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Riders injured in motorcycle accidents can face challenges when making claims for damages. Because of how vulnerable riders are in traffic accidents, motorcycle riding has a reputation for being a dangerous activity with a high risk of serious injury or death in accidents.
Motorcycle riders are thought to be bigger risk-takers than other motorists and, therefore, may have more responsibility for their injuries. This bias can make it harder to collect compensation after an accident.
Oros & Associates is a personal injury law firm that has been serving clients injured in motorcycle accidents in Alabama for over 30 years. An experienced Birmingham motorcycle accident lawyer can advocate for and protect the rights of injured motorcyclists.
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Birmingham Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Motorcycles provide no protection to riders during accidents; even with safety gear, injuries can be significant. This vulnerability makes it difficult for motorcycle riders to make claims for damages, as they may face biases and assumptions that they were responsible for their injuries due to the perceived risks associated with motorcycle riding.
Serious Motorcycle Accidents are Increasing
In 2020, 5,579 motorcyclists died in crashes in the US. That is the highest number of motorcycle fatalities recorded in any one year since 1975. Motorcycle accident deaths are also increasing as a percentage of all traffic fatalities – from 9% in 2004 to 14% in 2020.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also compiled the following statistics about motorcycle fatality accidents in 2020:
- Motorcycle fatalities occur 28 times more often than passenger car fatalities per mile driven.
- Speed was not a factor in the majority of fatal motorcycle accidents in every age group.
- Motorcyclists involved in multiple-vehicle crashes are less likely to be alcohol-impaired than motorcyclists involved in single-vehicle crashes.
- In fatal crashes with other vehicles, 76% of the motorcycles were hit in the front.
- The primary contributing factor in crashes with other vehicles was the other driver’s failure to yield the right of way to the motorcycle.
When and Where Motorcycle Accidents are Likely to Occur
Most traffic accidents in Alabama occur in the late afternoon and early evening. It is typically daylight, the weather conditions are clear, and the roadway is dry. Crashes are more likely to occur on two-lane roads where no traffic controls are present, and the road surface is level.
More accidents happen in the cities, but most fatal accidents occur in rural areas. Friday is the day of the week that tallies the most crashes. Saturdays record more fatality accidents. Crashes are more likely to occur within 25 miles of a driver’s home. Christmas and Thanksgiving are the holidays with the most fatal accidents.
Who is Most Often Injured in Motorcycle Accidents
When it comes to driving motorcycles, males outnumber females about 5 to 1. So it makes sense that men would be more likely to be involved in motorcycle crashes. Women are more often injured as passengers riding on a motorcycle.
Men in their 20s and early 30s have the most motorcycle crashes and fatal injuries, but older male riders also have a significant number of accidents. In 2019, men between 20 and 34 made up 36% of the motorcyclists involved in accidents in Alabama and 38% of the fatalities. Men between 50 and 64 were involved in 24% of the motorcycle accidents and accounted for 30% of the fatalities.
Who is At Fault in a Motorcycle Accident?
Determining fault in a motorcycle accident is an important first step in pursuing compensation for injuries. Alabama is one of a tiny minority of states that follows the rule of contributory negligence in personal injury cases. The rule states a person who has any fault for the accident causing their injuries is barred from recovery. It can be a harsh result for an injured motorcyclist who is found to be even 1% at fault for a crash.
It is, therefore, critical that all potential issues regarding fault be identified and analyzed to make sure no fault rests with the motorcyclist.
How Does Driving Without a License Affect a Motorcycle Accident Claim?
Driving a motorcycle without the proper license is a crime in Alabama. Getting into an accident while driving without a license can result in criminal penalties. But does it mean a motorcycle driver is at-fault for an accident and thus cannot recover any compensation for his injuries?
The charges and penalties for driving without a license are handled in a separate criminal proceeding and are not part of a civil action for a personal injury claim. Fault for an accident is determined by the conduct of the people involved at the time of the crash. If a motorcycle driver’s violation of the law did nothing to cause or contribute to an accident, it should not affect the ability to make an injury claim but it could reduce the damage award.
