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How to Survive a Motorcycle Crash

Motorcycle Accident Lawyer, Michael T. Gibson
Michael T. Gibson, Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

Approximately 9,122 motorcycle crashes occurred in Florida during 2018, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). The crashes caused more than 500 deaths last year. In other words, more than 5 percent of all motorcycle accidents in Florida are fatal. If you or a loved one has been affected by a traumatic motorcycle accident then speak with a motorcycle accident attorney with experienced. Contact Michael T. Gibson today to discuss your legal options.

Unfortunately, the toll continues to climb in 2019. As of late November, motorcycle accidents had killed 15 people in Orange County alone, more than one per month. There were 323 motorcycle crashes in the county during that period, according to FLHSMV statistics.

Motorcycle crashes can be deadly for several reasons. Unlike occupants of larger vehicles, who are protected by tons of metal, cushioning, and safety equipment, such as airbags, motorcyclists are almost entirely unprotected if they are in a crash. While many wear a helmet, protecting their heads, many do not. If motorcyclists are in a collision with a car or truck, the motor vehicle is much larger and heavier than the motorcycle. The larger vehicle can cause devastating damage to the motorcycle.

Even if a motorcycle crash does not involve another vehicle, the driver of the motorcycle can be seriously injured or killed by the impact. Motorcyclists can be thrown from their vehicles, which alone can cause life-threatening injuries. Their motorcycle or debris from the road can land on them.

Most motorcyclists know the risks of riding, but do it anyway because they find it enjoyable. Florida is a popular place for motorcyclists. All motorcyclists need to know how to survive a motorcycle crash, given the high number of them in our state. Here are some tips on survival.

Wear a Helmet

The news on wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is unequivocal: helmets save lives. Helmets decrease the risk of being killed by 37 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Let’s put it in even starker terms. Of the 5,286 motorcyclists killed nationwide in the last year for which statistics are available, 802 would be alive if they had been wearing helmets, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Helmets not only prevent fatalities, but they also prevent head injuries. The chance of a head injury drops 69 percent if the motorcyclist wears a helmet, according to the CDC. Head injuries can kill in numerous ways. Bleeding to the brain, a necessary operation that proves unsuccessful, and even depression and suicidal ideation resulting from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can all be fatal.

While many states require motorcyclists to wear a helmet, Florida does not. Motorcyclists are only required to do so if they are under 21 years of age. If you are over 21, you do not have to wear a motorcycle helmet as long as you purchase an insurance policy providing at least $10,000 in medical benefits. (Florida is a no-fault state for accidents, which means that all drivers turn first to their own insurance companies to cover their medical bills in the case of an accident. The medical coverage is designed to cover injuries incurred as a result of an accident.)

But the fact that a helmet is not legally required doesn’t change the fact that it is far safer to wear one than to not wear one. Yes, we realize that riding with the wind in your hair by the beach or down the road is wonderful, but is it worth dying for?

The best type of motorcycle helmet to wear is one that meets the Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standard 218. Compliance with this standard means your helmet will fit properly, afford significant head coverage, good visibility, and not be too mobile.

Wear Mandated Safety Equipment

While our state does not require helmets, it does require that you wear Department of Transportation-approved eye protection, whether you have donned a helmet or not.

Eye protection helps protect your eyes in case of a crash. Just as a motorcyclist’s body is much more exposed than for people in cars or larger vehicles, motorcyclists’ eyes are also very exposed to multiple items that can injure them or impair visibility in the event of a crash. Pebbles, gravel, asphalt, dirt and mud, cinders, and road debris, such as flying cargo or tire treads, can all hit a motorcyclist’s eyes. Bugs can hit a motorcyclist’s face and cause not only injury but irritation as well. Rain and other inclement weather can make it difficult to see, as can glare from the sun.

Not only can these items cause injury, but they can also cause motorcycle accidents by impairing visibility and judgment.

Carry a First Aid Kit

Motorcycle Safety TipsMany motorcyclists advise other cycle enthusiasts to carry a first aid or trauma kit, just because of the high risk of serious injuries. The kit should contain standard first aid items, such as band-aids and disinfectant, but also surgical shears (for removing clothing to get to wounds and other injuries) and larger and more complex bandages to stop bleeding and impede shock.

A first aid kit will also contain glow sticks and other devices for alerting traffic at the scene of an accident so that you will not run the risk of secondary accidents.

Obey the Speed Limit

Speeding causes roughly 17 percent of all fatal accidents nationwide, both motorcycle and automobile, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Because of the size and weight differential between motorcycles and other vehicles, it’s very important to your overall safety to drive at the speed limit, or below if traffic conditions warrant.

In addition, if you are in congested traffic or a traffic jam, do not try to dart between lanes, ride between two demarcated lanes, or drive in the shoulder to go faster. You run the risk of a larger vehicle crashing into you as it merges or tries to pass.

Going at a higher speed increases the velocity at which you crash, and thus increases the potential danger to you. If you are traveling at 10 miles per hour, a collision with a compact car may injure you or leave you shaken. But a collision with the same car at 50 mph may be fatal or life-threatening.

