Even experienced motorcycle riders may crash when they drive unsafely. The two common crashes you see on the street and the track are: (1) low side crashes and (2) high side crashes. Both happen when riders are pushing their bikes too hard for a curve. Both types of accidents are almost always the rider’s fault, though in some cases, the motorcycle manufacturer, tire manufacturer, or parts manufacturer could hold responsibility for the wreck.
In other cases, a municipality could face responsibility if it failed to properly maintain the roads. These types of crashes usually happen with inexperienced riders on the road, but you’ll see experienced racers in these crashes on the track.
Low Side Crashes
A low side crash is when a rider wrecks while leaning into the corner and crashes on the same side. This type of wreck doesn’t damage the bike as much as a high side crash, but can still result in quite a bit of damage.
Reasons You Might Have a Low Side Crash
The two types of low side crashes include front-wheel low side crashes, and rear-wheel low side crashes. The same causes contribute to both; the difference is in which wheel loses traction. In a front-wheel low side crash, the front wheel loses traction in the middle of the corner and causes the bike to slide. In a rear-wheel low side crash, the rear wheel loses traction and causes the bike to slide out from under the rider.
Causes of low side crashes include:
- Riders use too much brake going into a corner. Slow in and fast out is the way to approach a corner. You should no longer be using the brake by the time you hit mid-corner; otherwise, you approached the corner way too fast.
- Hitting gravel, oil, or water in the road. As you start leaning into the corner, the front tire or rear tire could catch gravel, sand, oil from another vehicle, or even water from rain. As the tire hits whatever is in the road, it loses traction and slides out from under you.
- Worn out tires. Riding on tires with little to no tread is a recipe for disaster. It’s like trying to take a corner on ice. Bald tires won’t grip the ground, so they’ll just slide right out from under you as you hit mid-corner.
- Too much acceleration. Know your bike and know the road. If you start accelerating too soon through the corner, the bike has not started to come out of the lean yet. It’s the same thing as entering a corner with too much speed.
- Too much speed in the corner. As you hit mid-corner and have to lean further than the bike can handle, you’ll end up wiping out in a low side crash.
The entrance to a corner is not usually where problems arise. Rather, trouble usually occurs in the middle of the corner, where it is the sharpest and where the bike has more lean. Knowing your bike means that you know how much lean you can manage without losing control. You also have to assess the corner properly.
The faster you hit mid-corner, the more the bike has to lean. If a corner is sharper than it looks, you’ll have to lean more, or you’ll go off the edge of the road. You can’t correct once you get into the corner, except to let off the gas. Usually, you won’t have enough time to slow down. If you try to straighten up too soon, the bike won’t make it around the corner. If you don’t stay in the lean, you’re likely going to have a low side wreck.
If you are riding on an unfamiliar road, take the corners slowly. Once you get to know the road, then you can start tacking on more speed—up to the point that your bike can handle and within the speed limit.
High Side Crashes
While a high side crash is not as common as a low side crash, high side crashes do happen, especially to riders who like going fast. This type of crash has a much higher risk of resulting in traumatic injuries. High side crashes can happen at lower speeds, which means cruisers can experience high side crashes, not just crotch rockets. If you end up tank-slapping, the pain won’t be as bad on a cruiser as on a crotch rocket. Most people don’t realize that they’re at risk of a high side wreck until they’re being thrown into the air.
How a High Side Crash Happens
Trail braking is a good way to get into a high side wreck if you don’t know what you are doing. A high side crash happens when the rear tire loses traction, then gains it back again. When the tire regains traction, the momentum of the bike forces you up off the bike—usually right over the handlebars.
Other reasons you might have a high side wreck include:
- Trail braking too hard on a slippery surface, such as an oil slick, water, or even black ice. Once the rear tire loses traction, it could go into a sideways skid. As soon as the tire grips the road again, get ready to be airborne.
- When you downshift too fast before entering a turn, you could lock the rear wheel. When you come out of the skid, and the tire gains traction, you’re going for a ride—and not on the bike. The bike will also be in the air. Watch for it, so it doesn’t come down on top of you.
- Accelerating out of a corner too soon. When you are coming out of a turn but still have a lot of lean into the curve, the rear tire could lose traction as it picks up speed while on the edge of the tire.
