Across New York, there are more than 5,000 motorcyclists. Unfortunately, bike operators can often be involved in accidents which can cause them serious injuries, regardless of how safely they operate their bikes. Motorcyclists have very little protection and the injuries they sustain when involved in an accident are far more likely to suffer serious injuries than their counterparts operating a car.
New York Motorcycle Accident Statistics
In 2013, across the state of New York there were more than 5,000 motorcycle accidents, nearly one for every registered motorcycle. More than 2,000 involved a only the motorcycle, more than 2,500 involved at least two vehicles and nearly 250 involved three or more vehicles. As with any type of motor vehicle accident, there are numerous factors including:
- Driver related – More than 3,700 motorcycle accidents involved human error including in excess of 800 as a result of failure to yield, nearly 800 due to unsafe speed and 700 as a result of distracted driving. Alcohol and illegal drugs were cited as a cause in 145 motorcycle accidents on NY roadways.
- Vehicle related – Slightly more than 200 accidents were caused by issues with a vehicle including tire failure, defective accelerators and issues with steering.
- Environmental factors – The primary issue drivers faced on the roads that are uncontrollable included animals, slippery pavements and obstructed views among others which accounted for more than 800 accidents.
Statistically, accidents are caused by a number of factors and some are within the control of the motorcycle drive while others are not.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcyclists have a duty to operate their vehicles as safely as possible and protect themselves from preventable accidents. In addition, all other motorists are obligated to drive safely and show respect to motorcyclists on the road in order to avoid such accidents. Driver error is not always a factor in motorcycle crashes, as some of these accidents may happen due to hazardous driving or roadway conditions.
Some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents include:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Lane splitting
- Distracted driving
- Driving while fatigued (drowsy driving)
- Poor weather conditions (e.g. snow and ice)
- Roadway hazards
- Left-hand turn collisions
In the aftermath of a motorcycle accident, determining the cause and all related factors is usually one of the first steps. If you were involved in a motorcycle accident, consider speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine if you were the victim of negligence.
Injuries Sustained in Motorcycle Accidents
As with any type of accident, injuries occur but when a motorcycle operator is involved in an accident, chances are the injuries they sustain will be far more serious than an operator of a car since motorcycles offer no protection to drivers. Some of the more common injuries include:
- Head injuries – While most operators do wear helmets, they are often inadequate to provide the level of protection necessary to fully protect the head. Victims of motorcycle accident can suffer mild concussions and in more serious cases can suffer traumatic brain injuries.
- Road rash – Most people believe that road rash is a very minor injury but the fact is that road rash caused by a motorcycle accident often involves deep gouges in the skin that can lead to infection, nerve damage and in very serious cases, could involve amputations.
- Arm and leg injuries – Motorcycle operators are typically thrown from a bike when they are in an accident. This can result in long-term nerve damage to both arms and legs causing life-long pain, paralysis or broken bones.
Why Are Motorcyclists More Vulnerable to Injuries?
Motorcyclists are at a much higher risk of getting into a traffic accident and are much more likely to suffer serious injuries when an accident occurs. Motorcyclists are over-represented in fatal traffic accidents. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists were approximately 28 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in motor vehicle crashes and four times more likely to suffer injuries.
There are a few main reasons why motorcyclists are more vulnerable to accidents and injuries:
Lack of Protection
Drivers of cars and trucks have the added security of an autobody protecting them in the event of a crash. Motorcyclists are completely exposed to vehicles which means they suffer a direct impact in the collision.
More Vulnerable to Road Hazards
Road hazards can cause a motorcycle to crash much more easily than other motor vehicles. While car accidents also sometimes happen due to an unexpected hazard, it is much easier for a motorcyclist to lose their balance.
Relatively small hazards that may not affect a car can much more easily cause a motorcycle to crash. Some common hazards that may lead to a motorcycle accident include:
- Poorly maintained roadways – Motorcycle accidents are often caused by poorly maintained roads and rough conditions.
- Gravel – Gravel is a hazard unique to motorcycles, as motor vehicles are often capable of driving over it with no issues. Motorcyclists are vulnerable to accidents when encountering gravel, especially when taking corners. Running into gravel while traveling at high speeds further increases the risk of an accident.
- Slippery surfaces – Slick or slippery roadway conditions can be hazardous for all motorists but are more dangerous for motorcyclists. The relative lack of stability compared to cars leaves motorcyclists more susceptible to a crash when driving over slick road conditions, such as ice, snow, wet leaves, oil spills, etc.
- Debris – Any type of roadway debris can easily cause a motorcyclist to crash. Common examples include unsecured cargo from trucks, pieces of tires, tree branches, litter, and road construction equipment, among others.
- Uneven surfaces – Motorcyclists are at risk of getting into an accident when encountering uneven surfaces, especially at high speeds. A common example is an edge break, where two traffic lanes are at different elevations.
Limited Visibility to Motorists
Motorcyclists are much less visible than cars and trucks, which leaves them open to a collision if another motorist does not see them. This type of accident can occur even if the other driver only took their attention away from the road for a second.
Left-hand turns are one of the most common factors in motorcyclist accidents. According to the NHTSA, nearly half of all fatal crashes between a car and a motorcycle involved a car turning left at the time of the collision. These left-hand turn crashes are often caused by low visibility, along with distracted driving and speeding.
Determining Causes of and Fault
Under New York statutes, it is necessary to determine who is at fault for a motorcycle accident before filing a personal injury lawsuit. Since New York is considered a comparative fault state, if victims are partially responsible for the accident, any award they may receive for their injuries will be reduced by the percentage they are found to be at fault. For example, if a motorcycle operator is speeding and is struck by a drunk driver, the court may determine they are ten percent at fault for their injuries. If the award is $100,000, they will ultimately receive $90,000.
While the most important thing for victims of motorcycle accidents is to seek immediately medical attention, they should also do anything possible to determine if there were witnesses to the accident, make a note of the road conditions as well as any factors that may have contributed to the accident. A motorcycle accident attorney will typically use police reports and other information to reconstruct the accident to help them determine fault. Suits may be filed against the driver responsible for the accident, repairmen if the accident was caused by faulty maintenance and in some cases, by manufacturers if there was a mechanical defect.
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident or you have lost a loved one because of a motorcycle accident, contact an attorney who has the skills and experience in dealing with motorcycle accident claims in Upstate New York. The costs of medical care, lost time from work and damage to a motorcycle can all cause significant financial hardships for victims; hiring an attorney to protect your rights and serve as a strong advocate can help you recover financially after an accident.
Motorcycle Accident FAQ
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence of another party, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
Negligence is most commonly attributed to another motorist, but sometimes accidents are caused by other third parties. Some examples include
- Trucking companies for accidents caused by improperly secured cargo
- Other businesses for accidents caused by company vehicles
- Manufacturers of motorcycles and parts for accidents caused by defective parts
- Government agencies for accidents caused by poorly maintained roads or unaddressed road defects
What Damages Are Available in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?
When a personal injury lawsuit is filed for a motorcycle accident, the victim has the right to pursue financial compensation for all of the financial and personal difficulties caused by the crash.
Damages are commonly awarded in New York motorcycle accident lawsuits for difficulties like:
- Medical expenses (current and future)
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Past and future lost wages
- Property damage
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium for the loved ones of fatal accident victims
Contact Albany motorcycle accident attorney Paul Giannetti to learn more about which damages you may qualify for following a motorcycle accident.