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Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

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Settlements, Compensation and Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

Motorcycle accidents are all too common on America's roads and highways. In 2005, 103,000 motorcycles were involved in accidents, according to a recent crash data report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

While there are a number of ways a motorcycle accident can happen, one of the most common causes is negligence — either by the driver of the motorcycle or someone operating another vehicle. Victims who suffer pain or financial losses because of someone else's negligent actions often are eligible to receive compensation.

To learn more, review the information below or contact a motorcycle accident attorney.

Motorcycle Accidents and the Law

As a legal matter, a motorcycle accident occurs when a motorcycle (street-legal or off-road) is involved in an incident or combination of incidents that cause harm, such as property damage, injury and/or death. In 2005, 47 percent of motorcycle crashes involved a collision with another motor vehicle, 13 percent involved collisions with stationary objects and other non-motorized objects and 39 percent involved no collision, according to the NHTSA. Sadly, the same year, fatal motorcycle accidents claimed the lives of 4,553 people, and injury accidents harmed another 87,000.

Most of these accidents involved some form of negligence. If negligence is involved in a motorcycle accident, the victim can receive compensation from an insurance company or a court award.


A negligent driver is someone who drives in an irresponsible and careless manner. In most cases, compensation is received when:

  • The driver's carelessness caused the motorcycle accident.
  • The victim suffered harm from the motorcycle accident.
  • The negligent party is accountable to pay the victim compensation.

These three factors can be shown through police reports, eyewitness testimony and sketches of the crash scene.


Direct evidence from eyewitness testimony is a powerful and persuasive element of many victims' cases. For example, the statement of a bystander who witnessed a driver talking on a cell phone and recklessly changing lanes just before sideswiping a motorcycle is convincing evidence of driver negligence.

Strong claims also can be made using indirect or circumstantial evidence. For example, a police report stating that a driver of a car involved in a motorcycle accident was discovered sitting beside an open whiskey bottle with a blood alcohol count of 0.18 is likely to persuade a jury of driver negligence. A photograph of skid marks leading up to the point of collision indicating that a vehicle was traveling 55 m.p.h. on a 25 m.p.h. residential street would also be persuasive.

In some instances, more than one party is at fault. In these cases, liability is often divided between negligent parties based on percentage of fault — this is known as comparative negligence.


Victims who have suffered financial losses as a result of a motorcycle accident often seek compensation from the negligent party. Financial compensation is intended to reimburse the victim for expenses such as:

  • Property Repairs
  • Lost Income
  • Medical Expenses
  • Lost Prospects
  • Physical & Psychological Pain

In order to determine the appropriate amount of compensation, insurance adjustors and juries rely on prescribed formulas. Motorcycle injuries can be quite serious and therefore expensive to treat. Serious head and spinal injuries are common. So are broken feet, ankles and legs.

Due to the no-fault insurance laws that exist in certain states, some victims are not able to receive full compensation for their losses. No-fault insurance laws were created to discourage frivolous lawsuits and help patients receive prompt payments for medical expenses and lost income; however, many victims are not able to cover all of their accident-related expenses under these laws. Personal injury attorneys have experience filing claims within these states.

Factors Contributing to Motorcycle Accidents

A number of factors contribute to motorcycle accidents. Many are the result of some form of negligence. Some of the most common contributing factors are:

Traffic Law Violations

Most traffic law violations that lead to motorcycle accidents involve an element of negligence. Drivers who speed, tailgate, change lanes improperly or fail to yield the right of way increase their risks of being in a collision with a motorcycle. If a traffic law violation is cited at the motorcycle accident, victims can use this to build stronger claims against the negligent parties.

Speeding was a factor in 37 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2006, according to NHTSA. Both motorcyclists and operators of other vehicles were responsible for significant portions of these accidents.

Unsafe turning is also a major issue. In 2006, 40 percent of motorcycle crashes involved another vehicle making a left-hand turn, either in front of a motorcycle approaching on the straightaway, while a motorcycle was passing or while a motorcycle was overtaking from behind.

