At Kaufman Law, P.C., we’ve seen the terrible damages that motorcycle accidents can cause in Atlanta. We’ve experienced these collisions through the eyes of our personal injury clients – we recognize the fear, pain, and personal losses that come with a bad motorcycle wreck. We’ve made it our mission to stand up for injured and deceased motorcyclists through the civil law process. It’s within our power to help clients settle insurance claims, bring lawsuits against the responsible party, and secure the compensation they need to cover damages. Count on our firm for experienced legal help.
Motorcycle-Specific Laws in Georgia
Motorcyclists have all the same rights to the road as other vehicles, as well as the same responsibilities. The majority of motorcycle accidents occur because someone breaks a roadway rule. Georgia has laws in place that apply specifically to motorcyclists, with the goal of increasing safety. Failing to obey these laws can increase the risk of a deadly collision, especially in metropolitan Atlanta. Here are a few of the most important motorcycle laws:
- Motorcyclists must obtain special Class M drivers’ licenses, obtained after passing the state’s motorcycle road sign and driving tests.
- All motorcycle operators and passengers must wear federally approved helmets. The law also requires eye protection.
- Motorcyclists cannot lane split, or drive between two lanes, in Georgia. They cannot pass vehicles in the same lane the vehicle being overtaken occupies.
- Motorcyclists must keep headlights and taillights illuminated at all times – even while driving during daylight hours.
Motorcyclists have duties to obey these and other rules while driving on Georgia’s roads. They must also follow typical roadway rules, such as coming to complete stops at stop signs, signaling turns, and driving at a reasonable speed for conditions. Speeding, following too closely, and reckless driving have all caused numerous motorcycle crashes in the past. Breaking a rule such as the universal helmet law can hurt a motorcyclist’s chances of recovering compensation. The courts could argue that the injuries would not have been severe if the victim had obeyed the state’s laws.
National Motorcycle Injury Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclist deaths occurred 29 times more often than fatalities in other vehicles in 2015. The same year, 4,976 motorcyclists died in accidents around the country. At least 42% of motorcyclists who died in accidents were alcohol-impaired at the time of the crash – a higher percentile than passenger vehicle and truck drivers. About 88,000 motorcyclists sustained injuries, a 3% decrease from 92,000 the previous year. Of those killed in motorcycle accidents in 2015, 94% were operators and 6% were passengers.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Injuries
Motorcycle accidents are complex events that involve many different human, vehicle, and environmental elements. No two crashes are identical. Most are violent events that result in serious or fatal injuries, especially to the motorcyclist. The most common cause of motorcycle injuries in a collision is ejection from the bike. Motorcyclists have no protective shell or seatbelt keeping them in place in an accident. Ejection can result in serious injuries when the body strikes the road or other objects. Ejection can be fatal if the biker falls beneath another vehicle.
Common causes of injuries in motorcycle collisions include driver error, lack of experience, and failure to operate the motorcycle safely. Controlling a motorcycle is very different from controlling a typical car. The motorcyclist must feel confident in operation, and take special precautions to avoid accidents. Rider incompetence can lead to a single-vehicle collision, or crashes with other drivers on the roadway. About 27% of motorcycle operators in fatal collisions in 2015 did not have valid licenses. This means they likely lacked the training and knowledge to safely operate the bike.
Alcohol use is another major contributing factor to motorcycle crashes. Impaired riders can easily lose control of motorcycles and crash. Motorcyclists can get into legal trouble for any amount of alcohol in their systems in a collision, but blood alcohol concentration levels of 0.08% or greater can lead to a negligence per se case, or one where negligence is obvious due to a broken law. Other common causes of crashes include other drivers on the roadway and dangerous environmental conditions. No matter the cause, there is likely a negligent party involved in your motorcycle collision. This means the potential for recovery.
Types of Motorcycle Injuries
While there are no “typical” motorcycle injuries, since each crash is different, there are injuries that occur more commonly than others. The nature of motorcycle crashes lends itself to certain types of bodily harms – namely, those that result from lack of protection around the motorcyclist. The rider is vulnerable to dangerous elements in an accident, such as flying debris or vehicles running the rider over. In our 40-plus years as personal injury attorneys in Atlanta, we’ve represented clients with a wide range of motorcycle-crash related injuries. The most common are as follows:
- Broken bones. The lower extremities are at the highest risk. Broken legs are serious injuries that often require extensive recovery time. Broken bones elsewhere can also create temporary disabilities.
- Road rash and traumatic tattooing. Severe abrasions from coming into contact with asphalt and other road materials can occur, especially if the motorcyclist doesn’t have on the proper personal gear. Traumatic tattooing refers to scarring from rocks and debris becoming embedded in the skin.
- Head and brain injuries. The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved at least 1,772 motorcyclists’ lives in 2015. Even with a helmet, however, serious head and brain injuries can occur from contact with the roadway or other objects. Traumatic brain injuries can result in permanent damages such as cognitive impairment.
- Spinal cord injuries. A serious motorcycle collision can result in damage to the rider’s spinal cord. Spine injuries are typically permanent, with consequences such as partial or complete paralysis below the level of injury. These victims require lifelong medical care to survive.
In a split second, an unsuspecting motorcyclist can sustain injuries that will transform his or her life forever. Catastrophic injuries can cause long-term effects such as inability to work and lost enjoyment of life. Even minor injuries can accumulate significant medical costs and lost wages from missed time at work. No matter what type of injuries you sustained in a recent motorcycle crash in Atlanta, speak to our attorneys.
When to Contact a Motorcycle Attorney
After a motorcycle crash, you need an attorney by your side to help you fight for maximum compensation. You may have totaled your bike, and racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills. You deserve to find out if someone else is liable to pay for these damages. Georgia Code Section 51-11-7 states that a plaintiff may still recover a percentage of damages even if he or she was partially responsible for the crash. The courts will reduce the award by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. If you believe you contributed to the accident, don’t think this bars you from recovery. Speak to an attorney to find out what your case might still be worth.
Thanks to the free initial consultations at Kaufman Law, P.C., you don’t have to spend a dime to have a conversation with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. It’s our pleasure to discuss your potential legal options free of charge and at no obligation. We want you to understand your rights as an injured motorcyclist in Atlanta, and pursue compensation through all possible means. We can take over settlement negotiations with an insurance company or file a lawsuit against the at-fault party on your behalf. All it takes is one phone call. Reach out today for more information.