Motorcycle riders usually sustain very severe injuries from accidents with automobiles, including broken bones, road rash, scrapes, and lacerations. Unfortunately, there are no seatbelts on motorcycles, and riders tend to go down during collisions. We recently handled a case wherein a truck with a camper shell turned left in front of the motorcycle and violated his right of way. The motorcyclist slammed on his brakes and collided with the side of the truck before being thrown from the motorcycle through the camper shell window. The motorcyclist ended up with a broken elbow which required surgical repair. Unfortunately, the defense will usually contend that the collision was the motorcyclist's fault. In addition, there is a bias among motor vehicle drivers against motorcycle riders, which is that motorcycle riders generally speed and split lanes when it's unsafe to do so. Vehicle drivers are very scared about motorcycles because they're so easy to miss.
Within the last couple of years, California legislature passed a law allowing for lane splitting by motorcycles (of course, it has to be done in a safe manner). Vehicle drivers should be cautious and always check their rearview mirrors before trying to change lanes or even move over within the lane. Motorcycle riders should try to alert the vehicle driver that they're going to be passing. Even if they have their headlights on, they can be missed and not seen when they are trying to pass. It might be a good idea for the motorcycle rider to honk the horn or rev the engine to try to get the attention of the drivers near the motorcycle as the motorcycle is going past. Defensive driving is very important for a motorcycle rider.
If The Insurance Company Offers A Settlement Right After A Crash, Should A Motorcyclist Take It?
Some insurance companies, such as Auto Club, will try to get people to take a small token offer of money before they've even received treatment or medical bills. This is an unscrupulous practice that benefits the insurance company and their investors to have cases resolved as soon as possible. I recommend against accepting a settlement right away. A case should not settle until after the injured party has received treatment and a final prognosis from their doctor regarding future treatment needs. Most insurance companies are going to want the injured victim to sign a full release, which releases insureds for all injuries, whether known or unknown, present and future.
If Someone Wasn't Wearing A Helmet Or Other Safety Gear At The Time Of The Accident, Will That Eliminate A Case All Together?
About 40 years ago in California, any percentage of fault attributable to the injured party would have eliminated their case altogether. This law was done away with by a judicial appellate case where they determined that the injured victim could still recover for the percentage of fault attributable to the at-fault party. This is called comparative negligence, which allows an injured party to recover for the amount of fault attributable to the other party, but not attributable to themselves. This means that if a motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet at the time of an accident which caused them to sustain a head injury, then it could well be that a large percentage of their damages would not be recoverable from the otherwise at-fault party. This is one good reason for always wearing appropriate safety equipment and ensuring that the motorcycle is in good operation. Comparative negligence applies to both non-economic damages and economic damages; economic damages being measurable monetary losses (e.g. medical bills, lost wages) and non-economic damages being everything else (e.g. pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life).
For more information on Motorcycle Accidents In California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (760) 721-8182 today.