Motorcycle Accidents

Have You Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?

Motorcycling is popular for both men and women, even in Illinois where the winter weather may keep motorcycles in the garage for several months. Since 1999, the number of motorcycles registered in Illinois has gone up by 76%; currently, there are about 240,000 registered motorcyclists in Illinois making up about 4% of all registered vehicles.

With so many motorcyclists on the road, motorcycle accidents have become a fact of life. In 2011, there were 3,756 crashes involving motorcycles in Illinois.

For obvious reasons, motorcycle riders and their passengers are more vulnerable than the occupants of cars and trucks. Because there is no helmet law in Illinois, only about 36% of riders use helmets, which further leaves many motorcyclists exposed to severe head and neck injuries. Consequently, when a motorcyclist gets into an accident with a car or truck which results in a fatality or injury, it is more likely to be the motorcyclist who suffers harm. Statistics bear this out: although motorcycles were involved in only 3,756 out of 281,788 motor vehicle accidents in the state of Illinois in 2011 (or 1.3%), 145 motorcyclists were killed and over 3,000 were injured, accounting for almost 16% of all the motor vehicle accident fatalities for the year, and 3.5% of all motor vehicle injuries for the year.

Motorcycle Crash Attorneys in Chicago

Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable not only because they lack the protection of substantial bodywork, but because they are smaller. This disadvantage makes motorcycles more difficult to see for other motor vehicle operators, and also means that motorcycles and their passengers are more likely to be thrown further in the event of a collision.

Because motorcycles are more difficult to spot than other vehicles, motorcyclists must always drive defensively, and never assume that other drivers can see them, particularly the drivers of the vehicles in front of them. Motorcycle accidents often happen when drivers:

  • Pull out of a side street, parking lot, or driveway in front of a motorcycle;
  • Make an abrupt turn in front of a motorcycle;
  • Make a lane change in front of or broadside to a motorcycle; or
  • Try to pass another car, and fail to spot the motorcyclist in either the passing lane or the target lane.

In one study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discovered that, in over three quarters of all accidents involving a motorcycle and a car, the car was located in front of the bike; in fewer than 10% of the accidents, motorcycles were hit from behind. Even more, about 40% of the accidents were caused by a car turning left in front of a motorcycle—in other words, the driver of the car did not see the motorcyclist to the left before he or she began turning.

Liability for Motorcycle Accidents

As these facts suggest, motorcyclists injured in accidents are often the victims of negligence. Every negligence claim is made up of four essential elements: a duty, a breach of that duty, an injury caused by the breach, and damages suffered by the plaintiff. All drivers of motor vehicles owe a duty of care to everyone else who uses public thoroughfares: bicyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers—including motorcyclists. When a driver breaches that duty by being careless, intoxicated, tired, or distracted, and ends up causing an accident which results in injury or death to another person, the driver may be held civilly liable to the injured party in a negligence claim.

A motorcyclist injured in an accident may have a claim if he can demonstrate that another driver was at fault. When a motorcycle driver has obeyed all of the traffic laws but is nevertheless involved in a multi-vehicle crash not caused by environmental conditions (such as ice), chances are that is has been caused by the driver of another vehicle not seeing the motorcyclist, speeding, being intoxicated, or a combination of the three. In fact, in Illinois, weather is usually not a factor in motorcycle crashes—most motorcyclists do not ride when the weather is inclement. Over 90% of Illinois crashes involving motorcycles occur on dry pavement during a clear day.

What to Do if You Have Been Involved in a Motorcycle Accident

Motorcyclists, like all motorists, should immediately contact the police or highway patrol if they are involved in an accident in which there is an injury or fatality, so that a police report can be made. If immediate medical help is needed, render what aid you can, seek assistance, and call emergency medical help. If you are the one who is injured, you should seek immediate medical help. Even if your injury seems minor and you do not need immediate aid, it is important to get a full medical examination as soon as possible, as some injuries are not immediately apparent.

Typically, police reports will include basic data such as the identity, contact information, and driver’s license numbers of the parties involved, the names and contact information of witnesses, statements from the parties and witnesses, and diagrams and photographs of the accident and its location. You will not only need to obtain a copy of this report, but you should also, to the extent you are able, collect most of the same data for yourself, particularly the contact and insurance information for the other parties and witnesses.

As a general rule, providing and documenting accident information immediately is the best course. And even though you may be tempted to second-guess your own actions when someone has been hurt, it is important simply to state the facts as you know them, rather than speculate on what might have happened had a different course of events unfolded –for example, if you had driven more slowly, or changed lanes, or flashed your headlights, or any of a number of possible scenarios. Not only are these speculations fruitless, but they will confuse the police, and possibly injure your case if your words are taken out of context.

Serious vehicle accidents are traumatic experiences, and details are more likely to be accurate when an event is fresh. After the trauma recedes, memories can be faulty, and people may also tend to be more guarded. For example, at the time of the accident, a negligent driver is more likely to make an admission such as stating he or she never saw your motorcycle, but may later change their story to paint themselves in a less damaging light.

Contact the Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at Abels & Annes for a Consultation

After your accident, in addition to speaking with the police and obtaining any necessary medical attention, you should probably contact a qualified and knowledgeable personal injury attorney with experience handling motorcycle accidents. The motorcycle accident attorneys at Abels & Annes can help you.

Too often, accident victims believe that insurance—either their own or the other driver’s—will adequately compensate them for any injuries or personal property damage they have suffered. Unfortunately, however, many insurance companies are reluctant to pay even when the fault may seem clear, particularly when the damages are substantial. Even when an insurer seems responsible, be aware that many of them will try to settle claims quickly, and urge you to sign an agreement that will allow them to close the case—and thereby limit their exposure. Even if the offer seems sufficient or even generous, it is important to make sure your rights are protected before signing any agreement by hiring an to attorney review it.

The fact is, not all injuries are readily apparent. And for some serious injuries, even if you anticipate full recovery, you cannot be certain that the full recovery you hope for will materialize. In those cases, providing medical bills or signing a statement too soon can mean that you have limited your recovery to an amount that is substantially less than what you need or what you are legally entitled to. Serious injuries may include:

  • Spine damage;
  • Multiple broken bones;
  • Extreme bruising and/or “road rash”;
  • Traumatic head injuries.

And, of course, some motorcycle accidents are fatal. If someone you love has been killed in a motorcycle accident, you should contact an attorney to determine whether a wrongful death action may lie against a negligent driver.

The motorcycle accident lawyers at Abels & Annes frequently represent motorcyclists and their passengers who are injured in accidents, or the loved ones of motorcyclists and passengers who have been killed, by negligent drivers. If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, or if a loved one has been killed in a motorcycle accident in Chicago, Cook County, or elsewhere in Illinois, consult the Chicago motorcycle accident attorneys at Abels & Annes toll-free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO, locally at (312) 924-7575 or you may use the online consultation form here on this website.

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