most powerful brake. Use the bike’s rear brake to even out the distribution of your weight. Avoid slamming on the front brake only.
A motorcycle accident is often a chaotic and harrowing scene. If you are the first person on the scene, you should call 911 immediately.
If you have basic first aid training, you may be able to help an injured rider. First aid steps that can be taken at a motorcycle accident scene include:
Motorcycle accidents are often traumatic and devastating. A bike offers less protection than a car and truck with a steel frame. As Baltimore motorcycle injury lawyers, we are often asked what’s an average motorcycle accident recovery time. The question depends on the circumstances.
These two questions may be interrelated but while some motorcycle accident victims will tragically never make a full recovery from their injuries, their cases will be resolved, although compensation is never guaranteed.
Injuries sustained by motorcyclists in Maryland and elsewhere are routinely more serious. They include:
Certain injuries such as damage to the spine or brain injuries may be irreversible. Motorcyclists who suffer these injuries often never make a recovery. In these tragic cases, it’s vital to recover enough money to cover ongoing medical needs to the rest of a rider’s life.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a motorcycle crash is a very real issue. A study by the British Columbia Medical Journal found as many as 10 percent of car, truck and motorcycle accident victims experienced PTSD. Victims of PTSD may experience a range of symptoms like anxiety and flashbacks that can ruin their quality of life.
The length of a motorcycle accident claim in Maryland is often linked to medical factors. When a rider has fully recovered or recovered as much as he or she is going to, a more accurate assessment of medical bills and pain and suffering can be made.
If future surgery is likely to be necessary or medical procedures are yet to be performed, a personal injury lawyer will get an estimate from doctors of the cost of future work. Although this can be a painstaking procedure, it typically yields a better result for an injured motorcyclist than dealing directly with the insurance company.
There are no figures for an average payout in a motorcycle accident or an exact personal injury calculator. However, formulas are used by the insurance companies, lawyers and courts.
The size of a payout will depend on factors including the extent of the injuries the rider sustained in the accident and the limits of the insurance policies of the at-fault driver. For instance, motorcyclists injured due to the negligence of a truck driver are likely to recover more money under the trucking company’s policy than under the policy of a private car owner.
Research in this area is scarce. A paper published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2005 suggested the average award to car accident victims in jury trials was just $15,000.
However, many of these cases involved soft tissue injuries which victims typically make a quick and full recovery from. Often injuries to motorcyclists are more severe and long-lasting.
Make sure to take steps to help maximize recovery after a motorcycle accident by seeing a doctor as soon as possible, documenting damage to your bike and taking pictures of a crash scene. Do not admit fault after a crash.
Motorcyclists who are injured in crashes will often deal with considerable pain and trauma. Injuries involving limbs may lead to amputation or other complications.
When another driver is to blame, you can expect a tough battle with an insurance company. The insurance company may paint you as reckless or try to claim you were speeding or weaving in and out of traffic. Motorcyclists are often depicted negatively by insurers.
If you hire an experienced Baltimore motorcycle injury lawyer, we will want to know all of the facts of the case and will deal directly with the other side’s insurance company.
During an initial first consultation, the attorney will ask you to first tell your story. We are likely to ask you numerous questions. The more information the attorney has available, the better we will be equipped to fight your case.
The lawyer will want to know about the full effects of your injuries and their impact on your life. You will also be asked questions about your insurance coverage.
We hope you stay safe on the roads of Maryland during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. If you are injured due to the fault of another driver, please contact us for a free consultation.
Except in the most clear cut cases, the people responsible for your injuries in a motorcycle accident aren’t likely to step up and accept the blame without a fight. The companies that insure those people will likely try to put the blame on you, or at least try to get you to sign a settlement agreement for a much smaller amount of money than could ever compensate you for your injuries.
It’s in your best interest to get experienced legal help as soon as possible after the accident. An attorney who has successfully handled many motorcycle accident cases knows what problems are likely to arise and how to head them off before they become real obstacles to your recovery.
Call the Baltimore personal injury lawyer team at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice and schedule an appointment to discuss your case. You’ll get a free evaluation of your case and advice as to your legal options, and we’ll tell you what information we need to take the next step. There is no fee until we obtain the recovery you deserve. Time to file is limited by law, so call now! 410.288.2900