Motorcycles have a reputation for being fun, convenient, and less expensive to operate than a car. However, there are drawbacks to motorcycle riding as well. Motorcyclists are less visible to other drivers, and their lack of protection from the elements and external forces means they have a heightened risk of serious and potentially fatal injuries if they are involved in an accident.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence or recklessness of someone else, you need an experienced motorcycle lawyer on your side.
Facts About Motorcycle Accidents
- More than eight million motorcycles are registered in the United States and travel more than 20 million miles each year.
- Motorcycle riders are 28 times more likely to be killed in an accident than drivers of other types of vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- In 2016, 5,286 people died in motorcycle crashes–the highest number since 2008–and a 5 percent increase over 2015.
- The most common time of day for a motorcyclist to be injured in an accident is between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Fatal motorcycle accidents are most common between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. More motorcycle accidents happen on weekdays than on weekends.
- Older riders are more likely to sustain serious injuries in a motorcycle accident.
- Supersport motorcycles, designed for racing and modified for street use, are popular with younger riders and produce death rates four times higher than other types of motorcycles. They also have the highest overall collision losses.
- Direct costs of motorcycle accidents, including emergency services, medical costs, property damage, and loss of market productivity, are around $16 billion each year.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides these statewide statistics:
- In 2017, there were 9,707 motorcycle crashes, resulting in 515 fatalities and 7,725 injuries. Despite these numbers, there was actually a 6 percent decrease in crashes and injuries compared to 2016.
- Fatalities to motorcycle passengers increased over 23 percent in a year-over-year comparison between 2016 and 2017.
- In 2017, 2,139 motorcycle riders suffered incapacitating injuries in accidents, and another 3,521 suffered non-incapacitating injuries.
In Pinellas County, where Clearwater is located, motorcycle crashes and injuries are on the rise in recent years. Crashes have increased from 590 to 625 and injuries from 456 to 507 in a three-year period. Fatalities have hovered around 26 during that time.
How Do Motorcycle Accidents Happen?
While there are many factors that may lead to a motorcycle accident, some of the most common scenarios include:
- Head-on collisions: A head-on collision between a motorcycle and car carries the highest risk of fatality for the rider. These accidents often occur at high speeds, and may be caused by either the driver of the car or the motorcycle rider veering into a lane of oncoming traffic.
- Cars making left-hand turns: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains one-third of all multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes (those involving a motorcycle and at least one other vehicle) occur when a motorist making a left-hand turn drives into the path of the motorcycle. Motorcycles are less visible than other vehicles, and many motorists involved in these types of accidents later report that they did not see the motorcycle when they committed to making the turn.
- Lane splitting: Lane splitting is where a motorcycle rider drives between two lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars. Lane splitting is not legal in Florida, although it is legal in some other states. If an accident occurs while a motorcyclist is lane splitting, they may be partially or completely liable for damages.
Other common factors contributing to motorcycle accidents include:
- Road hazards, such as debris, potholes, or dangerous corners;
- Motorcycle defects, such as defective tires or brakes; and
Speeding by motorcyclists is especially risky because it gives riders less time to react to obstacles or hazards in the road, including other vehicles. Speeding by other drivers is also dangerous because motorcyclists have less opportunity to act defensively and avoid accidents.
Common Injuries Suffered in Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle riders do not have the benefit of the protections offered by other types of vehicles. The lack of airbags, seatbelts, the stability of four wheels, steel framing, and other physical barriers means motorcyclists are at high risk for serious and multiple injuries if an accident occurs. In fact, NHTSA reports 80 percent of all motorcycle crashes involve injuries to or the death of the motorcycle rider.
Some of the common injuries caused by motorcycle accidents include:
- Road rash, caused by contact with rough surfaces
- Internal injuries and bleeding
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Cuts and bruises
- Facial fractures
- Broken bones
- Traumatic amputation
- Traumatic brain injuries (the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents)
- Spinal cord injuries, including complete or partial paralysis
- Muscle damage
- Burn injuries, often caused by gas tank spillage
Florida Motorcycle Accidents in the News
The TCPalm reported a motorcyclist was killed in Port St. Lucie after a crash with an SUV in January 2019. The SUV was making a left-hand turn when the motorcycle rider attempted to pass a vehicle behind the SUV. The motorcycle struck the SUV, ejecting the rider, who died of severe head trauma at the scene.
Also in January 2019, the Bradenton Herald reported the plea of a woman whose daughter was injured in a motorcycle crash. The mother asked motorists to watch out for motorcycles and other vehicles. The woman was traveling behind her daughter, who was riding a motorcycle, when the driver of a Ford F-150 pulled out of a parking lot, crossed three lanes of traffic, and struck the motorcycle while it was stationary in a middle lane. The accident was just one of several recent motorcycle crashes in Manatee County, and of the previous five motorcycle crashes covered by the Bradenton Herald, four were fatal.
