Motorcycle Accidents in California – How to Prevent Them
California is a very popular place for motorcyclists, and it’s easy to see why. This popularity is due, in large part, to the delightful weather motorcyclists can enjoy all year round. Unfortunately, the popularity of motorcycles in California contributes to a high number of on-road collisions and fatalities.
Understanding why motorcycle accidents happen in California is important to help investigators uncover details about who was at fault. Below, you’ll find in-depth information on motorcycle accidents and how they are investigated in California.
What Causes Motorcycle Accidents in California?
There are a variety of reasons why motorcycles accidents occur. Making a sharp turn too quickly and hitting the gravel can result in minor injuries even if the driver was riding at a low speed. At faster speeds, poor road conditions and vehicle failure can lead to many motorcycle accidents.
However, these variables contribute to a very low percentage of all motorcycle collisions in California.
More serious and life-threatening motorcycle accidents happen to external circumstances outside of the control of the motorcyclist. These types of collisions often involve another motorist and lead to deadly consequences for the rider. Some accidents can be caused when a motorist changes lanes directly in front of the motorcycle. An accident can also be caused when a vehicle hits a motorcycle from the back. Usually, drivers may not see the motorcyclist or may become distracted before a collision.
Tips for Prevention
Since most motorcycle accidents are not caused usually by riders, motorcyclists must be active in driving defensively at all times. The first and most important safety tip for all motorcyclists is to wear a helmet. It goes without saying that helmets save millions of lives every year by preventing the adverse effects of trauma, concussions, and chronic brain injuries during a collision. Motorcyclists should always be aware of their surroundings and try to make themselves more visible to other motorists, especially in the dark.
Not drinking and riding is an important safety tip, as many motorcycle accidents involve alcohol. Of course, abiding by the rules of the road and using your motorcycle in a safe manner can significantly reduce the chances of a serious accident as well. California has recently become the first state in the country that permits lane-splitting for motorcyclists. This law has been long overdue and already allowed in other continents, such as Asia and Europe.
Lane-splitting, also known as stripe-riding or lane-sharing, happens when a motorcyclist rides between rows of slow-moving or stopped traffic in the same direction. In California, lane-splitting does not give motorcyclists a free pass to ride dangerously through traffic. Instead, it should only be practiced with caution in situations where it’s necessary.
Does Lane-Splitting Cause Motorcycle Accidents in California?
Lane-splitting can cause motorcycle accidents when it’s done improperly. In a traffic jam, motorcyclists can easily weave through traffic and get to where they’re going. In other situations, this practice can be considered dangerous and should be avoided.
There isn’t any reputable evidence to suggest that lane-splitting leads to a high majority of motorcycle collisions. Most motorcycle accidents are caused by the other motorist. Again, it’s up to the rider to assess the risk of lane-splitting and perform the practice only when necessary.
Vehicles are naturally required and will share the road with motorcycles in traffic. This sometimes leads to conflict. Many drivers do not want to share the road with motorcyclists and get enraged when they see them trying to pass them.
This is especially true in a traffic jam. While some drivers don’t intentionally want to cause a wreck, they can cause one by trying to speed up past a biker.
Additionally, a lot of drivers can’t see motorcyclists in their blind spots, as opposed to other cars and trucks. Bikers who regularly engage in lane-splitting may want to consider making their motorcycle louder for other motorists to notice them.
When is Lane-Splitting Permitted?
In California, lane-splitting is permitted only when there is slowed or stopped traffic in the same direction. Bikers should not engage in lane-splitting when traffic is going at or near the legal speed limit. To avoid a serious collision, motorcyclists are strongly advised to reduce their speeds when lane-splitting to a few miles an hour over the speed of traffic. Other motorists perceive lane-splitting to be overly-risky and even dangerous.
When used incorrectly, that is correct. On the other hand, lane-splitting may be safer for bikers rather than sitting in congested traffic. In fact, the American Motorcyclist Association has provided its support for lane-splitting as a safe practice overall. Congested traffic is highly dangerous for bikers because of the safety concerns involving rear-end accidents. Rear-end accidents are the most common type of auto collisions.
These accidents usually happen during rush hour when vehicles are bumper-to-bumper, and there is a small margin of error. A rear-end motorcycle accident could lead to two deadly situations.
- A motorcycle “tapped” from behind by a vehicle at low speed can be knocked off their bike.
- A motorcycle rammed from behind by a vehicle at moderate or high speed can be thrown several feet into oncoming traffic.
Is Lane-Splitting Legal in California?
There isn’t any law in California that legalizes lane-splitting. There simply isn’t any legislation that prohibits it. Since there isn’t any law against lane-splitting, many people assume that the practice is legal – and it technically is.
In 2016, Governor Brown did sign Assembly Bill 51, which defined the practice. The legislation provided the California Highway Patrol authority to produce guidelines for safety regarding lane-splitting. California is the only state in the United States where lane-splitting is not illegal. Although lane-splitting is technically legal in California, bikers can be charged with traffic violations while engaging in the practice.
Typical traffic violations while lane-splitting include:
- Following too close
- Unsafe lane changes
Does Lane-Splitting Lead to More Accidents?
The answer to this question is unclear, with both possible answers being unsupported. Proponents of lane-splitting argue that it’s a completely safe practice that keeps bikers safe. Opponents of lane-splitting claim that it’s dangerous because other motorists may not see bikers. Lane-splitting can lead to a vehicular accident, but so can other driving activities. More often than not, the motorcyclist will receive more significant injuries in a collision, and most bikers aren’t going to put themselves in that type of position by being overly reckless.
Who is Usually Responsible for Most Lane-Splitting Accidents?
