There are over 200,000 registered motorcyclists in Georgia, and any one of those motorcyclists could probably tell you that they are more vulnerable than other drivers.
Cars have many safety features such as seat belts, air bags, and sturdy metal construction that protect occupants from the devastating impact of a crash. Motorcyclists have none of those protections. Therefore, when a motorcyclist gets into an accident, severe injuries are more likely to result.
Motorcyclists may have head injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken or crushed limbs, organ damage, or permanent disabilities. Motorcyclists are also more likely to be killed in accidents than car or truck drivers. Nationwide, there were 29 times as many motorcycle deaths as car deaths, per mile traveled, in 2015.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Georgia motorcycle accidents can occur for any of the same reasons as a regular vehicle accident. Some common causes of accidents include:
- Driving under the influence. Alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs and even over-the-counter medications can impair a driver and make it more likely that he or she will cause an accident.
- Distracted driving. A car or truck driver can take his or her eyes off the road for any number of reasons. The driver may send a text message, change the radio station, or turn around to talk to a passenger in the back seat.
- Speeding or other traffic violations. Speeding, following too closely, improper lane changes, not obeying traffic signals, and aggressive driving can all contribute to causing an accident.
- Driver fatigue. Fatigued drivers have slower reaction times and may even fall asleep at the wheel. The director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety once said that "a drowsy driver is just as dangerous as a drunk driver."
In addition, motorcycles are smaller than most other vehicles, which means other drivers might not see a motorcyclist when turning or changing lanes. That doesn't excuse a car or truck driver who hits a motorcyclist, but it is a real danger that motorcyclists face every day.
How can an injured motorcyclist receive compensation for injuries?
You will most likely deal with an insurance company during your motorcycle injury case.
All Georgia drivers are required to have insurance. This includes "bodily injury liability" coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. This liability insurance pays for the other party's injuries or losses in an accident. In a perfect world, a motorcycle accident victim would receive compensation for his or her injuries through the responsible driver's liability insurance.
Unfortunately, many drivers do not have the required liability insurance. "Uninsured motorist" coverage can help in this situation if you have it. Unlike liability insurance (which covers the other party's injuries), uninsured motorist insurance covers your own injuries and losses if you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist.
Although Georgia insurers are required to offer uninsured motorist coverage as a part of any automobile liability policy issued in Georgia (in an amount equal to the liability limits), the policyholder can elect to either waive the coverage completely or purchase it in an amount less than the liability coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage will also cover claims against drivers who are underinsured (meaning, who have insurance, but the victim's damages exceed that amount) and may help a victim obtain additional compensation.
Most motorcycle injury cases are settled before they ever get to court. Steps in the process usually include:
- Filing a claim with the insurance company. Your attorney will usually make a claim with the responsible party's insurance company. This claim will include an explanation of who was at fault and how much the responsible party should pay for the injuries that resulted. This claim will include details regarding your injuries, expenses, lost income, and how the accident negatively affected you (mental anguish, pain and suffering, etc.).
- Review and response by the insurance company. The insurance company reviews the claim and responds to it. The insurance company's goal is to pay out as little as possible to settle a claim, so they may make a low-ball settlement offer or even refuse to pay the claim. The insurance company may refuse to pay a claim because it believes that you were partly or wholly responsible for the accident or that your injuries were not all that severe.
- Negotiations with insurance company. Your attorney will respond to the insurance company's denial or negotiate with the insurance company if the initial offer was too low (as it often is).
If negotiations with the insurance company are not successful, you may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit in your motorcycle accident case. At any time during the resulting trial, it is possible to settle the case if you and the insurance company (including, in some cases, your uninsured motorist insurer) come to mutually agreeable settlement terms.
What if the motorcyclist was partially at fault for the accident?
As with passenger vehicle accidents, if a motorcycle driver is speeding, breaking other traffic laws, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are more likely to be involved in an accident.
Under Georgia's comparative negligence laws, if the motorcyclist was partially responsible for his or her injuries, the amount of damages he or she can receive may be reduced. For example, if a jury awards $100,000 but the motorcyclist was 30% responsible for the accident, the motorcyclist would receive $70,000. If the motorcyclist was 50% or more responsible for the accident, they are not entitled to receive any compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.
The flip side of Georgia's comparative negligence laws is more positive: it may still be possible to recover compensation, even if you were partially responsible for a motorcycle accident.
Getting the Compensation You Deserve for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Because motorcyclists are relatively unprotected compared to other drivers, they are likely to receive more severe injuries in an accident. Holding the other driver responsible for the accident can help ensure that you receive the compensation you are due for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Insurance companies will work hard to limit the amount they pay in motorcycle accident cases, and they may try to prove you were responsible for causing the accident. Some people also have a biased perception of motorcycle riders. An insurance company representative or a jury may think motorcycle riders are reckless, irresponsible, or more likely to engage in dangerous or criminal activities.
This means you may face an uphill battle to prove you were not at fault in a motorcycle accident. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney can help you fight that battle and get you the compensation you are due in a motorcycle accident case. Contact The Hadden Law Firm to learn more.