In December 2018 the Bradenton Herald reported a motorcycle accident shut down I-75 during morning traffic. In that case, a motorcyclist traveling down the interstate braked for no apparent reason, causing the motorcycle to turn over on its right side. It then continued sliding northbound. The driver fell off of the motorcycle and was struck by a car. He was then struck by three more vehicles. He died at the scene.
WFLA News Channel 8 reported a Clearwater accident that occurred in October 2018 and resulted in critical injuries for the motorcyclist. A 27-year-old rider from Lakeland had a green light when he approached the intersection. A 66-year-old motorist was making a left-hand turn at the intersection when she collided with the motorcycle. The motorcycle rider’s injuries were described as “life-threatening” and he was flown to a hospital in St. Petersburg. WFTS ABC Action News reported the Clearwater accident prompted the Florida Department of Transportation to change the blinking yellow yield arrow at that intersection to a red or green arrow during rush hour. The flashing yellow arrow had been a source of concern for many motorists using the intersection because of poor visibility of all lanes of oncoming traffic when making a turn. Since the accident, the flashing yellow arrow is only in use during overnight hours when there is less traffic.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Clearwater
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, regardless of the facts, you may have to negotiate with one or more insurance companies. If the insurance company fails to offer a fair settlement for all damages, you may file a personal injury claim against all parties who caused or contributed the accident by their negligence or recklessness. Speak to an experienced motorcycle lawyer as soon as possible if you need to file a personal injury claim.
There are several important Florida laws that may impact personal injury claims generally and motorcycle accidents specifically, including:
- No Personal injury protection (PIP): PIP coverage is mandatory for all owners of four-wheeled vehicles in Florida. However, the coverage is not required for motorcycles, and does not cover motorcycle riders or their passengers. This is true even if the motorcycle rider has purchased PIP for another vehicle that they own. Because PIP is not available for motorcyclists, they are excluded from coverage of up to $10,000 for emergency medical costs. However, motorcyclists are able to seek compensation from another motorist’s insurance carrier without having to meet the threshold of permanent injuries.
- Statute of limitations: Motorcyclists who have been injured in an accident caused by the negligence or recklessness of another person have up to four years to file a personal injury claim. Absent any applicable exceptions, a victim who fails to file within the four year statute of limitations may be precluded from pursuing any claims.
- Comparative negligence: Florida is one of many states with a comparative negligence rule. That means that anytime a victim has at least partial blame for the accident that caused their injuries, any award they may ultimately receive will be reduced by their percentage of blame. For example, if a victim is determined to be 30 percent responsible for their accident, and a jury awards them $100,000 in damages, the court will order that they receive only $70,000.
- Punitive damages caps: Punitive damages are reserved for only the most egregious cases of negligence or recklessness, and are rarely awarded. Designed to both punish the defendant or wrongdoer for their actions and to deter others, punitive damages are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages or up to $500,000, whichever amount is greater.
- Compensatory damages: Compensatory damages may be economic or non-economic, and may include (but are not limited to) past, current, and future medical expenses; lost wages; loss of income; property loss; permanent disfigurement or disability; costs of hiring help for household services; emotional distress; pain and suffering; and loss of consortium.
- Joint and several liability: Joint and several liability means a victim may seek compensation for damages from multiple parties if they each have at least 10 percent responsibility for the accident.
- Strict liability: If a product or part that was used on a victim’s motorcycle is found to have been defective, and those defects were at least partially to blame for the accident, the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer of those products may have strict liability for damages. That means a victim does not have to prove negligence, only that the part was defective and resulted in injury.
How Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Can Help
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence or recklessness of another motorist, or by a defective motorcycle or part, you may be feeling overwhelmed. Being in an accident may have serious physical, emotional, and financial consequences, and you should not have to deal with insurance companies and the other parties alone. Speak to an experienced motorcycle lawyer as soon as possible. It is an attorney’s job to represent their clients in negotiations, achieve fair settlements, and advocate for their client’s rights if litigation becomes necessary. Getting justice, whether through a settlement or a verdict and award of damages, may take months or even years. Don’t wait to get help for your case.
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA pride themselves on providing big law firm results with the personal attention of a small firm. We analyze the facts of every case, identify all potential claims, and use every available to tool to calculate accurate damages, both already incurred and anticipated.
While past results are no guarantee of future outcomes, some of the settlements and awards we have secured for our clients include:
- $320,000 for a motorcycle victim who had to undergo a one-level cervical spine fusion surgery. The case required eight months of litigation due to the low settlement offered by the insurance company.
- $750,000 for a motorcycle victim who had injuries that included a subdural hematoma and a rotator cuff shoulder injury. As a result of the head injury, he suffered loss of his executive functions, irritability, memory loss, and issues with concentration.
Call the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Today
Motorcyclists are at greater risk for physical injuries and related financial losses than other types of motorists who have been involved in an accident.The Clearwater motorcycle accident lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA are committed to providing professional representation and advocacy for the injured motorcyclists. Contact us today at (727) 451-6900 or online to schedule your free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.