Motorcyclists enjoy the same rights to use our roads as car and truck drivers. Yet, even with those firmly established rights, an alarming number of bikers suffer injuries and lose their lives in motorcycle crashes every year. Many crashes occur because motorists fail to follow laws that keep bikers safe.
If you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, do not blame yourself. Chances are, your wreck happened (at least in part) because someone else violated a law or a rule of the road that should have kept you safe from harm.
Below we review some of the laws other motorists must follow to protect bikers and how an experienced motorcycle accident attorney can hold motorists who break them financially accountable to you for causing your motorcycle crash.
Motorcyclists Face Heightened Risks in Accidents
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), every year, motorcycle collisions take the lives of over 5,000 motorcyclists on U.S. roads. Tens of thousands more bikers suffer often-catastrophic injuries in crashes annually. Bikers are 29 times more likely than motor vehicle occupants to die in a crash per vehicle miles traveled, and most motorcycle accidents result in at least some injury to a rider.
It’s not difficult to see why motorcyclists face such significant risks. Unlike virtually all other motorists, nothing separates bikers from the elements. In a crash, only their protective gear—helmets and friction-resistant clothing—can protect them. And even with the best safety equipment, motorcyclists frequently cannot avoid serious injuries when thrown from their saddles.
Bikers accept that riding comes with some risk. But they also know that if other motorists obey the law, the risks can remain relatively low.
The Laws and Rules That Aim to Keep Bikers Safe
Unfortunately, motorists do not always live up to those obligations, and bikers suffer the consequences. Too many motorcycle accidents happen because someone other than the injured biker broke the law or the rules of the road.
Bikers who get hurt in crashes do not always recognize that the accident was someone else’s fault. So, below, we’ve collected the laws and rules most commonly violated by other motorists that lead to motorcyclists suffering severe and fatal crash injuries.
Drivers Must Check Their Blind Spots
Every motor vehicle has blind spots, and every state’s motor vehicle code requires drivers to check them before changing lanes, merging, or turning. These rules aim to ensure the safety of anyone operating a vehicle in an adjacent lane.
Because of their small size, motorcycles can easily hide in a vehicle’s blind spot. Drivers who fail to clear their blind spots or who check only for cars and trucks in those areas can end up cutting off or turning into the path of a motorcyclist and causing a deadly accident.
Drivers Must Allow Motorcycles to Use the Full Lane
Under the laws of every state, motorcyclists have a near-absolute right to occupy an entire traffic lane. In other words, it is generally illegal for a car or truck to drive next to or pass a motorcycle in a single traffic lane, even if the road is wide enough to accommodate both vehicles side-by-side. Drivers who refuse to observe a motorcyclist’s right to occupy an entire lane risk causing a catastrophic motorcycle accident.
Drivers Must Not Tailgate Motorcycles
Illegal tailgating, or following-too-close, occurs whenever car or truck drivers fail to leave a safe distance between their vehicles and motorcycles ahead of them. Some drivers tailgate motorcycles because they misjudge the space separating their front bumper from a motorcycle’s rear wheel.
Others tailgate out of irrational frustration at sharing the road with a motorcyclist. Whatever the cause, however, tailgating needlessly heightens the risk of a rear-end collision with a motorcycle, putting motorcyclists in grave danger of serious injury.
Drivers Must Not Drive Distracted
Distracted driving is any activity behind the wheel that diverts attention away from the visual, manual, or cognitive tasks involved in operating a motor vehicle. Those activities may include eating, drinking, talking (to passengers or on the phone), texting, tuning the radio, or watching a GPS instead of the road ahead.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving led to over 3,000 traffic accident fatalities and many more injuries in one recent year. Far too many of those accidents involved injuries and deaths of motorcyclists.
Drivers Must Not Speed
Speeding puts everyone’s life at risk. It contributes to 26 percent of all traffic fatalities and causes hundreds of thousands of accidents per year. Drivers who speed pose extreme dangers to motorcyclists because speeding multiplies the force of impact in a collision, making death or catastrophic injury especially likely.
Drivers Must Not Drive Under the Influence
Every day, around 32 people die in a drunk driving crash in the United States, about one victim every 45 minutes. Consuming alcohol impairs a driver’s motor, visual, and cognitive capabilities, heightening the risk of a deadly accident with a motorcyclist.
Drivers Must Yield The Right of Way When Turning Left
In every state, a driver turning left must yield to traffic approaching in an oncoming lane. Many motorcycle accidents happen when drivers fail to follow this rule and turn directly into the path of an approaching motorcycle. Sometimes, drivers seem not to see the bike, even though it is in their line of sight—a dangerous phenomenon that psychologists call inattentional blindness.
Drivers Must Use Signals When Turning or Changing Lanes
Turn signals alert other motorists to a driver’s intentions. Failing to use them predictably results in preventable accidents, especially with motorcycles. Motorcyclists often get caught off-guard by a sudden, unsignaled lane change by a car or truck driver, which can lead to a deadly sideswipe or t-bone collision.
