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Often a crash with a motorcycle is caused by a car or truck hitting the smaller two-wheeled vehicle, but not always.  Sometimes the motorcyclist is at fault for an accident.  Motorcycling can involve high-risk behavior by inexperienced riders who are paying little attention to the well-being and safety of other motorists on the road.  When this happens, a motorcyclist can cause accidents that harm other people in the vicinity.

If you’ve been injured in a crash caused by a motorcyclist, you may be entitled to financial compensation.  Experienced Alabama motorcycle accident lawyers at Caldwell Wenzel & Asthana can explain your legal rights and assess whether you have a claim.  For a free initial consultation, call us at (251) 444-7000.

When could a motorcycle rider be at fault?

There are times when a motorcycle driver could be at fault.  Some instances are obvious, while others may be more subtle.  In all cases, the actions of the motorcyclist would have to meet the legal definition of “fault” or “negligence.”  The following are examples of potential instances in which a motorcycle driver could be at fault:

  • Riding a motorcycle while drunk or under the influence of drugs
  • Recklessly weaving in and out of traffic, oblivious to the safety of other motorists
  • Disregarding road signs and failing to use turn signals
  • Speeding
  • Passing another driver on the shoulder
  • Tailgating
  • Texting while riding a motorcycle
  • Driving through a pedestrian crosswalk without stopping.

The best way to determine whether a motorcycle driver is at fault is to talk to a motorcycle accident lawyer and explain the facts in your case.

If a motorcycle driver is at fault, how do you prove it?

A plaintiff in a motorcycle accident injury claim will need to prove negligence to have a successful claim.  “Negligence” refers to one party’s careless or reckless behavior, ignoring the safety of others and causing harm to an individual.  The four elements of proving negligence include:

1. Duty

The defendant in a motorcycle accident claim owes the plaintiff a legal “duty of care” to ensure the safety of other motorists.

2. Breach

A plaintiff must show that the defendant breached this duty by doing, or failing to do, something that a reasonable person would have done in a similar situation.

3. Causation

A plaintiff must show that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident that resulted in plaintiff’s injury.

4. Damages

Damages means that there’s a monetary way of compensating a plaintiff for their injuries. 

Believing a motorcycle driver is at fault and being able to prove it are two different things.  It takes more than a rude or indifferent motorcyclist.  The motorcycle rider must have breached his or her duty of care, endangered the safety of other motorists or pedestrians and caused injury for which financial damages can be awarded.  Also, in addition to other motorists or pedestrians, sometimes the injury caused by a motorcyclist is to a passenger riding on the back of the bike.

Risks of motorcycle riding

Motorcycle accidents are not uncommon, and because motorcycles weigh less and offer less protection than cars and trucks, a motorcyclist is often injured severely in crashes.  Some of the risks of motorcycle riding include:

Low visibility

Motorcycles can be hard to see in traffic and are often not visible in a car’s side or rearview mirrors.  Divers in other vehicles can cut off a motorcyclist, veer into their path or open a door in front of an oncoming motorcyclist because they cannot see the small, quick motorcycle.

Less protection

Rather than steel doors, a roof and significant bumpers, a motorcyclist has only a helmet and boots for protection in the event of a crash.  That’s why there are often traumatic head injuries, broken bones and road rash in motorcycle accidents.

Inadequate skill level

People drive cars every day, but many motorcyclists are new to cycling or only ride on the weekends.  Less time on a bike means less skill and agility, which can lead to accidents.

Hazardous road conditions

While gravel and potholes are relatively easy for a car or truck to maneuver around with minimal impact, these road conditions can spell disaster for a motorcyclist.  Spinning out on gravel or going over the handlebars after hitting a pothole can cause severe injury and trauma to a cyclist.

