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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.
You Should Speak To An Attorney After a Motorcycle 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.
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.