As an experienced motorcycle rider, you know all-too-well how much money it costs to buy a bike and maintain it in safe working condition. Perhaps you spent months or more saving up for your first or your newest motorcycle. You might have also budgeted for the costs of purchasing the gear you need, such as a helmet and riding clothes, too.
One thing you may not have considered when you invested your hard-earned dollars in a motorcycle, however, is how much a motorcycle accident might cost you. That wouldn’t be unusual. Few people spend their time thinking about the costs of a crash that hasn’t happened yet.
In the event of a motorcycle crash that injures you or a loved one, however, those potential costs you never considered all suddenly become a reality. You realize in short order that motorcycle accidents cost a lot of money, and that factors you might never have considered can have a major influence on the financial impact you suffer.
Read on for more information about the true costs of a motorcycle crash.
The Costs of Fatal and Non-Fatal Accidents
With so many factors involved in motorcycle crashes, it is difficult to place a precise dollar amount on the crash’s cost. The biggest factor in determining the cost is the severity of the injuries suffered by the rider.
Generally, the largest economic cost of a motorcycle crash is the expense of medical treatment. The more severe the injury, the more treatment is usually required. Additionally, more severe injuries have a higher likelihood of leading to health complications and permanent disability, both of which come with large long-term costs.
According to an AutoBlog report that used Government Accountability Office data, the average cost of a fatal motorcycle crash was around $1.2 million, with much of this cost attributed to emergency and ICU treatment of the rider’s final injuries.
The cost of a non-fatal motorcycle crash was estimated at between $2,500 to $1.4 million, although this cost is often higher if the rider suffers a severe, yet non-fatal brain injury. In the years since, the cost of motorcycle crashes has only risen.
Helmet Use: A Major Factor in Determining the Cost of a Crash
The requirement that motorcyclists wear helmets varies from state to state. In Florida, for example, riders under the age of 21 are required to wear a Department of Transportation-approved helmet every time they ride. However, those who are 21 and over are exempted from the helmet requirement as long as they can show proof of a medical insurance policy with a coverage limit of at least $10,000.
Florida once had a universal mandatory helmet law, which the legislature repealed in 2000. In the three years before the law’s repeal, an average of 160 motorcycle deaths occurred in the state each year. In 2001—the first year after repealing the universal helmet law in favor of a law that only requires helmets for riders and passengers under 21, the number of motorcycle crash deaths skyrocketed to 246. A few years later, the number of motorcyclist fatalities reached an all-time high of 550. Nearly 600 motorcyclist fatalities take place every year in the state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following statistics about helmet use:
- Helmets reduce the risk of dying in a motorcycle crash by 37 percent and the risk of suffering a head injury by 69 percent.
- Nearly 2,000 lives in the U.S. are saved each year as a result of helmet use.
- If all states had universal helmet laws, could save more than 800 additional lives.
- The number of lives saved would lessen the economic burden of motorcycle crashes on society by more than $1 billion a year.
According to a study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a state that requires all riders to wear helmets, regardless of age, can gain hundreds of millions in economic benefits, not to mention the incalculable savings in a reduction of human suffering.
The Cost of Traumatic Brain Injuries
One of the most serious consequences of riding a motorcycle without a helmet is the risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury. The brain is one of the most important organs of the body because it controls all of the body’s voluntary and involuntary functions. The ability to walk, communicate, recall events, or even to breathe or control one’s body temperature are all dependent on various parts of the brain, known as lobes, that provide messages to those specific functions.
Unfortunately, despite its importance to the body, the brain has only a limited ability to heal itself. What this means is that the damage caused to the brain will likely result in a permanent loss or impairment of the functions regulated by the part of the brain that sustained injury.
Brain injuries are not cheap. They require significant, costly, medical and therapeutic interventions that may last for years. A brain injury can also keep the injured victim out of work, or limit the victim’s ability to work in a well-paid career. The impairment of a brain injury victim’s employment prospects can strain the injured person’s family and personal relationships.
Because of the high likelihood of permanent disabilities arising from a traumatic brain injury, every part of the injured person’s life often requires accommodations to assist the person in work, school, in the home, and even in society.
A significant portion of America’s homeless population has suffered a traumatic brain injury. While some of these injuries have undoubtedly occurred after the onset of homelessness and can be attributed to the often harsh, violent conditions of homelessness, for many others, the injury itself—along with the stress and expenses of it—is the catalyst for homelessness.
