Motorcycle Riders Have Rights and Responsibilities
August 23, 2018
There is no shortage of motorcycle enthusiasts in California. The state has the largest number of registered motorcycles (private and commercial) in the United States. Motorcycling is a popular leisure time activity, but motorcycling is also a risky form of transportation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) most recent data tells us:
- Motorcycles account for 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States.
- The fatality rate for motorcyclists is six times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants.
Motorcycles are far more dangerous than any other motorized vehicle, and their popularity is increasing. It is estimated there are between 4 million and 5 million street bikes on our roadways. Despite ongoing controversy about safety, the number of bikers in California has grown, and in the past decade accident deaths have doubled. Motorcycling takes more focus than driving a car, and it is physically draining. Because there is no protection for a motorcycle driver when there is a collision, the injuries are exponentially worse.
Despite the known dangers and the general public’s negative opinion about sharing the road with bikes, motorcycles have gained popularity, for both recreation and commuting; riders are getting older and more mainstream. California Department of Motor Vehicles ata reports:
“[T]here are over 884,000 registered motorcycles and more than 1.4 million licensed riders. Creating a safer highway environment is the shared responsibility of drivers and motorcyclists alike. This is achieved by staying alert and using common sense and courtesy while on the road.”
Motorcycle demographics show the average age of bikers is rising. In 1990, only ten percent of registered riders were older than 50. Recent statistics prepared by the Motorcycle Industry Council reveal that number is now almost 40 percent. Baby Boomers currently outnumber Millennials as cycle owners at a four to one ratio, and they represent a disproportionate number of motorcycle fatalities. According to AAA, From 2015 to 2016, motorcycle fatalities rose 5.1 percent, while deaths among older baby boomers increased more than 20 percent.
California has a broad range of legal statutes that protect the rights of motorcyclists. If you or a member of your family is injured in a motorcycle accident, expect the insurance carriers for the person responsible for the collision to attempt to minimize any potential payouts. You need someone to look out for your rights. You need the services of an aggressive law firm that understands the complexities of our ever-changing motorcycle laws. You need the services of Aitken * Aitken * Cohn.
Your Responsibilities as a Motorcyclist Are as Important as Your Rights
Motorcycle riders are personally responsible for their actions and safety, and legally required to obey California’s laws and restrictions. No matter how you choose to travel on our roadways, safety should always come first. Motorcyclists and drivers alike share responsibility for roadway safety. Motorcyclists are sometimes hard to see, and are obviously more vulnerable to collisions than other drivers. Stay alert, be courteous, and share the road responsibly. California’s motorcycle regulations mandate:
- Both driver and passenger wear helmets that meet DOT standards
- Daytime headlights are required for all vehicles manufactured after 1978
- Liability insurance
- Turn signals on the front and the rear of the bike, with the exception of vehicles built and registered before 1973
- Compliant exhaust systems on 2013 or newer model bikes. Older motorcycles with aftermarket products that were purchased prior to January, 1 3013 are excluded.
- Handlebars can be no more than 6 inches above a driver’s shoulders.
Evidence-Based Prevention Strategies for Motorcycle Risk Management
A motorcycle has less protection than a car. Without any impact-absorbing structure or restraints, there is a greater chance of serious injuries when a motorcycle is involved in an accident. Protect yourself before you enjoy the freedom and exhilaration of the open road:
- Make sure the bike you use is appropriate for your level of expertise, is comfortable and easy to handle.
- Inspect the bike before riding, check fluid levels and brakes.
- Install anti-lock brakes.
- Pay attention to your surroundings.
- Always assume drivers in cars can not see you.
- Wear proper protective clothing (helmet, goggles, gloves and appropriate footwear).
The most important piece of protective equipment is the helmet. The outer shell distributes the force of the impact to protect the skull; the inner liner lessens the impact to the skull by absorbing a portion of the force.
Collisions happen regardless of age or experience. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) strongly encourages all motorcycle riders to take a California Motorcyclist Safety Program course. This program has graduated far more than a million students since its inception in 1987, and has courses for both the novice and the veteran rider.
Dangers on the Roadway
Most motorcycle accidents involve impact with another vehicle. Unfortunately, all too often injuries are severe and frequently fatal. Intersections and junctions are particularly hazardous. Motorcyclists who drive defensively are better able to avoid collisions.
Other intersection safety tips for motorcyclists:
- Watch for vehicles coming from side streets.
- Slow down if vision is blocked.
- Avoid riding in another vehicle’s blind spot.
- Avoid riding between vehicles at intersections
- Be vigilant and pay attention to vehicles changing lanes.
- Slow down during inclement weather.
- Steer clear of potholes, debris, and uneven pavement
Turning in, leaning down, and powering out will unbalance a driver’s weight distribution, and is a dangerous move in a turn. A motorcycle has substantially less traction than a car, and driving on sand and gravel can lead to disaster. Avoid traveling on the shoulder of the road, and be especially vigilant around construction sites.
