Motorcycle accidents can be devastating to motorcycle riders because unlike motor vehicles, motorcycles have no bumpers, no seatbelts and no airbags. Personal injuries from a motorcycle accident are generally much more severe to both riders and passengers than those experienced by the occupants of car. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in an accident compared to people in a car. Therefore, it is important for both car drivers and motorcyclists to watch out for each other in order to prevent accidents.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
The most common motorcycle and car accident collisions are caused by a driver making a left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle. In Massachusetts, motorcycles are not as prevalent as in other states, and a motorcycle can be easy to miss because a driver is not expecting it to be there. When driving a car, always check twice when making a turn. Keep in mind the expression, “Check twice, save a life.” If driving behind a motorcycle, keep your distance and give it as much room as you would a car.
Statistics show that in approximately 77 percent of fatal motorcycle accidents, the motorcycle was struck in front, with only 7 percent struck in the rear. Significantly, in 41 percent of the fatalities, the motorcycle was going straight and the other vehicle was turning left.
Other motorcycle accident causes include the motorcyclist riding in the blind spot of a motor vehicle, sudden evasive movement as a result of road conditions such as potholes, wet leaves or other obstructions, and obstructed sight for large vehicles such as sport utility vehicles or truck that may block motorcyclists entirely.
Proving a Massachusetts Motorcycle Accident Case
In order to obtain compensation for your damages, you must prove that:
- The other driver was responsible for the accident (that he was negligent);
- You were injured;
- Your injuries were caused by the other driver’s negligence; and
- That you met one of the Massachusetts Tort Threshold requirements.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
The most catastrophic motor-vehicle accident injuries often involve motorcycle accidents since a rider and passenger have no protection in a collision and are often ejected from their seats. Some of these injuries include the following:
- Spinal injuries: Fractured vertebra, herniated discs, and nerve damage as well as paralysis can easily occur when a rider is thrown into a car, tree, barrier, or onto the roadway.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI): Full-faced helmets can dramatically decrease head and face injuries, but many riders do not wear helmets or they wear one that just covers the top of their heads. Severe concussions, intracerebral hemorrhaging, and facial fractures are not uncommon. These can lead to significant cognitive impairments in speech, memory, coordination, learning, and behavior.
- Internal injuries: Internal bleeding and injuries to vital organs can occur if protective clothing is not worn even in minor collisions.
- Disfigurement: Many riders wear short-sleeved shirts, sneakers, and shorts in warm weather and risk permanent scarring and disfigurement from severe road burns and lacerations.
- Fractured bones: Many motorcycle riders sustain fractured bones when involved in motorcycle crashes. Protective motorcycle gear can help reduce the risk of fractures.
Compensation For Your Motorcycle Accident Injuries
When you are injured in a motorcycle accident, the other driver was at fault and you meet the statutory requirements you are entitled to receive compensation for:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages;
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Scarring or disfigurement; and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
However, under Massachusetts law, you are not entitled to pursue a separate claim for Personal Injury Protection benefits for lost wages and medical bills if you are injured while riding a motorcycle (211 Code Mass. Regs. § 3.00).
Safety Precautions to Avoid Motorcycle Collisions
As the minority on the road, motorcycle riders need to take the initiative for their own safety, including the following standard safety precautions:
Wear a helmet and proper gear. Riders without a helmet are 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury in an accident and three times more likely to suffer brain injuries than those who wear a helmet. Also, wear the right gear to protect yourself from wind, flying bugs, debris and road rash. Because car drivers who have hit a motorcycle often say they just didn’t see them, consider wearing bright colors to stand out.
Studies have consistently found that motorcycle helmet use saves lives and reduces the probability and severity of traumatic brain injuries, the cost of medical treatment, the length of hospital stay, the necessity for special treatments, and the probability of long-term disability. Helmet use increases significantly with mandatory helmet use laws.
In Massachusetts, the law requires that every person operating a motorcycle or riding as a passenger shall we4ar a protective head gear, and requires eye glasses, goggles, or a protective face shield if there is no windshield.
Watch your speed and stay alert. Based on past IIHS data, about 48% of yearly motorcycle fatalities involved excessive speed, and alcohol or drugs were a factor in about 42% of such accidents. Nearly half of all motorcycle fatalities were the result of single-vehicle accidents.
Ride defensively. Research has found that in collisions involving a motorcycle and a car, car drivers were at fault 60% of the time. Be aware of cars suddenly changing lanes, pulling out from side streets, and at intersections where left-turn accidents most often happen. Keep your distance from other vehicles to ensure enough room to stop and for reaction time to unforeseen conditions. Avoid another driver’s blind spots and stay to the left or right of a car in front of you so you can be seen. Keep your headlights on day or night to stay visible.
Invest in antilock brakes. According to the IIHS, motorcycles with antilock brakes are 37% less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than motorcycles without them. ABS helps riders retain steering control during an emergency stop and in slippery conditions.
Check your motorcycle before each ride. Improperly inflated tires greatly increase safety risks. When tires are underinflated, steering gets hard and the motorcycle may not lean or react as expected.
Motorcycle Accident Claims
If you can prove that another driver caused your accident and you meet one of the requirements of the Massachusetts Tort Threshold, you may be able to pursue a claim for your damages.
Some of the different types of car accident claims you may pursue are a bodily injury claim against the other driver and an uninsured or underinsured claim. However, PIP coverage is not available.