There are several factors unique to motorcycle accidents that can make the legal issues involved very different from that of a car accident personal injury claim. This is one reason it is a good idea to meet with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney if you or a family member has been hurt in a motorcycle accident in Georgia.
The Athens Injury Law Group’s team of personal injury lawyers is attuned to the unique factors at play in motorcycle accidents, the risks inherent in riding a motorcycle, how liability is determined in a collision involving a motorcycle, and how to determine when a product defect may have caused or contributed to the incident. They can help you decide your best course of action following a motorcycle accident, and ensure that your legal rights are protected.
Risks of Riding a Motorcycle in Georgia
Motorcycle accidents are far more likely to result in catastrophic injury or death as compared to car accidents. According to statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclist deaths occurred 28 times more frequently than fatalities in other vehicles, based on data collected in 2016.
The risks unique to riding a motorcycle include:
- Less visibility to cars and trucks. Since motorcycles are smaller and hidden from view more easily, other drivers are less likely to see them. Visibility is particularly poor at intersections.
- Road hazards. Road debris, uneven surfaces, wet pavement, and other hazards may have little or no effect on a car, but they are a factor in hundreds of motorcycle accidents each year.
- Lack of safety features. Unlike people who are riding in a car, motorcyclists are not protected by a large steel or alloy frame. They also lack seatbelts and airbags. Although Georgia law requires motorcycle riders to wear a helmet at all times, it is one of only 19 states to enact a universal helmet law and many motorcycle riders do not follow the law as written.
- Less stability. Two-wheeled motorcycles are less stable than four-wheeled vehicles, especially when braking or changing direction suddenly.
- Skill required. Safely operating a motorcycle requires far more skill than driving a car. Novice riders are disproportionately involved in motorcycle accidents.
- High-risk behavior. Light and powerful motorcycles known as sport bikes are designed for speed. Riders are often prone to speeding, accelerating rapidly, weaving in and out of traffic, and other risky behavior.
People who ride motorcycles in Georgia can reduce the risk of being injured in an accident in a number of ways. They can get professional motorcycle training, maintain a lookout to avoid road hazards, ensure that their motorcycles are properly maintained, and not split lanes with other vehicles.
Liability in a Georgia Motorcycle Accident
In Georgia, liability in motorcycle accidents is governed by the legal principle of negligence. Every driver—whether they are operating a motorcycle or any other type of vehicle—has a duty to exercise reasonable care toward their passengers, and other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. This duty is discharged by observing a degree of care exercised by ordinarily prudent persons under the same or similar conditions. When one fails in this duty, thereby exposing others to unreasonable risks of harm, it is called negligence.
Motorcycle riders are often stereotyped as being reckless with their personal safety, but this is far from the truth. In many motorcycle accidents, it is not the person riding the motorcycle but someone driving another car or truck who is negligent. Their negligence can consist of doing something they should not have done, like running a red light or speeding, or failing to do something that they should have done, like checking their blind spot before changing lanes.
Elements of a Georgia Negligence Claim
There are four elements of a negligence claim in Georgia. The plaintiff, or the person making the claim, must prove:
- The person the claim is brought against (referred to as the defendant in court) had a duty to act with reasonable care;
- The defendant breached his or her duty to act with reasonable care (i.e., was not careful);
- The defendant’s carelessness caused the accident; and
- The plaintiff was injured as a result of the accident.
Each of these elements is essential to a personal injury claim arising from a motorcycle accident. If you were hit by another driver while riding your motorcycle, but you didn’t get hurt, you cannot pursue a personal injury claim. This is true even if the other driver was drunk, texting, or acting in some other unreasonable manner at the time of the collision.
Comparative Negligence in a Motorcycle Accident Case
In a lot of motorcycle accidents, the driver of the other vehicle and the motorcyclist both do something that contributes to the crash. In these cases, the other driver will often assert the motorcyclist’s negligence as a defense to the motorcyclist’s personal injury claim.
Georgia follows the law of comparative negligence. If both parties were negligent in causing the accident, the motorcyclist must be less than 50% at fault, or his or her claim will have no chance of being successful.
In situations where the other driver’s negligence exceeds the motorcyclist’s negligence, the motorcyclist may recover damages from the other driver, but the amount recoverable may be proportionately reduced by the negligence that is attributed to the motorcyclist. In other words, the motorcyclist’s behavior may prevent him or her from being fully compensated by the other driver. Sometimes, the claim is barred completely.
Contact an Athens Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you or someone in your family has been involved in a motorcycle accident, you need to consult with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. Valuable evidence can be lost if you wait too long to protect your right to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other accident-related damages.
The Athens Injury Law Group’s lawyers have dedicated their law practices to helping people just like you. Our attorneys will negotiate the best out-of-court settlement possible. If the at-fault driver (or, most often, his or her insurance company) is unwilling to fully and fairly compensate you for your injuries, we will take your case to court.
You can rest assured that if you are represented by the Athens Injury Law Group, you will get the justice that you and your family deserve. Contact us now at 706-559-0159 or schedule a free consultation online.