The Cost to Society
When considering the cost of motorcycle crashes to society, federal agencies consider economic costs and comprehensive costs. Economic costs refer to tangible monetary losses experienced by tax-funded agencies and services spent on the crash rather than on other uses.
Some examples of the economic societal costs of the crash include:
- The cost of first responder, law enforcement, and emergency services.
- The cost of increased insurance premiums needed to offset insurance payouts to accident victims.
- Lost productivity as a result of traffic congestion created by accidents.
- The cost of providing medical treatment to uninsured or underinsured riders.
- The costs associated with motorcycle accident cases, including court and administration fees.
- The cost of providing federal disability benefits to individuals who become disabled as a result of motorcycle crashes.
Total, or comprehensive, societal costs include the loss of quality of life for accident victims, such as deprivation of an individual’s entire life span, as well as the loss to society of the productivity that the injured individual would have exhibited in his or her career if he or she had not suffered a life-altering injury, and the physical and emotional pain and suffering that the individual will endure, perhaps even decades past the point of injury.
How to Recover What Your Motorcycle Crash Cost You
Most motorcyclists lack a standard form of financial protection against the costs of a crash that drivers of cars and trucks enjoy. Auto insurance policies routinely include personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which covers a vehicle’s driver and passengers against personal injuries they suffer in a crash, regardless of fault. Motorcycle rider insurance policies, however, rarely include PIP coverage, so injured motorcyclists must find other sources of payment for their crash-related costs.
If you suffered injuries in a motorcycle crash, you may have the right to pursue compensation for your injuries through a motorcycle accident lawsuit. This is a legal claim filed in civil court against an individual, company, or other party whose dangerous decisions or actions caused your motorcycle crash and its resulting injuries.
To establish liability in a motorcycle crash lawsuit, your lawyer must prove:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care not to engage in actions or make decisions that cause an unreasonable risk of harming you. Other motorists owe motorcyclists the obligation to operate their motor vehicles safely and in accordance with traffic laws.
- The at-fault party breached the duty of care by engaging in unreasonably dangerous actions or making unreasonably dangerous decisions that put you in harm’s way. These decisions or actions are often referred to as the “cause of the accident,” and can include risky driving behaviors such as speeding, failure to yield, alcohol impairment, or any other type of behavior that is not safe or legal.
- The breach in the duty of care resulted in the accident and your injuries.
The law generally permits motorcycle crash victims to claim both economic and non-economic damages associated with the injuries they sustained in the crash. The term “damages” refers to a payment made as compensation for harm the victim suffered.
Economic damages consist of the direct financial costs you incurred as a result of your injury, such as:
- Medical expenses, including the cost of treatment received at the scene or in the emergency department, transport to the hospital by ambulance or air, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, surgical and physician services, prescription medication, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.
- Assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, prosthetic limbs, and home modifications to accommodate the injury.
- Lost wages if your injury prevents you from working or requires you to miss work to attend injury-related medical appointments.
- Loss of future earning capacity, if your injury results in a permanent disability that renders you unable to return to work at all or prevents you from having the same earning capacity as you did before the accident.
- The cost of repairing or replacing property damaged in the accident, such as your motorcycle, helmet, and other gear.
Non-economic damages refer to a payment made for the impacts to your quality of life that were caused by the injury. Commonly claimed quality-of-life impacts in motorcycle accident cases include:
- Physical pain and suffering resulting directly from your injuries as well as those associated with the treatment of your injuries.
- Emotional distress.
- Permanent disability.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life, if your injuries prevent you from participating in activities or events that you previously enjoyed.
- Loss of consortium, which is a damage claimed on behalf of the injured person’s spouse for loss of physical intimacy or companionship that is frequently suffered after an individual incurs a serious injury.
How an Experienced Motorcycle Crash Lawyer Can Help
Motorcycle accidents are complex matters that often result in serious injuries for the rider. Unfortunately, the complex process of recovering damages for the injuries you received in your motorcycle crash can require two things: Knowledge of your long-term prognosis and experience with the rigorous demands of the court and negotiations with the at-fault party’s defense lawyer and insurance provider.
An experienced motorcycle accident attorney also works hard to push back on the pervasive belief that motorcycle riders deserve to suffer injuries because riding a motorcycle is “dangerous.” This mistaken belief, held by many in the general public, can affect an accident victim’s ability to recover the full amount of damages that are available to them. Trust an experienced motorcycle crash attorney to make sure it does not hurt your case.
To learn more about your legal right to recover the costs inflicted by a motorcycle crash that left you or a loved one injured, contact an experienced motorcycle accident injury lawyer today.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814