Common Injury Risks to Motorcyclists on California Roadways

California roadways experience a relatively high volume of motorcycle traffic, thanks in part to the mild weather, and thanks in large part to its many famous routes, from winding coastal highways to hilly backroads. As a result, however, California sees its fair share of motorcycle accidents.

Motorcycle accidents are not only disproportionately common (compared to their numbers), but they often give rise to lawsuits, as damages tend to be significant - after all, impact forces are not met with sufficient material to absorb the force and prevent damage. Motorcyclists must therefore exercise serious caution when operating their vehicles - according to a study conducted by the US Department of Transportation, in 2015 alone there were 88,000 injuries and 5,029 deaths associated with motorcycle accidents.

There are a variety of reasons as to why a motorcycle accident occurs. Too often, drivers tend to blame the motorcyclists instead of considering the totality of the circumstances that led to the accident at-issue. Of course, that isn't to say that motorcyclists can avoid blame altogether - in fact, because of the unique dangers of motorcycle riding, it's critical that motorcyclists be cautious and use common sense to avoid a collision, even if they are technically in the right.

Some motorcycle injury risks are more common than others. Thus, if you've been injured in a motorcycle accident and are bringing a personal injury action against the defendant, whether in California or elsewhere, you are likely to encounter these issues as you begin the process of litigation.

Let's take a look.

Road Hazards

Uncorrected road hazards are particularly dangerous to motorcyclists, as the motorcycle itself is at risk of crashing when it encounters an object that a larger vehicle might simply be capable of driving over. For example, if a motorcyclist is faced with a deep pothole, they must swerve to avoid it, perhaps even change lanes - and depending on how visible the pothole is upon approach, this may lead to a last-second, emergency lane change that exposes them to a significant risk of injury.

Those who maintain roadways must make reasonable efforts to fix road hazards that could expose motorcyclists to crash risks, or must - at the very least - set up signage to warn incoming motorcyclists of the hazard.

Failure to Wear Safety Gear

Helmet use is required by law in California. Failure to wear a helmet will likely undermine the motorcyclist's injury claim, as the defendant will argue that the plaintiff is responsible for their own injuries. It's worth noting that this will not necessarily destroy the plaintiff's injury claims - in California, pure comparative negligence means that the damage recovery will simply be reduced by their own contribution of fault.

For example, suppose that you did not wear a helmet, and you are injured in a motorcycle accident, with damages totaling $100,000. The court determines that you were 50 percent responsible for your injuries. You would be entitled to recover $50,000 in damages - not zero.

Lane Splitting

California law does not expressly prohibit lane splitting, despite the fact that lane splitting is associated with additional risks of injury when performed incorrectly. Though skilled and cautious motorcyclists generally follow safe lane splitting procedures, many motorcyclists engage in lane splitting without considering the surrounding traffic context - in fact, excessive speeding while lane splitting could lead to a collision if a stopped vehicle suddenly attempts to change lanes.

Carelessness of Other Drivers

Other drivers tend to be somewhat careless around motorcycles - perhaps in part due to the fact that motorcycles are "non-standard" in the United States, and because it can be difficult for unfamiliar drivers to notice a motorcycle, particularly during conditions of poor visibility. Motorcyclists must exercise great care around other drivers to ensure that they are either noticeable or that they are a safe distance away from other vehicles and can avoid a collision in case something unexpected happens.

Contact an Experienced San Jose Injury Attorney for Additional Guidance

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident that was caused by the negligence or wrongful actions of another, then California law may give you the opportunity to sue and obtain compensation for your injuries.

However, it's important to note that success is not solely measured by your ability to prove that the defendant was liable for your various injuries - instead, true success depends on your ability to secure full compensation for the suffered losses. For example, if you win your case but are awarded only $100,000, then that will be comparatively bad compared to a damage award of $500,000. The key to maximizing your compensation is in working with skilled and experienced attorneys who understand the shape of a personal injury claim (and the complications that accompany litigation).

Call (650) 631-3181 or submit an online case evaluation form to speak to an experienced San Jose injury attorney at the Law Offices of Brian J. O'Grady for further assistance. Consultation is free and confidential.