Motorcycles are pure joy to ride, but when something goes wrong, they offer little protection from other drivers or the road. When motorcyclists get into an accident, they often sustain severe injuries. In this blog post, we describe some of the most common types of motorcycle accidents, and describe where liability often lies when those accidents take place.
1. Blind spot accidents.
Motorcycles take up relatively little space on the road compared to passenger vehicles. It’s easy for them to hide in the blind spots of larger vehicles, including vans and SUVs. Drivers also often fail to look specifically for motorcycles, which fit a very different visual profile than other passenger vehicles. Unfortunately, drivers sometimes gloss over smaller vehicles, including bicycles and motorcycles, when looking around them for potential dangers.
While a motorcycle driver can do their best to avoid sitting in another car’s blind spot, it is ultimately up to each driver on the road to ensure that their blind spot is clear before they turn or change lanes. If a driver fails to see you, causing an accident, that driver likely bears liability for the accident.
2. Poor weather conditions.
Most motorcycle riders prefer not to ride in less-than-ideal weather conditions. Rain can feel like knives hitting you at high rates of speed, even if you are wearing protective gear. Worse, many riders struggle to control their vehicles in poor weather conditions. Unlike larger passenger vehicles, motorcycles have only two wheels to hold the road. If even one wheel slips, it can send the motorcycle into a skid on ice or water, leading to severe injuries for the rider.
Poor weather conditions also result in another hazard for motorcycle riders: poor visibility. In fog, driving rain, or snow, it can prove very difficult to see a rider on a motorcycle. Distracted by the harsh weather conditions, other drivers may not see a motorcycle until it’s too late.
When weather conditions alone cause a motorcycle wreck, the injured rider generally must rely on their own insurance coverage to reimburse them for the costs of the accident. On the other hand, if you suffer injuries in an accident because another driver lost control of their vehicle, that other driver may bear liability for the accident.
3. Driving while intoxicated.
Driving under the influence makes it extremely difficult for a driver to control their vehicle, whatever its type. When other drivers choose to drive while intoxicated, it can pose a significant hazard for other motorists. Intoxicated drivers can become much more difficult to predict on the road. They may engage in odd or dangerous behaviors unexpectedly, which can make it hard for motorcycle riders to avoid them.
Generally, drunk drivers bear liability for an accident they cause while driving under the influence.
4. Open door accidents.
When getting out of the car beside a busy road, most people look carefully to make sure no cars will drive by before they can get safely out of the car. However, like drivers, car occupants exiting a vehicle sometimes fail to notice a smaller vehicle like a motorcycle.
While a door opening into the road in front of a passenger vehicle can cause minor damage to that passenger vehicle—and substantial damage to the door—it can result in much more serious injury to a motorcycle occupant. Open door accidents can cause the motorcycle rider to lose control of the motorcycle and potentially skid across the ground leading to severe road rash, broken bones, or more substantial injury like traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury.
Generally, the person who opened the door into the motorcycle’s path bears injury for an open door accident.
5. Driving while distracted.
Distracted driving includes all the things that can take a driver’s attention away from driving. The human mind cannot readily split its attention between multiple tasks at the same time. By dividing their attention behind the wheel, a driver takes that vital attention away from the road. As a result, the distracted driver may miss important things happening around them on the road.
A car or motorcycle driven by a distracted driver may drift out of its assigned lane. A distracted driver may completely fail to notice the presence of a motorcycle on the road, especially on a highway or other high-speed road. Unfortunately, distraction can spell catastrophe for the motorcycle.
A distracted driver often shares or, in many cases, bears full liability for any accident that occurs while they are distracted.
At high rates of speed, a driver must react much more quickly to threats than when they are traveling at lower speeds. They must stop faster, turn faster, and react to any changes in the road more efficiently. Other drivers must do the same to avoid a collision.
As a driver’s speed increases, their accident risk goes up, as well. At high rates of speed, accidents also often cause much more severe injuries, since speeding increases the force associated with the accident.
A driver who was violating the speed limit often bears at least partial liability for an accident.
7. Sudden stops.
A motorcycle can usually stop on a dime. Its small size and lightweight design make it maneuverable, and with good brakes, it can easily come to a fast stop if needed.
Unfortunately, other vehicles may not have the same capacity. In fact, the average passenger vehicle needs a great deal more room to maneuver and come to a stop than the average motorcycle. A motorcycle driver may stop their motorcycle abruptly to avoid a wide range of hazards, from another vehicle stopping suddenly in front of them to something suddenly appearing on the road. Unfortunately, if the driver behind did not provide adequate stopping space between their vehicle and the motorcycle, the motorcyclist can wind up suffering serious injuries. A rear-end collision can prove particularly devastating for motorcycle riders. Often, it can send the rider straight over the handlebars, resulting in serious head, neck, and facial injuries.
In most cases, the rear vehicle is liable for a rear-end crash, because drivers must leave adequate space between their vehicles and the vehicles in front of them.
8. Inexperienced drivers.
Driver experience, of course, takes time to develop, as a driver spends more time on the road and learns how to safely navigate road hazards. Both motorcycle riders and passenger vehicle drivers need many hours on the road to develop experience and learn how to respond appropriately to hazardous situations.
Inexperience, unfortunately, can lead to serious injuries in an accident.
An inexperienced driver generally has less control over their vehicle. They may not know how to respond in the event of a problem on the road, from a slick spot to another driver behaving unexpectedly. Inexperienced drivers also have less attention to spare for the things happening around them, since they must pay more attention to the vehicle’s controls and following traffic laws.
In some cases, inexperience can prove extremely dangerous or even fatal. Inexperienced drivers may not know how to avoid an accident that a more experienced driver could easily avoid. They may respond incorrectly, slamming on the gas instead of the brakes as they react to a potential danger, for example. Inexperienced drivers are at a higher risk of causing accidents and serious injuries than drivers with more experience behind the wheel.
9. Dangerous intersections.
Most cities have known dangerous intersections: intersections with poor signage or signals, or where drivers often speed through the intersection. Those intersections are almost always even more dangerous to motorcycle riders. Some drivers of larger vehicles may fail to yield to a motorcycle even when it has right of way. In other cases, the motorcycle driver may try to avoid coming to a complete stop and end up missing the presence of another vehicle in the intersection. Both scenarios can result in serious injury to the motorcycle rider. In a T-bone accident, the other vehicle may even come into direct contact with the motorcycle rider’s side, with nothing between rider and vehicle to soften the blow.
Have you suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident, whether due to one of these common reasons or another driver’s negligence on the road? If someone else’s negligence caused your motorcycle accident injuries, an experienced personal injury attorney can help give you a clear understanding of your rights and the compensation you deserve. Contact a motorcycle accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible for a free consultation.