Obey Traffic Laws and Drive Prudently

All drivers should obey traffic laws and drive prudently at all times, of course. But that’s even more important for motorcyclists, as it helps ensure their safety. Failure to keep in the proper lane or failure to yield the right of way, for instance, are responsible for more than 7 percent of all fatal traffic accidents, both for motorcyclists and for cars.

Don’t Drive Impaired by Alcohol or Other Substances

Approximately 10 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal collisions had a blood alcohol limit (BAC) of 0.08 percent, the threshold for legal intoxication, or were impaired by illegal substances or medication. The fact is, driving impaired can cause accidents. In addition, even if an accident is caused by other factors, alcohol or other substance impairment can slow your ability to avoid the accident and to get medical help. You have a higher chance of surviving an accident if you are sober.

Drive Defensively

The sad fact is, many fatal motorcycle accidents are caused by a motor vehicle driver, not a motorcyclist. It’s a well-known fact that vehicle drivers don’t seem to apprehend motorcycles in the same way that the drivers apprehend vehicles that are the same size as theirs. In a way, they don’t “see” you as an equal user of the road.

As a result, a car may come to a four-way stop after you, and still assume that it has the right of way, even though the law says otherwise. The other driver may pull out and strike you as a result.

A common car-motorcycle accident, known as “dooring,” occurs when a driver parks and opens a car door directly in the path of an oncoming motorcycle. The driver in some cases may have even checked before opening the door, but he or she may have simply failed to take note of the motorcyclist.

All drivers need to practice driving defensively. You need to be aware of potential moves the other drivers may make that could injure you and may not be wise on their part, and you need to know how to compensate for those moves. Motorcycle drivers need to do this even more than other drivers. Be aware of what the other drivers’ intentions seem to be. In the case of the four-way stop, for example, don’t pull out fully or rapidly until it is clear that the other driver won’t be pulling out.

Pay particular attention to drivers adjacent to or near you that might want to merge into your lane, for instance. They should see you, treat you as another vehicle, and check their blind spots. However, the fact is that they may do none of those things. Ride far enough in the center of a lane that dooring should not be an issue.

Be Visible

Motorcyclists need to make themselves visible, to counteract the relative invisibility given to them by the blind eyes of many other motorists. One method is to make your helmet visible, including through the use of reflective designs. You can also make sure your motorcycle itself has reflective and eye-catching designs. Visibility is especially important at night, which is when the majority of motorcycle accidents occur. Make sure that all of the lights on your motorcycle work, as they are vital safety equipment.

Get All Required Medical Attention

While you have a better chance of surviving a motorcycle crash if you wear safety equipment; drive safely, soberly, and defensively; and remain visible, it’s equally important to seek medical attention promptly after a crash.

Carry insurance. Because Florida is a no-fault state, doctor’s bills will first be paid out of your own insurance. Don’t refuse medical care because you don’t have insurance, however. If you are in a crash, see a medical professional immediately. Even if you do not feel seriously injured, you may be. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) such as concussions do not necessarily result in immediate symptoms. Broken ribs may manifest as mild pain, but still puncture a lung, which is a potentially fatal injury. A doctor can check you out and treat any injuries.

If you are in a crash and obviously injured, seek and complete all the medical treatment you need. Unfortunately, some people, especially those without insurance, may be tempted to treat their injuries minimally. Untreated injuries, such as TBIs, spinal cord injuries, internal injuries, and more, can be fatal. They may not kill on impact, but they can be injurious enough to cause death later. Internal injuries, for instance, can cause internal bleeding, which may not be apparent to the victim until it is too late.

Can I Receive Compensation to Cover My Medical Treatment?

The amount of insurance coverage available to you under a no-fault policy may not go very far in treating your injuries, especially if they are life-threatening. However, Florida does allow seriously injured people to file either third-party insurance claims or personal injury claims against other drivers, if the other drivers were at fault for the accident and the accident caused the serious injuries in question.

The law defines serious injury as a minimum of one of the following conditions:

  • Broken bone
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Permanent limitation of use of a body organ or member
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
  • Substantially full disability for 90 days

If you were injured in one or more of these ways, you can bring a suit for the following damages resulting from the accident:

  • Medical expenses, including doctor’s visits, surgeries, hospitalization, long-term care, prescription medication, physical therapy, and medical devices
  • Prospective medical expenses, if your condition will require future medical care
  • Wages lost from work if your injuries prevent you from returning to work
  • Compensation for lost earning potential if your injuries are likely to prevent you from ever returning to work in your former profession
  • Pain and suffering

How can these damages help you survive a motorcycle crash? Motorcycle crashes can cause serious injuries that may shorten life expectancy. If you suffer a spinal cord injury and are paralyzed, for instance, your life expectancy may shrink considerably. More comprehensive treatment, however, can counterbalance that trend.

Similarly, some conditions and treatments may have unintended consequences that can shorten your life. Hospitalized people who develop pressure ulcers (bedsores), for example, are more likely to die than those who do not.

If you need further information or assistance, please contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney.

Michael T. Gibson P.A.
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Suite 150
Orlando, FL 32814
Phone: 407-422-4529

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Baldwin Park Office
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Suite 150
Orlando, FL 32814
P: 407-422-4529
Copyright © Michael T. Gibson, P.A. 2020