It is no secret that your risk of getting hurt while riding a motorcycle is higher than your risk of injury in a crash while driving a car. But how much more? Most people don’t know.
Motorcyclists have inherently far less protection than the occupants of other motor vehicles. Vehicle occupants will have seatbelts and airbags, and motorcyclists are dealing with exposure to the possibility of being thrown from their bikes and striking other objects or landing on other objects that can worsen their injuries. The result often means that very few motorcyclists can walk away from almost any collision without sustaining any injury.
Let’s look at what the data can and cannot tell us about your odds of surviving a motorcycle accident and how an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can help you if you get hurt in a motorcycle wreck.
Your Odds of Survival the Good, the Bad, and the Unknowable
Let’s start with a disclaimer. In calculating the approximate odds of surviving a motorcycle crash, we can only deal with the broadest generalities. Every motorcycle crash has unique factors: speed, road conditions, manner of collision, number of vehicles involved, rider safety gear (especially helmets), and so on that vastly influence the probability of a motorcyclist suffering fatal injuries.
Given the mix of circumstances, the odds of surviving some types of crashes may approach 100 percent, while the odds of making it through others may trend toward zero percent.
Here is what we do know. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes annual data (with a lag of a couple of years) on motorcycle and other motor vehicle accidents in the United States.
According to the agency’s recent crash data, here is what we know about the survival rates for motorcycle accidents generally and by broad types.
- Out of the approximately 111,000 motorcycle crashes in a recent year nationwide, 5,114 were fatal, with motorcyclists representing the overwhelming majority of victims.
- By dividing fatalities by the overall number of wrecks, we find that 4.6 percent were fatal, meaning that motorcyclists survived crashes about 95 percent of the time.
- About 64,000 of those crashes involved collisions with other motor vehicles and caused 2,811 fatalities, translating into riders surviving those crashes about 95 percent of the time.
- Another 12,000 crashes involved a motorcycle colliding with a fixed object. Motorcyclists died in 1,159 of those wrecks, or nearly 10 percent of them, making the survival rate in fixed object collisions about 90 percent.
- Bikers survived crashes that did not involve a collision about 96 percent of the time.
- NHTSA reports that motorcyclists are about 28 times more likely than people in passenger vehicles to die in a traffic crash.
So, the good news is that your overall odds of surviving in a generic motorcycle accident (without regard to accident-specific factors like speed, manner of collision, helmet use, etc.) are over 90 percent across-the-board. But as good as those odds may seem on the surface, they are no cause for celebration.
The bad news is that motorcycle crash fatalities far outpace other motor vehicle accidents. According to NHTSA, in that same year, only 0.3 percent of all passenger car accidents were fatal. That means that motorcycle accidents result in deaths 15 times more often than car accidents. And that is not all.
According to the Insurance Information Institute’s review of NHTSA data, the fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled annually on motorcycles in the U.S. was 29 times higher than the fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled in passenger cars.
So, where does that leave us? In short, your odds of surviving a motorcycle accident are pretty good, but they are significantly worse than any other motor vehicle accident. Of all the motorists on the road, motorcyclists face the highest risk of dying in a crash.
Motorcycle Accident Injury Odds Not Good At All
We have only discussed the odds of dying in a motorcycle crash. But, if we stop there, we will only tell part of the story. To paint a complete picture, we also have to look at the odds of getting hurt in a motorcycle crash.
According to the NHTSA, over three-quarters (77 percent) of the motorcycle accidents that did not cause fatalities in a recent year still resulted in injuries (again, almost all of them suffered by motorcycle riders or passengers). Or, to put it another way, motorcyclists avoid dying or getting hurt in only about 23 percent of all motorcycle accidents. Vehicle occupants escape injury and fatality in about 70 percent of all passenger car accidents.
So, even if your odds of surviving a motorcycle accident are decent, your chances of walking away from a motorcycle wreck without a scratch are low – less than one in four for a generic motorcycle accident.
Tipping the Survival Odds in Your Favor
As we explained above, the odds we have reviewed here only state the generic case. The specific factors percent or absent in any given accident will substantially influence the likelihood of a biker dying, getting hurt, or walking away.
As a motorcyclist, you can improve your odds of surviving a motorcycle accident by taking some precautionary measures. These actions may not always protect you from accidents or injuries but can reduce your risk of fatal trauma.
The single most significant step a motorcyclist can take to reduce the odds of dying in a wreck is to wear a well-fitting, industry-standard motorcycle helmet.
