California is known as the Golden State for its golden coastal sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. With so much sunshine all year long, it’s no wonder that there are more registered motorcycles in the state of California than any other. Here, it’s not just about the commute, but also about pleasure and enjoyment. The catch is that with more motorcyclists also comes more motorcycle accidents. Consider that in 2016, California had 566 motorcycle fatalities, only second to Florida with 574 according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. It’s no coincidence that the two “Sunshine States” also happen to have the most motorcycle accident fatalities. People enjoy riding their bikes in warmer temperatures.
Have you or someone you love been injured in a bike accident? The Orange County motorcycle accident attorneys at Crockett Law Group will fight by your side to make sure that you are fairly compensated for your injury. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with our legal team. We will review the details of your accident and explain your legal rights to you. The sooner you call our Orange County personal injury attorneys for help, the sooner we can get you the compensation you deserve.
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What Are the Motorcycle Helmet Laws in California?
California Vehicle Code Section 27803 requires both drivers and passengers to wear a safety helmet when riding on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle. A helmeted driver who rides with a passenger who is not helmeted may be cited. Similarly, a helmeted passenger who rides with a driver who is not helmeted may also be cited. To “wear a safety helmet” means the helmet is fastened to your head with straps and is of a size that fits your head securely without excessive movement.
The helmet must also meet minimum standards set by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT’s minimum standards can be found in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218:
- Design/Style of Helmet: helmets cannot have rigid protrusions that extend farther than one-fifth of an inch from the surface of the helmet.
- Weight of Helmet: helmets should generally weigh about three pounds.
- Inner Liner Thickness: helmets should have an expanded polystyrene inner liner that is at least ¾-inch thick.
- Sturdy Chin Strap and Rivets: helmets should have sturdy chin straps held in place by solid rivets.
Keep in mind that a legal motorcycle helmet will have a “DOT” certification label on the back of the helmet.
Is It Legal for a Motorcycle to Split Lanes in California?
California Vehicle Code Section 21658.1 defines “lane splitting”, also known as lane sharing or filtering, as riding a motorcycle “between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane.” Lane splitting is not illegal in the state of California. However, motorcyclists must still obey speed limits and lane split responsibly. The California Highway Patrol has adopted guidelines for motorcyclists to consider, such as the following:
- Be mindful that danger increases as your speed increases
- Be mindful that danger increases as the speed differential increases between your motorcycle and the vehicles around you
- It’s safest to split between the far left lanes of traffic
- Try not to lane split next to large vehicles like big rigs and buses
- Try to avoid riding your motorcycle in a driver’s blind spot
- Be visible by wearing brightly colored and reflective protective gear
- Be visible by using your high beams during the day
Although lane splitting is not illegal in California, it does provide fodder for the at-fault driver’s insurance company to dispute liability for the accident. In that case, it’s probably best that you contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer near Orange County to help you fight back against the insurance company.
What Are the Main Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?
Motorcycle accidents can happen for any number of reasons, but these are some of the main causes we typically see:
Unsafe speed. Speeding increases the risk of any kind of accident, and a motorcycle accident is no exception. 16.1 percent of motorcycle accidents are speed-related.
- Improper turning: For example, a garbage truck intending to make a turn might go out wide and into the motorcyclist’s path of travel.
- Improper passing: Passing on the right is dangerous and should be avoided.
- Automobile right-of-way: Even motorcyclists have to yield the right-of-way to traffic that is oncoming. With that being said, if an automobile is turning left and a motorcyclist is turning right, the automobile must yield the right-of-way to the motorcyclist by letting him finish his right turn.
- Alcohol or drugs: Motorcycling is inherently dangerous as it is, so riders certainly need all of their faculties while operating this machine. 7.6 percent of motorcycle accidents involved alcohol or drugs.
- Hazardous weather conditions: When the roadway is slippery, accidents are more likely to occur.
- Unsafe lane changes: A motor vehicle driver intending to change lanes might fail to check his blind spot and accidentally hit a motorcyclist with his car.
- Obstacles on the roadway: A motorcyclist or a car might veer to the side in an effort to avoid something that shouldn’t be in the roadway.
- Inexperienced riders: The motorcyclist might be new to riding and lacks training. Worse yet, he might not even be properly licensed.
- Lane splitting: Although the practice is legal in California, it can still be a dangerous activity.
What Should I Do After a Motorcycle Accident?
We’ve created a list of the chronological steps you should take after you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident:
Take pictures first. Photographs accomplish two important things: they provide evidence of the extent of damages, and they help shed light on how the accident might have occurred.
- Get off the road. It’s important for you to move away from traffic and towards a place of safety.
- Call 911. Having a Traffic Collision Report will make it easier to open up a bodily injury claim.
- Collect information. Irrespective of the information a police officer might obtain, it’s still important for you to try to collect as much information as possible about the parties involved, including names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, etc.
- Talk to witnesses. Liability is not always clear cut in motorcycle accidents, so try to collect the names and numbers of any person who might have seen how the accident occurred.
