Motorcycle Accidents FAQs
Motorcyclists know their bikes, their local roads and the risks of riding, but Jason Taylor also knows the law and how it applies to motorcyclists. Our firm’s goal is to protect the rights of motorcyclists who get into accidents.
Below we answer some questions that are frequently asked by motorcyclists we represent at The Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor. If you have been in a motorcycle accident, don’t hesitate to contact our offices in Charlotte or Hickory. We’re here to stand with you.
- What Does North Carolina Law say About Wearing a Helmet?
- Where is the Most Likely Place to get Into a Motorcycle Accident Caused by Someone Else in Traffic?
- What are the Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Crashes?
- What Kinds of Injuries are Most Common in a Motorcycle Accident?
- What Motorcycle Riders are Most Likely to be Injured in a Crash?
- Is Impaired Driving an Issue for Motorcyclists?
- I Worry About My Motorcycle Being Stolen. Am I Being Unreasonable?
- What times of day are motorcycle accidents most likely to occur?
- Why do I Need a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer After a Crash?
What Does North Carolina Law say About Wearing a Helmet?
Since 2008, North Carolina has required all motorcycle and moped riders to wear a DOT-compliant helmet. In addition to saving yourself a potential $25.50 fine for not wearing a helmet, you could save your life by putting one on.
While Jason E. Taylor is opposed to mandatory helmet laws and other laws of government intrusion into the rights of the people, helmets do save lives and reduce the severity of injuries. Legally, motorcyclists must wear a helmet that complies with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. This should not be a problem since all motorcycle helmets manufactured in the U.S. since 1974 are FMVSS 218-compliant.
A proper helmet will have a firm inner liner of polystyrene foam about an inch thick. It will also have a permanent DOT (Department of Transportation) emblem and a manufacturer’s label either glued or sewn into the interior. If you have questions about your helmet, check the Motorcycle Industry Council’s Helmet Check website.
A national report by the nonprofit Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that, “In the event of a crash, no existing strategy or safety equipment offers protection comparable to a FMVSS 218-compliant helmet. There are no compelling medical arguments against helmet use.”
In its annual report about motorcycle accidents, the NHTSA says helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. This means that, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing helmets, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.
The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,630 motorcyclists’ lives in 2013, and that 715 more could have been saved if every motorcyclist had worn a helmet.
Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have universal helmet laws like North Carolina. In states without universal helmet laws, 59 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2013 were not wearing helmets, the NHTSA says. In states with universal helmet laws, only 8 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes were riding without a helmet.
Where is the Most Likely Place to get Into a Motorcycle Accident Caused by Someone Else in Traffic?
As you may suspect, the most dangerous place for a motorcyclist is anywhere a rider must cross the path of oncoming traffic, such as intersections. Drivers turning left at intersections, whether in an urban or rural setting, are more likely to enter a motorcycle’s right of way and cause an accident, but that’s just one hazard to be on the lookout for.
In addition to cars that turn left in front of you, you need to watch for cars turning left from the lane to your right, and cars that pull into your lane from side streets. Another hazard is being “doored,” which is having someone in a parked car open their door right in front of your motorcycle.
Always look ahead and around you to spot potential hazards as you ride. Remember the SEE mnemonic:
- Search ahead, behind and around you for hazards created by traffic, pedestrians or road conditions. Look for alternate paths you can use to escape problems, especially at intersections, parking lots and construction zones.
- Evaluate how a potential hazard could affect you and how you can safely avoid it. Make sure you maintain enough distance between your bike and other vehicles, so that you have time to react to hazards or others’ unanticipated actions.
- Execute your crash avoidance plan safely. Adjust your speed by slowing, accelerating or stopping, as necessary, but signal your intentions by blowing your horn, flashing your lights and using hand signals. In cases of multiple hazards, prioritize and deal with them one at a time.
What are the Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Crashes?
Most motorcycle accidents are caused by collisions with another vehicle. Most of these crashes can be attributed to the driver of a car or truck.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) says more than half of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle. In most cases, according to the MSF, the other driver is at fault.
