There is a saying among bikers that there are only two types of riders: those who have gone down and those who will go down. In many parts of the country, motorcycle-vehicle collisions are very rare during the winter months, because it is too cold to ride. But that’s not true in most parts of California, because the weather is warm all year round.
So, one would think that SoCal motorists are more used to seeing motorcycle riders and are better at watching out for them. Unfortunately, however, that is not the case. In fact, most bikers who have gone down probably overheard the tortfeasors (negligent drivers) say something like “She came out of nowhere” or “I never even saw him.”
In most cases, the bikers were not riding carelessly, so the motorists failed to keep a proper lookout. To increase their visibility, some riders wear reflective or bright-colored clothing or helmets, but there is almost no evidence that such techniques actually improve rider visibility. Other bikers modify their mufflers to make them louder, reasoning that motorists may not be using their eyes but their ears are always on. This tip often backfires, because loud mufflers antagonize many drivers and police officers may write tickets for noise law violations.
Motorcycle Crash Causes and Injuries
Visibility is certainly not a new problem. In fact, the Hurt Report concluded that about two-thirds of motorcycle-vehicle collisions occur when the car or truck is making a left turn against traffic, merging from one road onto another, or in similar situations. The Hurt Report is still valid today, even though the authors presented it to the Department of Transportation about thirty years ago. If anything, biker visibility is even lower now, because in 1980, about 90 percent of drivers used small passenger cars that were easy to see around and over, but today, many people driver large SUVs and pickup trucks that restrict visibility even more.
Lack of visibility is one of the main motorcycle crash causes, but there are many others as well. Some of them include:
- Impairment: Alcohol is a factor in over a third of California’s serious injury and fatal motorcycle crashes, especially the ones that happen at night and on weekends. These statistics do not include drug-induced impairment; most drug-impaired drivers have abused prescription medication, such as antidepressants or painkillers.
- Distraction: Every day, distracted drivers injure or kill about 150 people. California lawmakers recognize this hazard, because as of January 2017, the Golden State has one of the most restrictive cell phone laws in the country.
- Fatigue: The government estimates that drowsy drivers cause over 100,000 serious crashes a year, mostly because driving after 18 hours without sleep is like driving with a .08 BAC.
Because riders are almost completely unprotected in collisions, the injuries are very serious, and six-figure medical bills are not uncommon in these cases. Health insurance companies often refuse to pay these charges, citing liability concerns. So, to allow victims to focus on getting better instead of paying staggering medical bills, attorneys send letters of protection to medical providers. As a result, victims get the medical and rehabilitative care they need without any upfront cost.
Legal Issues in Motorcycle Crash Cases
In addition to strict cell phone laws, California also has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country, along with a very extensive vehicle code that includes thousands of safety violations. If tortfeasors (negligent drivers) violate any of these laws, negligence is presumed as a matter of law, because of the negligence per se (negligence “as such”) shortcut. In most cases, if there is a safety statute violation, victims only need to prove damages.
In many cases, even if the tortfeasor is clearly negligent, officers do not issue citations, so there is no negligence per se. Fortunately, there is a low standard of proof in civil court, so victims may still obtain compensation by establishing that the tortfeasor:
- Owed a legal duty, such as reasonable care,
- Breached that duty, perhaps by driving too fast on a wet road,
- Caused injury by breaching the duty, and
- Physically injured the victim; such injury could be a personal injury or property damage.
Victims must also prove that their injuries were a foreseeable result of the tortfeasor’s conduct or misconduct. The damages available include not only the economic losses of property damage and medical bills, but intangible losses as well, such as emotional distress and loss of enjoyment in life.
As mentioned earlier, many motorists do not like motorcycle riders, and this prejudice exists among jurors as well. The motorcycle prejudice is not as severe today as it was several decades ago, but it still affects many jury deliberations. That being said, most jurors take their oaths very seriously and decide cases based on the facts.
To obtain compensation, victims must prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, or “more likely than not.” If two equally-sized stacks of paper sit side by side and someone adds one sheet to the stack on the left, it is larger than the stack on the right, and in civil court, that is all the victim needs to do.
Motorcycle crash victims are usually entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, contact Citywide Law Group. The sooner you call, the easier it is to obtain maximum compensation.