GJEL Accident Attorneys is an award winning California Motorcycle Accident Law Firm. We have been helping injured victims get the justice and compensation they deserve after an accident.
If you or someone you love was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash you should call us right away.
We will help you through this difficult time and be with you every step of the way.
At GJEL we have a track record of success and have recovered over $950 Million Dollars for our clients injured in California. We also maintain a 99% success rate and there is no fee unless and until we win your case.
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It’s no wonder why motorcyclists love traveling California’s highways.
With winding roads and breathtaking views, the Bay Area is filled with scenic roads that are perfect for riding all kinds of motorcycles during most of the year.
Unfortunately for motorcyclists, riding in the Golden State is not without risk. In California, motorcycle deaths represent 17% of all road fatalities and the state’s total number of motorcycles fatalities is second only to Florida.
Each year, as many as 88,000 motorcyclists are injured in the United States. For every mile traveled, motorcyclist fatalities are 26 times more likely to occur than passenger car occupant fatalities in serious accidents.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident contact GJEL Accident Attorneys for a free case evaluation.
This article provides essential tips for choosing the best personal injury attorney for your case.
You Should Speak To Motorcycle Injury Lawyer After A Crash
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident in the Bay Area, you should understand your legal rights. This article provides a basic introduction to motorcycling accident law in California. First, we discuss the options you have for financial compensation after a motorcycle accident. Then, we explain how a motorcyclist establishes negligence in a personal injury lawsuit and why a legal concept called “comparative negligence” often plays a role in motorcycle accident lawsuits. Finally, we give an overview of the types of damages a motorcycle accident victim may receive in a personal injury lawsuit and how an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can help.
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What You Should Do After A Motorcycle Crash Injury
After a motorcycle accident, you have two options for securing compensation for your injuries and other losses: a personal injury claim or a personal injury lawsuit. It’s important for you to understand the difference between the two.
In a personal injury claim, you file an insurance claim with your insurance provider and/or that of the at-fault driver. This initiates an investigation that will be managed by someone known as an insurance claims adjuster. After the investigation is complete, you engage in negotiations until the insurance company offers you a financial settlement to compensate you for your injuries, financial losses, and property damage. In exchange for accepting the settlement, you typically have to sign a release in which you agree to give up your right to sue the at-fault driver in court.
A personal injury claim is typically the first course of action after a motorcycle accident. If the claims negotiation and settlement process breaks down and it appears that you won’t be able to obtain adequate compensation for your injuries, you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury lawsuit is a civil legal action in which an injured person makes a demand for money damages that take into account the severity of his or her injuries and other losses suffered as a result of a serious accident. Many personal injury lawsuits settle before reaching trial, but some go to trial and a judge or jury will decide the amount of money the injured person is entitled to receive.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle fatalities have increased over 129% from 2,028 in 1997 to 4,654 in 2006. However, most of the injuries sustained are to the lower body. Common injuries include road rash, broken bones, as well as back and spine injuries.
How Do I Prove Negligence in a Motorcycle Accident?
If you file a personal injury lawsuit after a motorcycle accident, your lawsuit will likely include a claim or claims against the at-fault driver for negligence. The definition of negligence is the failure to act with the level of care that a reasonable person would have used under the same or similar circumstances. In California, there are five elements of a standard negligence claim. An “element” is a critical building block of a legal claim. If you can’t establish all of the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence, your claim will not succeed.
- Duty: The defendant must be obligated by law to act in a certain way toward the injured motorcyclists. In the case of a motorcycle accident involving a passenger vehicle or commercial truck, the “defendant” would be the at-fault driver. There is almost always a legal duty for drivers of passenger vehicles and commercial trucks to exercise reasonable care toward motorcyclists on the roadway.
- Breach of duty: The driver must have breached his or her duty to exercise reasonable care. If a driver breaks a traffic law and hits a motorcyclist, the court may automatically assume that the driver has breached his or her duty of care under a legal theory that is recognized in California called “negligence per se.”
- Cause-in-fact: The injured motorcyclists must prove that the driver actually caused his or her injuries and other losses. This element is sometimes referred to as “but-for” causation because the injured motorcyclist must show that but for the actions of the driver, his or her injuries and other losses would not have occurred.
- Proximate cause: The driver in a motorcycle accident case will only be legally and financially responsible (or “liable”) for the harms suffered by the motorcyclist that were foreseeable as a result of the accident. In most motorcycle accident lawsuits in California, serious injuries are considered to be foreseeable consequences of negligent driving and proximate cause is established.