An influential study of motorcycle accidents and their causes, known as the Hurt Report (named for its author), concluded that:
“The most common motorcycle accident involves another vehicle causing the collision by violating the right-of-way of the motorcycle at an intersection, usually by turning left in front of the oncoming motorcycle because the car driver did not see the motorcycle. The motorcycle rider involved in the accident is usually inconspicuous in traffic, inexperienced, untrained, unlicensed, unprotected and uninsured, and does a poor job of avoiding the collision.”
Since the Hurt Report was published, there has been an upswing in motorcyclists taking appropriate instructional courses, and motorcyclists are more likely to be wearing DOT-compliant helmets and other protective gear, but the behavior of motorcyclists still contributes to crashes in several ways.
In 2013, according to the NHTSA, fatal crashes involved:
- 34 percent of all motorcycle riders, compared to 21 percent for passenger car drivers
- 28 percent of motorcyclists who were alcohol-impaired (BAC of .08 or higher)
- 22 percent of the motorcyclist who collided with fixed objects, compared to 18 percent for passenger cars
- 25 percent of motorcycle riders who did not have valid motorcycle licenses (North Carolina requires a motorcycle endorsement)
- 41 percent of motorcyclists chose to not wear helmets.
What Kinds of Injuries are Most Common in a Motorcycle Accident?
In a word, the most common injuries in motorcycle accidents are serious injuries. More than 80 percent of all reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death to the motorcyclist, the NHTSA says.
Motorcyclists, who do not have the structure of a vehicle to protect them in a collision, are five times more likely than car occupants to be injured in a crash and 26 times more likely to be killed, according to the NHTSA.
In a 10-year review of crashes, the NHTSA said the most common injuries suffered in motorcycle accidents are lower-extremity injuries, followed by upper-extremity and head injuries. The head, chest and abdominal injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash are likely to be more severe than injuries to the lower extremities, the study authors said.
Among lower-extremity injuries, leg injuries are the most frequent, particularly fractures of the tibia, fibula and femur bones. Pelvic and knee injuries were the second and third most common.
A German study said the use of helmets has reduced the incidence of head injuries, but they were still found in 20 percent of motorcycle crashes reviewed. Injuries to other parts of the body were more frequent, including leg injuries (67 percent), arm injuries (44 percent) and chest injuries (35.5 percent). It found that the most severe injuries were to the lower extremities and to the cervical spine (neck).
What Motorcycle Riders are Most Likely to be Injured in a Crash?
Motorcycling gained popularity around the age of the baby boomers. As that generation gets older, so the motorcycle accident victims. 40-year-and-older riders have steadily made up more and more of the total percentage of accident victims since 2004. By 2013, the average age of motorcycle fatality victims was 42. Like operating any vehicle, growing older increases your chances of being injured on a motorcycle.
Old school riders also tend to favor large-sized bikes that are prone to falling and rolling over. For young crowds, “Super sport” motorcycles are also said to kill riders as much as four times more often than other bikes. These bikes are designed to reach high speeds in a short amount of time, and speeding is one of the leading causes of motorcycle injury.
Is Impaired Driving an Issue for Motorcyclists?
Yes. Riding while impaired and getting into a motorcycle accident is one way too many motorcyclists injure or kill themselves.
In 2013, there were 4,399 motorcycle riders killed in crashes in traffic, according to the NHTSA. Of those, 1,232 (28 percent) were alcohol-impaired (had a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher). Another 305 (25 percent) who were fatally injured had BACs of .01 to .07 percent.
Of 1,897 motorcyclists killed in single-vehicle motorcycle crashes in 2013, 40 percent were alcohol-impaired. Sixty-three percent of motorcyclists killed in single-vehicle crashes on weekends were alcohol impaired.
In North Carolina, 184 motorcycle riders were killed in crashes in 2013, according to the NHTSA. Of them, 27 percent had a BAC of .08 percent or more, and 32 percent had a BAC of .01 percent or more.
Alcohol-impaired riders killed in motorcycle crashes were also less likely than non-impaired drivers to be wearing a helmet (46 percent vs. 66 percent).
I Worry About My Motorcycle Being Stolen. Am I Being Unreasonable?
