Motorcycle AccidentsOver the past several decades, many campaigns have been started to increase awareness of the dangers faced by motorcyclists. Despite these efforts, national statistics show that motorcyclists are nearly thirty times more likely than car drivers to be seriously injured or killed in an accident. Several factors contribute to this, including the open nature of motorcycles and the higher tendency of other drivers to miss motorcyclists on the road. An overview of common actions resulting from motorcycle accidents is discussed below, including the means of recovery available to those injured in such accidents.
Injuries To MotorcyclistsAll drivers that use Kansas roads have legal obligations. These obligations deal with everything from keeping a car registered to only driving while alert and sober. An overarching obligation is to operate vehicles in a safe and responsible manner, as to not put any other drivers in danger. When a driver fails to act reasonably and causes an injury to another, the injured individual can seek damages to compensate for injuries caused. This type of claim is known as negligence and it is the most common type of claim for personal injuries. Despite the factors noted above, motorcyclists are not entitled to a heightened level of awareness or safety from fellow drivers. Instead, the law will simply impose the same requirement of reasonableness on drivers whether they strike motorcyclists or other motorists.
Other laws that control how individuals must operate vehicles on public roads can also create civil liabilities. If a driver violates a law, that violation can be the basis of a unique type of negligence claim. These claims are called “negligence per se,” simply meaning that the legal obligation the defendant driver breached was a narrower law than that of safe, responsible operation. So long as the motorcyclist can show the law that was violated existed to protect other drivers from injuries caused by the type of collision that occurred, the motorcyclist can recover for injuries he or she suffered.
Injuries Caused By MotorcyclistsMotorcyclists are also the same legal obligations when using roads. These include the obligation to operate their motorcycles in safe, reasonable, and responsible way. When these obligations are breached, injuries that result from the breach can be redressed just as with other motorists. However, a large number of accidents in which a motorcyclist is at fault do not result in injuries caused by the car and motorcycle colliding. Instead, the other driver may be forced to make split-second maneuvers to avoid a motorcyclist that is driving carelessly. These choices can result in striking barricades, highway dividers, other vehicles, or even running the car completely off the road. Even without a motorcycle-to-vehicle collision, a negligence claim can still exist.
The key to determining if a motorcyclist is responsible for injuries suffered in such accidents is determining if the motorcyclist’s actions were the actual and proximate cause of individual’s injuries. Actual cause is a rather straightforward question: but for the actions of the defendant—in our case, the motorcyclist—would the injury have occurred? If the answer is yes, the actions are not the actual cause because it did not substantially factor into the occurrence. It is important to note that there will likely be several actual causes of an accident; this is normal and perfectly acceptable. Proximate cause is a bit more difficult to predict. Despite its name, proximate cause is really a question of foreseeability. Specifically, if the defendant should have foreseen that his or her careless actions could place the plaintiff in harm’s way. When a superseding act occurs that is too unforeseeable, the court will not hold the defendant liable, citing lack of proximate cause. An example might include a motorcyclist speeding next to a car, causing the car to quickly change into an open lane to the right just as a helicopter crashes on to the car. But for the actions of the motorcyclist, the other driver would not have been injured, so actual cause exists. However, the crashing of the helicopter is a superseding act, too unforeseeable to the motorcyclist to make the speeding the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries.
Actions Of A Motorcyclist Hit By A CarWhether deserved or not, motorcyclists have a reputation in the minds of most car drivers. And this reputation is mostly unflattering, reflecting tendencies to speed and make rapid, frequent lane changes. This stereotype, like all stereotypes, is unfair. This is most true when a motorcyclist is injured in an accident. However, Kansas law treats all motorists identically when bringing a claim of negligence: the defendant is allowed to present evidence of the injured plaintiff’s careless actions leading up to the accident. The jury will ultimately have to assign a percentage of fault to each party, totaling 100%. So long as the plaintiff is only attributed 50% fault or less, he or she can still recover. The recovery will be negatively affected, though. The percentage of fault reduces the monetary award granted by the jury, percentage for percentage. Common examples of factors that can be used to attribute fault to a motorcyclist are speeding, rapid lane changes, and even failure to wear a helmet (which will be argued to have increased injuries sustained). A final consideration is the reputation discussed. An experienced lawyer will recognize the danger that individuals on the jury may have these negative ideas of motorcyclists, which would fail to give the plaintiff an impartial jury. To combat this, counsel will remove these individuals through a process known as voir dire.
Accidents involving motorcycles are both common and deadly. Individuals can experience injuries far greater than those generally occurring in accidents between cars. If you are injured as a result of a motorcycle accident, it is imperative that experienced legal counsel be contacted. This is because motorcycle injuries pose special challenges that not all attorneys may be ready to tackle. Only with great trial experience and dedication can an attorney be sure that an injured motorcyclist is given a fair chance to present his or her case and get the recovery deserved.