Important Facts You Need to Know About Motorcycle Accidents
Riders were 27 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than car and truck drivers in 2014, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
The simple fact is, that riding a motorcycle on the roads can be inherently unsafe. But the odds get even worse when riders do not wear their helmets. That is why Virginia state law requires you to do so.
Virginia law states that all riders must wear a helmet and adequate eye protection, such as a face shield, goggles, or glasses.
In addition to saving your life in a motorcycle accident, it can also save your accident claim.
I Did Not Wear a Helmet; Does That Mean I Was Negligent?
As we mentioned, motorcyclists often get the short end of the stick when it comes to road safety.
In accidents involving a motorcycle, claims adjusters might try to make the case that you were in the wrong, whether it be that you were driving recklessly or that you were not wearing your helmet, which actually led to your injuries.
We know this sounds ludicrous. But the fact remains, that not wearing your helmet can give them further reason to rule against you in a personal injury lawsuit.
Fortunately, however, if you do decide not to wear a helmet while riding your motorcycle, Virginia law states that “failure to wear a face shield, safety glasses or goggles, or protective helmets shall not constitute negligence per se in any civil proceeding.”
Essentially, this means that you are not automatically negligent simply for not wearing a helmet. This is important because under Virginia law if an investigation finds you even one percent at-fault for your injuries, you will be unable to recover compensation for your injuries.
However, if your injuries were related to your lack of helmet use (e.g., traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury), the insurer may be able to use that against you.
Note: We advise once again that you always wear a helmet when riding your motorcycle as it can save your life.
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What to Do If You Are Involved in a Motorcycle Accident
If you have been involved in a motorcycle wreck, here are a few tips you need to know in the days and weeks following your accident:
- Seek immediate medical attention. This may seem obvious, but your top priority following an accident must be to seek proper medical attention to treat yourself for any injuries you sustained. If you do not seek medical attention immediately, the insurer may claim that your injuries are unrelated, fabricated, or exaggerated.
- Avoid trying to repair your motorcycle. It is important not to tamper with your bike in any way following an accident as this may lead to further complications in proving your negligence lawsuit. Instead, keep your bike in a safe, secure place until you need to use it as evidence. Be sure to take pictures of the bike as well.
- Maintain all documentation. Be sure to keep all documentation related to your motorcycle, including its owner’s manual, warranty, and maintenance instructions. Also, be sure to document all of your injuries and get the contact information of any witnesses at the scene of your accident.
- Watch what you say to insurance adjusters. After an accident, it is likely that the other party’s insurance adjuster will contact you and ask you to give a recorded statement. Do not agree. The adjuster may use anything you say in the conversation against you. If you accidentally admit fault of any kind (e.g., even just saying, “I’m sorry this happened” could imply fault), you will be unable to recover compensation. If an adjuster contacts you, politely explain that he or she can discuss everything with your Richmond motorcycle accident lawyer.
- Contact a team of professionals to help you. Do not try to fight your case alone. Instead, contact personal injury attorneys who know Virginia, who know personal injury law, and who know how to help get you the settlement you truly deserve.
How Common Are Motorcycle Accidents (updated statistics)
According to CBS 19 News, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles found that as of November 4, 2021, 95 motorcyclists were killed on Virginia roadways in 2021—a number that is up 17 percent over 2020 statistics. Money Geek reported the following motorcycle accident statistics across the United States: In 2020, 5,579 motorcyclists were killed, with another 84,000 sustaining serious injuries.
Motorcycle accidents are 28 times more likely to result in fatalities based on vehicle miles traveled—motorcyclists are also four times more likely to sustain serious injuries in an accident than those in passenger vehicles. The number of older (55 and older) motorcyclists involved in an accident that resulted in death has significantly increased—from 3 percent in 1975 to 27 percent in 2020.
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Where Do Most Motorcycle Accidents Occur?
The following areas in and around Richmond, VA, have the highest number of auto accidents, including motorcycle accidents:
- Hull Street Road, from Wayside Drive to Evans Street
- Mechanicsville Turnpike, from Colter Drive to Old Hickory Drive
- US-1 from Haden Avenue to Bellwood Road
- I-95 from Exit 92A to Old Ridge Road
According to the NHTSA, more motorcycle accidents occur at intersections than any other place, with about a third of all motorcycle accidents caused when a driver turns into the motorcyclist’s path. Because of this, motorcyclists must anticipate drivers making left-hand turns and be prepared to make defensive maneuvers.
