Bakersfield Motorcycle Accident Attorney
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Bakersfield Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Motorcycles offer riders a sense of freedom and sheer joy, and riding is an especially popular activity in Bakersfield. Whether riders decide to cruise through world-famous Sequoia National Forest and into the Greenhorn Mountain Range or head south to the Tehachapi Mountains and historic Tejon Ranch, from popular roadway routes like Lake Isabella and Brush Creek to off-the-beaten-path experiences like the Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway, Bakersfield’s warm, dry climate welcomes motorcycle riders year-round.
For these reasons, Bakersfield has a thriving motorcycle community; but with that comes tragic accidents, too. If you or a loved one were in a Bakersfield motorcycle accident, contact the experienced Bakersfield motorcycle accident attorneys at Gomez Trial Attorneys today to discuss your options.
COMPENSATION FOR MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT INJURIES
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident that wasn’t your fault, you may recover compensation for your injuries. Injured victims may seek compensation for:
- The cost of current and future medical care.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of future earning capacity.
- Property damages.
- Cost of household services, if, for example, an individual’s injuries require them to hire a lawn service or house cleaners while they recover.
- Physical and mental or emotional pain and suffering.
- Disfigurement or physical impairment.
- Loss of enjoyment of activities.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
- Loss of consortium or companionship.
- In some cases, the court may award punitive damages. The purpose of these damages is to punish a defendant for his or her egregiously wrongful conduct.
LIABILITY FOR MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTSAs with almost all motor vehicle accidents, to seek compensation, an injured victim must show that another’s negligence contributed to causing the accident. Negligence refers to one’s “failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” To succeed in asserting a negligence claim, the injured person must prove each of the four elements of negligence.
- First, the injured party must show that the other individual owed a duty to prevent unreasonable harm to the injured party.
- Second, the injured party must show that the other individual failed to uphold that duty.
- Third, the injured party must demonstrate that the other’s failure to uphold that duty caused the injuries.
- Finally, to be entitled to recover damages, the injured party must show that he or she incurred losses as a result of their injuries related to the accident.
PROVING LIABILITY AND DAMAGESEvidence of liability is a critical component of strengthening a motorcycle accident claim. Important evidence of liability may include:
- Police reports.
- Pictures of the scene, including property damage, skid marks, and physical injuries.
- Medical records.
- Medical bills, including bills from care providers, rehabilitation centers, and home healthcare services.
- Eyewitness statements.
- Surveillance footage of the accident from local businesses.
- Accident reconstruction reports.
- Expert testimony.
- Records showing lost wages.
COMMON TYPES OF MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT INJURIESMotorcyclists are far more vulnerable to severe injuries than those riding in enclosed vehicles. Cars have a variety of safety features that help protect occupants in the event of a crash, but motorcyclists have little or no protection. As mentioned, motorcycles are smaller, lighter, and less stable than other motor vehicles. Therefore, a slight impact can still cause severe injuries. Motorcyclists are often ejected from their bikes during impact, hitting the pavement, other vehicles, or nearby objects. Common motorcycle accident injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries. Motorcycle accidents often result in traumatic brain injuries, which can have devastating, long-term consequences.
- Head injuries, including mild concussions to severe brain damage.
- Injuries to the neck, back, or spinal cord.
- Cuts, burns, or abrasions.
- Wrongful death.
11 COMMON CAUSES OF MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTSIn some ways, operating a motorcycle requires different skills than driving a car: for example, balance and coordination. Motorcyclists also need to remain aware of the fact that other drivers often cannot see the motorcyclists. However, many factors may contribute to a motorcycle accident. Some of the more common causes of motorcycle accidents include:
- Unsafe lane changes. Because motorcycles are smaller vehicles, they are inherently harder to observe. A driver who fails to check his or her blind spots or properly signal a lane change may not see a nearby motorcycle before it is too late to avoid an accident.
- Car doors. Car door accidents commonly involve motorcyclists, yet this type of accident is easily preventable. A car door accident involves an individual failing to check for oncoming traffic before exiting a parked car, and then swinging open the door directly in the path of a motorcyclist.
- Speeding. Speeding is reported to be a major contributing factor in all types of motor vehicle accidents. In addition, speeding increases the impact of a crash, which results in increased damage. Of course, driving at excessive speeds above the posted limit constitutes speeding, however, individuals may also be cited for speeding when driving too fast for road conditions.
- Driving under the influence. Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a factor in approximately half of all motorcycle accidents.
