Many states allow you to feel the ultimate freedom of the wind in your hair when riding a motorcycle, but California is not one of them. Motorcycle helmet laws require you to wear a helmet as a driver or a passenger for your safety. Even with a helmet, leathers, eye protection, and boots, motorcycle riders often suffer severe and catastrophic injuries that could require consulting with a motorcycle accident lawyer.
Why You Should Wear Protective Gear
Since motorcycles do not have the protections of a four-wheeled vehicle, you need to take extra precautions to protect yourself. You can never depend on other drivers doing the right thing or not having a medical emergency. While protective gear does not prevent all injuries, it could save your life.
The law requires you to wear only a helmet, but it is prudent to wear other protective equipment, even if you ride on a lonely country road. Another vehicle does not have to be the cause of an accident. An animal running out in front of you; sand, stone, and other debris on the road; and even the weather could cause you to wreck the bike.
Protective gear gives you some protection against many types of injuries, including:
- Helmets protect your head and could save you from cracking your head open or suffering a severe concussion.
- The proper eye protection can prevent eye injuries from sand and gravel getting in your eyes if you wreck. It also protects bugs and other items from flying into your eyes while riding.
- Leathers help cushion a fall and could prevent you from getting road rash if you crash.
- Leather riding boots protect your feet, ankles, and your lower legs if the boots are tall. It could mean the difference between no injuries or a sprain and a crushed ankle.
While wearing this gear might seem hot and uncomfortable during the summer months, it can save your life
The Helmet Law
In addition to the driver, motorcycle passengers must also wear helmets. You must also wear a helmet if you are riding a motorized bicycle. The helmet must fit the person snugly and not have any vertical or lateral movement.
Furthermore, the helmet must meet federal standards for motorcycles. The helmet must have a label that shows it complies with those standards.
Federal standards require that the helmet meets:
- Requirements for impact attenuation;
- Peak accelerations;
- Projections (inside the shell);
- Labeling, which should include the size, month and year the helmet was manufactured, type of materials used for the shell and liner, and warnings.
The helmet should also have the certification that states it meets federal regulations, including the terms DOT, FMVSS No. 218, CERTIFIED, and model designation.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents have various causes, some caused by the rider, some by other drivers, and some by unexpected incidents that are difficult to avoid. Inexperienced riders are one of the biggest causes of motorcycle accidents. Unlike a vehicle, you must control the bike with all four extremities while steering it.
While steering, the right hand manages the throttle and the front brake, and the left hand controls the clutch, signals, horn, and lights. The right foot operates the rear brake, which the rider must use with the front brake. The left foot manages the shifter. Additionally, using too much front brake could cause the bike to throw the rider over the handlebars. Not enough front brake could cause the rider to rear-end someone or stop too far out into a cross street.
Additional causes of motorcycle accidents include:
- Speeding and reckless driving.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Distracted drivers if a motorcyclist has earphones in the helmet, they could talk on the phone.
- Lane splitting, which is legal in California.
- Poor motorcycle maintenance, including bald tires.
In many cases, factors other than the motorcyclist causes the accident, including:
- Weather, including the sun shining directly in a rider’s face.
- Debris in the road, whether dropped from another vehicle, sand, or gravel.
- Oil and other liquid from other vehicles that leaked onto the road.
- Leaves and grass from residents mowing and other lawn maintenance.
- Poorly maintained roads.
- Other drivers driving distracted.
- Other drivers driving while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Other drivers speeding or driving recklessly.
- Defective parts, including brakes and steering and suspension components.
- Defective motorcycle (when purchased new from the manufacturer).
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Motorcycle accident injuries are often more severe than those someone might sustain in a car accident because the motorcyclist does not have the protection of windows, the roof, and strengthened steel beams in the body of the vehicle. Although injuries could be minor, such as scratches, cuts, bruises, and bumps, they are usually more severe and often catastrophic.
Motorcycle injuries might include:
- Road rash.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and/or torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple and/or compound fractures.
- Crushed bones.
- Face and eye injuries, especially for riders not wearing a helmet and eye protection.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries, especially if a rider is thrown from the bike into another vehicle or lands on their neck and shoulders on the ground.
- Traumatic brain injuries, even with the use of a helmet, but especially if the helmet does not meet the proper standards, or if a rider is not wearing a full-face helmet.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Internal injuries.
When a truck or larger passenger car is involved, the injuries are more likely to be catastrophic, or the rider could lose their life because of the size difference between the motorcycle and truck.