- Damages: The injured biker must show that the motorcycle accident caused him or her to suffer legally recognized harm, typically in the form of bodily injury, financial losses, or damage to his or her motorcycle and other property.
An experienced motorcycle accident will gather evidence from the parties who were involved in the accident, law enforcement officers, your medical care providers, and other experts in order to help build your case and establish that the driver who injured you was negligent in causing your injuries.
How Will Comparative Negligence Impact My Case?
California courts apply a legal theory known as pure comparative negligence to personal injury cases, including motorcycle accident lawsuits. Under this theory, if there is evidence that the plaintiff was also substantially at fault for the accident, the amount of money he or she ultimately receives will be reduced by the percentage of his or her responsibility.
In many motorcycle accident lawsuits, the at-fault driver will argue that the injured motorcyclist was also negligent in causing the accident. While this is sometimes true, this is often used as a defense tactic by the at-fault driver’s lawyers to reduce the amount of damages you receive for your injuries and other losses. For example, say a truck driver and a motorcyclist are in an accident. As a result of the accident, the motorcyclist suffered $250,000 in damages. The lawyers for the truck driver successfully argue that the motorcyclist was 40% at fault for the accident. Under California law, the motorcyclist’s damages would be reduced by 40% to $150,000.
This is one of the many reasons why it is important to hire an experienced and aggressive motorcycle accident lawyer to handle your case.
What Types of Damages Are Available in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?
The ultimate goal of any motorcycle accident lawsuit is to secure compensation for the victim’s injuries and other harms that he or she suffered. In California, a plaintiff who succeeds in his or her motorcycle accident lawsuit can expect to receive compensation for the following types of damages.
- Costs of Past and Future Medical Treatment. If you succeed in your lawsuit and the other party or parties were totally at fault, you can expect to receive full compensation for the costs of any past and future medical treatment needed as a result of the injuries you sustained in the accident. This includes costs for time spent in an emergency room or care facility, copayments for visits to your doctor or other treatment facilities, costs of prescription drugs and other medical supplies, and the cost of any ongoing physical therapy or long-term care.
- Compensation for Pain and Suffering. If the injuries you sustained in your motorcycle accident were severe and lead you to experience extreme pain and emotional suffering, you may be entitled to compensation. Your lawyer can help you determine whether it’s appropriate to pursue compensation for this type of damage as part of your lawsuit.
- Lost Wages. Many motorcycle accident victims are forced to take time away from their jobs to recover from the serious injuries they suffer in accidents. Unfortunately, some are left unable to work for extended periods of time or become permanently disabled. If you lose wages or have your ability to work is impacted as a result of a motorcycle accident, you deserve to be compensated for your financial loss.
- Damage to Property. If your motorcycle or property you were riding with at the time of the accident was damaged, you may receive compensation for the fair market value of your bike and other property at the time of the motorcycle accident.
Case ResultA young Naval officer, was riding his motorcycle on Highway101 in San Jose when a driver changing lanes swerved into him and caused him to crash. Although both drivers were going less than 25 mph due to rush hour traffic, the young rider still took some serious bodily harm, including head trauma that has left him with permanent memory trouble.Due to his injuries, responsibilities at his job have had to be adjusted. Thankfully, the Navy has been incredibly accommodating to his needs. Even so, he will, unfortunately, feel the effects of this accident forever.The at-fault driver only carried insurance with a $100,000 policy limit, but GJEL did succeed in recovering this full amount.
The Motorcycle injury attorneys at GJEL are standing by ready to help in your time of need.
Top Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in California
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, motorcycle fatalities increased to 548 in 2016 from 494 in 2015—an increase of over 10%. There were also over 13,000 injury collisions involving motorcycles in 2015.
Although riding a motorcycle is a popular hobby thanks to the state’s scenery and weather, accident statistics like these should give all bikers pause.
Below, we summarize some of the top causes of motorcycle accidents. Often, motorcyclists themselves are at fault for accidents, but most accidents are caused by other motorists on the road.
Alcohol plays a large role in many collisions. According to California’s Internet Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) data, alcohol or drugs were the primary factor in around 7% of all collisions where the motorcyclist was at fault for the crash. Drugs and alcohol might have also been a contributing factor in many more accidents.
These statistics do not include accidents where another motorist is responsible for the collision. In those cases, impaired motorists can collide with motorcyclists for a variety of reasons:
- The impaired driver cannot see the biker, especially at night.
- The impaired motorist cannot judge distances properly and might try to execute a left-hand turn directly in front of the motorcycle.
- An impaired motorist has slowed reflexes, which prevents them from braking or swerving in time to avoid an accident.
- The impaired motorist engages in reckless behavior.
It is not possible to completely protect against impaired drivers. Nevertheless, you can take a motorcycle safety skills course that will sharpen your ability to take defensive action if you see a vehicle drifting into your lane.
By far the largest cause of motorcycle accidents is driving too fast for conditions. According to California data, this was the primary collision factor in almost half of all accidents that were the fault of the motorcyclist.
Driving too fast can cause accidents in a variety of ways. For example, the motorcyclist will have less time to stop or slow down when traveling too fast. It is very easy to suddenly come upon something in the road, like a stranded motorist, and not have sufficient time to act.
Traveling fast can also make a biker lose control of the bike. The chances of hydroplaning or skidding out increases dramatically depending on how fast the bike is traveling.
Other motorists can also collide with motorcyclists when they are traveling too fast for the same reasons as those listed above.
A large number of accidents are also caused by improper turning. Though motorcyclists can sometimes make an improper turn and cause a crash, it is far more likely that another motorist makes a turn that causes an accident.
In fact, cars making left-hand turns cause around 42% of all fatal accidents with motorcycles. These accidents often occur at intersections, where a motorist is waiting patiently to make a turn. Often, motorists, unfortunately, do not even see motorcycles coming toward them.
Sometimes, the motorcycle is hidden behind a car, and the driver assumes that there is no traffic behind the vehicle passing through the intersection. As a result, they quickly execute a left-hand turn—and smash directly into a motorcyclist moving through the intersection.
In other situations, a motorist waiting to make a left-hand turn might see an approaching motorcycle but believe the bike is traveling much slower than it is. Other motorists simply lack respect for bikers and think the biker should stop for them when they make a left-hand turn.
Whatever the reason, improper turns are a serious factor in many accidents. To protect yourself, motorcyclists should always exercise extreme caution when approaching an intersection. It is also helpful to ride closer to the center line so that the waiting motorist can see that you are behind another car.
Instead of focusing on driving, many motorists and motorcyclists are instead talking on the phone, sending or reading a text message, eating, or otherwise spacing out.
Problems with distracted driving are heightened for motorcyclists because they are often invisible to other drivers.
Motorcycles tend to blend with the road or with other cars, and drivers are not really looking for motorcyclists.
Also, many bikers wear dark helmets and dark clothing, which further acts to mask them.
Distracted driving continues to increase. Nevertheless, there are things that motorcyclists can do to make themselves more visible. For example:
- Paint your bike a bright color. If you don’t want neon pink, then at least don’t choose a dark color like black or brown. Instead, go for bright red or white.
- Wear bright clothing. You can also wear a colorful helmet. Lime green or yellow tends to stand out.
- Put reflective tape on your clothing and on the motorcycle.
- Add auxiliary lights to your bicycle.
- Use your beams during the day. These will make you stand out.
- Tap your horn if you are entering a blind spot or if you think a motorist cannot see you.
Following Too Closely
Motorists need a cushion between them and surrounding vehicles in case they need to stop or slow down. When motorists follow too closely, they can easily collide with other vehicles around them.
According to SWITRS data, following too closely was the primary cause in fewer than 2% of all accidents where the motorcyclist was at fault. However, tailgating might also have been a contributing cause of many more accidents.
When coupled with poor road conditions, such as sleet, snow, or rain, following too closely is a recipe for disaster. Especially in poor weather, remember to give yourself an added cushion of time—four seconds or more. Reckless bikers might think that they don’t need a cushion because they can maneuver the bike quickly out of the way to avoid a crash.
Unfortunately, it is just as likely that you will quickly avoid the crash but then strike another vehicle or lose control of the bike when you swerve onto a gravel shoulder.
Because motorcycles are smaller than passenger vehicles, some bikers like to drive between two lanes of slowed or stopped cars to make headway in traffic jams. This is called “lane splitting,” and it, unfortunately, is quite dangerous.
When you lane split, you risk striking a vehicle or having a vehicle strike you as it inches along the road. Most motorists are not expecting motorcyclists to threat in and out of traffic, so they might not be looking for you.
Colliding with a Fixed Object
A large number of motorcycle deaths stem from motorcycles colliding with stationary objects like trees, mailboxes, fire hydrants, and walls. There are many reasons why a motorcyclist would collide with objects that they should be able to avoid. For example, a motorcyclist might become distracted, either because they are reading a text message or talking on the phone.
