Motorcycle accidents are rarely the fault of the cyclist, but it is the cyclist who pays the price when a vehicle collides with a motorcycle.
In motorcycle crashes involving another motor vehicle, the most often cited contributing factor to the crash is a failure on the part of the driver of the other vehicle to yield the right of way to the motorcyclist. The second leading cause is driver inattention or distraction on the part of the other vehicle. The simple fact is that many motorists tend to ignore motorcyclists. They just don’t see motorcyclists.
In cities or towns, we see many leg injuries, especially broken ankles and broken legs. On the highways, where speeds are higher, we see many more fatalities and serious multiple injuries, like paralysis and head and neck injuries. In fact, when a motorcycle is involved in a traffic accident, the chances of a fatality resulting from the collision are greatly increased.
Car drivers underestimate the speed of a cycle. They have no idea how much distance a motorcycle needs to brake or how a cyclist handles a gravel road. Other drivers make assumptions and wrong assumptions can lead to the injury or death of a motorcyclist.
On the other hand, there are many other ways for cyclists to be injured beyond collisions with motor vehicles which may be compensable, including domestic animals wandering onto highways, dogs chasing cycles, agricultural residue left on roads, and construction materials dropped on roads. Indeed, the number of ways that cyclists can be injured through no fault of their own is staggering.
If you or a family member has been injured in a motorcycle crash, you first priority should be to obtain proper medical care. Your next step should be to contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. The attorneys at Suk Law Firm have represented numerous motorcycle crash victims and their families for over 40 years. If you have been injured in a motorcycle crash, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
Depending on the facts of the case, the statute of limitations — the time during which you must file a claim — for a motorcycle accident can be anything between two and six years, longer if a minor is involved. It is critical that a cyclist take action as soon as possible to preserve evidence, contact witnesses, and ensure protection of his/her rights.
Tips for Motorcyclists
- Wear a helmet. Minnesota does not have mandatory helmet use for motorcyclists 18 years or older. However, head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets reduce the risk of death by 37%.
- Make yourself seen. Wear bright, reflective clothing. White helmets are more easily seen by motorists. Use all of your lane and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Consider combining hand signals with the use of blinkers.
- Keep your motorcycle in good repair. Ensure your tires are properly inflated and be sure you bring your motorcycle in for regular tune-ups.
- Approach intersections with caution. Never assume that other motorists see you, even though you may have the right of way. Be prepared to take evasive action.
- Be alert for road hazards. Stability and traction is a greater concern for motorcycles because they only have two wheels in contact with the road surface.
- Avoid riding side-by-side with other motorcycles. While legal, it impairs your ability to take evasive action and may encourage other motorists to assume they can also share your lane.
- Don’t ride when drowsy. Take extra care when you start a new medication, be sure to ask your physician about possible side effects.
- Don’t drink and ride.
- If you are an older cyclist, be aware that it may take you up to twice as long to react to a dangerous situation than when you were younger. Give yourself plenty of time to maneuver, turn, and stop.
Tips for Motorists
- Keep a proper look-out. Motorcycles are harder to see than other vehicles. Check blindspots and mirrors carefully before changing lanes. In heavy traffic, look for helmets or tires above/below other vehicles you can’t see around.
- Approach intersections with caution. It is more difficult to judge the speed of motorcycles because they are smaller. Do not assume a motorcycle is turning just because its turn signal is engaged. Turn signals on motorcycles do not turn off automatically after completing a turn. They must be switched off manually.
- Give a motorcyclist the same distance as any other vehicle when merging or changing lanes.
- Motorcycles may need to change lanes suddenly. Road hazards are particularly dangerous to motorcycles and may cause them to suddenly change lanes. Stay alert.
- Give motorcyclists extra space in poor weather. Rain, snow, and wind affect the traction of motorcycles much more than other four-wheeled vehicles.
- Motorcycles are entitled to occupy their own lane. Do not attempt to share a lane with a motor cycle, it is illegal.