Potential damages in a motorcycle accident case

When you’ve been injured in a crash caused by another driver’s negligence, you may be entitled to damages to cover your losses. You should not be stuck with the costs of an accident caused by someone else.  The compensation you may be able entitled to includes:

  • Current and future medical expenses, including doctor and hospital bills, lab tests, X-rays, rehabilitation, costs of medical equipment and devices, and handicap-accessible home modifications, if necessary
  • Lost wages due to time off work
  • Loss of future earnings if you become disabled or are not able to perform at as high a level as before the accident
  • Pain and suffering due to trauma, depression, anxiety, fear or phobias
  • Loss of consortium (typically filed by a spouse), providing compensation for diminishment of loving companionship and care, in some cases
  • Punitive damages meant to punish the negligent party in cases of especially egregious negligence.

Statute of limitations in motorcycle accident claims

In motorcycle injury claims, as in most personal injury cases in Alabama, a plaintiff has two years from the date of the injury to file a legal claim.  Sometimes injuries show up immediately, but other times injuries can take days or weeks to appear.  So if you’ve been injured in a motorcycle crash, contact a lawyer promptly before you run out of time.

Motorcycle helmet laws in Alabama

Alabama law requires anyone who rides or operates a motorcycle to wear a helmet with a hard shell and a non-crushable material that endures road impact.  Passengers on motorcycles must also wear helmets that are specifically designed for riding.  The helmet must also have interior padding and a permanently attached chin strap.  Protective headgear requirements are described in law at Section 32-12-41.  The only helmet exception to the law is for a passenger riding in an enclosed motorcycle sidecar.  Alabama statute Section 32-5A-245 describes in greater detail laws about headgear, shoes and responsibility for juvenile riders.  There are additional Alabama laws regarding motorcycles that govern rules of the road.

What to do if you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident

If you’ve been hurt in a crash with a motorcycle, you should take the following steps:

  1. Call 911 and ask that police and medics respond to the scene of the accident.  Accept medical treatment that is offered, including being transported to the hospital by ambulance if required.
  2. Get the name, contact info, driver’s license number and insurance company of the other driver.
  3. Answer police officers’ questions succinctly, but do not try to explain yourself and DO NOT admit responsibility for the crash.
  4. If you are able, use your cell phone camera to take pictures of your injuries and the crash scene.
  5. Get the names and contact info of any eyewitnesses and bystanders so they can be interviewed later by your lawyer.
  6. Do not sign anything from the insurance company of the other driver.
  7. Hire a skilled and experienced motorcycle accident attorney to represent your legal rights, and direct all communication from insurance company representatives to your lawyer.

Common injuries in motorcycle accidents

Because there is so little protection for motorcycle riders (helmets and little else), motorcycle accidents can cause severe and sometimes fatal injuries.  But innocent drivers and passengers in other vehicles can also be injured by a reckless motorcycle driver.  Some common injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord and neck injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Lacerations and “road rash”
  • Injuries to internal organs
  • Sprains, bruises and contusions
  • Concussions
  • Internal bleeding
  • Loss of limb/amputation
  • Coma
  • Wrongful death.

If you or a loved one has suffered a similar injury after a crash caused by a motorcycle, you could be entitled to collect damages.

Contact Caldwell Wenzel & Asthana today

Motorcycle crashes are often severe and deadly.  They can involve multiple vehicles.  These wrecks can happen in an instant, because motorcycles are hard to see and have little visibility in rear-view mirrors.  Motorcyclists can also be involved in risky behavior, weaving in and out of traffic and speeding, with little regard for the safety of other motorists.  If you’ve been injured or a loved one has been killed in a crash with a motorcycle, you could be entitled to financial compensation to cover the cost of medical bills, lost wages, extended care and property damage.

The motorcycle accident lawyers at Caldwell Wenzel & Asthana have proven case results that show we know how to win meaningful settlements and jury awards.  You can read our client testimonials to find out what our satisfied clients have to say.  To find out more about how we can help, call us for a free initial consultation at (251) 444-7000.