Other Precautions Motorists Should Take Around Motorcycles
In addition to the specific rules described above, numerous other regulations and safe-driving practices serve to ensure motorcyclists’ safety.
Drivers sharing the road with motorcycles must also:
- Watch for motorcyclists before pulling into an intersection or onto a busy road from a side street.
- Check over their shoulders for motorcycles approaching from behind before opening the door of a parallel parked vehicle.
- Exercise caution when following a motorcycle as it approaches a stop because motorcycle brake lights are smaller and less visible than car or truck tail lights.
- Leave plenty of space when passing a motorcycle in a neighboring lane to avoid causing destabilizing air turbulence.
- Allow motorcycles to pass as any other vehicle might by maintaining a constant speed and lane position.
- Give extra room for motorcycles when driving on challenging roads or weather conditions such as gusty winds, wet roads, or sun glare.
This is not an exhaustive list. Our point is that motorists have a special duty to avoid endangering motorcyclists. If you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident involving another vehicle, there’s a good chance the other driver or a third-party bears at least some of the blame.
The Consequences of Driver Law-Breaking Around Motorcycles
Breaking the law behind the wheel has significant consequences for bikers and motorists.
Physical Consequences for Bikers
Motorcycle accidents tend to cause devastating injuries to bikers.
Even at relatively low speeds, a collision between a motorcycle and a car or truck can lead to:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Road rash
- Crushed limbs and traumatic amputations
- Severe scarring and disfigurement
- Internal Injuries, including organ damage or bleeding
- Broken bones and severe orthopedic injuries
- Facial trauma, such as eye injuries
- Neck and back injuries
Many of these injuries can result in permanent trauma that requires extensive medical treatment. Frequently, bikers who get hurt in motorcycle accidents suffer from lifelong disabilities that limit their ability to work and enjoy their lives. The expenses associated with these injuries routinely leave bikers and their families in dire financial straits.
Legal Consequences for Motorists
By violating a motor vehicle law and causing a motorcycle accident, a motorist usually becomes legally liable to the injured biker for money damages.
By taking legal action against the rule-breaking motorist, the biker can often obtain compensation for:
- Medical expenses associated with treating accident-related injuries and any subsequent health complications;
- Other costs the injured biker would not have had but for the accident;
- Income the biker missed out on earning and the value of paid time off the biker used while healing from an injury;
- Future income the biker will probably not earn because of the injury;
- The biker’s pain, suffering, inconvenience, and overall loss of quality of life; and
- In some cases, statutory and/or punitive damages.
The type and amount of compensation a biker can receive after an accident will depend on the nature and extent of the biker’s injuries, the strength of the biker’s case, and the financial resources (including insurance) available to pay for the biker’s losses. To find out how much you may have the right to recover for your motorcycle accident injuries, contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer.
How an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Help
Despite the numerous laws designed to protect bikers on the road, motorcycle accidents happen with distressing regularity. In the aftermath of a crash, injured riders and their loved ones often feel uncertain about obtaining full, fair compensation from the party (or parties) at fault.
An experienced motorcycle accident injury lawyer can help. An attorney handles all aspects of securing payment for a biker’s injuries and losses.
While the specific steps a lawyer takes vary from case to case, a lawyer can:
- Meet with the injured biker free of charge to learn about the accident and perform an initial evaluation of the biker’s legal rights and options.
- Investigate the accident and collect evidence sufficient to prove what happened and who should bear the blame.
- Identify all parties who may owe money damages to an injured biker.
- Prepare and transmit a demand to those parties for payment of the biker’s damages, which may involve making an insurance claim or filing a lawsuit in court.
- Speak on behalf of the injured biker and the biker’s family in communications with insurance companies, investigators, and the press.
- Whenever possible, negotiate settlements with insurance companies that have issued policies covering the biker’s injuries.
- Take a biker’s case to trial before a judge and jury to argue for full payment of the biker’s damages.
- Take the steps necessary to collect money owed to an injured biker through a settlement, judgment, or jury award.
The most reliable way to find out what a lawyer can do for you after you suffer injuries in a motorcycle accident is to contact a lawyer for a free consultation.
You Can Afford a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident, you do not have to worry about the cost of hiring a motorcycle accident lawyer. A lawyer will meet with you free of charge to discuss your case. This consultation is free even if you decide not to hire a lawyer.
If you and the lawyer agree to work together, the lawyer will most likely agree to represent you on a contingent fee basis. The lawyer works for you in exchange for a percentage of any money recovered on your behalf. You pay nothing up-front or while the case goes along. And if you don’t get paid, neither does the lawyer.
Contact a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today
Motorists who violate the rules of the road deserve to be held financially accountable for the damage they cause to bikers. A skilled motorcycle accident attorney can help. Contact one today for a free consultation to learn about your rights to compensation for your injuries.