- If you lean too far into a curve, and something on the bike hits the ground, the pressure of the footpeg, muffler, your toes, or whatever hits the ground can cause the rear tire to lose traction.
One of the things you can do to mitigate the risk of a high side crash is to not follow your instincts to counter-steer in the direction of the skid. You’ll still crash, but you might convert the crash into a low side wreck, which does less damage to you and your bike.
If you counter steer into the skid, the side slide tends to continue. You’ll lose speed, but that is what causes the rear tire to regain traction. It is the regaining of traction that flips you off the bike and causes the bike to flip into the air.
When the bike regains traction, the momentum forces the rear suspension to compress as the bike slows suddenly. When the suspension decompresses, it turns the bike into a springboard.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Individuals who wreck while riding a bike tend to suffer catastrophic injuries in accidents involving other vehicles. Low side and high side crashes can both produce catastrophic injuries, but that is less likely as long as a vehicle doesn’t come around the corner and run over you and the bike before you can get up and get out of the road.
Low side crashes have a significantly lower risk of catastrophic injuries, but since any motorcycle wreck has the potential for catastrophic injuries, you should always seek medical attention after a wreck.
Motorcycle accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, from traumatic brain injury to road rash. Some of the most common injuries that result from a motorcycle accident include:
- Cuts, scrapes, bruises, bumps, and scratches
- Road rash
- Face and eye injuries
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries, especially if you do not wear a helmet and wreck
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Simple and compound fractures
- Internal injuries
Some injuries might not show up for hours or a day or two after the accident. We recommend that you seek medical attention immediately, even if you think your injuries are minor. If you have underlying conditions, such as diabetes, an immunodeficiency, or you are on treatment or medication that lowers your white cell count, you have a higher risk of suffering secondary injuries, such as infection. However, any open wound can become infected, so all injured individuals should take precautions to avoid any secondary injuries.
Damages You May Recover After a High Side or Low Side Crash
Since these types of wrecks are usually the rider’s fault and one-vehicle crashes, insurance companies might not pay out if they determine that you were driving carelessly or recklessly. However, you might recover damages from another person or company if you can show proof that the cause of the accident was a defect with the bike, tires, or a part on the bike.
Although Florida is a no-fault state and you would thus file a claim on your own insurance, the company is still in business to make money, and despite all the premiums you paid over the years, it will still look for a reason to deny your claim.
Don’t give the insurance company any information other than your contact information, that you wrecked your bike, where you wrecked it, the date you wrecked, and your attorney’s contact information. Don’t take the chance that the insurance company twists what you say so that they “find” a reason to deny your case. If you say anything that may seemingly imply that you believe you contributed to your accident, the insurance company will use that against you and attempt to reduce or deny your claim.
If an accident investigation finds that the fault lies with someone other than you—or at least partially with someone else, you can recover damages from that person’s or company’s insurance company. Contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in Florida to discuss the details of your accident and determine your eligibility to pursue compensation for your injuries.
Types of Damages
You can usually collect compensatory damages, which are separated into economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages have an exact monetary value, while non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate, as they involve a subjective assessment of your losses.
Economic damages. Sometimes called special damages, economic damages include:
- Past medical expenses for those incurred because of the accident and before a settlement or trial award
- Future medical expenses for those incurred because of the accident and after a settlement or a trial award
- Past lost wages for those lost after the accident and before a settlement or trial award
- Future lost wages for those incurred after a settlement or a trial award because accident injuries caused long-term or permanent disabilities
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses
- Coverage of secondary injuries, including infections
Non-economic damages. Sometimes called general damages, non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress if you suffered injuries in the wreck
- Emotional distress if you lost a loved one in the wreck
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand or foot
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight
- Disfigurement and excessive scarring
Contact a Motorcycle Crash Attorney
Motorcycle accidents are often some of the most traumatic traffic accidents that occur on our roadways, regardless of whether the accident was a high side or low side crash. Injured individuals often sustain severe, permanent injuries and may never ride their motorcycles again.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a high side wreck or a low side motorcycle crash, contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney for a free case evaluation. An attorney can help gather evidence, interview witnesses, and protect your rights in court, all while pursuing maximum compensation on your behalf. Retain an experienced motorcycle accident attorney today so that you can focus on your physical and mental recovery.