What Must I Prove to Win My Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?
Even when bikers do everything right, things can go terribly wrong. Accidents happen, even to safe drivers. Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents are a frequent occurrence in Florida. Regardless of the analytical data, it makes sense. The more people potentially on the roads, the greater the chance of being involved in an accident. Six percent of the nation’s population resides in our state, which has great weather and scenery for driving.
The majority of riders are extremely cautious about motorcycle safety. Bikers know that, without the structural support of a car, their lives are on the line in an accident. Yet, despite all of this caution, motorcycle accidents occur more often than they should.
So, if you are unfortunate enough to be injured in a motorcycle accident, what exactly do you have to prove to come out on the winning side of a lawsuit? First and foremost, you must prove that you sustained an injury.
Proving Injury in a Motorcycle Accident
It’s rare for a motorcycle accident to have a crystal clear cause and for the at-fault party to willingly admit liability. In this scenario, the only question would be the amount of compensation to which the victim is entitled. However, motorcycle accident cases are never this simple.
In reality, before you can collect any money from parties who were responsible for the accident, you first must substantiate the damage.
Medical Evidence Can Make All the Difference in a Motorcycle Accident Case
Medical records, radiology reports, a pain journal, and any receipts for expenses incurred because of treatment, such as gas, food, lodging, and mileage for travel to see a specialist, are important. These documents will be a valuable asset when detailing the extent of physical injuries sustained in the accident.
Following a stressful event, like a motorcycle accident, it’s normal to have a rush of adrenaline flood the system. When the immediate impact of the moment passes, a victim can experience mental trauma in the form of:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Memory loss
It is important that a medical professional promptly and professionally evaluate accident victims, and that they are treated for all physical and emotional injuries and return for follow-up appointments.
There is always the possibility that an at-fault party will destroy evidence to dilute the injured party’s case; this is known as spoliation of evidence. Filing a personal injury lawsuit can prevent this evidence from being destroyed, but time will be of the essence.
Florida’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases is four years. However, if the accident resulted in a fatality, that time limit may be reduced to two years.
Lifestyle Changes Can Be Compensable
The effects of motorcycle accidents can be long-lasting. Following a catastrophic accident, any changes victims must make to their lifestyle has monetary value.
Who or What Caused the Accident
Proving fault is key to receiving compensation for your injuries. Establishing that another person or a defective product caused your accident will be key. Having a driver’s license includes an obligation to act responsibly when behind the wheel; all drivers on the road owe other drivers a responsibility to drive safely. It is impossible to predict the actions of others, and we all just have to assume that the vehicles traveling beside us on a highway will follow the established rules of the road. By law, that car next to you has a duty to keep you safe by adhering to safe driving practices.
Once a plaintiff has established the effects of the accident (documented injuries), he or she must prove the cause of the accident before the issue of compensation comes into play. Proving the cause of an accident can prove complicated. Statistics relating to causes of motorcycle accidents vary in detail and are largely dependent on the special interest organization(s) that support the research. The meaning behind the analytics can easily be manipulated to serve a specific purpose.
Looking down the line, and taking into account all available bits and pieces of statistical information, it is safe to conclude that:
- For every mile traveled, motorcyclists are five times more likely to be injured than passengers in an automobile.
- The majority of motorcycle accidents involved a motorcycle and another vehicle.
- In the majority of cases, the driver of the other vehicle was responsible for causing the motorcycle accident.
- The most predominant causes of motorcycle accidents are excessive speed, distracted driving, impaired driving, and fatigue.
Typically, victims must show that the accident caused their injuries. Causation isn’t always easy to prove, especially in accidents that involve multiple vehicles. The defense may try to claim pre-existing injuries or discredit a victim’s injuries altogether.
Motorcycle Accident Causes
Motorcycle accidents often occur on the open road and may result in serious injuries. According to some of the statistics that have been published by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- About 72 out of every 100,000 motorcycles has been involved in a fatal crash, which is about six times the rate of cars.
- Motorcycles have a substantially higher fatality rate per mile traveled than cars (about 35 times greater).
- The rate of serious injuries is also significantly higher (about 16 times greater).
These numbers remind us all to understand the causes of motorcycle accidents:
- Head on collisions
- Left turn accidents
- Lane splitting
- Distracted and impaired drivers
A Defective Motorcycle May Be the Culprit
Vehicle defects are responsible for thousands of accidents that occur in the United States each year. In a products liability claim involving a motor vehicle, there is always the potential of multiple defendants being named in the lawsuit. There is a long chain of distribution involved in the making of motor vehicles/parts, and it is important to identify any potentially responsible parties.
A defective motorcycle part can cause a rider to lose control and crash. There are several parts that can potentially malfunction in a motorcycle and cause a devastating accident. The manufacturer of the parts and the mechanic who recently worked on the bike may be held liable. Some of the most common motorcycle defects include the following:
- Brake failure
- Faulty tires
- Dangerous design
- Manufacturing defects
A safety-related defect can apply to the design, material, construction, performance, and equipment in a motor vehicle.
Weather as a Cause of Motorcycle Accidents
In addition to driver proficiency and mechanical failure, weather also plays a role in motorcycle accidents. Consider the following:
- The lack of a windshield means that strong winds, blowing sand, and rain can cause irritation of the eyes and reduce visibility.