- Sudden stops. If someone is tailgating or stops abruptly, neither driver has ample time to react. Unfortunately, a simple sudden stop can lead to serious injury or death to a motorcyclist.
- Inexperienced drivers. Young or new drivers are more likely to make unsafe moves on the road. Unsafe, inexperienced drivers compromise the safety of everyone on the road.
- Left-turn accidents. Accidents occurring as a motor vehicle completes a left turn account for 42 percent of all accidents involving a motorcycle and a car. When drivers are turning left, they may make errors regarding right-of-way, misjudge the amount of distance between themselves and an oncoming motorcyclist, or simply fail to see a motorcycle, resulting in an accident.
- Dangerous road conditions. A motorcycle is smaller and less stable than vehicles with four wheels. Therefore, motorcyclists have a higher risk of an accident resulting from poorly maintained roads, including debris, potholes, or unexpected objects in the road. If someone’s negligence caused a roadway hazard that contributed to an accident, that individual may be liable for damages.
- Motorcycle defects. If machine defects caused an accident, the manufacturer may be liable for any injuries or deaths.
- Hitting a fixed object. When a motorcycle crashes into a stationary object, such as a barrier, guardrail, or light post, the motorcyclist is likely to be thrown from the bike, making them vulnerable to serious injury.
- Type of motorcycle. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that drivers of supersport motorcycles have a much higher fatality rate than those who drive other types of motorcycles.
CALIFORNIA MOTORCYCLE LAWSMotorcyclists must follow the same laws that apply to drivers of cars, trucks, and other vehicles. For example, it is illegal to operate a motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Similarly, speeding or failing to obey traffic signals is against the law. In addition, some laws only apply to operators of motorcycles. A motorcycle is “a motor vehicle with a seat or saddle for the rider designed to travel on not more than three wheels.” A motorcyclist must register his or her vehicle with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. To drive a motorcycle, you must have a Class M1 license. Applying for your motorcycle license is comparable to applying for a driver’s license. Riders over the age of 18 are required to pass a vision exam, knowledge test, and driving test. Riders may be exempt from the knowledge test if they successfully complete a motorcycle basic rider course. If you are under 18 years of age, but at least 16 years old, you must obtain and hold an instruction permit for six months. To earn a motorcycle license, riders with a permit must pass a vision test, knowledge test, and complete an approved motorcycle basic rider course. For those riders who are unfortunately involved in an accident, if the property damage amounts to more than $1,000, or if anyone was injured (even if the injury was minor) or died, you must report the collision to DMV. Failure to do so may result in a license suspension. EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS There are a variety of equipment requirements that riders must abide by, which differ among the states. In California, requirements include:
- The seat position must be low enough to allow the motorcyclist’s feet to reach the ground while driving. Handlebars cannot elevate the operator’s hands more than six inches above their shoulders. To permit a passenger, the motorcycle must be equipped with passenger footrests.
- Motorcycles must have at least 1 mirror position to enable the driver to view at least 200 feet to the rear of the vehicle.
- Motorcycles are required to have properly functioning front and rear turn signals. However, there is an exception to the turn-signal requirement that exempts motorcycles which were built and first registered before January 1, 1973.
- Every motorcycle must be equipped with both mirrors and a muffler.
- After 1978, motorcycles must have a head-lamp that turns on automatically and remains on while the engine is running.
- Motorcycles made in 2013 or later must have exhaust systems that comply with the Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act.
INSURANCE REQUIREMENTSIn California, every owner of a registered motorcycle is required to obtain motorcycle insurance. Motorcycle insurance must be purchased separately from any traditional vehicle insurance coverage riders may already hold. An individual’s regular motor vehicle insurance will not extend coverage to accidents that occur while they are riding their motorcycle. In California, the insurance minimums for motorcycle insurance are the same as they are for passenger vehicles, which is often characterized as 15/30/5 insurance. Under the state’s insurance requirements, motorcyclists must obtain the following liability coverage limits:
- $15,000 for bodily injury incurred by another person
- $30,000 for bodily injury to others involved in the accident
- $5,000 for property damage caused by a collision
YOU’RE NOT ALONEMotorcycle accidents are an issue across the country, not just in Bakersfield. Nationwide, there were 4,985 motorcycle fatalities in 2018. Although the number of fatalities represents a 5 percent decrease from the previous year, motorcycle accidents involving deaths continue to be a major issue around the nation and in Bakersfield. Recently, California reported the highest number of registered private and commercial motorcycles in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 488 motorcycle fatalities in California alone. Motorcycles represent only 3 percent of all registered motor vehicles. However, motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to be killed in a collision than the occupants of other types of vehicles. Due to the inherent lack of protection offered by a motorcycle, riders are more vulnerable than individuals riding in passenger cars. Motorcycle accidents commonly result in severe injuries and death.