- Never admit fault. This will be held against you. You might say something that you’ll regret once you’ve had a chance to calm down and reflect on what just happened.
- Seek medical attention. If you feel pain, go see a doctor. If you don’t feel pain, still go see a doctor. It’s likely that you’ve got adrenaline pumping through your veins that is masking your pain and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Alert your insurance company. Most insurance policies require that you promptly notify them of an accident or else you risk losing coverage.
- Consult with an accident lawyer. Insurance companies have more resources than you do, so why not call in reinforcements to help fight back against these giants. Contacting a motorcycle accident lawyer in Orange County will help level the playing field for you.
What Is the Most Common Motorcycle Injury?
Road rash is easily the most common type of motorcycle accident injury there is. But beyond that, which body parts are affected will largely depend on whether you were wearing a helmet and protective gear at the time you were hit. For example, if you weren’t wearing a DOT approved helmet, you’re much more likely to sustain a brain injury.
Regardless of whether you were wearing protective gear, your body will probably be subject to multiple impacts. The other vehicle involved in the accident might have made contact with your body and not just your bike. Your body might subsequently sustain a second impact if you fall to the ground—and you likely will. Finally, your body might sustain additional impacts if you roll after falling to the ground.
With each additional impact, the likelihood of injury increases exponentially. These are some of the most common injuries we see after a motorcycle accident, ranked in order of how common they are:
- Legs and feet – The CDC found that 30 percent of motorcycle injuries were to the lower extremity. Out of this, the tibia and fibula are the most commonly broken bones in the lower extremity.
- Head and neck – The CDC found that 22 percent of motorcycle injuries were to the head and neck. As you’d probably expect, the incidence of head/facial injuries and traumatic brain injuries is less for helmeted riders as compared to non-helmeted riders. Sadly, only 57% of riders involved in motorcycle crashes are helmeted.
- Upper trunk – This includes the chest, shoulders, and back.
- Arms and hands – The radius and ulna are the most commonly broken bones in the upper extremity.
- Lower trunk – This includes our hips and pelvis.
Of note, approximately 4% of motorcycle accidents are fatal and only about 17 percent of motorcycle accident victims walk away uninjured.
Motorcycle Road Rash Treatment
Road rash is where the outer tissue of your skin is ripped as a result of rubbing or scraping. Most of the time, road rash only results in a minor superficial abrasion, but it can also be severe when it becomes infected or turns into a scar.
Road rash can occur as a result of being thrown from your motorcycle and onto the asphalt, cement, or other abrasive surfaces. If you subsequently drag against the ground, the likelihood of road rash increases. So, too, does the likelihood of road rash increase if you’re not wearing any motorcycle safety gear.
The type of treatment road rash requires depends on the degree of road rash you’ve sustained:
First-Degree Road Rash
This type of injury is the least severe of the three and occurs when only the first layer of skin is damaged. The skin may look red and tender, but it can be safely treated at home.
Second-Degree Road Rash
This type of injury occurs when both the first and second layers of skin are damaged. The victim may experience bleeding, swelling, and radiating heat. Medical attention should be sought as soon as possible to decrease the risk of infection and minimize scarring that is likely to occur.
Third-Degree Road Rash
This type of injury is the most severe of the three and refers to all three layers of skin being damaged, leaving the muscle and bone beneath it exposed. This is extremely painful and takes a long time to heal. It requires immediate medical attention, which might include a skin graft. Scarring and permanent disfigurement can be expected.
Orange County Motorcycle Accident Statistics
Motorcycle accidents appear to be on the rise in Orange County. In 2012, Orange County had 977 victims killed or injured in motorcycle accidents. But by 2017, there were 1,272 motorcycle accidents that resulted in injury or death. That’s 1.3 times higher than they were just five years prior.
The number of fatal motorcycle accidents that occur in California is even more alarming. In 2018, there were 488 motorcycle fatalities in the state of California, 30 of which were caused in part by not wearing a helmet. Keep in mind that the total number of motorcycle fatalities in 2018 was just 4,985 for the entire United States. That means California was responsible for more than 10% of motorcycle fatalities in the year 2018.
Our dense population and crowded roads surely play a large role in why motorcycle accidents and fatalities are more likely to occur in California and Orange County in particular. But, Orange County also has some of the deadliest roads to ride your motorcycle on in the entire U.S., which brings us to our next topic of discussion.
Most Dangerous Road for Motorcyclists in Orange County
The Ortega Highway, also known as State Route 74, is known in Orange County, CA, for being one of the most dangerous highways, especially for motorcyclists. This two-lane roadway stretches all the way from San Juan Capistrano in Orange County to Palm Desert in Riverside County.
It’s a popular drive for motorcyclists because of how scenic it is. But its beauty comes with danger. What makes it so dangerous is its narrow width and sharp turns. Unsuspecting and inexperienced motorcyclists don’t realize this cruise down the Ortega highway at unsafe speeds. Most motorcycle accidents on this notorious highway could be avoided if the driver just slowed down.