Lane Splitting and Lane Sharing
Lane splitting, or white-lining, is an issue that has plagued legislators for years. Effective January 1, 2017, California became the first state to legalize this practice. Sacramento lawmakers officially define lane-splitting as “driving a motorcycle, which has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane.” This is not a no-holds-barred issue. Recognized guidelines exist:
- The motorcyclist should not exceed 10 miles per hour faster than the surrounding vehicles.
- Motorcyclists should only engage in lane-splitting in low-speed areas.
- Lane-splitting only in the two leftmost lanes is recommended.
- Avoid lane splitting into sharp curves and freeway ramps.
- Only one motorcyclist should attempt to lane split at a time.
Lane sharing allows two vehicles to drive side by side within the same lane of traffic. This is only legal on roads where at least two lanes of traffic move in the same direction. On those roads, lane sharing is allowed only when it involves:
- Two motorcycles
- One motorcycle and one passenger vehicle
Motorcycle accidents are traumatic, and the resulting injuries are often devastating. Protect yourself: be proactive in your driving habits, and avoid the five most common motorcycle accident injuries:
- Head and neck injury: The most common head injury is a concussion, which can lead to brain damage. Spinal injuries damage the fibers and pathways that carry communications from the brain. Damages in this area can lead to permanent disabling injuries like loss of sensation, bladder and bowel dysfunction, respiratory problems, and paraplegia. Any blow to the head should be closely monitored.
- Road rash: Sliding across the pavement following a motorcycle accident causes painful road rash. This injury can lead to severe skin irritations, infections, and permanent nerve damage.
- Muscle damage: Muscle damage, anywhere in your body, may become permanent after a motorcycle accident.
- Biker’s arm: Biker’s Arm is a condition that occurs when a motorcyclist is thrown off the bike and lands on his or her arm(s). The impact may lead to permanent damage
- Leg injury: Bike accidents can cause the bones in the leg, knees, and feet to fracture or shatter.
Preserving Evidence Is Important in a Motorcycle Crash
Every accident has its own special set of circumstances. Although each one is different, they do have a common thread. No matter the cause of the collision (poor weather conditions, mechanical defect, or the carelessness of another driver), the immediate steps are usually identical:
- Ensure the safety of all persons involved. Contact law enforcement and request on-site medical assistance to address and assess acute injuries. Even if you do not have any visible signs of injury, do not assume that you are not hurt. Have a medical evaluation and obtain a copy of the medical record.
- Make sure an official police report is started, and request a copy.
- Document the scene in writing and in pictures. Journal everything immediately; your observations at the scene, or any admissions from the motorist (“I’m sorry,” or “I didn’t see you”). These statements are often admissible as exceptions to the hearsay rule. Photograph everything: your motorcycle before it is moved, the point of impact, your helmet, the driver and passengers of the car, as well as any paint that transferred from one vehicle to the other.
- Save, and preserve, your helmet.
- Check the area for any visible surveillance cameras and note the locations.
- Witness statements are advantageous. Don’t rely solely on a police report to get names and contact numbers. Make sure you get the names and contact information of all witnesses. Note, in detail, what they saw.
Liability and Damages in Motorcycle Accident Cases
A motorcyclist who drives responsibly and obeys state laws has the same legal rights as drivers of automobiles. They have an absolute right to seek compensation for medical expenses, personal property damage, lost wages, and/or loss of earning ability following an accident caused by another individual or entity. Based on individual circumstances, it is often possible to recover monetary awards. As in all personal liability litigation proceedings, time is critical. The statute of limitations is two years to initiate a claim. The exception to this rule is when a government agency is culpable; in this case, a notice of intent must be filed within 180 days.
Motorcycle crashes cause extensive injuries, and the financial damages can be substantial. Victims may be compensated for:
- Medical bills
- Hospital charges
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost wages
- Damage to the motorcycle or other property
- Burial and funeral expenses (in wrongful death cases)
- Loss of love and/or financial support (in wrongful death cases)
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to determine how long it takes to resolve a personal injury claim. The determining factors are different for each case. A thorough investigation is needed to properly assess medical treatment notes, diagnostic imaging results, accident reports, witness statements, and photographic images of the scene to determine maximum recovery parameters. Every aspect of an insurance claim and legal settlement process needs to be meticulously analyzed. This is what the litigators at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn do best: we take the time to do it right, and to do it to your satisfaction.
Call Aitken * Aitken * Cohn If You Suffered a Motorcycle Accident
You don’t have to face the aftermath of a motorcycle accident alone. Roadway safety is an important issue to the legal team at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn. We are tenacious, focused, and committed to each of our clients. Among numerous other awards and recognition’s, we are proud to have our firm included on the Best Lawyers in America list for 30 consecutive years. Our success speaks for itself: we are ready to help you and your family seek justice.
We welcome the opportunity to review your case to determine if you have grounds for a claim, and the amount of compensation you may be entitled to. Contact us at (714) 434-1424 or write to us using our contact form to arrange for a no-cost consultation with one of our skilled motorcycle accident attorneys.