Motorcycle accident-related deaths and injuries are on the rise in California. The California Office of Traffic Safety reports that there were 519 motorcycle accident fatalities in 2014. This is a 12.1% increase from 2013, when the state reported 463 motorcycle accident fatalities. Improving economic conditions, increases in tourism, reports of driving under the influence of alcohol, and attractive California land and seascapes have all been blamed for the rise in traffic accidents in the state. While more traffic bodes well for California’s economy, it also poses a threat to the safety of motorcyclists who are relatively unprotected on their bikes. Those who are injured in California motorcycle accidents may be entitled to monetary compensation for any damages they suffer as a result of a motorcycle crash.
California Motorcycle Accident Injuries
California has more registered motorcycles than any other state in the country. Motorcyclists are generally less protected from danger than passengers in trucks, buses, and other passenger vehicles. Statistics show that motorcycle riders are 27 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than those other passengers. If a motorcycle accident is not fatal, the rider is still likely to suffer serious and potentially debilitating injuries. Common motorcycle accident injuries in California include lacerations, broken bones, fractures, traumatic brain injury, whiplash, concussion, spinal cord injury, disfigurement, loss of limbs, road rash, internal organ damage, and paralysis. Victims who suffer these and other injuries can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages from the person (or persons) responsible for causing the crash.
Liability in California Motorcycle Accidents
California permits victims of motorcycle accidents to seek financial compensation for injuries and other damages sustained because of a California traffic accident. Victims may choose to file a personal injury claim for damages, which is generally based on the theory that someone else’s negligence was the cause of an injury. California is a state that follows the rule of comparative fault. This allows motorcycle accident victims to recover compensation even if they, too, are partly to blame for an accident. If a motorcycle rider contributes to an accident, his or her ability to recover compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to them. So, if a motorcycle rider is determined to be 50% responsible for an accident, his or her ability to recover compensation from another party will be reduced by 50%. If they suffer injuries and damages costing $100,000 they will be limited to recovering $50,000 in a personal injury claim.
Potentially liable parties in California motorcycle accidents can include:
- Motorcycle riders;
- Drivers of other passenger vehicles;
- Commercial truck and vehicle drivers;
- Employers of commercial drivers;
- Car, truck, and motorcycle manufacturers; and
- Government entities.
Recovering Damages After a California Motorcycle Accident
California generally allows motorcycle accident victims to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Damages that can be awarded will depend on the actual injuries suffered by the victim. The damages are divided into two categories for many reasons, but there are two primary purposes. First, economic and non-economic damages are awarded to compensate victims for distinct harms. Economic damages are awarded to essentially reimburse a victim for monetary losses they suffer (or are projected to suffer) as a result of an accident and injury. These often include medical bills and lost wages. These are verifiable and objective costs. Non-economic damages are awarded to compensate victims for more subjective harms. These often include mental anguish, loss of companionship, embarrassment, or disfigurement. The value of these harms are difficult to determine and are calculated on a case-by-case basis. The severity of the injuries and the degree to which an at-fault party was negligent are factors to be considered in an award of non-economic damages.
Second, economic and non-economic damages are subject to different tax treatment. Economic damages are generally not subject to income tax. This is because these costs are considered to be a reimbursement of monies already spent by the victim. Had the victim not suffered an injury they would not be forced into these economic expenditures. Non-economic damages generally are subject to income tax. These damages are awarded in addition to compensation for economic harms.
Hiring an Experienced California Motorcycle Accident Attorney
When you are involved in a California motorcycle accident you should take certain steps to protect your future. First, seek medical attention immediately. Even if you do not believe that you were injured in the crash, a thorough medical examination can be instrumental in any future claims for damages. Second, contact the police and request a police report. Third, contact and hire an experienced motorcycle accident attorney. Insurance companies will do everything in their power to minimize the amount(s) they pay after an accident. An attorney can ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you are not forced to accept a lowball offer.
Thank you to our friends at Citywide Law Group for the guest blog post!
“At Citywide Law Group, our skilled motorcycle accident attorneys have the knowledge and experience necessary to help you recover the compensation you deserve after a California motorcycle accident. We offer our legal services on a contingency fee basis. This means that we do not collect a fee unless and until we recover compensation on your behalf.”