Riding a motorcycle is addictive. As someone who has been an avid biker my entire adult life, I get it. The feeling of the wind on your face and the sheer freedom of movement. Not only that, but you just look cooler on a bike than in a car.
But, there is bad news. Motorcycles account for 26 times the number of traffic fatalities than four wheel cars and trucks. Nationwide, motorcycles accounted for about 13% of traffic deaths in 2013. Forty traffic deaths were on motorcycles in Nevada in 2011, according to the Nevada Department of Public Safety. Why are motorcycles so dangerous? The obvious reason is that they are much smaller than passenger cars. Any collision with a motorcycle reminds us that the stability and protection of a car massively outweighs that of a motorcycle. The average weight of a passenger car is about 5,000 lbs. According to Harley Davidson Motorcycles, their bikes weigh between 540-730 lbs. The Honda Goldwing is the heaviest production motorcycle at around 900 lbs, depending on accessories. Smaller street bikes can be as light as 250 lbs. The dynamics of an accident between a passenger car and a motorcycle are devastating for the body on the bike.
There are other factors to consider. Night driving is a particular challenge on a motorcycle. One of the natural factors of distance assessment for the human eye is the distance between two headlights. Any driver knows that you can estimate how far a car is from you by the headlights. Since motorcycles only have one headlight, it becomes difficult to judge distance at night. As a result, the majority of collisions are the fault of the driver of a passenger car, and not the motorcyclist.
The number one cause (42%) of accidents between passenger cars and motorcycles is the passenger car turning left on to a busy road. But also, 25% of motorcycle fatalities are between the motorcycle and a stationary object.
Motorcycles are relatively cheap to insure. The reason for this is that the damage you are likely to do to another party is low. Insurers are more than happy to insure your liability. But, all the major insurers are unwilling to write a medpay policy for a motorcycle.
What does that mean? Medpay is a type of insurance that covers your own injuries immediately at the time of a traffic accident. Medpay does not subrogate against your settlement, so you are able to legally double dip and recover a lot more. As personal injury lawyers, we encourage everyone who can afford it to buy medpay. It covers you in a time of need and it really benefits you at the time of an accident. Because of the bodily injury risk to a biker, most insurers will not write this type of policy for a motorcycle.
Twenty-eight states have some type of motorcycle helmet law. Nevada requires that you wear a DOT approved helmet with eye protection. Eye protection can be a visor on the helmet, goggles, or even a windshield on your bike. So, you have some options for eye protection, but you have to wear a helmet with a DOT sticker on it. Those can be full helmets or even “brain buckets,” which only cover the top of the head. As long as the helmet has a DOT sticker, you are compliant.
Proponents of helmet laws say it is a simple safety issue. Helmets prevent head injuries. Opponents of helmet laws argue that helmets protect the head at the expense of the neck and can cause paralysis.
Everyone should know one important rule, though. If you see a motorcycle accident, do not move a downed biker or remove his or her helmet. Their neck may be injured and you can cause major injuries. Wait for the trained professionals to respond.
There are other types of safety gear. Some people wear armor all over their body when they ride. This can definitely prevent some injury to the skin, common called “road rash.” But, can maybe prevent broken legs or other injuries.
Intoxicated drivers are a hazard, no matter how you spin it. In the age of Uber and Lyft, there is no excuse for driving intoxicated. Intoxicated drivers pose a significant risk to motorcycles, which are already harder to see. But, the risk increases exponentially when the motorcyclist is intoxicated.
When you ride, there are many more factors to judge than in a passenger car. You have to keep your balance, steer mainly with your hips, and be aware that anyone else on the road is a risk of death for you. Everything becomes exponentially more dangerous when you are intoxicated. The legal limit for driving is the same, meaning a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. But, a zero tolerance policy for yourself as a rider is the safest way.
People who cause accidents without being intoxicated and protected from massive judgments over their insurance policy limits by bankruptcy laws. If you cause an accident while you are intoxicated, a large judgment can follow you around for the rest of your life.
Just don’t drive or ride intoxicated. It isn’t worth it. You can also be arrested, which is another topic.
Specialized Medical Treatment
In Las Vegas, there is only one spinal trauma center, and that is at University Medical Center (UMC) downtown. Most motorcycle injuries are diverted to UMC. Naturally, the vast majority of motorcycle accidents have some sort of UMC trauma lien to be paid by the settlement. UMC, as a partially public hospital, is obligated to reduce medical liens against residents of Clark County. This is important to demand when you are negotiating the final outcome of a case.
If the rider is killed in an accident, there are two potential claims. One by his estate for his medical bills and pain and suffering. But the other is by his family for the loss of him as a living person. These are particularly tragic cases. Leaving behind young children without a mother or father is terrible. This presents a slew of legal issues. But, please be careful. There is no amount of money that can properly replace a parent. I have seen this scenario too many times, and there is no good outcome.
Motorcycle accidents are particularly devastating. Especially those which involve the death or long term injury of the rider. Be careful riding. But also follow proper safety techniques, wear your gear, and call us if you need us.