The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks motorcycle accident statistics for the state of California. NHTSA reports that in 2015, there were 462 motorcycle fatalities in California. Fifty-six percent of these fatalities involved a motorcycle operator with a detectable blood alcohol concentration.
- 22 percent of surviving California motorcycle riders involved in a crash had a detectable blood alcohol concentration in 2015;
- The overall percentage of motorcyclists in crashes with a detectable blood alcohol concentration reported was 35 percent.
Motorcycle accidents often involve severe injuries.
They require experienced lawyers skilled in the unique issues.
These numbers are below the national averages, which include 27 percent of surviving motorcyclists, 70 percent of motorcycle fatalities, and an overall average of 47 percent of all motorcycle crashes involving alcohol.
Motorcycle Fatalities by Age
Consistently between 2011 and 2015, the age groups of less than 20 years of age and over 59 years of age have had the fewest fatalities in California. The largest amount of fatalities due to motorcycle crashes involve those between the ages of 20 and 29. Between the ages of 20 – 39, 40 – 49, and 50 – 59, the numbers remain relatively constant between 2011 and 2015. For example, in 2015, the fatality rates were as follows:
- Less than 20 years of age: 11;
- Between 20 and 29: 156;
- 30 – 39: 92;
- 40 – 49: 76;
- 50 – 59: 75; and
- Over 59: 52.
California Motorcycle Fatalities per 100,000 Registered Motorcycles
Motorcycle registration has remained relatively constant between 2011 and 2015, ranging from 818, 650 in 2011 to 813,771 in 2014 (the latest data available). Over that same period, the number of motorcycle fatalities per 100,000 has steadily increased. In 2011, the number of fatalities per 100,000 motorcycles registered in the state of California was 50.69. In 2012, that number rose to 56.76. In 2013, it rose again to 57.88 percent. Finally, in 2014, the number rose again to 64.15 fatalities per 100,000 motorcycles registered.
Motorcycle Fatalities by County
Los Angeles County consistently has the most fatalities by California county. In 2015, Los Angeles County had 113 motorcycle fatalities. San Diego had 42 motorcycle fatalities in 2015. Rounding out the top five counties are San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and Orange County, with 35, 35, and 28 fatalities respectively.
Hit and Run Motorcycle Accidents
California leads the nation as the state with the highest rate of hit and run motorcycle accidents.
California Motorcycle Accident Settlement Amounts
Of course, every motorcycle accident is different. The unique facts and circumstances of each case will dictate the settlement amount. However, there are certain things that factor into each case, which bear discussion.
Determining Appropriate Compensation Based on Injuries
Settlement offers should include compensation for the following:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Past and future physical therapy;
- Vocational rehabilitation;
- Past and future loss of income;
- Past and future homemaker services, in home nursing, etc.;
- The cost of home remodeling to accommodate a disability received;
- The cost of a vehicle to accommodate for a disability;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
Some of these variables, such as past lost wages, are easy to calculate. Others, such as pain and suffering, can be more complicated. In determining a reasonable amount for settlement purposes, lawyers consider the credibility of the witnesses, whether evidence is concrete or subject to different interpretations, whether a jury may be forced to choose one witness over another in determining what happened, and other factors.
Determining Appropriate Compensation Based on Fault
In some cases, the motorcyclist may have engaged in driving conduct that contributed to the crash. California employs “comparative negligence” in determining fault. In other words, if both drivers were partially responsible, the amount of the settlement will be reduced by the amount the injured party was at fault. For example, if a fair settlement for a motorcycle accident is $100,000, and the injured party was 20 % at fault, the settlement offer would be reduced by 20 %, or $20,000, resulting in a settlement offer of $80,000. In some cases, the jury may be asked to assess fault. In evaluating settlement offers, attorneys take into consideration the potential the jury may assess more fault to the injured party and balance that risk against the certainty of the offer.
Celebrity Motorcycle Accidents in California
Like the rest of us, celebrities are not immune to motorcycle accidents.
- Peter Fonda may hold the record for celebrity motorcycle accidents, with a 1964 crash in Hollywood, California, a 1985 crash, and another crash in 1993.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger was in motorcycle crashes in 2001 and 2006.
- Keanu Reeves also logged two motorcycle accidents in the early 1990s.
- While filming the television show “CHiPs” in 1980, Eric Estrada crashed his motorcycle in Southern California. The crash and Mr. Estrada’s injuries were written into the show.
- In 1988, Gary Busey crashed his bike after leaving Bartels’ Harley-Davidson in Culver City, California. Despite significant injuries which almost killed him, Mr. Busey remained a helmet opponent for some time. However, in 2001, he went on record with USA Today, stating, “Riding without a helmet is a gamble everyone is bound to lose.”
When Do Most Motorcycle Accidents Occur?
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), most motorcycle collisions happen on trips less than five miles long. Additionally, in most collisions, the accident occurs at less than 30 miles per hour. Experience plays a significant role in motorcycle crashes. More than half of all motorcycle collisions are attributed to riders with less than six months of experience motorcycle riding.
Motorcycle Accident Investigation
Investigating motorcycle crashes is a science. There are varying levels of investigation, from reviewing police reports and photos, to a full blown, multidisciplinary on-scene, in-depth investigation (OSIDI). The nature and depth of motorcycle accident investigation varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in California. What may be considered sufficient in Fresno has no bearing whatsoever on how law enforcement in Sacramento view adequate investigation of motorcycle accidents. Further, depending on whether the accident occurred on Interstate 10, in downtown Long Beach, or on Highway 99, different types of law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff’s office, local city police, or the Highway Patrol, may be called upon to investigate. With different resources available, the investigation may be very different. Even in jurisdictions where resources may be similar, such as a Bay Area motorcycle accident, varying levels of expertise may lead to disparate investigations by law enforcement.