The data on wearing helmets overwhelmingly demonstrates that motorcycle helmets save lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a helmet reduces your risk of dying in a motorcycle accident by 37 percent and your risk of head injury by 69 percent. NHTSA estimates that in one recent year, helmet use saved 1,872 motorcyclists’ lives, and an additional 749 riders would have survived accidents had they worn helmets.
Motorcycle helmet laws vary from state to state. Currently, 18 states require all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear helmets, 29 require helmets for some riders (usually those under 18), and three do not require any helmet use. In some states where helmet use is optional for some riders, laws give riders a choice to either wear a helmet or carry sufficient insurance to cover the cost of their injuries in a crash.
Because of the difference that helmet use can make in avoiding suffering by riders and their loved ones, it is encouraged to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.
Motorcycle Safety Courses
Riding a motorcycle safely takes knowledge and practice. You cannot just hop on a motorbike and figure it out as you go, at least not without risking serious injury or worse. According to research sponsored by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), motorcyclists who lack knowledge and skill in operating their rides have up to 30 times greater chance of involvement in a crash or a near-crash incident than riders who do not demonstrate a lack of skill or knowledge.
The most reliable way to gain skills and knowledge about safe motorcycle riding is to take a motorcycle safety course. Many states require some motorcycle riders to take a safety course to obtain a motorcycle operator’s license. But even if your state does not require a safety course, taking one can supply you with valuable advice and know-how to help you stay safe on the road.
Motorcycle safety courses help new riders, but even veteran riders can benefit from a safety refresher. Taking a course may also get you discounts on motorcycle insurance.
However, even if you take safety courses and follow all recommendations, other drivers can still cause you injuries if they hit you.
Making Good Choices
As a motorcyclist, you have choices about the risks you are willing to take on your bike. Avoiding certain risky behaviors can substantially improve your chances of surviving a motorcycle accident.
- Speeding contributes to numerous fatal motorcycle accidents every year. Speed increases mean less maneuverability and rider reaction time, longer stopping distances, and higher forces in a collision, all of which heighten the risk of a deadly accident.
- Alcohol and drug use play a role in many fatal motorcycle accidents. Driving under the influence of alcohol or any substance is illegal in all 50 states, and drunk drivers put riders at extreme risk for catastrophic injuries.
- Motorcycle maintenance (or lack thereof) can affect the performance and safety of a bike. Performing oil changes, brake servicing, and other routine upkeep on a motorcycle can lower your risk of getting into a crash.
Again, accidents and injuries can happen even to the safest motorcyclists who make the best choices on the road.
How Lawyers Help Motorcycle Accident Victims?
Even the most responsible, knowledgeable, skillful motorcycle riders cannot eliminate all accident risks. That is because many deadly motorcycle accidents happen not because of anything the rider did but because of someone else’s unsafe decisions or behaviors. In those circumstances, a skilled motorcycle accident lawyer can assist victims in securing compensation for their injuries and losses.
Finding Parties At-Fault
As lawyers for injured motorcyclists and families of riders who have tragically died in accidents, people come to personal injury attorneys seeking to hold those at fault accountable for their misconduct.
By investigating the details of a motorcycle accident, we frequently find that fault for a crash lies with:
- Car and truck drivers who make irresponsible decisions while sharing the road with motorcyclists. Drivers often do not do enough to look out for motorcycles and put motorcyclists at risk by making untimely turns, lane changes, and other dangerous maneuvers.
- Motorcycle and automotive manufacturers sometimes produce defective components that fail at dangerous moments, causing accidents.
- Public and private road owners who fail to live up to their duty to build and maintain roads safe for motorcycle riding and warn motorcyclists of potentially unsafe conditions like grooved pavement or loose gravel.
These are just a few examples. The point is that an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer knows where to look to determine whose dangerous actions contributed to the cause of a crash and how to hold those parties responsible.
Pursuing Financial Compensation
Motorcyclists who suffer injuries in accidents they did not cause, and families of riders who died in those accidents, may pursue financial compensation for their serious physical, emotional, and financial harm.
Through legal actions and insurance claims, experienced attorneys can often help secure their payment for:
- Medical expenses associated with treating motorcycle accident injuries, such as costs of emergency care, hospitalization, surgeries, physical therapy, and medication.
- Other expenses the accident caused, including costs of repairing or replacing damaged property and paying for non-medical services victims need to help them heal and rebuild.
