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Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle accidents can touch on many areas of law, such as product liability, personal injury, and property rights. Motorcycles can be particularly dangerous vehicles. Many of the considerations before and after a motorcycle accident are no different than they would be for an accident between automobiles. However, there are some issues that are particular to motorcycle accidents.

Helmet Laws

Some states have laws that require motorcyclists to wear a helmet when driving. These laws are unpopular among some motorcyclists. Riders challenging these regulations have even been successful overturning them on constitutional grounds in some jurisdictions. However, it is inescapable that riders who do not wear a helmet are three times more likely to suffer a brain injury when they have an accident. State interest in the safety of motorcyclists and in keeping insurance rates low in their state has justified the implementation of mandatory helmet laws. None of this means that failing to wear a helmet will prevent recovery when an accident isn’t your fault. Nor does this mean that wearing a helmet will necessarily help your case. However, failure to wear a helmet, particularly where there is a law requiring that a helmet be worn, may help your opponent claim that your own negligence caused or contributed to the accident. This can reduce or even bar a claim for damages. It is always advisable to use the protective equipment your state requires. There may even be criminal penalties for failing to do so. On the other hand, evidence that an injured motorcyclist failed to wear a helmet is inadmissible in personal injury suits in some jurisdictions. Helmet laws are very inconsistent and regardless of how you decide to ride it is helpful to know what the law requires.

Motorcycle Defects and Recalls

Motor vehicles are frequently the subject of recalls, but this can be particularly important to motorcyclists since a defect has a much higher chance of endangering the driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and vehicle manufacturers themselves may issue a safety recall in response to a discovered defect. Whenever a safety recall is conducted the manufacturer must file a public report describing the defect, the involved product, the events leading to the recall, a description of the remedy, and a schedule for the recall. Motorcycle manufacturers also have a duty to try to notify owners of recalled vehicles. The manufacturer has a duty to remedy the defect without cost to the owner. A periodic check for recalls is one preventative measure motorcyclists can undertake to increase their safety. Certain kinds of accidents are also suggestive of a defect. A motorcycle with an alignment defect may experience a front-end wobble, particularly at higher speeds, that can result in an accident.

Motorcycle Accidents: Common Causes

Motorcycle accidents, though not necessarily more frequent than other types of accidents, are more likely to result in serious injury or death. According to the federal government, per mile traveled recently, there were 35 times more deaths from motorcycle accidents than from car accidents. Because of these alarming statistics, it pays for motorcyclists to learn about the most frequent causes of accidents and then use this information to reduce their level of risk.

Motorcycles in Head-On Collisions

Crashes involving motorcycles and other vehicles account for 56% of motorcycle accident deaths. In the vast majority of these accidents, the car strikes the motorcycle from the front –78% of the time. (The car strikes the motorcycle from the rear only 5% of the time.) Head-on collisions between a car and motorcycle are often fatal to the motorcyclist.

Cars Making Left-Hand Turns

The single most dangerous situation for motorcyclists occurs when cars are making left-hand turns. These collisions account for 42% of all accidents involving a motorcycle and car. Usually, the turning car strikes the motorcycle when the motorcycle is:
• going straight through an intersection
• passing the car, or
• trying to overtake the car.
These types of accidents are common between two cars as well, but the motorcycle’s smaller size makes it even less visible to the turning vehicle. Motorcycles that pass cars within the same lane are even more vulnerable cars don’t expect, and are often surprised by, such motorcycle maneuvers. Almost always, a vehicle that hits another vehicle while making a left-hand turn will be found at fault for the accident. However, if the motorcyclist was speeding or in the wrong lane, the motorcyclist may be partly at fault for the accident. In Utah, this means the motorcyclist will get less compensation from the driver of the car for injuries and damages caused during an accident. In a few states, the motorcyclists behavior could bar recovery altogether.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting

Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle drives between two lanes of stopped or slowly moving cars, usually in traffic jams. Lane splitting is a common cause of motorcycle accidents due to several factors:
• the close proximity of the cars to the motorcycle
• the reduced space the motorcycle has to maneuver, and
• the fact that the cars don’t anticipate that any vehicle or motorcycle will be passing them in slowed or stopped traffic.
If an accident occurs while a motorcycle is lane splitting, whether the motorcycle or car is at fault depends on whether lane splitting is permissible in that state, the views of the police officer and judge on lane splitting, and the actions of both the driver of the car and motorcyclist prior to the accident.

Motorcyclist Speeding & Alcohol Use

About half of the accidents involving a single motorcycle are caused by speeding or alcohol use. This statistic is not surprising and these factors play a large role in accidents among cars and other vehicles as well. However, because motorcycles don’t provide much protection to the rider, crashes involving speeding or alcohol are much more likely to result in death or serious injury.

Collisions Between Motorcycles and Fixed Objects

Motorcycles colliding with fixed objects accounts for 25% of motorcyclist deaths, but just 18% of car crash deaths. Again, because the motorcyclist is not surrounded by a box of metal and is likely to be thrown far and hard, such accidents are more deadly when riding a motorcycle.

Road Hazards Facing Motorcyclists

Motorcycles face higher dangers from road hazards than do cars and other vehicles. Due to the smaller size and less stable nature of the motorcycle, potholes, dead animals, slick pavement conditions, uneven heights between lanes, and other irregularities or unexpected objects in the road pose a serious safety threat to motorcycles.