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Seeking Compensation after a Motorcycle Accident
In the wake of such an impactful event, the pursuit of financial recovery becomes a key to proper recovery. When it comes to compensation, these are the types of damages you may be able to sustain:
Economic damages encompass quantifiable monetary losses that can be directly attributed to the incident, which may include:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages.
- Future earnings
Beyond the tangible financial losses lie the intangible, non-economic damages. These are subjective losses that can significantly affect your quality of life, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
We are dedicated to meticulously assessing your case, ensuring that all relevant factors are considered to pursue the maximum compensation you deserve.
What is the Primary Cause of Motorcycle Accidents?
Motorcyclists face hazards and dangers on the roadways, many of which are unique to this group. The number one cause of motorcycle accidents is the failure of other drivers to recognize motorcyclists on the roadways. The smaller motorcycle size causes drivers to fail to see an oncoming motorcycle. Other causes of motorcycle accidents include:
- Car doors opening into traffic are a common cause of motorcycle accidents. All too often, a driver will parallel park in a city, then open their door without properly looking to see if a motorcyclist or bicyclist is in the lane. While many states do not have so-called “dooring” laws, Virginia implemented SB 117 in 2016, which requires drivers to wait for “a reasonable opportunity” to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to oncoming traffic. A violation of this law, however, is only punishable by a fine of up to $50, which may not be a strong enough deterrent to prevent this type of accident.
- Reckless driving, including exceeding the speed limit, tailgating, driving under the influence, changing lanes without properly looking, and failure to yield to motorcyclists remain primary causes of motorcycle accidents. The severity of any crash will increase with higher speeds, and motorcyclists do not have airbags and seat belts to help protect them in the event of a crash.
- Distracted driving is quickly moving up as the number one cause of all vehicle accidents. Drivers talk on their cell phones, text, change radio stations, and car controls, set their GPS devices, talk to passengers, eat entire meals, and turn completely around to see what pets or children are doing in the back seat. Distracted driving is especially dangerous to motorcyclists as a motorcycle is already more difficult to see. A distracted driver can easily miss an oncoming motorcyclist, one behind them when backing out, or on the side when changing lanes or merging into traffic.
- Drivers changing lanes without properly looking is a danger to motorcyclists. All too often, drivers may give a quick glance in their mirror, but their brain is programmed to look for other vehicles, so they may miss a smaller motorcycle—or the motorcyclist could be in the driver’s “blind spot.”
- Inclement weather and poor road conditions are a much bigger hazard to motorcyclists than to drivers of larger vehicles. While a pothole in a road is likely just an annoyance to a driver, it can cause a motorcyclist to have a serious accident. Icy roads, high winds, fog, and rain can all lead to a severe accident for a motorcyclist. Other road conditions that are likely to affect motorcyclists more than drivers include a lack of guardrails, road construction debris, poor lighting conditions, and differing pavement heights.
- Left-turn accidents, as noted above, are a serious hazard for motorcyclists. When a passenger vehicle either does not see an oncoming motorcyclist—or misjudges the motorcyclist’s speed—the driver may make a left-hand turn in front of the motorcyclist, causing the biker to slam into the vehicle, sometimes at a high rate of speed.
- Motorcycle design or manufacturing defects can contribute to or cause an accident. These claims can be challenging, requiring a highly experienced Richmond motorcycle accident lawyer.
- Overly fatigued drivers are a hazard to others on the roadways, particularly motorcyclists. According to the National Safety Council, a driver who has gone 20 hours without sleep is just as dangerous as a driver with an 0.08 percent BAC. This adversely affects reaction time and judgment, making a fatigued driver three times more likely to be involved in a car accident.
What Are the Primary Injuries Caused by Motorcycle Accidents?
Although many injuries can be caused when a vehicle collides with a motorcyclist, the most common—and severe—of these include:
- Traumatic brain injuries are more likely among motorcyclists who are not wearing a helmet but can happen any time a motorcyclist is hit, throwing them from their motorcycle onto the pavement or another vehicle.