Motorcyclists might also lose control in inclement weather and crash into objects. The reasons for losing control might vary, with driving too fast for conditions being one reason.
Sometimes defects on the road cause motorcycle accidents. Because of their smaller size and greater instability, motorcycles often have more trouble with road defects than operators of passenger vehicles or commercial trucks. Many different road hazards can cause a biker to lose control, including:
- Uneven pavement
- Sloping roads
- Defective shoulders
- Oiliness or other slickness on the road
Some road defects have existed for years without the government taking any action to make the road safer for all motorists, including bikers. In certain situations, you can sue the government for failing to repair the road.
A vehicle parked on the side of the road usually poses no problem to a motorcyclist. However, if a passenger in the vehicle opens a door without looking behind them, then the biker can drive straight into the door. Many bikers tear the door off and/or end up being thrown clear of their bike, where they collide with the pavement or another parked vehicle.
In city driving, you can avoid this problem by driving closer to the center of the lane. Also avoid trying to pass vehicles on the right, which could put you in direct line for striking the opened door of a parked car.
Malfunctioning or Defective Motorcycles
Even careful defensive driving cannot prevent all accidents because sometimes a crash is caused by your bike. When a motorcycle malfunction, even the most skill biker can lose control and end up colliding with another vehicle or a stationary object.
Motorcycles are recalled all the time. Some of the most recent recall for safety defects include:
- Yamaha recalled almost 3,500 bikes in 2018 because the drive chain guard could become loose due to a defect.
- Brembo issued a recall because defective brake pads could provide less effective braking. The defect was caused during the manufacturing process.
- Harley-Davidson issued a recall because of concerns that its antilock brakes could cause accidents if not properly maintained.
You can check the most recent motorcycle recalls by visiting the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) website here. You can look up your motorcycle by its VIN, which you can usually find on a metal plate near the steering head.
If your motorcycle is subject to a recall, you should take it to be repaired as soon as possible, otherwise you are increasing your risk of an accident.
Of course, not all bicycle defects will show up in a recall on the NHTSA website. There might only have been a problem with your motorcycle and not others in the production line. Even in the absence of a recall, injured motorcyclists can hold the manufacturer responsible for the accident and receive compensation if the bike is defective.
Remember to have your motorcycle serviced regularly and raise any problems that you notice with your mechanic.
Inexperienced Drivers and Motorcyclists
Driver inexperience can also contribute to motorcycle accidents. If a driver is under 18 years of age, they must complete a motorcycle rider training course. However, this requirement is not required if you are age 18 and older.
Unfortunately, too many riders are inexperienced in how to operate a motorcycle. As a result, they get into accidents that more experienced bikers could avoid with ease. If you are getting your motorcycle license, take a training course regardless of whether it is required. It could save your life.
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident? GJEL Can Help
California motorcyclists are not powerless after an accident. Even if you are suffering from serious injuries and unable to work, you can still take matters into your own hands. In particular, you might be able to file a claim for compensation if someone else is responsible for the accident.
At GJEL, we have experience holding the following entities responsible for collisions our clients suffer:
- Motorists for driving negligently or recklessly
- Motorcycle manufacturers for putting defective motorcycles or motorcycle parts into the stream of commerce
- The government for not properly maintaining roads
Each case is different, so you need an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in Northern California to help you build your case for compensation. For example, suing the state or one of its municipalities is a much different process than seeking compensation from the driver of a passenger vehicle on the road.
You need to meet deadlines and give the government notice of your claim before you can file a lawsuit in court.
To learn more about how we can help, please reach out to us as soon as possible. One of our Northern California motorcycle accident attorneys will be happy to meet with you to discuss the circumstances surrounding your crash. We can help identify whether you have a valid legal claim and against who. Please call 1-866-294-6918 or submit our contact form.
Avoid delay. California does not give injured bikers an unlimited amount of time to pursue compensation for their injuries. The sooner you contact us, the faster we can go about getting you compensation for your injuries.
Are Motorcycle Accidents Treated Different Than Car Accidents?
Technically, motorcycle accidents and auto accidents are treated identically under the law, but as a practical matter juries are less kind and less favorable to motorcycle riders than they are to automobile drivers. And this is very often an unfair stereotype.
The jury sometimes assumes that the motorcyclist is crazy, taking unnecessary risks, etc – but we do an awful lot of motorcycle injury cases, and these stereotypes can be overcome just by demonstrating that the person was doing everything right, and was just trying to get to work and that it was not their fault.