Like other traffic accidents, police officers are responsible for investigating the cause of the crash. A police officer’s assessment of the party at fault for the crash is an opinion used to decide whether to issue a traffic citation. Assessing fault can be much more complicated, and some police officers make incorrect judgments about motorcycle accidents. A motorcycle accident conducts an extensive investigation to uncover all of the facts of an accident.
Sometimes, subject experts can analyze the components and facts of a motorcycle accident to determine what really happened and who was truly at fault. With California being a pure comparative negligence state, determining the cause of a motorcycle accident is critical. Any type of fault given to a person involved in a motorcycle accident can lower the amount of compensation they can receive for damages and injuries.
With that said, each party will need to compile evidence that proves that the other party was either completely or mostly at fault for the collision to maximize the amount of compensation they can receive to pay for damages, losses, and injuries. There are many parties that could be at fault for causing an accident.
In addition, Since bikers who engage in lane-sharing can be perceived as careless and reckless, insurance companies will often try to automatically blame them when the accident is not always their fault. All motorcycle accidents are different, and you should always seek counsel from a motorcycle accident lawyer to prove your case, reduce your liability, and maximize your earning potential.
Determining Fault – How Motorcycle Accidents Occur
In the beginning stages of filing a California motorcycle accident claim and seeking compensation for the damages caused by an accident, it’s first pivotal to understand how fault is determined. California is an at-fault state or a tort-liability state. This means that the liability of damages in the aftermath of a motorcycle accident is dependent on the party that’s at fault.
Under comparative negligence, which is the legal precedent in California, the plaintiff’s awarded compensation can be reduced according to their degree of fault. For this reason, it’s essential to prove the degree of fault for the defendant at the highest possible extent. Many motorcycle accidents are caused by the carelessness of other drivers. Don’t be easily fooled into taking the blame for an accident you didn’t cause, especially if you’ve suffered serious injuries and damages.
Examples of common errors that cause motorcycle accidents include:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Driving while distracted
- Failing to yield
- Driving aggressively
- Illegally changing lanes and tailgating
Sometimes, a third party (such as the party responsible for road maintenance or the vehicle manufacturer) could be the cause of the accident.
Determining the Value of Your Motorcycle Accident Claim
In addition to proving that the other party was completely or mostly at fault for your motorcycle accident, you must also provide evidence highlighting the degree of damage you suffered due to the collision.
Motorcyclists involved in an accident suffer worse injuries than the other party. This is especially true when the biker isn’t wearing a helmet. Typical motorcycle accident injuries include:
- Spine and spinal cord injuries
- Internal injuries (bleeding)
- Bone fractures
- Neck and back injuries
- Scalp and facial injuries
- Traumatic head and brain injuries
- Road burn/rash injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Loss of use of limbs and amputation
These serious injuries are not the only consequences in the aftermath of a motorcycle accident. These injuries can also lead to emotional anguish and physical pain over a long period of time. Many victims also suffer pain and suffer or develop long-term disabilities after a motorcycle wreck. Perhaps the most devastating consequence is physical impairments that can prevent the biker from returning back to their normal life, working a normal job, and maintaining normal relationships with family, friends, and loved ones.
Financial losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and rehabilitation expenses can add up and overwhelm bikers. Many bikers injured in motorcycle accidents are legally entitled to press for compensation for some or all of:
- Physician expenses
- Emergency room treatment expenses
- Ambulance/emergency transport expenses
- Surgeon expenses
- Anesthesiologist expenses
- Physical therapy
- Lost wages and benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Prescription medications
- Hospital stays
- Assistive devices
If you require ongoing care or need future treatment, your California motorcycle accident attorney may claim the following merits of your claim:
- The estimated value of future benefits and wages
- Diminished earning capacity and potential
How to Document and Support Your California Motorcycle Accident Claim
A well-supported motorcycle accident claim is vital to winning your case and receiving compensation for your damages. Typical elements of evidence include:
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Accident scene reconstructions
- Income statements
- Witness statements
- Accident scene photographs
It’s important to hire an experienced motorcycle accident attorney that will gather extensive evidence to prove your claim. The sooner this evidence is gathered, the less likely you’ll have to deal with the degradation of vital components over time.
Valuable testimony can be gathered from the following:
- Medical Experts – A medical expert can provide testimony and professional opinions regarding the extent of treatment you received, future treatment, and the nature of your injuries.
- Economic Experts – Economic experts can determine the value of opportunity losses, benefits, and future income.
- Vocational Specialists – These experts can provide expert testimony on your declined earning capacity. They can also attest to special recommendations you will require to perform your job.
- Life Care Experts – These planning experts can provide insight into the extent and type of care you will need if you’re not capable of caring for yourself to some extent.
What to Do After a Motorcycle Crash
Following these steps after a motorcycle accident will help to maximize the amount of compensation you can receive in the aftermath of your claim.
- Call the police and report the accident.
- Seek medical care.
- Exchange necessary information with the other motorists.
- If you can, gather evidence at the scene of the accident. For example, take pictures of the aftermath of the accident, your injuries, and damage to your vehicle.
- Call your insurance company and report the accident
With that said, here are some tips you should follow:
- Do not admit fault.
- Your insurance adjuster may seem like they’re working on your behalf when their job is really to save their employer money by finding ways to lower the value of your claim.
- You don’t have to accept the first settlement offer. In fact, you should hold out and receive a much higher offer in advanced negotiation talks.
- You have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim.
Contact a California Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today!
Being involved in a motorcycle accident can be a traumatic experience. At Arash Law, we’re committed to helping motorcycle accident victims recover compensation for their losses. We’ve recovered more than $200 Million on behalf of our clients and are standing by to help you too. To schedule a free case evaluation with an attorney, give us a call at (888) 488-1391 or contact us online today.