After a motorcycle accident, serious injuries, medical needs, and an inability to work can leave you struggling financially, physically, and emotionally. If someone else was at fault for the crash, you might have the right to receive financial compensation to help you overcome those challenges.
Let’s look at who is at fault in most motorcycle accidents and how an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can help you hold the at-fault party in your wreck accountable for your injuries and losses.
Fault in Multi-Vehicle Motorcycle Crashes
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than half of all motorcycle accidents involve a collision between the motorcycle and at least one other vehicle. In many of these crashes, the fault lies not with the motorcyclist but with the driver of the car, truck, or bus that collided with the motorcycle. Unfortunately, the motorcycle rider tends to suffer the worst injuries and losses in these preventable accidents.
Here are some common ways car, truck, and bus drivers bear the fault for causing a motorcycle accident.
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#1. Failure to Check Blind Spots
Every car, truck, or bus has a blind spot, an area around the vehicle that a driver cannot see while looking straight ahead or using mirrors. The size and shape of blind spots vary, but motorcycles fit into just about every vehicle’s blind spot, no matter its dimensions. Drivers who fail to check their blind spots before turning, merging, or changing lanes can easily cause a motorcycle accident by sideswiping or cutting off a motorcyclist they do not see.
#2. Changing Lanes Without Signaling
Motor vehicle codes require drivers to signal before changing lanes to alert others on the road of their intentions. Motorcyclists, in particular, rely on drivers to use their signals when changing lanes because of the blind spot risks described above. A driver who fails to signal a lane change can cause a serious motorcycle accident by catching a motorcyclist off-guard and crashing into him or running him off the road.
#3. Unsafe Left Turns
Turning left often involves crossing an oncoming traffic lane, and drivers must yield to oncoming vehicles until it’s safe to do so. But as all-too-many motorcyclists have learned firsthand, drivers often fail to see or register motorcycles approaching in an opposing lane due to a psychological phenomenon known as inattentional blindness. Instead, they turn across the lane and put motorcyclists at risk of colliding with them broadside.
#4. Following Motorcycles Too Closely
Cars and trucks frequently risk rear-ending motorcycles by following them too closely. That risk exists not necessarily because motorcycles have shorter braking distances than other vehicles (which is not always the case, as this YouTube video demonstrates), but because drivers often struggle to judge the true distance between their front bumper and a motorcycle’s rear tire.
By leaving themselves less room than they need to stop, they increase the danger of a devastating rear-end collision with an unsuspecting and unprotected motorcyclist.
#5. Distracted Driving
Distractions behind the wheel of a car or truck pose a constant and growing danger for motorcyclists. In the moment it takes to read a text, program a GPS, or check their hair in a visor mirror, drivers essentially lose control of their vehicle. This heightens the risk of a deadly motorcycle accident because it contributes to the likelihood that a driver will fail to stop for, see, or take careful actions around a motorcyclist.
#6. Drowsy Driving and Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Sleepy drivers and intoxicated drivers suffer from profound impairments behind the wheel. They exhibit slow reaction times, diminished motor control, limited situational awareness, and poor judgment, all of which lead to catastrophic accidents with distressing regularity, and increase the likelihood of colliding with a motorcyclist.
#7. Open-Door Accidents
On streets with parallel parking, especially narrow ones, open vehicle doors can instantly become deadly hazards for motorcyclists. A driver or passenger who fails to look in both directions before opening a door into the street risks taking a motorcyclist by surprise. Even at low speeds, motorcycles often cannot stop quickly enough to avoid collisions with suddenly open doors in their paths.
#8. Treating Motorcyclists Aggressively or Disrespectfully
Some drivers, for reasons known only to them, treat motorcyclists as second-class citizens on the road. They drive around motorcycles aggressively. They tailgate, honk, and yell at motorcyclists. There’s no excuse for this misbehavior, but unfortunately, it happens. And sometimes it leads to a dangerous collision in which a motorcyclist suffers serious injuries.
Single-Vehicle Motorcycle Crashes
The NHTSA data linked above reflects that around 40 percent of motorcycle accidents involve only a single vehicle-that is, just the motorcycle. Of course, in some of these accidents, the motorcyclist may bear some fault, especially when a crash involves speeding and alcohol consumption by the rider.
But frequently, the motorcycle wrecks that do not involve a collision with another vehicle still happen because of the careless or reckless conduct of someone other than the motorcyclist. Here are some ways that non-motorcyclists frequently bear the fault for single-vehicle motorcycle accidents.
Dangerous Driving Behaviors (see above)
All of the dangerous car, truck, and bus driver behaviors described above that lead to multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents can also cause a single-vehicle crash. A careless or reckless driver is no less at fault for an accident if a motorcyclist crashes while trying to avoid a collision. In fact, many single-motorcycle accidents happen when motorcyclists lose control while taking evasive action necessitated by dangerous driver conduct.