Because of California’s comparative fault laws, discussed above, proper and complete motorcycle accident investigation is critical. Of course, accident victims don’t have control over the investigation performed by law enforcement. This is why hiring a California motorcycle accident lawyer who understands the importance of proper investigation is critical. The right law firm makes all the difference. Hiring a firm that has experience as motorcycle accident attorneys, and has connections to properly trained and qualified experts, allows injured parties to focus on healing, while the attorneys handle the case.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Obviously, the most severe injury which may result from a motorcycle accident is death. The second most sever type of injury may be traumatic brain injury. In 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes, and 88,000 people were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Traumatic Brain Injury
People sometimes wonder, “What are the chances of surviving a motorcycle accident?” The answer, of course, depends on the nature of the accident and the extent of the injuries sustained. Sometimes, however, a person survives but is permanently changed. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can affect all aspects of a person’s life, from whether they have full body function, to their ability to retain information, to changes in their personality. Brain injuries do not heal the way other bodily injuries do. For those with severe TBI, regaining full (or close to full) function and independence requires long term rehabilitation.
Other Types of Motorcycle Injuries
Other common motorcycle injuries include the following:
- Injury to muscles, tendons, and vessels;
- Injury to internal organs;
- Nerve or spinal cord injury;
- Sprains and strains;
- Intracranial injury;
- Open wounds; and
- Superficial wounds.
Avoiding Motorcycle Accidents
There are steps motorcycle riders can take to reduce the potential for an accident. First, because most motorcycle crashes occur with inexperienced drivers, practicing motorcycle skills, such as changing lanes, turning, braking, etc. in an empty parking lot or little traveled street can go a long way towards safe driving. Additionally, for both new drivers, and drivers riding motorcycles new to them, becoming familiar with the gear pattern, working throttle, clutch, and brakes, is essential prior to going out on the open road. Finally, even experienced drivers must have a healthy respect for the terrain. Particularly in a state like California, motorcycle riders have a wide variety of road conditions. For example, the rate of speed perfectly acceptable on the outskirts of Long Beach could result in a Bay Area motorcycle accident due to variances in the roadways. Similarly, operating a motorcycle on Hwy 101 during rush hour in Hollywood requires very different skills than on the narrow, two lane portion of Hwy 101 in Humboldt County. Developing skill appropriate to the conditions is critical for avoiding motorcycle accidents.
The California DMV has additional suggestions for how to reduce the likelihood of a collision:
- Be aware. Riders should note both traffic in front of them and traffic approaching from behind. Further, riders should always maintain an escape route plan.
- Scan your path of travel. Motorcycle riders should scan their planned path 10 to 15 seconds ahead of where they are.
- Identify possible hazards. Riders should be constantly vigilant. While some hazards, such as something falling off a truck, happen with only a moment’s notice, other hazards, such as lanes narrowing, or curves in the road, can be anticipated with observation.
- Be prepared to act. In addition to planning an escape route, riders should be prepared to act on that route on a moment’s notice. Riders should also familiarize themselves with collision avoidance techniques before riding in traffic.
- Communicate your intentions. Signals well in advance of turns and lane changes, and working brake lights are critical to avoiding motorcycle accidents.
- Maintain an adequate space cushion. Motorcyclists should ensure sufficient space between themselves and vehicles both in front of and behind them.
- Be visible. When riding, motorcyclists should wear bright clothing, or clothing with reflective properties. Headlights and running lights should be used at all times. When selecting lane position, riders should be mindful of which position affords the best possibility of both seeing and being seen.
How Do Most Motorcycle Accidents Happen?
Several long – range studies have been done to determine how most motorcycle accidents happen. One such study showed about 75 % of accidents involve collision with another vehicle, typically a car. Of the other 25% of motorcycle accidents, most of them involve collisions with a fixed object or a single vehicle collision. Most single vehicle motorcycle accidents (about 67 %) are attributable to motorcycle rider error, such as over-breaking or under-cornering. This is consistent with other data attributing most motorcycle accidents to inexperience.
Failure of other drives to see motorcycles in traffic is a common cause of motorcycle accidents. Particularly in California, where riders may drive between lanes of traffic, known as “lane splitting” drivers may not adequately anticipate motorcycles on the roadway. Driving into the sun, such as on Interstate 15 heading into Nevada in the early morning, or heading westbound on California 85 from San Jose in the evening, can cause accidents because motorists have difficulty seeing motorcycles.
Less important factors in motorcycle accidents include loss of control due to a flat tire (less than 3 %), roadway defects (2 %) and animal involvement (1 %).
Do I Need A Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, a California motorcycle accident lawyer is best suited to handle the complexities of your case. Whether you were the victim of a hit and run motorcycle accident on the Pacific Coast Highway, a collision with several vehicles on the I-5 or the I-405, or even a collision with something on the roadside in a lonely section of the mountains on Highway 9, you may have a claim. A motorcycle accident attorney has the expertise you need to adequately evaluate the facts of your case.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact the motorcycle accident attorneys at Nadrich & Cohen, LLP. We offer a free consultation, and there is never any fee unless we win your case. We have offices throughout the state of California.