- Spinal cord injuries and less severe neck and back injuries commonly result from a motorcycle accident. Occasionally, a spinal cord injury can result in paralysis, either paraplegia or quadriplegia. A spinal cord injury can change a life forever, resulting in the victim’s inability to return to work or their normal life.
- Broken bones/fractures and amputated limbs are common among motorcyclists involved in an accident, especially fractures and breaks in the pelvis, femur, fibula, and tibia.
- Road rash injuries result when bikers are thrown from their motorcycle, landing on the asphalt or gravel road. Road rash injuries can result in wounds that are difficult to heal and may become infected, leading to leg amputation in extreme cases.
How Long Will a Motorcycle Accident Case Take?
Every motorcycle accident case is unique in one way or another. The length of time your motorcycle accident claim will take will depend on several factors. The first factor is liability. When liability is clear, the case will take less time. Less clear liability will require that your Richmond motorcycle accident lawyer investigate the accident to prove who was responsible. If your injuries are particularly severe, your claim could take longer because your attorney will need to calculate your current damages (medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering) and your future damages.
If you are unable to return to work due to the severity of your injuries, your Richmond motorcycle accident lawyer will need to calculate lost future wages based on your age, your job at the time of your accident, your education, and the likelihood of advancement in your job. If your injuries require ongoing medical treatments or rehabilitative therapies, these costs must be factored in as well. Once liability is established, and your damages have been accurately assessed, your attorney will negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurer for a full and fair settlement. This generally takes from a couple of months to several months. If the insurer does not agree to a fair settlement, your Richmond motorcycle accident lawyer will file a lawsuit on your behalf, which could take a year or longer to settle.
Dealing with insurance companies
Understanding your rights and how to communicate with insurance providers is key to ensuring fair and adequate compensation for your unique situation. In many cases, we sadly see how victims end up settling for less than they’re entitled to because insurance companies push them to quickly accept a deal. To avoid this, we recommend to follow these steps to effectively negotiate with these companies:
- Information gathering: Obtain and organize all documents related to the accident, record details about property damages, police reports, and medical records.
- Consult an attorney: Consider consulting with a motorcycle accident attorney before providing a statement to the at-fault party’s insurance company. An attorney can help protect your rights and ensure you don’t say anything that could be used against you.
- Notify your insurance company: Inform your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible. Provide them with accurate and detailed information about the incident.
- Negotiate the settlement: Once all information is gathered and evaluated, and liability is established, the negotiation process begins. Your attorney will engage with the insurance companies to negotiate a settlement that fairly compensates for your damages.
Our Richmond Motorcycle Injury Lawyers Fight for You
Being involved in a motorcycle crash can change your life. The trauma of a motorcycle injury can leave you feeling alone and overwhelmed as you try to get your life back on track. While motorcyclists often get a bad rap for speeding or reckless driving, we know even the safest riders can be injured in an accident. That is why the Virginia personal injury attorneys at Tronfeld West & Durrett are so passionate about helping motorcyclists get the help and compensation they deserve after a traumatic accident.
Whether your accident is due to another driver’s negligence, poorly paved rural roads, construction, or blind spots on the road, we believe you deserve a fair shake at seeking justice for your injuries.
Here at Tronfeld West & Durrett, we have been helping personal injury victims in Virginia for more than 40 years. We were born and raised in Richmond, Virginia and we have been giving back to our community any way we can — including helping its residents fight uphill personal injury battles.
We know the laws surrounding motorcycle accidents and we know how hard it can be for motorcycle injury victims to get the respect they deserve. Preconceived notions against motorcyclists can make it hard to convince an insurer, judge, or jury that you were not at fault.
But with us at your side, you can prove the other driver was 100 percent at fault, and get a settlement that awards you fairly for your medical bills, lost time at work, and damage to your personal property. Discover essential knowledge of unsafe property conditions.
So call us now at 804-358-6741 to set up a free consultation with an experienced Richmond motorcycle accident lawyer. Outside of Virginia? Call us toll-free at 800-321-6741.
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