Motorcycle-Car Crashes: Bikes Have a Right to the Road Too

Motorcyclists have the same right to roadways as drivers of cars and trucks. Yet lack of awareness of motorcycles by automobile drivers is still a problem throughout the nation and in many other countries as well. Statistically speaking, in motorcycle-car crashes, the driver of the car or truck is twice as likely to be at fault for the crash as the motorcyclist is.

The usual reason behind a motorcycle’s crash with a car or truck is that the other driver didn’t “see” the motorcycle. Research suggests this actually means that the other driver didn’t look carefully enough before making a turn or lane change or entering an intersection. Some studies have shown that automobile drivers who also have a motorcycle endorsement, meaning they most likely ride motorcycles themselves, are more likely to notice a motorcycle on the roadway than a driver without a motorcycle endorsement. But failure to notice a motorcycle does not excuse drivers who cause motorcycle-car crashes. That driver is just as liable for injuries to the motorcyclist as he or she would be if they had struck another car or truck rather than a motorcycle.

Because of the lack of protection afforded by a motorcycle, motorcyclists involved in motorcycle-car crashes are much more at risk for serious injuries than an automobile driver. Injuries incurred by a motorcyclist are more likely to meet Michigan’s threshold injury requirement for injury lawsuits, so the liability of a driver who crashes with a motorcycle is likely to be very high.

Who Pays for Injuries to a Motorcyclists in Michigan Motorcycle-Car Crashes?

In Michigan, automobile drivers are required to purchase no-fault car insurance that pays for any injuries incurred in a car accident. But motorcyclists are not required to purchase this insurance. Nonetheless, a motorcyclist’s injuries will be covered by no-fault insurance because of the way the state’s no-fault insurance laws are written. Usually motorcyclists' injuries from motorcycle-car crashes are covered by the policyies of other drivers or vehicles involved.

No-fault insurance in Michigan will cover all of a motorcyclist’s medical costs related to their crash injuries no matter how extensive the injuries are or how much the total bill is. It will also compensate for income lost due to the injuries, damage to the motorcycle, and the cost of hiring someone to perform household tasks the injury victim is unable to perform while recovering from the injuries. However, there are limitations on the compensation for these damages.

While no-fault insurance will cover all medical expenses and most other economic damages for motorcyclists injured in motorcycle-car crashes, it will not cover non-economic damages such as compensation for pain and suffering or the reduced joy of life that injury victims often experience. To receive compensation for these sorts of damages, injured motorcyclists must either have a personal injury insurance policy for their motorcycle or file a lawsuit against the driver at fault.

However, Michigan’s no-fault insurance laws restrict the kinds of car accident cases in which a person can sue for non-economic damages. To qualify for a third-party lawsuit (a lawsuit for non-economic damages), an injured motorcyclist or any other accident injury victim must have sustained catastrophic injuries resulting in permanent disfigurement or serious impairment. However, as noted above, a motorcyclist is much more likely to sustain serious injuries than the driver of an automobile, so they are more often able to meet this threshold requirement.

Even though motorcyclists involved in motorcycle-car crashes are more likely to be eligible for third-party lawsuits, some circumstances may reduce the amount of award or settlement they receive. Michigan is a comparative negligence state, which mean that if an injury victim contributes in any way to the accident, their award of damages will be reduced by a percentage equal to the percentage of their contribution to the accident. So, if a motorcyclist is 20% responsible for an accident, any damages awarded to him or her will be reduced by 20%.

The comparative negligence issue most often comes up when a motorcyclist chooses not to wear a helmet and sustains head injuries. Defense attorneys commonly argue that the head injuries would not exist or not be as severe had the motorcyclist worn a helmet. Occasionally, defense attorneys persuade juries that choosing to ride a motorcycle is also a contribution to the severity of the injuries because motorcycles offer no protection to the rider. These circumstances are less likely to impact an award of damages if the victim is represented by an experienced attorney familiar with arguing these types of cases.

In Michigan, the personal injury firm of Sachs Waldman, P.C., includes several attorneys with experience and skill in representing victims of motorcycle-car crashes. If you’re a motorcyclist who was injured in a crash with another automobile, we can help you fight for the injury compensation you need. Call our Detroit personal injury attorneys’ office at 1-800-638-6722 to schedule a free consultation.

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