Collecting Evidence After a Motorcycle Accident (for a Claim or Suit)
Motorcycles are more common on the roadways than ever before. According to the latest data available from the Federal Highway Administration, there were 8.6 million private and commercial motorcycles on U.S. roads in 2015, compared with 8.0 million in 2009. With the spike in motorcycle use, the risk of being involved in a motorcycle accident also increases. The most recent numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show there are approximately 5,000 motorcyclists killed in crashes per year and an estimated 88,000 motorcyclists injured annually. The lesson one can take away from these numbers is that motorcyclists are wise to prepare themselves in the event a crash occurs. Part of this preparedness is understanding what to do if a crash occurs, particularly strategies motorcyclists can use to make sure they collect the right evidence after a motorcycle accident to preserve their right to compensation if they are injured due to another motorist or pedestrian’s negligence. As a preliminary note, it is important to understand that after a motorcycle accident, making sure you and everyone else involved is safe is the most important matter to attend to. Accordingly, always seek medical attention if you need it or request help for others. After this, the second most important task is to make sure one collects two principal areas of evidence:
• accident evidence and
• evidence of damages.

Accident Evidence

Accident evidence involves anything that documents the details surrounding an accident. Collecting this type of evidence allows the often murky and confusing details surrounding an accident to be documented in order to determine who is liable.

Witnesses Of Motorcycle Accidents In Utah

Collect information such as name and contact information from witnesses and the parties involved. If other people were nearby that saw the accident makes sure you collect their names and contact information. It is also important to note that the police report of the accident should contain this information, but one cannot always rely on a police report to contain all the required information, particularly if witnesses leave the scene.


Cameras on mobile phones make it easy to document accident scenes. Some insurance carriers provide mobile phone apps to their customers that allow them to photograph damage from accidents to submit to their claims department. If possible, take photos of the scene of the accident. If you are unable to take photos due to an injury, ask a relative or friend or even someone you trust nearby to assist you. The following are things you should take pictures of:
• The accident scene.
• All vehicle damages.
• All physical injuries.
• Any evidence that shows road and/or weather conditions.
• The road itself, road signs, etc. at the scene of the accident
Although a person has a right to take photographs in public, it is important if someone tries to stop you from documenting the scene of an accident to communicate that the photos are for insurance purposes. If this does not stop an individual from interfering contact the police. Further, it is important to determine if any surveillance cameras or traffic cameras were in the area that may have documented the accident. If surveillance cameras or traffic camera was present, contact the owner and make certain the footage of the accident is preserved.

Written Description of the Accident

The amount of information a person must deal with after an accident can be overwhelming. If this information becomes too convoluted, it can make it difficult for an attorney evaluating the case to determine if a claim exists and the amount of damages which one may be entitled. Therefore, a good strategy involves maintaining a journal of everything that had happened at the accident, your medical injuries, your appointments, expenses, etc.

Police Reports

Police reports provide an important piece of evidence from an official third party who can also testify to his or her report in court if required. Generally, persons involved in an accident are provided the report immediately. However, if a report is not provided, one can be requested at the police department with jurisdiction over the accident.

Evidence of Damages

The second category of evidence a party involved in a motorcycle accident should collect involves documenting damages related to the accident. The process of collecting this evidence is often carried out over the long term. As a general rule, an injured party in a motorcycle accident may be eligible to receive financial compensation for injuries and expenses resulting from the wrongful actions of another. An injured motorcyclist may receive, at a minimum, the following types of compensation:
• Damages to compensate a party for the repair, replacement or loss of value done to their property
• Damages to compensate the injured party for the cost of medical care arising from the injury.
• Damages to compensate for lost earning capacity (an injury’s impact on present and future wages or “loss of earning capacity”).
• Compensation for the psychological impact caused by an injury. These are often referred to damages for “pain and suffering.”
Based on the compensation available a party injured in a motorcycle accident should collect the following evidence:
Documentation of Medical Treatments
It is important to make certain all dates of medical treatment and the names of medical providers are recorded for the purposes of collecting information about the case. Also, all bills should be collected with running total showing which bill has been paid by the injured party or by insurance.

Proof of Income and Lost Income

Documenting all present and future income is done by relying on pay stubs and tax returns.

Vehicle Damages Estimates and Repairs

Any property damage resulting from an accident should be documented with receipts for repairs, storage and towing to the repair shop. Further, it is important to maintain a record of receipts for the replacement of damaged properties; receipts for rental vehicles and documentation of any recent repairs or improvements made to your car shortly before the accident to establish the value of the vehicle at the time of the accident. Collecting the evidence after an accident can mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful claim for damages after a motorcycle accident. Although the tips provided above are not exhaustive, they offer a good starting point for your insurance agent.

Laws and Regulations

All motorcycle operators must:
• Have a motorcycle instruction permit or endorsement.
• Register their motorcycle and display a valid license plate.
• Carry liability insurance.
• Carry proof of insurance when riding.
• Wear eye protection: face shield, goggles, or glasses. Windshields do not meet legal requirements.
Motorcycle permits operators:
• Must wear a DOT-approved helmet.
• May not carry passengers.
• May not ride at night. Motorcycle permits are valid for one year.
Operators under the age of 18 must:
• Wear a DOT-approved helmet.
• Trike (3-wheel) and sidecar operators:
• Must have a motorcycle instruction permit, motorcycle endorsement, or “also valid for 3 wheel motorcycle” under restrictions.
• Has three wheels and a steering wheel.
• Operators are not required to have a motorcycle endorsement, or 3-wheel restriction, just a valid driver’s license.

Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

When you need legal help with a motorcycle accident lawyer in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

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