When a traffic citation is issued at the scene of a motorcycle accident, claims are strengthened.

Driver Error

In some instances, motorcycle accidents can be attributed to driver error. This can include:

  • Aggressive Driving
  • Distractions, such as cell phones or other passengers
  • Inattention
  • Intoxication, such as the use of drugs, alcohol or medication
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of Experience Driving

In most cases, vehicles involved in accidents with motorcycles fail to see the motorcycle prior to the crash. This is due in part to the fact that motorcycles are so much smaller than other types of vehicles. However, fatigue, distraction and inattention on the part of the other driver also can contribute. When any of these behaviors are proved to be the cause of a motorcycle accident resulting in property damage or injury, the victim may be entitled to compensation.

Motorcycle operators who have made the effort to make themselves conspicuous (keeping headlights on, wearing bright clothing and staying out of other vehicles' blind spots) improve their chances of winning a personal injury claim.

Motorcycle operator inexperience accounts for a significant number of accidents. In 2006, 26 percent of motorcyclists killed did not have a valid driver's license, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). This means that they may not have known the rules of the road that are specific to motorcycle safety. Motorcycle operators who have had formal training, possess a valid motorcycle driver's license and have a good driving record have a higher likelihood of winning a personal injury claim.

Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs have committed a criminal offense. In addition to being prosecuted in a criminal court, drunk drivers can also be sued by victims of motorcycle accidents in a civil court.

Equipment Failure

Some motorcycle accidents are caused by malfunction of equipment, such as the following:

  • Steering mechanisms
  • Chains
  • Suspension
  • Tires

If the cause of the accident is the equipment and not the driver, the victim is still eligible to receive compensation. Malfunctioning equipment can be traced to the negligence of the operator or mechanic for poor maintenance, or to the manufacturer for design flaws. Many victims who have sued manufacturers for equipment failure have received substantial settlements.

A defective helmet also would constitute an equipment failure. A flaw might be present in the outer shell of the helmet, the cushioning liner and padding inside the helmet or in the chinstrap. Helmets that do not meet U.S. Department of Transportation standards should not be worn.

If malfunctioning equipment is the cause of a motorcycle accident, be careful to save the motorcycle to use as evidence in a trial.

If you or a loved one has been in a harmful motorcycle accident, contact a personal injury attorney to learn if you are eligible for compensation.

Road Conditions

Sometimes road conditions, including those listed below, contribute to motorcycle accidents. Many times these conditions arise due to negligence.

  • Road construction
  • Debris on the roadway
  • Potholes/pavement damage
  • Cattle guards
  • Railroad tracks
  • Parked or disabled vehicles
  • Animals (livestock or wild animal crossings)
  • Pedestrians (school zones, pedestrian crosswalks)
  • Obscured, broken or hard-to-read road signs
  • Weather (rain, snow, wind)

If a road is not properly maintained, victims can file claims against the government for negligence. For example, if broken pavement has gone without repair for an extended length of time or a road sign warning of a sharp curve is faded, the government may be liable. Contact a motorcycle accident attorney to learn more about the specific rules and time limits for filing claims against government entities, as well as other factors associated with serious accidents involving defective road conditions.

Road Design

Governments are also accountable for flawed road designs. Roads that have added risks, such as poorly designed merging lanes or intersections, can lead to motorcycle accidents. Victims of these accidents can file claims against the government to be reimbursed for their losses.

When You Might Need a Personal Injury Attorney

While insurance companies handle most motorcycle accident claims, there are situations where the expertise of a personal injury attorney is very helpful, such as:

  • Insufficient compensation for accident-related expenses such as lost income, psychological and physical pain, medical bills, property damage and lost opportunities.
  • Denied claims by insurance companies or government entities.
  • Delayed settlement of claims.
  • Lack of insurance by the faulted party.

In these situations, victims should review their case with a qualified personal injury attorney to learn more about their eligibility for compensation.