- Rain can soak the rider, making him or her uncomfortable and possibly causing serious distraction.
- Slick roads have an impact on motorcycles and make them harder to balance.
Motorcycle Accidents and Driver Proficiency
According to the same information published by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, a significant number of the people involved in motorcycle accidents were not properly trained to ride a motorcycle. There are many differences between riding a motorcycle and driving a car, which include:
- Lack of a metal frame.
- The challenge of balancing on two wheels instead of four.
- The steering mechanisms and physics are significantly different.
- A large difference in acceleration.
Motorcycle Accidents Caused by Loss of Control
Investigators and accident reconstruction specialists can evaluate forensic evidence gathered at an accident scene to prove negligence. The following investigative findings can be used to establish negligence:
- Over-braking can cause the front wheels to lock. This results in the loss of directional control. If a plaintiff establishes that one of the defendants over-braked, the plaintiff may be able to establish negligence.
- Running over gravel can cause instability and possibly loss of control. If a plaintiff establishes that a defendant lost control due to unsafe driving, the plaintiff may be able to establish negligence.
- Driving too fast for road conditions is especially perilous when heading into a corner or driving on unfamiliar roads. If a plaintiff can establish that one of the defendants lost control due to driving too fast, the plaintiff may be able to establish negligence.
Road hazards pop up suddenly, and usually without warning. Potholes and debris in the road—such as tire treads or dropped cargo—can easily cause a devastating accident.
Motorcycles are susceptible to instability, much more than other vehicles. It is easy for motorcycles to lose control if they hit slippery surfaces, such as:
- Oil or other chemicals in the road
- Wet leaves
- Wet manhole covers
- Painted highway striping
Another unexpected road hazard is animals on the road. When a vehicle suddenly comes upon animals, their movements can be hard to anticipate and can result in serious accidents and injuries.
Establishing a Driver’s Negligence Requires Evidence
If the other party refuses to concede liability, it may be necessary to conduct an investigation and collect evidence that supports your position that the other party’s negligence caused your accident. Examples of the kinds of evidence that may be relevant to a motorcycle wreck case include the following:
- Police reports
- Vehicle maintenance records
- Cell phone records
- Internal company emails
- Surveillance footage
- Eyewitness reports
In a motorcycle accident personal injury lawsuit, the burden of proof rests with the accident victim who is pursuing a legal case and compensation. Establishing that the at-fault driver did not use reasonable care is not always easy. Victims who set themselves up for success will have a better outcome. Below we provide some important words of wisdom:
- If safely able to so do, take photos of the accident scene. Try to capture the position of the bike and other vehicles, traffic signs, and skid marks. Make sure to take photos of any property damage or injuries sustained during the accident. It’s also a good idea to take photos of all other involved parties’ car and contact information.
- Find witnesses who observed the accident. Their written reports or testimony can prove valuable if you end up filing a lawsuit, particularly if it contradicts what the defendants claim.
- Do not admit fault or apologize. Any admission of fault or wrongdoing can harm your chances of receiving compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
As a victim, collecting evidence can be difficult and requires significant resources. At-fault parties may be resistant to turn over documents that they know can help victims meet their burden of proof. An attorney can conduct an investigation on behalf of a victim using well-established strategies and tactics to compel the production of evidence. Without retaining competent legal representation, a defendant may successfully avoid having to turn over all relevant evidence, which could negatively affect your lawsuit.
Accidents Caused by Faulty Infrastructure
Accidents are not always caused by driver negligence. Each year, hazardous and defective road conditions cause motor vehicle accidents resulting in serious injuries and fatalities. All too often, police and insurance investigations of accidents rarely take into account the role that a road design defect or an obstructed intersection plays in causing accidents that lead to severe injuries and/or fatalities. Serious and life-threatening injuries are possible as the result of city or state municipalities’ failure to address issues of hazardous road design, poor maintenance, or dangerous road conditions. Some of the examples of hazards which can cause motor vehicle accidents and create liability for the government are:
- Lack of guard rails
- Obstructed intersections
- Narrow lanes
- Poorly designed merge lanes
- Inadequate shoulders
- Lack of warning signs
Government agencies have a responsibility to maintain public spaces and roadways in a safe condition. Dangerous intersections, hazardous roadways, poorly designed roads, and other defects, such as potholes, maintenance deficiencies, and poor signage contribute to as much as one-third of all serious accidents that involve cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Governments establish road safety standards, and thus they should be held liable if they fail to meet those standards.
Bringing a claim against governmental entities is difficult and complex due to the issue of sovereign immunity. The concept of sovereign immunity is well-established and is intended to prevent mass filings of lawsuits against governmental entities.
Florida’s sovereign immunity restrictions make it more difficult and less financially rewarding to seek compensation for an injury or property damage caused by the negligence of a governmental entity. In addition, state law caps the amount of financial compensation that someone can receive from a governmental entity.
If you have been injured in an accident due to another party’s careless driving, a court may award you compensation for the full cost of your injuries. Call Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900, or contact us online, to discuss your options during a free consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765