For motorcycle enthusiasts, no other mode of transportation can come close to the feeling one gets from riding a motorcycle. However, there is no denying the fact that motorcycles are far more dangerous than passenger vehicles. Many tragic motorcycle accidents can be prevented if motorcyclists and the motorists who are sharing the road understand the common causes of motorcycle accidents and how to prevent them.
While motorcycle accidents can happen anywhere, New Jersey’s dense population and its heavily travelled highways, including the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and interstate highways, make devastating motorcycle accidents far more likely. In addition, motorcyclists are much more vulnerable to catastrophic injuries and fatalities if they are involved in an accident since there is nothing protecting them from the impact of the crash. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 80 percent of motorcycle accidents result in a serious or fatal injury.
What are the Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?
There are a wide range of hazards that can increase the risk of a serious motorcycle accident, including the following:
- Unsafe lane changes: This can occur if a motorist fails to check their blind spots or signal before changing lanes. Since motorcyclists are much smaller than the average passenger vehicle, motorists may not see the motorcycle if it is in the car’s blind spot.
- Speeding: This is one of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents. The faster the vehicle is travelling, the greater the force of impact at the time of the collision. In addition, when a motorist is speeding, they will be less likely to be able to react quickly to another motorist in the vicinity and avoid an accident. When a motorcyclist is involved, the consequences can be particularly devastating since there is nothing protecting them from the extreme force of the impact.
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol: When a motorist gets behind the wheel after having too much to drink, it can seriously impact their coordination, reaction time, and ability to maintain control of the vehicle. Drunk driving accidents involving motorcyclists can result in severe injuries and fatalities. If a motorcyclist is severely injured or killed in a drunk driving accident, the impaired driver may face civil and criminal liability.
- Lane splitting: Despite being extremely dangerous and illegal in some states, some motorcyclists will engage in lane splitting, where they will drive between two lanes of traffic, particularly if traffic is moving slowly. Oftentimes, motorcyclists will perform a lane split in an effort to avoid a rear-end collision, which can be deadly if the oncoming vehicle is travelling at a high speed. This is dangerous because of the close proximity of the cars to the motorcycle, the limited space that the motorcycle has to maneuver, and the fact that many other motorists do not anticipate being passed by a motorcycle when traffic is slowed. While lane splitting is not illegal in New Jersey, it is very dangerous for the motorcyclist and can cause a serious accident if another motorist does not see the motorcycle riding between lanes.
- Head-on collisions: These are some of the deadliest accidents, regardless of the types of vehicle involved. A head-on collision involving a motorcyclist almost always results in a fatality.
- Cars making left turns: This is extremely dangerous for motorcyclists. Right-of-way errors and misjudgments of distance when making a left turn are some of the most common causes of injuries and fatalities for motorcyclists. Oftentimes, motorists do not see a motorcyclist who is driving straight through an intersection when they are about to make a left turn.
- Road hazards: Potholes, uneven lanes, slippery roads, and other hazardous road conditions are particularly dangerous for motorcyclists due to their smaller size and the fact that they are much less stable than the average passenger vehicle.
- Inexperienced drivers: Newly licensed or inexperienced drivers may be more likely to make mistakes, fail to check blinds spots, or lose control of the vehicle if road conditions are hazardous. This can seriously jeopardize the safety of motorists, including any motorcyclists who are in the vicinity.
- Motorcycle defects: If the motorcycle was poorly designed or has a defective part, this can be extremely dangerous for the motorcyclist, particularly if the defect is only discovered after it has caused a devastating accident.
- Accidents with fixed objects: In some cases, a motorcycle accident may not involve another motorist. While less common, collisions with fixed objects can cause very serious injuries, particularly if the motorcyclist was travelling at a high speed. Examples of fixed objects include buildings, phone poles, trees, guardrails, fences, parked cars, construction signs, and walls.
- Inclement weather conditions: Heavy rain, strong gusts of wind, ice, and snow can cause very hazardous driving conditions. In addition to the road conditions, other motorists on the road pose an additional hazard if they are not using extra caution, reducing their speed, and paying close attention to other vehicles in the vicinity, including motorcyclists.
- Motorists who make sudden stops: When a motorcyclist is travelling behind a vehicle and the driver makes a sudden stop, it can be very difficult for the motorcyclist to slow down or come to a complete stop. Depending on how fast the motorcyclist is travelling, a rear-end collision can cause the motorcyclist to suffer a range of serious injuries.
What are the Most Common Types of Motorcycle Accident Injuries?
