Common Injuries After a Motorcycle Accident

f4rf4A nine-year veteran motorcycle patrol officer suffered a serious head injury in a crash with an SUV.

The wreck occurred as the officer, whose name was not released, was responding to a fatal hit-and-run incident on North Gary Avenue. While en route, a Ford Explorer turned directly into the motorcycle officer’s path, knocking his bike to the ground. First responders rushed the 32-year-old officer to a nearby hospital as investigators questioned the Explorer driver, who was not injured.

Investigators are also questioning a 21-year-old man whom they believe was the tortfeasor (negligent driver) in the fatal hit-and-run.

Motorcycle Crashes

These types of collisions (a four-wheel vehicle turning directly into a motorcycle’s right-of-way) are so common in many countries that observers refer to them as “SMIDSY” crashes (sorry, mate, I didn’t see you). In addition to the fact that this phrase has a certain je ne sais quoi, it encapsulates the cavalier attitude that many motorists have in these crashes, even if the cyclist is seriously injured. Indeed, most motorcycle crash victims heard the tortfeasors say things like “He came out of nowhere” or “I never even saw her.”

The evidence is not just anecdotal. According to the landmark Hurt Report, about a third of motorcycle-vehicle crashes occur when the motorist is attempting a left turn against traffic. The problem may be even worse today, since when the Hurt Report researchers performed their work, most motorists drove small passenger cars, and many of today’s roads are dominated by visibility-impairing large pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.

To hopefully avoid becoming victims, many rider wear bright clothes or take other actions to increase their visibility. Unfortunately, there is very little statistical or scientific evidence supporting these rider tricks.

Motorcycle Crash Injuries

Largely because they are almost completely exposed to the risk of serious injury, motorcycle riders are twenty-seven times more likely to be killed in a collision than vehicle occupants. According to this resource, some serious injuries include:

  • Head and Neck Injuries: Although a helmet reduces the risk of these kinds of injuries, it does not eliminate the risk altogether, a point that is discussed below. Moreover, the victim in the above story is evidence that helmeted riders can also hurt their head very, very badly.
  • Bikers’ Arm: Most all riders are thrown off their bikes in crashes, as if they extend their arms to break their falls, the resulting trauma often causes permanent nerve damage.
  • Blood Loss: Motorcycle crash victims nearly always suffer both external and internal trauma injuries, and the resulting blood loss increases the risk of hypovolemic shock and other serious conditions.

Damages in motorcycle crash cases normally include compensation for both noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, as well as medical bills and other economic losses. Punitive damages may be available as well, in some cases.

Insurance Company Defenses

It is a simple economic fact that insurance companies earn money when they collect policy premiums and lose money when they pay claims, so their lawyers are instructed to do whatever possible within the law to reduce or deny compensation to victims. Contributory negligence is one of the insurance companies’ go-to defenses, especially in non-helmet motorcycle crash cases.

The Golden State has a mandatory helmet law, and general statistical evidence abounds regarding helmet safety. One oft-used tidbit is that the number of motorcycle crash-related head injuries dropped 53 percent the year after California lawmakers enacted the helmet law. However, to successfully rise the contributory negligence defense in such cases, the insurance company probably must offer expert testimony that a specific type of helmet would have reduced that particular victim’s injuries, and many times, such “evidence” is actually little more than speculation.

California is a pure comparative fault state that divides damages simply according to fault. So, if a jury determines that a helmet would have reduced the victim’s injuries by 40 percent, the victim still receives 60 percent of the total.

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