Consider the fact that in just the first five months of 2020, the Ortega Highway has already seen 185 accidents and 3 fatalities. That’s a lot of injuries and deaths for just one road. Ride safely and reduce your speed the next time you’re on this treacherous road.
Does Health Insurance Cover Motorcycle Accidents?
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident and have health insurance, you could have your health insurance pay for medical bills related to your injuries. However, you need to know three things about this.
The medical provider can choose not to bill your health insurance. Some medical providers, like hospitals, prefer to seek reimbursement from your accident claim if they know your injuries were caused by somebody else’s negligence. The reason why is because they think they’ll receive more money from your accident claim than they will from your health insurance company. This is especially true if you have public health insurance like Medicare or Medi-Cal who practically only pay providers pennies on the dollar for medical services. If this happens to you, you can submit the bill to your health insurance company yourself and see if the provider accepts payment.
You will still be responsible for paying any co-pay, deductible, or co-insurance you may have under your health insurance policy.
A co-pay is a fixed amount of money you have to pay out-of-pocket for a service covered by your health insurance. A co-pay for a doctor’s visit or prescription medication is usually not very high, but it won’t count towards your deductible.
A deductible is a fixed amount of money you have to pay out-of-pocket towards your medical bill before your health insurance kicks in and starts paying. For example, if you have a $1,000 deductible under your health insurance policy, then you have to pay the first $1,000 towards the covered services before your health insurance will start making payments.
Co-insurance is the percentage of costs you pay for a covered service once you’ve met your deductible. For example, if you have a 90/10 coinsurance split, then your health insurance pays 90% and you pay 10% of the costs.
Your health insurance will seek reimbursement from your motorcycle accident settlement. This is called “subrogation.” This is shocking to a lot of our clients, but here’s why it makes sense. The defendant is reimbursing you for your pain and suffering and for your medical bills. But if your health insurance already paid for your medical bills, then you’d be getting a double recovery by pocketing the rest. The law doesn’t allow for this.
What Is the Average Settlement for a Motorcycle Accident in California?
The value of your injury claim for your motorcycle accident will depend on a number of factors, such as the following:
- Whether there was a brain injury
- Whether there were any broken bones
- Whether there were any torn ligaments
- Whether surgery was required or recommended
- Whether there was any scarring
- The cost of your past and future medical treatment
- Whether there was any lost earning capacity
- Whether the claim settles pre-suit or after a jury trial
According to Jury Verdict Research, which is published by Thomson Reuters, the median jury verdict for a motorcycle accident injury claim was $73,700 between the years 1999 to 2006. It’s important to point out a few things about this number.
On the one hand, jury verdicts tend to be higher than pre-suit settlements, so the average motorcycle settlement amount might actually be lower.
On the other hand, this research was compiled nationally whereas jury verdicts tend to be higher in California than in most of the rest of the country, so the average motorcycle settlement amount might actually be higher here.
Should I Get a Lawyer for a Motorcycle Accident?
You should definitely hire a lawyer after being involved in a motorcycle accident. There is a lot to deal with after being involved in any accident and it’s nice to have someone in your corner who can help point you in the right direction and fight beside you.
Consider all of these other reasons to hire a lawyer after a motorcycle accident:
You Can Focus on Recovery
Being injured is stressful enough without the added hassle of having to talk to insurance adjusters about a subject you know little about. Let your attorney deal with the insurance companies while you heal.
Your Lawyer Can Help Protect Your Legal Rights
The fact of the matter is that you don’t know what you don’t know and insurance carriers can be sneaky. For example, some insurance companies have been known to ask claimants to sign a release for “all claims” when they settle their property damage claim. The unsuspecting injury victim just gave up their right to pursue the at-fault driver for their bodily injury claim without even knowing it. Hiring an attorney can ensure that doesn’t happen.
Your Attorney Can Help Get You In Touch With the Right Medical Providers
If you don’t have any health insurance, you probably can’t afford to pay for expensive doctors visits out of pocket. Even if you do have health insurance, you might have trouble getting referred to the right doctors. An attorney can help facilitate that.
Attorneys Know the Law
California is a comparative liability state, which means you can recover compensation even if you were partially at fault for an accident. I’ve seen a lot of insurance companies deny any liability whatsoever until our firm gets involved and forces them to accept partial responsibility for the accident.
Having a Lawyer Increases Your Chace of a Larger Settlement
Insurance companies often pressure unrepresented claimants to settle quickly before they have an opportunity to understand the extent of their injuries and hire an attorney. That’s because the insurance adjuster knows they’ll end up paying out more money the minute you hire a lawyer.
Contact an Orange County Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today
As motorcycle accident injury lawyers, we regularly represent the interests of victims who have been treated unfairly by an insurance company. Crockett Law Group is committed to handling your injury claim from start to finish and will fight to make sure that you receive the money you deserve. If you’ve been injured as a result of a motorcycle crash, contact Crockett Law Group to speak with our lawyers in Orange County at (800) 900-9393.