Motorcyclists are very vulnerable to injuries, even if the accident is relatively minor. Wearing a helmet, sturdy boots, goggles, and other protective gear can help reduce the severity of certain injuries. However, some injuries are simply unavoidable. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), a motorcyclist is four times more likely to suffer a fatal injury in an accident compared to the occupants of the motor vehicle. The following are examples of some of the most common types of motorcycle accident injuries:
- Broken bones
- Muscle damage
- Spinal cord injuries, including partial or total paralysis
- Limb amputations
- Road rash and skin infections
- Sprains, strains, and torn muscles and ligaments
- Head injuries
- Organ damage
- Back and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
What Protective Gear Should Motorcyclists Wear?
One of the most important and proactive steps motorcyclists can do to prevent or reduce the risk of injury is to invest in effective safety gear. Wearing a helmet is the most important step a motorcyclist can do to prevent life-threatening or fatal head injuries. In New Jersey, motorcyclists and their passengers are legally required to wear a securely fitted helmet. The following are additional examples of safety gear that can prevent injuries:
- Heavy leather boots
- Leather gloves with reinforced knuckles
- Thick leather jacket and pants
- Elbow and knee pads
- Protective neck collar
- Well-cushioned chest protectors
How can Motorcyclists Prevent Serious Accidents?
In order to reduce the risk of a devastating accident, motorcyclists are urged to take the following precautions:
- Wear a helmet. The importance of wearing a helmet cannot be overstressed. While helmets cannot prevent accidents, they can protect the motorcyclist and reduce the severity of a head injury if they are involved in an accident.
- Slow down. The faster a motorcycle is travelling, the more difficult it is to react to potential hazards, which means there is a greater risk of a serious accident. Always obey the speed limit, and adjust the driving speed further during inclement weather, if there is road construction, and during heavy traffic.
- Use caution at intersections. Rear-end accidents are common at intersections, so motorcyclists are urged to use extra caution at intersections, crosswalks, and when making left turns.
- Do not ride between a moving vehicle and a parked car. This can be very dangerous for motorcyclists for a number of reasons. If the driver of the parked car opens their car door or pulls out of the spot without looking, the motorcyclist could crash into it. In addition, if a pedestrian steps out from between the parked cars, the motorcyclist may not be able to slow down in time.
- Do not drink and drive. It takes a certain degree of coordination and skill to operate a motorcycle. Alcohol can impair the rider’s reaction time, coordination, and judgment. Riding a motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol is even more dangerous than driving a car while drunk.
- Keep the motorcycle well-maintained. If the motorcycle’s tires, brakes, headlights, engine headlamps, and turn signals are not working properly, there is an increased risk of a serious accident. The motorcycle owner is responsible for ensuring that the vehicle is properly maintained and that any necessary repairs are made before getting back on the road.
- Learn defensive driving strategies. Motorcyclists cannot control how other people drive, but they can follow the rules of the road at all times, pay attention to other motorists in the vicinity, and learn defensive driving strategies that will help avoid serious collisions. Effective strategies include avoiding lane sharing, making themselves visible to other motorists, staying in the outermost lane, and making eye contact with drivers before making a turn.
What Should I Do if I am Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?
The most important step to do after a motorcycle accident is to seek immediate medical attention. Motorcycle injuries are often quite severe, so getting prompt medical care is crucial, particularly if the victim suffered a traumatic brain injury, internal bleeding, or a spinal cord injury. If the injured party is safely able to do so, they should take pictures of the accident scene, including damage to the motorcycle, debris on the road, and the injuries. In addition, if there were witnesses who saw the accident happen, ask if they would be willing to provide a statement and obtain their contact information. It is also important to maintain copies of all medical records, bills, and police reports.
It is highly recommended that the victim contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer who can assist them with the claims process, address all of their questions and concerns, and determine who is liable for their injuries. If the other motorist involved in the accident is negligent in any way, a motorcycle lawyer will ensure that the negligent party is held liable. If the accident was caused by a defective part, the injured victim may be able to file a products liability lawsuit against the company that designed or manufactured the defective part. A motorcycle accident lawyer will also ensure that the victim’s personal injury claim is filed within the statute of limitations, which is two years from the date of the accident.
What Damages am I Entitled to in a Motorcycle Accident?
Victims of motorcycle accidents tend to suffer severe injuries that may require extensive medical treatment, physical therapy, and even long-term care, depending on the nature of the accident and the severity of the injuries. Expenses associated with these injuries can accumulate very quickly. These expenses may or may not be covered by basic motorcycle insurance, and motorcyclists in New Jersey are not entitled to personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, which usually pays for medical expenses and other costs. Injured motorcyclists often have their medical bills paid through their private health care insurance.
A motorcycle accident victim may be entitled to the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning potential
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
Mount Laurel Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman Protect Those Affected by Motorcycle Collisions
If you have a devastating injury from a motorcycle accident, do not hesitate to contact the Mount Laurel motorcycle accident lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman. We will walk you through every step of the claims process and address all of your concerns. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 856-751-2345 or contact us online. Located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Burlington County and the surrounding areas.