According to information from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, although motorcycles only make up about 3 percent of the road users in the state, they account for about 15 percent of all traffic fatalities and about 19 percent of serious injuries in motor vehicle collisions. If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident in Seattle, you may be eligible for compensation. An experienced lawyer can help you to understand your legal options.
Why Are Motorcycle Accidents so Dangerous?
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the federal government estimated in 2016 that motorcycle riders are about 28 times more likely to die in an accident than the occupants of passenger cars. About one in every five motorcycle crashes in Washington State results in a serious injury, and about 75 motorcyclists die each year on Washington roads. There are several reasons why motorcycle accidents are so dangerous, including:
- Less protection than a car: Motorcycles lack the occupant protection characteristics of a car, such as door beams, a roof, seat belts, and airbags.
- Less stability: Motorcycles, with just two wheels, are less stable than cars, meaning that there is an increased risk of accidents caused by road hazards such as potholes, uneven lanes, or slick conditions.
- Less visibility: The drivers of passenger cars or commercial vehicles have a hard time seeing motorcycles, particularly at night, leading to accidents caused by cars turning into the motorcycle or into its path.
- Lane splitting: This dangerous practice involves a motorcycle riding between and within the same lane as cars that are slowed or stopped due to traffic. In spite of bills introduced by state lawmakers in recent years that are in favor of allowing the practice, lane splitting is illegal in Washington as well as most of the country.
- Lack of training or licensing: As reported by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, about 75 percent of the state’s fatal motorcycle crash victims had no record of a training program completion. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 27 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2015 were riding without valid motorcycle licenses. In Washington, you need a motorcycle endorsement to ride a two-wheeled motorcycle. This can be accomplished by completing a motorcycle training course at an approved motorcycle training school or by passing the knowledge and riding skills tests at a motorcycle training school. Riders in Washington can also get an instruction permit and pass a knowledge test in order to obtain the motorcycle endorsement on their license.
What Are the Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?
Just as there are a number of causes for car accidents, there are also a number of causes for motorcycle accidents. Here is a look at a few of those causes.
- Head-on collisions: These types of collisions generally happen when a car crosses the center line and strikes the front of the motorcycle. The reason this type of accident occurs is typically drunk or drowsy driving or a driving distraction that causes the driver to look away from the roadway. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2015 statistics reveal that 74 percent of the motorcycles involved in two-vehicle motorcycle crashes were frontal collisions.
- Cars making left-hand turns: In 2016, about 43 percent of two-vehicle motorcycle crashes occurred when a vehicle was turning left while a motorcycle was either going straight, passing or overtaking the vehicle.
- Collisions with fixed objects: According to a study of over 3,600 motorcycle crashes with fixed objects between 2004-2008, researchers found that accidents caused in this manner carried a higher risk of fatality than crashes involving another motor vehicle or a collision between the rider and the ground. Motorcycle collisions with a guardrail, for example, were 7 times more likely to be fatal than a collision with the ground. Collisions with a tree were 15 times more likely to be fatal than a collision with the ground.
- Speeding and alcohol use: More than half of all motorcycle fatalities in Washington are caused by speeding, alcohol or drug impairment, or both, the state’s Traffic Safety Commission reports. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2015, motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes had the highest percentage of impaired drivers of any vehicle type, at 27 percent compared to 21 percent for the drivers of passenger cars involved in fatal accidents, 20 percent for light trucks, and 2 percent for large trucks. Motorcycle riders are three times more likely to die in an alcohol-related crash during the nighttime than they are during the day.
- High performance motorcycles: Supersport motorcycles are built for the racetrack but modified for highway use. The combination between their light weight and the capability to increase speed very quickly causes them to be particularly prone to accidents. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission notes that about 86 percent of motorcycle fatalities on sport bikes are rider-caused. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that speeding was a factor in 55 percent of all supersport motorcycle crashes in 2016. The riders of sport models tend to be younger than those who ride standard, touring, or cruiser-style motorcycles.
What Injuries Do Motorcycle Accidents Cause?
When motorcycles are involved in an accident, the injuries to the rider can be quite severe. Some of the more common types of injuries seen in motorcycle crashes include:
- Head injuries: Serious head injuries are one of the most common causes of death among motorcyclists involved in traffic accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that in 2017, 39 percent of the motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Helmet use was much lower with passengers, with 61 percent of motorcycle passenger fatalities not being helmeted when the crash occurred. As noted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing helmets, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.