What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident
Before you do anything, make sure that you will not cause further injury to yourself after a motorcycle accident. If you believe that moving will exacerbate injuries, stay where you are unless you are in the path of traffic. If you can reach your phone, call first responders immediately.
If you can move without causing additional injury to yourself:
- Call first responders and check on others involved in the wreck.
- Obtain contact information from other drivers involved, including the information on their licenses, insurance cards, and registration.
- Never admit fault, not even if you believe the accident might have been partially your fault.
- Obtain contact information from witnesses. You can also ask witnesses what they saw.
- Take photos of the accident scene. Be sure to take pictures from all angles and photos of any damage to the road and nearby property.
- Allow the emergency medical technicians to check you over. This is the first step in documenting your injuries.
- Give the police your statement. Before signing the police report, be sure to review it carefully for errors in your statement. Insurance companies often use the police report as a way to deny your claim.
- Seek medical attention immediately after the accident. Tell medical professionals that you were in a motorcycle accident and need a thorough checkup. Keep in mind that some injuries will not manifest for hours or even days later.
- Contact a motorcycle accident attorney.
Even if you believe your injuries are minor, you should still contact a motorcycle accident attorney. Insurance companies will often attempt to deny your claim, and barring that, they may offer you as little as possible to make you go away.
Working With Insurance Companies
You can contact the insurance company to let them know that you are filing a claim. However, it is recommended that you do not discuss the incident with the insurance company. It is in business to make money, which means that any claim that it pays cuts into its bottom line.
One of the tricks insurance companies use is to twist what you say to blame the accident on you. For example, if you were splitting lanes in a traffic jam and someone opened a car door, causing you to wreck, the insurance company could blame the accident on you by saying that you were not driving carefully or that you were breaking the law (splitting lanes is illegal in most states).
When you contact the insurance company, only give it your name, contact information, the location and date of the accident, and your motorcycle accident attorney’s contact information. We prefer that you contact us and allow us to make initial contact and start the claim process.
Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents
In most cases, the law gives you up to two years to file a lawsuit. However, the insurance companies do not give you that long to start your claim. Some give you as little as 30 days to start a claim.
If you plan on having a motorcycle accident attorney initiate a motorcycle accident claim, you must retain a firm before the insurance company’s claim deadline.
Additionally, there are other reasons why you should not wait to take action after a motorcycle accident. You might forget pertinent facts of the accident that could help you win the case. Evidence also has a way of disappearing. The weather could erase evidence at the scene. People could lose evidence. And, a less-than-honest defendant could destroy evidence.
Riding Without a Motorcycle Helmet
Since riding without a helmet is against the law, the defendant might try to argue that while the accident was mostly their fault, it was your fault that you suffered severe or traumatic injuries because you were not wearing a motorcycle helmet. While this might be true, it is not necessarily the case. While doctors can tell you that you might not have suffered certain injuries if you were wearing a helmet, even they cannot be 100 percent sure of that statement.
Thus, even if you were riding without a helmet and suffered severe or catastrophic injuries, you should still contact a motorcycle accident attorney. They can work with a team of professionals to sort out the nuances of the laws.
Recovering Damages After a Motorcycle Accident
You could recover compensatory damages after a motorcycle accident, even if you were not wearing a helmet. The court orders compensatory damages to make one financially whole again. You could recover two types of compensatory damages: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Special damages, usually referred to as economic damages, have a monetary value and can include:
You could recover medical expenses for injuries you sustained in an accident before a settlement or trial. If doctors expect your injuries to become long-term or permanent disabilities, you could also recover estimated medical expenses for the length of your disability.
Medical expenses might include doctors’ appointments, surgeries, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, ambulatory aids, hand controls for a vehicle, and upgrades to your home, including grab bars, widened doorways, and wheelchair ramps.
The defendant is also responsible for any therapy you might need, including physical, occupational, cognitive, and psychological therapies.
The defendant can be held responsible for repairing or replacing any personal property damaged in the accident, including your motorcycle, helmet, leathers, and items of value you might have been carrying in saddlebags or luggage on the bike.
You could also recover lost wages and future loss of earning capacity, even if you can return to work once you recover from the accident but cannot work at the same job or earn the same salary as you did before the wreck.
If a loved one died in a motorcycle accident, the defendant pays funeral expenses. They could also pay other costs, such as probate filing fees.
Non-economic damages do not have a monetary value, but the court orders them in an attempt to make you financially whole again.
You could recover damages for:
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of consortium and/or companionship.
- Loss of use of a body part or bodily function.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Disfigurement and/or excessive scarring.
Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer today for a free case evaluation if you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident.