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FAQs: Motorcycle Injuries

Macon Motor Bike Accident LawyerIf you have been involved in a motorcycle vehicle accident, you will have many questions about your legal rights. To help you understand those rights and the issues that may be involved in your case, the Mann Law Firm presents the following answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” about motorcycle crashes.   While we hope these FAQs are helpful, they are no substitute for talking directly with a lawyer about the specific facts of your case. At the Mann Law Firm, we make seeking this advice convenient for you by offering free initial consultations. You can schedule a meeting with us today by calling (478) 742-3381 or by using our online form. We serve clients throughout Macon and surrounding areas in Middle Georgia.

ARE DEADLY MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS COMMON IN GEORGIA?
Unfortunately, yes, fatal motorcycle accidents are common in our state and are on the rise nationwide. According to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 4,612 motorcyclists killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2011, marking a 2 percent increase from the year before. In Georgia alone, 142 people died in motorcycle accidents in 2011 – the eighth highest total in the country.

The NHTSA uses a broad definition for “motorcycle” that includes any two- or three-wheeled motorcycle, off-road motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, mini bikes and pocket bikes. Even though these vehicles made up only 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the U.S., they accounted for 14 percent of the country’s total traffic fatalities, the NHTSA reports.

“Per vehicle mile traveled in 2011, motorcyclists were over 30 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash,” according to the NHTSA.

CAN I SUE THE CAR DRIVER WHO CAUSED MY MOTORCYCLE CRASH?
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident caused either wholly or in part by a car driver – or if you lost a loved one in a crash – you can seek compensation for your losses.

If you suffered injury, you would file a personal injury lawsuit. If your family member died in the wreck, you would file a wrongful death lawsuit. The main objective would be to secure a fair and reasonable settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If that can’t be attained, then you can seek compensation by going to trial.

As a recent study by the Florida Department of Transportation shows, car drivers often do cause crashes. The study analyzed 10 years of motorcycle crashes within that state. The researchers found that the drivers of the other vehicles were at fault 60 percent of the time.

Too many car drivers simply fail to share the road safely with motorcyclists, including failing to check for motorcycles in their mirrors, give them a proper lane width or follow at an adequate distance. This type of carelessness can be the grounds for a legal claim.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO RECOVER IF I FILE A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT LAWSUIT?
The amount of compensation that can be recovered in a motorcycle accident lawsuit will depend on the unique facts and issues in the case. As we have seen at Mann Law Firm, no two cases are the same.

However, generally speaking, a personal injury lawsuit will seek “damages” to cover past and future medical expenses, past and future lost income, pain and suffering and emotional distress. We may also seek punitive damages that are meant to punish and deter particularly reckless conduct, like drunk driving.

The damages that could be sought in a wrongful death claim are slightly different and may include compensation for funeral expenses, lost financial support that your loved one would have provided and lost care, comfort and companionship.

IF MY SPEEDING CONTRIBUTED TO MY MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT, CAN I RECOVER ANY COMPENSATION?
It depends on the degree to which your act of speeding, or your “fault,” contributed to the accident.

Georgia uses a “comparative negligence” system for personal injury claims. If you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault for causing the accident, you can be barred from recovering anything. On the other hand, if you are less than 50 percent at fault, you can recover compensation. However, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you.

For example, you may have suffered $100,000 in losses in your motorcycle crash. If you are found to have been 10 percent at fault, then the most you could recover would be $90,000.

DO I HAVE ANY RIGHTS IF I WASN’T WEARING A HELMET WHEN I GOT INTO A MOTORCYCLE WRECK?
First, it’s important to wear a helmet if you are driving or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle. Studies show that helmets help to prevent serious and potentially fatal head, brain, spinal cord and other injuries if you are a motorcycle accident. Mann Law Firm strongly urges all motorcyclists to wear helmets at all times when they are operating their vehicles.

Second, Georgia does have a helmet law – albeit one that has been criticized for being vague. The law requires any person operating or riding on a motorcycle to wear “protective headgear which complies with standards established by the Board of Public Safety.” However, to date, the Board of Public Safety has not set any standards.

Finally, to answer the question, failing to wear a helmet or “protective headgear” should not bar you from recovering full compensation for your injuries and losses unless it somehow contributed to causing your accident. If you have been injured due to another’s careless driving, Mann Law Firm will stand up for your rights regardless of whether you were wearing a helmet.

CAN I BRING A LAWSUIT IF I WAS A PASSENGER WHO WAS INJURED IN A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT?
If you are a passenger who is injured in a motorcycle accident, you can seek relief from the driver of the other vehicle who caused your crash or from the person who was operating the motorcycle you were riding – or maybe even both – if their negligence contributed to the accident and your injuries.

While most passengers wouldn’t hesitate to take legal action against the car driver who caused the accident, they may be hesitant if they were hurt because of the negligence of a friend who was operating the motorcycle.

Remember: By law, anyone operating a motorcycle in Georgia must carry liability insurance. This insurance pays for any bodily injury or property damage they cause, including injuries that are suffered by passengers. Under Georgia law, the motorcyclist must have a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance to cover bodily injury to a single person or $50,000 for two or more.

So, if your friend caused your injuries as a passenger, you would be seeking to collect from the friend’s insurance policy, not from the friend personally.

WHAT CAN I DO IF I WAS INJURED IN A HIT-AND-RUN MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT?
Unfortunately, many motorcyclists in Macon and elsewhere in Georgia are injured or killed in “hit-and-run” accidents, where a car driver hits the motorcycle without stopping or otherwise flees the scene.

Whether you can recover anything for your losses will depend on if you have purchased UM / UIM insurance coverage, or uninsured motorist / underinsured motorist coverage. If so, then you may be able to file a damages claim through your own insurance policy. Generally speaking, UM coverage includes hit-and-run accidents.

WILL MY MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT CASE BE SETTLED OR GO TO COURT?
At Mann Law Firm, our goal is to secure compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and more as efficiently as possible. This means that we will seek to resolve your case by securing a full and fair settlement from the insurance company (or companies) involved in your case.

When you settle a case, you receive money in either a lump sum or a structured payment plan, and in exchange, you agree to release the at-fault party (or parties) from liability.

However, if the insurance company refuses to settle or only offers to settle for an amount that we don’t believe would be in your best interests, we will always be prepared to take your case to court. If a jury returns a verdict in your favor, the jury would decide on the amount to be awarded in your case, and the court would enter an amount in a judgment.

CAN I AFFORD TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY TO HANDLE MY MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT LAWSUIT?
At Mann Law Firm, we realize that not everyone can afford to pay for legal services upfront. That is why we represent clients on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay no costs or attorney fees unless we secure a financial recovery for you in a settlement or verdict. We will then deduct a percentage of the final award to pay for our services and all itemized costs in your case.