It depends on your bike and where you live, but North Carolina ranks among the top five states for motorcycle thefts in 2013, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). So, you may have reason to be concerned.
The IIHS says motorcycle thefts fell 1.5 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, based on data from the National Crime Information Center of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Motorcycle thefts have been falling since 2008, but that trend seems to be leveling off, IIHS says.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau as quoted by the IIHS, the top five most likely stolen motorcycle makes are Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Harley Davidson.
There were 2,490 motorcycle thefts reported in North Carolina in 2013, which puts it fourth, behind California (6,637), Florida (3,725) and Texas (3,407), and ahead of Indiana (2,199).
The top five cities for motorcycle theft are New York City, Las Vegas, San Diego, Indianapolis and Los Angeles.
Here are several tips from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation for preventing motorcycle theft.
What times of day are motorcycle accidents most likely to occur?
Strictly by the total number of motorcyclists killed and injured in accidents, the hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. are the most dangerous time to ride. The trend for accidents grows worse as the time of day gets later, until it drops off at 9 p.m.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) statistics show 4,957 motorcyclists killed and 92,900 injured in accidents in 2012. Of them, 1,146 were killed (23.1 percent) between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. and 23,634 were injured (25.4 percent) in the same time period.
This 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. period combines roads crowded due to the afternoon rush hour with the likelihood that drivers are fatigued from a day’s work or drowsy due to a natural downtime in the sleep-wake cycle.
The afternoon drive time is worse on weekdays (25.8 percent of fatalities, 30.2 percent of injuries) than it is on weekends (20.3 percent of deaths, 18.2 percent of injuries). The morning rush is not as dangerous, with 8.2 percent of weekday deaths and 8.7 percent of weekday injuries happening between 6 and 9 a.m.
As evening falls each day, motorcyclists are more at risk from 6 to 9 p.m. (960 killed, 18,387 injured) than they are from 9 p.m. to midnight (701 killed, 9,343 injured). Accident rates continue to fall overnight before climbing again as the new day gets going.
Also, you might imagine that weekends are more dangerous than weekdays, but a total of 2,600 deaths and 55,884 injuries were reported on weekdays in 2012 and there were 2,345 fatalities and 37,016 injuries on weekends, according to the IIHS.
Why do I Need a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer After a Crash?
There are two primary ways a lawyer helps you after you have been injured in a motorcycle accident. He or she protects your rights and takes care of the work required for you to obtain the insurance settlement you are due for your injuries, damage to your bike and other losses. This allows you to concentrate on your recovery.
After a motorcycle accident, you will likely file an insurance claim, either with the holder of the at-fault driver’s liability insurance or with your own company if you have collision/comprehensive coverage or uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance, but in many cases, the other driver or even your own insurer will dispute your claim, particularly if you have been seriously injured and therefore have high expenses you are seeking to cover.
Insurance companies, which are for-profit businesses, after all, work to pay as little as they can on any claim. Many times, an insurance company will offer a settlement very quickly that looks good but does not and cannot adequately take into account all of your losses. An insurer could reject your claim, and you’ll have a hard time fighting it, especially if you are in the hospital or are recuperating at home.
A lawyer works to make sure you obtain compensation that adequately addresses all of your losses by negotiating with insurers or going to court when necessary. A motorcycle accident attorney will investigate your accident to prove who should be held liable and will fully document your losses, including future losses for anticipated medical procedures and/or diminished earning capacity, to ensure you are seeking a proper settlement.
Your attorney also acts as a go-between from you to insurers, doctors, hospitals and others, filing paperwork on your behalf and assuring creditors that a claim is underway and payment to them can be anticipated.
Contact an Experienced North Carolina Motorcycle Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a motorcycle crash in Western North Carolina, Jason Taylor is a skilled motorcycle accident attorney who you want by your side. Jason is a life-long motorcycle rider and sports enthusiast with extensive litigation experience. He understands these accidents and how the victims have been injured, and he is ready and able to fight for your right to be appropriately compensated for your losses.
Call or contact The Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor today at (800) 351-3008 for a free legal consultation with a lawyer who understands you and your needs.