- Spinal cord injuries: The lack of a protective shell around the motorcycle rider and the high likelihood of ejection from the vehicle during an accident leaves the rider susceptible to spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries are often quite serious, leading to partial or complete paralysis below the site of the injury and, in many cases, can even lead to death. Science Daily reports that those suffering from a spinal cord injury will likely have lifelong issues related to their injury, including a higher risk of cardiovascular disease; pneumonia; life-threatening blood clots; bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction; gastrointestinal issues; pressure ulcers; and chronic pain.
- Road rash: Many people think that road rash is simply scraped skin. However, road rash can be very serious. Healthline describes the condition as the ripping or scraping away of the outer layers of skin. In a motorcycle accident, this occurs when the body makes contact with the roadway or other object. If several layers of skin are involved, skin graft surgery may be required. Serious road rash can feature visible muscles and bones, large foreign objects such as rocks or glass embedded in the skin, excessive bleeding, or a wound that covers most of a limb or the body itself. Infection is common and should be guarded against with careful cleaning and care of the wound.
- Leg and foot injuries: According to an article from Ride Apart, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 30 percent of all non-fatal motorcycle accident injuries were to the lower extremities. Further information referenced in the article, provided by the World Health Organization, revealed that the most common lower extremity injury to motorcyclists was a fracture to the tibia—one of the two long bones in the lower part of the leg. The other lower leg long bone, the fibula, is also a frequent site of injury in motorcycle accidents. Less common are fractures to the femur, which is the upper bone of the leg. Other common sources of lower extremity injury to motorcyclists include the ankles and the feet.
- Other fractures: Other common injuries to motorcyclists include fractures to the hands, wrists, arms, ribs, hips, and pelvis.
- Internal injuries: Internal injuries can be caused by objects coming in contact with the torso. The object may penetrate the body or the force in which it hits the body can create a closed injury. One danger of an internal injury is bleeding into the body organs.
- Dental or facial injuries: While a helmet can prevent serious head injuries, the rider’s face is typically not protected by the helmet. Because of this, as well as the large portion of riders and passengers who do not wear a helmet, it is not uncommon to see severe injuries to the rider’s face or teeth in an accident.
Filing a Lawsuit After a Motorcycle Accident
Washington is a traditional “fault” state when it comes to vehicle insurance and accidents. What this means is that drivers assume financial responsibility for the property damage and bodily injuries they cause when driving their vehicle. Upon registration of a motor vehicle in Washington, individuals must show proof of liability insurance with a policy limit of:
- At least $25,000 for injuries or death of one person in the accident
- At least $50,000 for total injuries or death in one accident
- At least $10,000 for property damage per accident
While this insurance is required for cars, motorcycles do not require insurance to be ridden in Washington. However, it is strongly recommended that motorcyclists purchase insurance to protect themselves and their finances in the event of an accident.
Those who have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in Washington have three options when seeking compensation for their injuries:
- File a claim with your own insurance, if you have a policy that covers personal injury and damage to your vehicle.
- File a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance. Be aware that insurance carriers are often reluctant to offer a fair settlement. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can help you to determine the value of your claim and negotiate a settlement that recognizes both your current expenses as well as those you will face in the future due to your injuries. Once you’ve signed a settlement agreement with the insurance company, you’re likely not going to be able to go back and ask for more money in the future, so it’s important to have a clear idea of the compensation you’ll need before agreeing to a specific amount.
- File a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover damages from the at-fault party.
Here are some more highlights regarding personal injury lawsuits:
- The statute of limitation on personal injury lawsuits is three years from the date of the injury.
- Washington is a “pure comparative negligence state.” What this means is that if you were partially to blame for the accident, you can still seek to recover damages from the other party. However, your award will be reduced to reflect your percentage of responsibility. For example, if you were found to be 10 percent responsible for causing the accident, your damage award will be reduced by 10 percent.
- Washington motorcycle accident victims may be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages through a personal injury lawsuit, including current and future medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
Were You Injured in a Motorcycle Crash? Let Us Help
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident in Washington, you are likely facing a long recovery from injuries. Pursuing a fair settlement or an award from a lawsuit can be a complicated legal process. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney understands this process and all of the necessary parts of it, including the valuation of your case, negotiation with insurance companies, court filing deadlines, and aggressive courtroom representation. You don’t have to fight this battle alone. Let us help. For a free consultation and case evaluation, contact Boohoff Law online or by calling (877) 999-9999.