Insufficient Warnings and Unaddressed Road Hazards
Changes and imperfections in road surfaces affect motorcycles far more than cars, trucks, and buses. Potholes, grooved pavement, and gravel that other vehicles can roll over without incident threaten to trigger a sudden loss of control on a motorcycle.
That is why public and private road owners, including local governments and neighborhood associations, must alert the public to known road hazards. Unreasonable failures to provide adequate warnings or to fix dangerous conditions can, and frequently do, cause single-vehicle motorcycle accidents.
Motorcycle manufacturers owe the public a duty not to sell defective bikes and bike parts. The law may deem them at fault for any accident that happens because their products failed to function properly under normal conditions of use-such as when a motorcycle’s brakes malfunction or a new tire unexpectedly blows out.
How does fault for a motorcycle accident get decided?
By law, the party or parties at fault for causing a motorcycle accident will generally owe money damages to any injured accident victim.
Depending on the nature of the crash and the injuries it caused, those damages can include significant financial payments for your or a loved one’s:
- Medical and non-medical expenses;
- Property damage;
- Lost wages;
- Lost earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering;
- Wrongful death.
For that reason, the determination of who was at fault for a motorcycle accident can have enormous financial and personal consequences for you and your family. Here’s how and by whom that decision typically gets made.
Official and Private Accident Investigations
The determination of fault for a motorcycle crash starts with investigating what happened. Numerous parties can have a hand in those investigations.
Local or state police will conduct an accident investigation after any motorcycle accident resulting in death, injuries, or anything worse than minor vehicle or property damage. This investigation typically happens immediately after the crash occurs-usually at the accident scene-and entails gathering and recording basic information about the vehicles, parties, insurance companies, and general circumstances involved.
Sometimes, that investigation will supply enough information for the police to offer an initial assessment of who was at fault, although theirs is not necessarily the final word on the subject.
Insurance companies that may have an obligation to pay for damages caused by the accident will also frequently investigate, using their employees or independent private investigators.
These investigations frequently aim to uncover evidence that the insurance company can use to justify a decision not to pay a claim. As a result, victims of accidents who may have a claim against an insurance company should not necessarily trust that company to reach an accurate or objectively reasonable decision about who was at fault.
Finally, lawyers for victims of motorcycle accidents will frequently conduct separate investigations. Their efforts aim to identify all parties whose actions may have contributed to the cause of a crash and who may owe money damages to their clients. Skilled attorneys frequently work closely with accident reconstruction experts to pinpoint potentially hidden or overlooked causes to give their clients the best possible chance of holding all at-fault parties accountable.
Weighing the Facts and the Law
Unless they suspect criminal wrongdoing, the police will usually go no further than to prepare their accident report. Lawyers and insurance companies, however, do not stop there. Having completed their investigations, they evaluate what those facts may prove about who fault in light of applicable laws and legal principles.
Once again, victims cannot necessarily trust the analysis conducted by insurance companies in this regard. Insurers have a financial incentive to reach factual and legal conclusions that benefit their bottom line.
A skilled motorcycle accident injury lawyer, however, conducts that analysis with only an injured client’s interests in mind. The lawyer’s goal is to build the strongest possible argument for why the facts and law require a party (or parties) to pay money damages for the harm suffered by the injured crash victim.
Resolving Disagreements Through Negotiation or Litigation
Often, insurance companies and motorcycle accident lawyers reach different conclusions about who was at fault for a motorcycle accident. Insurance companies often blame motorcyclists, since those are the victims who most frequently suffer severe injuries for which the insurers and their policyholders may have to pay. Attorneys for injured crash victims often conclude the opposite, and that someone else should bear the cost of the harm their client suffered.
These disagreements over who was at fault usually get resolved in one of two ways. In many cases, lawyers and insurance companies negotiate to reach a mutual agreement to settle the injured motorcycle accident victim’s claims. In those cases, the victim receives a payment from the at-fault party’s insurance carrier (and sometimes also directly from the at-fault party), in return for agreeing to release that party from further liability.
Sometimes, however, negotiations fail to achieve an agreed resolution. When that happens, the parties may leave it to a court and jury to decide who was at fault for the motorcycle accident that left a victim injured.
Talk to an Attorney About Who Owes You Compensation for Your Motorcycle Accident
If you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, you may have the right to receive significant financial compensation from the at-fault party or parties. But you stand little chance of getting that money on your own. To hold the at-fault parties accountable for the harm you’ve suffered, you will need the help of a skilled, experienced motorcycle accident injury lawyer.
A seasoned attorney can investigate to uncover who caused your motorcycle crash, evaluate the facts and the law, and take the necessary actions to negotiate or litigate your claim.
The sooner you speak with an attorney about your motorcycle accident and who might have caused it, the better your chances of securing the maximum compensation available. A lawyer may have to act quickly on your behalf to protect your rights and preserve valuable evidence. Also, if you wait too long, you could lose your rights altogether.
So do not wait. Contact an experienced motorcycle accident injury lawyer in your area today for a free, no-obligation case consultation. What you learn about who was at fault for your motorcycle accident may surprise you.