What to do in case of a motorcycle accident. Protecting your rights.

Riding is serious fun.

Randy W. Ivie, Attorney at SANDERS LAW FIRM

While not for everyone, an increasing number of people count themselves among those who understand the thrill of riding a motorcycle.  Whether sport, cruiser, or dresser, little can compare to the exhilaration of twisting the throttle and feeling the road beneath you as you lean into the turns.

The thrill, however, is not without serious risks.  If you ride a motorcycle for any length of time, the odds are that you will be involved in an accident.  And, even more to the point, when you are involved in an accident while riding a motorcycle, you are far more likely to be physically injured.  Of the accidents involving motorcycles in North Carolina in 2009, only 13% resulted in no physical injury.  Non-fatal injuries were reported in over 83% of the accidents involving motorcycles, with 4% of the accidents resulting in a fatality.  In other words, if you are in an accident, the odds are better than 4 to 1 that you will suffer injury or death.

If you’re going to ride, take a few precautions to lower the risks of injury.

Even the most experienced rider cannot avoid the risks that other motorists present on the road.  While you cannot control the decisions and actions of others on the road, you can take responsibility for your own well-being.  A few simple steps can decrease the odds that you will suffer an accident and greatly increase the odds that you will survive one.

Never drink and ride.

It is not difficult to ride a motorcycle, but it requires more coordination and attention than driving a car.  That’s part of the excitement – riding a motorcycle is an engaging experience. 

Half of all motorcycle accidents involve only the motorcycle and these accidents account for more than half of the rider fatalities.  That’s not to say that the rider is always at fault when the bike is the only vehicle crashed.  It may simply mean that the rider was able to avoid colliding with another vehicle.

Riding with less than all your abilities and focus is asking for trouble.  In 2009 close to 12% of the accidents involving just a motorcycle also involved alcohol.  You don’t have to be anywhere near the legal limit for alcohol to affect your coordination and response time.  On the back of a bike is not the place to be with alcohol on board.   That goes for rider and passenger. 

Avoid riding when tired or distracted.

Of the motorcycle accidents in 2009, inattention was listed as a contributing factor more often than alcohol.  That may explain in part why the majority of motorcycle accidents (over 75%) occur while the rider is travelling straight ahead!  A number of these are at intersections, but a significant number occur on the wide open road.  Maneuvering a motorcycle requires more coordination and attention than driving a car, but even a rider can become dazed by the white lines or distracted by something on the side of the road while riding along a straight section of pavement.  The more exhausted you are the more likely you are to momentarily lose your concentration.  Last year, lack of attention was cited as a contributing factor in almost 13% of the motorcycle accidents.  If you are riding for extended periods of time, take frequent breaks to stop, get off, and walk around.

Avoid blind spots.

A second reason that so many accidents occur while the rider is travelling straight down the road is that other drivers are not able to see the rider in their blind spots.  If you cannot see the driver in a side view mirror, the driver cannot see you.  And while riders have legitimate reason to criticize inattentive or distracted drivers (the cell phone comes to mind), the limited size of a motorcycle contributes to the problem.  Avoid riding next to or too close behind a vehicle where you cannot be seen.  The safest way to share the road is to operate your motorcycle as if no other driver can see you.

Make yourself and your bike more visible.

Most accidents with motorcycles result from the failure of others to see the rider and bike.  In fact, over 70% of accidents involving a motorcycle take place during daylight hours, when the bike and rider should be most visible.  There are ways to increase your visibility, however. 

While no one wants to look like a clown, you can wear colorful clothing.  Since you have to wear a helmet by law anyway, why not extend its usefulness.  A brightly colored helmet not only helps protect your head, it announces your presence.  Be sure and use your signals and headlights.  A flash of your brights before entering an intersection may help prevent a driver from trying to turn in front of you.  Whatever you do, keep reminding yourself that other drivers do not see you.

Always obey your state and local laws.

When it comes to laws, helmet or otherwise, you need to know and obey them.  Laws are intended to help keep you safe.  Not surprisingly, the number one contributing factor in motorcycle accidents, some 35% of all accidents, is related to speed, whether it’s exceeding the posted limit, exceeding a safe speed for the conditions, or failing to properly reduce speed.  As far as disobeying the law goes, the second largest contributing factor in motorcycle accidents is operating the bike in an erratic, reckless, careless, negligent, or aggressive manner.

Besides decreasing the risk of accidents, there is another reason for riders to obey the laws.  Obeying them can protect your rights to recover from anyone who causes you harm while riding.  Under North Carolina’s longstanding contributory negligence doctrine, an injured rider who is even 1% responsible for causing the injuries can be barred from recovering damages from someone else, even if that person is 99% at fault.  In truth, juries often ignore minor fault on the part of a plaintiff where the defendant is obviously much more at fault.  However, one who is at fault for injuring a rider will be looking long and hard to find some way in which the rider contributed to the accident.  Obeying the laws lowers the chance that the rider will be found responsible.

Purchase adequate insurance.

Given the risks and the likelihood of an accident, every rider must make sure to have ample motorcycle insurance.  In North Carolina, you cannot operate your motorcycle unless you carry the minimum insurance coverage required by law.  However, this is one more area where a rider should go well above and beyond the requirements of the law.  This is particularly true in the area uninsured and underinsured coverage. 

Even if you are injured through no fault of your own, the party at fault is likely to be carrying only the minimum amounts of coverage required by law.  The minimum coverage will only provide $30,000 for each person (you may have a passenger) whether you live or die.  If you know anything about medical care these days, you are aware that for $30,000 you might get an aspirin and a pair of crutches.  You need to purchase uninsured and underinsured coverage in an amount no less than several hundred thousand dollars to make sure that you and any passenger are covered above and beyond the limits of the person at fault.  This is particularly true if you do not have personal medical insurance.

What to do in case of a motorcycle accident.

What you do after you have been involved in a motorcycle accident can greatly influence what you receive in compensation for your injuries.

The first thing to do after a motorcycle accident is to seek medical attention.  Your first impulse might be to downplay the significance of the incident.  However, under the emotion and adrenalin of the moment you’re not in the best position to assess your injuries.  Leave that to professionals in the emergency department, who are trained to make such assessments and to document what they find.  If they find any injuries, have them document that these were from the accident.

Be careful if you give a statement to the police.  Insurance companies will be sifting through such statements trying to find some reason that you were at fault for the accident.  And, do not talk to an insurance company after the accident.  They will be trying to settle with you quickly for the least amount they can get away with.  Any insurance settlement offer they make will be based on this goal and not on the goal of making you whole. Once they get you to sign a release, you are forever barred from any future recovery.

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident or someone you love has been, you may be entitled to compensation from the person or persons that caused the harm.  If you have not contacted an attorney, call our law firm now.  Damages may include medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages and future expenses associated with any injuries.  As an avid rider and attorney, Randy Ivie understands the thrill and the risks of riding and the need to protect your health and your rights when you have been injured on a motorcycle through no fault of your own.

Contact Sanders Law Firm 336-724-4707 to handle your motorcycle accident attorney needs.  We’re protecting your rights throughout North Carolina. Greensboro, High Point, King, Winston-Salem, Kernersville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Hickory