Motorcycle accidents can touch on many areas of law, such as product liability, personal injury, and property rights.
Motorcycle riders are in a unique position on the road. They enjoy the freedoms that come with their chosen form of transportation, but they are also exposed to dangers not met by automobile drivers and other motorists. For instance, the lack of any substantial protective barriers between a motorcycle and the road, as well as the difficulty that other motorists may have in anticipating and seeing a motorcycle, leave riders prone to serious injury in the event of an accident. As a result, motorcycle riders must be aware of their legal rights and remedies if they are involved in a traffic accident.
The Risks of the Road for Motorcycle Riders
The risks that motorcycle riders face, and the need to protect their rights of recovery after an accident, become readily apparent through a review of the following statistics:
- In two-thirds of motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle, the driver of the other vehicle violated the motorcycle rider’s right of way and caused the accident.
- Motorcyclists are about 26 times more likely to die in a crash than someone riding in a passenger car and are 5 times as likely to be injured.
- Although the number of fatalities for drivers and passengers of automobiles and light trucks has been steadily falling since 1999, the fatality rate for motorcycle accidents has more than doubled in that time.
Some of the unique problems faced by motorcycle riders on the road include:
- Visual Recognition: Motorcycles make smaller visual targets, which are more likely to be obscured by other vehicles, or by road and weather conditions. This is an issue especially at intersections, where approximately 70 percent of motorcycle-versus-vehicle collisions occur.
- Road Hazards: Hazards that are minor irritations for an automobile can be a major hazard for a motorcycle rider. These include potholes, oil slicks, puddles, debris, or other objects on the roadway, ruts, uneven pavement, and railroad tracks.
- Speed “Wobble” Accidents: Especially at higher speeds, the front end of a motorcycle may become unstable and begin to shake or “wobble.” This problem may be due to a misalignment of the front and rear tires of the motorcycle. If an accident is caused by such a high-speed wobble, the manufacturer of the motorcycle might be held financially responsible for any resulting injuries, under a product liability theory.
- Riding Skills and Familiarity: A motorcycle requires much more skill and physical coordination to operate than a car. Many motorcycle accidents are caused in whole or in part by a rider’s lack of basic riding skills, or failure to appreciate the inherent operating characteristics and limitations of the motorcycle.
Determining Legal Responsibility for a Motorcycle Accident
Like most motor vehicle accident cases, motorcycle accident claims are almost always governed by the legal concept of negligence. In New Mexico, if a motorcycle operator was partially at fault for the accident, comparative negligence applies and any damages may be calculated based on the amount of each party’s respective fault.
Motorcycle Design or Manufacture Defects
If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident, you should first seek immediate medical treatment. Then, you may want to have an an attorney review your claim to help you understand what your next steps should be. Getting legal help can put your mind at ease and let you focus on what matters most — getting better.