The Legal Impact of a Motorcycle Rider Not Wearing a Helmet
The Alabama Code requires anyone who operates or rides on a motorcycle to wear a helmet.
It’s well established that wearing helmets helps prevent serious head injuries and reduces the incidence of fatal motorcycle accidents. However, motorcycle enthusiasts continue to resist the helmet directive, and some do not wear helmets. How not wearing a helmet affects a personal injury claim depends on the claimed injuries.
If a person claims injuries to an arm or leg, a helmet would not have made any difference in the nature or extent of the injury and does not affect the claim. If a person was not wearing a helmet and experienced a head injury, the fact of not wearing a helmet is directly related to the claimed injury.
Unless not wearing a helmet somehow contributed to causing the accident, it should not prevent a personal injury claim but it may reduce the amount of compensation if it can be shown that a helmet would have minimized or prevented the claimed injury.
Alcohol Impairment and Motorcycle Accidents
Alcohol is a frequent enough contributing factor in motorcycle accidents to make it a difficult issue in motorcycle injury claims. Alcohol impairment is known to affect judgment and coordination. An injured motorcyclist who has consumed alcohol will need to demonstrate that he did nothing to contribute to the circumstances causing the accident. The fact alcohol was consumed does not establish fault in a motorcycle accident injury case.
But the more alcohol a person has in their system at the time of an accident, the more likely alcohol impairment will be an issue when determining fault. In Alabama, driving under the influence (DUI) is presumed when a driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08. A driver with a BAC between .05 and .08 must be proven to be under the influence. Drivers with a BAC of .05 or lower are presumed not to be under the influence of alcohol (unless they are under 21 years, a daycare worker, or a bus driver).
Significant Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Motorcycle accidents can cause injuries to any part of the body. It is common for the occupants of a motorcycle to separate from the bike when an accident occurs. The objects a body comes into contact with before coming to rest will determine the extent of the injuries. Injuries may be visible, but there can also be harder to detect internal damage.
Head and Brain Injuries
Helmets protect a motorcycle rider’s head from direct contact with objects and are good at preventing skull fractures and open head injuries. What helmets are not as efficient at is preventing injuries to the brain even though the skull is not penetrated.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur when the force of a crash or the jolting of the head or body causes the brain to slam into the inside of the skull. The brain tissue can be physically damaged, which, in turn, can cause bleeding and swelling inside the skull.
TBIs are classified as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the symptoms experienced. Moderate and severe TBI can lead to permanent disability and death. A brain injury may not be immediately recognized and may develop slowly over days or even weeks after an accident. The damage may include physical, cognitive, and behavioral changes and limitations.
Spinal Cord Injuries
When a rider is thrown from a motorcycle, the resulting impact can injure the spine and sometimes the spinal cord. Injuries to the spinal cord cause damage to nerves and result in impaired sensory and motor function.
The most common area of the spine damaged in motorcycle accidents is the mid back or thoracic spine. When a spinal cord injury occurs to the thoracic spine in a motorcycle accident, it tends to result in almost complete loss of both sensory and motor function below the point of injury.
Making a Personal Injury Claim after a Motorcycle Accident
Motorcycle accidents can result in severe injuries with lasting consequences. Injured drivers and passengers have the right to collect compensation for their injuries as long as they do not have any fault for causing the accident.
It is crucial for motorcyclists to present a compelling version of how the accident happened so they can be relieved of any liability. It is important to understand the significance of potential issues and what to do to minimize or eliminate their impact.
The Birmingham motorcycle accident attorney at the law firm of Oros & Associates helps clients injured in motorcycle accidents avoid fault and recover the maximum available compensation for their injuries. For a free consultation about your motorcycle accident in Alabama, contact Oros & Associates.
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When & Where Accidents Occur
Who Is Injured The Most
Who is At Fault
Driving Without a License
Legal Impact of No Helmet
Alcohol Impairment & Accidents
Significant Accident Injuries
Head and Brain Injuries
Spinal Cord Injuries
Jim is an outstanding lawyer, very capable. Jim has a great command of the law and is very thorough. He is detail oriented and does not waste time. I am happy with the outcome of my case.