Are motorcycle wrecks that different from car accidents?
Yes — in a few important ways.
Atlanta motorcycle injury firm Scholle Law explains.
As any motorcyclist will say, it feels amazing to be out on the bike! Whether you’re riding by yourself for an overnight excursion using your tail bag to hold the necessities, you’re on a day trip with your significant other to find that local shop on the other side of the North Georgia mountains, or you are just enjoying the freedom of the ride, we hope you enjoy your time.
But whether you are the person controlling the speed, brakes and handlebars or you’re riding shotgun, please remain extra cautious and alert at all times.
As a motorcycle operator, you have the responsibility to take every precaution necessary. Some precautions are optional, others are common sense, and some are specific to local and state laws.
- Has my motorcycle received a tune-up recently?
- Is the exhaust sound adjusted so other drivers can hear me coming?
- Is my helmet, and potentially the helmet of the rider using my sissy bar, been D.O.T. approved?
- Have I dressed in appropriate riding attire, including leathers and boots?
- Am I making smart decisions on my bike to avoid the temptation of illegally “threading the needle” in heavy Atlanta rush hour traffic?
Questions such as these can expose whether or not you’re doing everything in your power to reduce the risk of a wreck and prevent a motorcycle accident.
But even if you take every possible step to avoid a wreck, the unfortunate reality is that accidents can still happen. When they do, a crash involving a motorcycle differs in several notable ways from a collision between cars or trucks.
Motorcycle accidents are more common
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2-wheeled vehicles were involved in 9 out of 10 fatal crashes. Motorcycle crashes are most likely to happen on busy, urban roads on the weekends. And it’s not just the young and reckless who fall victim to motorcycle accidents. Over half of all motorcycle riders killed in accidents are 40 years old or older.
Most of us are familiar with the warning “Look Twice, Save a Life.” These days, motorcycles are everywhere and some riders even put a bumper sticker on their automobile reminding other drivers to look out for motorcyclists. However, that doesn’t mean that all drivers around you have the same sense of awareness when you are in their blind spot and they merge over into your lane.
Passenger car and truck drivers often make the same mistakes when turning. Even though you are right there, they may not see you and, as a result, they might hit you with their vehicle. Most motorcycle accidents occur at intersections where the other driver turns into the path of an oncoming motorcycle. For these reasons, motorcyclists must be extra aware of their surroundings, anticipating other drivers’ intentions and reacting quickly with defensive agility.
Motorcycle accident injuries are often more severe
In the event of an accident, it’s too late to go back and change your earlier decisions. When someone is hit in a passenger vehicle, they have the seat belt, airbags, roof and frame of the vehicle to protect them. However, when you’re on a motorcycle, it’s just you, the road, the other vehicle and nature that surrounds us all.
While auto accident injuries can be serious, motorcycle crash injuries are often much more severe because of the violence of the impact, the lack of protection for the rider and the likelihood of ejection from the bike.
Even in a relatively “minor” vehicle accident case, crash victims frequently deal with health issues such as whiplash, bruising and swelling, lacerations, and even spinal disc damage. In the case of motorcycle accidents that the insurance company labels a “minor” accident, the injuries sustained can be significantly more.
Quite often, there are broken bones, spinal cord injuries, shoulder and hip dislocations, knee injuries and serious road rash. In the most catastrophic cases, the result of a motorcycle crash can be a lifelong brain injury, paralysis, or even death.
In Georgia, 154 motorcycle riders lost their lives in 2018. Although only 3 percent of registered vehicles are motorcycles, motorcyclists account for up to 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and have a fatality rate that is 27 times higher than passenger vehicle occupants.
Motorcyclists often get a bad rap
Motorcyclists frequently encounter an additional hurdle that other drivers don’t experience: negative stigma. Riders often come up against a bad reputation and insurance companies know how to exploit this unearned bias against motorcyclists to their advantage.
We’ve all seen someone on a sportbike ducking and dodging traffic because their motorcycle is more agile than a Ford or Dodge truck. Unfortunately, it’s not out of the ordinary to hear these stories on the local news or see a biker doing this in traffic. Just like there are reckless drivers out there, there are also aggressive and dangerous motorcyclists.
The rub is that even if this is NOT what you were doing when the accident happened, these portrayals of unsafe motorcyclists can be misplaced onto you. This negative bias can have real consequences on your motorcycle accident claim, as insurers and judges are more apt to question your degree of fault and unreasonably lower your claim settlement as a result.
For this reason, it’s important that you work with a Georgia motorcycle accident attorney at Scholle Law who understands this unfair stigma and can take steps immediately to stop it from undermining your injury claim.
What to do after a Georgia motorcycle accident
Following an auto accident, the first call made should be to 9-1-1—always and without exception. It’s imperative that the police come out to assess the situation, get emergency medical treatment for those who are injured, have the vehicles removed from the scene, collect statements from drivers and witnesses, and prepare an accident report.
If you are injured at the scene, accept the help that is offered and go to the hospital. This is only the beginning of your treatment process. Your bike will be taken to a safe location and you can get your personal belongings at a later time.
The responding police officer should give you a business-sized card or a printout of the accident information, including the accident number. This will be very important in establishing your personal injury case later on. The accident report will give an accounting of the events of the crash, as well as establish the responsible party and cause of the accident.
Often, the responsible party will be issued a ticket that will refer to a specific violation on the accident report. For example, the citation number will be listed and correlated with OCGA 40-6-71 (Failure to Yield When Turning Left). Failure to yield at an intersection and failure to maintain lane (merging into the motorcyclist’s lane) are a couple of the most often seen automobile driver violations when a motorcycle is involved.
Your next phone call should be to your insurance company. Even if you’re not-at-fault for the accident, the wreck still needs to be reported to your insurance company by virtue of your signed contractual obligation. Depending on the extent of your injuries and the number of people involved, you may need to fall back on your own insurance company to help pay your claim. Sometimes, it’s easier to have your insurance company handle the property damage costs through your own collision coverage and they will go through the subrogation process to get your deductible back to you.
When to contact an experienced Atlanta motorcycle accident attorney
Depending on how the insurance conversation goes and the extent of the injuries you’ve sustained, you might be considering calling a law firm at this time. How do you decide where to begin and who you should call? Look for an attorney with the experience to understand the differences between auto, truck, pedestrian, commercial vehicle and motorcycle accidents.
At Scholle Law, we are proud to be your wingman and have your back when it comes to dealing with the insurance companies. We have the knowledge, experience, strength and resourcefulness to make sure that you are fully compensated for your injuries. We’ve fought hard and won countless times against the insurance companies for refusing to pay or minimizing damages caused to our clients. We would be honored to represent you with the same force and determination.