- Lost income, both past and future, owing to a victim missing work while healing, suffering a disabling injury that prevents them from returning to work, or losing the victim’s income permanently in the case of a fatal accident.
- Pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages suffered by the victim or victim’s loved ones because of the injuries, including mental health struggles, loss of companionship, and diminished quality of life.
In some cases, attorneys can also secure punitive damages for motorcycle accident victims as punishment for the at-fault party’s extreme or intentionally harmful conduct.
Wrongful Death Cases for Motorcycle Accidents
A motorcycle crash carries an enhanced risk of fatal injuries. Families are right to believe they should be entitled to financial compensation for the costs they now face because of a loved one’s untimely death.
Florida Statute § 768.19 governs wrongful death claims. When a person’s death results from another person’s wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty, and the deceased could have recovered damages if they had lived, the liable party owes the compensation to the estate.
Under Florida Statute § 768.20, a decedent’s personal representative (usually the person who is the executor of the deceased person’s estate) must file a wrongful death action. They can recover compensation for the benefit of a decedent’s survivors and estate for all damages caused by an injury resulting in death. A wrongdoer’s personal representative will become the defendant if the wrongdoer dies before or pending the action.
The bottom line is that only certain family members of the deceased person. Many claims come from the parents or spouses of a deceased person, but children of individuals who die due to negligence can also be eligible in some cases.
When a wrongful death results in criminal charges against a negligent party, the criminal case is entirely different from a civil wrongful death claim.
In a criminal case, a prosecutor must prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, one of the highest standards to satisfy under the law.
A civil claim only requires proof of liability by a preponderance of the evidence, which translates to a person “more likely than not” responsible for causing a death.
Florida Statute § 95.11(4)(d) establishes that people only have two years to file a wrongful death claim. While this can sound like a
long time, a wrongful death attorney will need time to adequately investigate a claim before taking legal action.
Seek legal representation before evidence disappears after a fatal motorcycle accident. You will risk a lawyer not accepting your case if you wait too long.
If the statute of limitations (or time limit) passes without a family taking the necessary action, they will forfeit their right to recover anything from the negligent party. Remember that Florida Statute does allow wrongful death claims brought against natural people for intentional harm resulting in death (manslaughter) to occur at any time.
A wrongful death action can result in a family recovering various types of awards. Compensation in these cases may include:
- Lost wages, benefits, or other earnings from the date of a person’s injury to the date of their death
- Medical and funeral expenses directly paid by the estate or surviving family members
- Loss of support and services of the deceased person to family members
- Mental pain and suffering
- Loss of a deceased person’s companionship and protection
- Loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance
- Value of earnings and benefits a deceased person may have earned, saved, and left as part of their estate had they lived
Most wrongful death claims will begin with demand letters sent to a negligent party’s insurance company. An insurer often refuses to pay the amount that a family requests, which can result in a lawsuit.
After the family commences a wrongful death action, both parties in the action will begin exchanging evidence as part of the discovery process. Following discovery, a case will generally move to mediation in which both parties agree to meet and have an independent, neutral third-party mediator work to try and reach an agreement between the parties.
While a settlement is possible through mediation, it is also possible that the two sides cannot come to an agreement resulting in an impasse that leads to the deceased person’s family seeking a trial date. Insurance companies never want cases to go to trial because the costs of taking cases to trial can be very high and costs insurers a lot of money they do not want to spend.
Many insurance companies will act quickly to get in touch with the victims left behind following a person’s death. They may offer lump-sum settlements to resolve cases before the family obtains legal counsel.
You should never accept any first offer you receive because it is assuredly much less than what you need or deserve. A motorcycle accident lawyer will be your best bet to ensure an insurer is held accountable for the damages you deserve.
If You Suffered Injuries or Lost a Loved One, Call a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today
We wish motorcycle accidents never happened. But the odds tell us that a predictable number of motorcyclists will suffer severe or fatal injuries yearly in crashes that were at least partially someone else’s fault.
If you are one of those unlucky motorcycle riders, you might have valuable legal rights to financial compensation. The most reliable way to take full advantage of those rights is to immediately speak with a skilled lawyer.
The right motorcycle accident attorney can take legal action to secure the money you need to pay for your medical care, replace your lost income, and get back to living your life (and hopefully, riding your bike).
So do not wait. For a free consultation to learn about your rights to money damages for the harm you suffered because of a motorcycle accident, contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer today.