BAKERSFIELD MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT FAQSBakersfield offers the perfect locale for riding a motorcycle, whether you’re relying on your bike as your main mode of transportation or simply going for a joyride. Unfortunately, bikers do not have the same protection as those in passenger vehicles, so motorcycle accidents often result in more costly and severe injuries. If you recently sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident in or near Bakersfield, California law may permit you to take legal action against the driver responsible for the accident. Severe injuries not only cause pain, but typically require extensive recovery that forces accident victims to miss work. The financial burden of a motorcycle accident escalates as medical bills start to roll in. You might feel uncertain about your next steps. You might even feel hopeless if you are in pain and experiencing financial difficulties from your motorcycle accident. Your best option is to contact an experienced Bakersfield motorcycle accident lawyer to discuss the details of your case and determine your eligibility for compensation. The following answers to frequently asked questions about motorcycle accidents in Bakersfield offer some basic information until you have the opportunity to meet with a Bakersfield personal injury lawyer. WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR BAKERSFIELD MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT INJURY CLAIMS? In the vast majority of motorcycle accident injury claims, victims have two years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident. However, even if your motorcycle accident occurred more than two years ago, you should still consult with a Bakersfield motorcycle accident lawyer. Special circumstances sometimes provide rare exceptions to the statute, allowing courts to pause or toll the time clock for taking legal action. For example, a motorcycle accident victim might suffer a severe brain injury or another type of injury, making them physically or emotionally unable to file a claim for their motorcycle accident. Other grounds for tolling sometimes involve a defendant who left the state or committed a hit-and-run. In any case, your motorcycle accident lawyer will evaluate your claim to find out whether your case might qualify as an exception. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE AT-FAULT DRIVER’S INSURANCE PROVIDER CONTACTS ME? It is in your best interest to contact a lawyer and let him or her handle communications with the insurance company. At some point after a motorcycle accident, an at-fault driver’s insurance company will want to talk to you to hear your side of the story. They likely have all the information they need from the police report. However, insurance companies might search for reasons to deny or devalue a claim. In most cases, they contact accident victims and request to record an interview with them. Let your attorney handle as much as possible, but you will have to speak with the insurance carrier at some point. Do not permit them to record you. They can search through the recording to find something they can use to devalue your claim. You should also never sign any papers without consulting an attorney. Your lawyer will advise you on what you should and should not say during an interview. The general rule is only to answer questions they ask you and keep your answers short. Avoid offering any additional information to preserve the value of your claim. WHAT IF THE INSURANCE COMPANY MAKES ME A SETTLEMENT OFFER? Quick settlement offers can be predatory offers that do not come close to offering fair compensation for injuries. Insurance companies want to avoid paying out large claims for accident injuries, including those in motorcycle accidents. They tempt accident victims, who are often struggling with financial stress following the accident, with a generous offer to avoid making a larger payout later on. It is best to consider these initial offers as a starting point for negotiations and let an experienced lawyer deal with the insurance company to secure a better settlement offer. The other problem that comes with an early settlement offer is the timing. No one can accurately place a value on a motorcycle accident claim if they do not know the full extent of the injuries. It is common for lawyers to wait to ensure their client reaches their maximum medical improvement before negotiations. When you accept an early settlement offer, you must waive your right to seek further compensation for your injuries, potentially leaving you without the financial support you need to treat or care for permanent injuries. CAN I SUE FOR DAMAGES IF I WAS NOT WEARING A HELMET DURING A BAKERSFIELD MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT? California law requires all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet. Choosing not to wear one is a violation that typically means an accident victim is somewhat responsible for a portion of certain injuries. However, this does not necessarily preclude you from seeking damages when a negligent driver caused a crash. WILL MY BAKERSFIELD MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT CLAIM GO TO TRIAL? Most accident injury cases, including those involving motorcycle accident injuries, resolve before going to court. Costs for litigation are high, giving both sides a strong incentive to reach an agreeable settlement before going to trial. However, major disputes over liability, multiple defendants, and other unique circumstances sometimes make it impossible to reach a settlement agreement. In these situations, your attorney will prepare your case for trial and advocate for you in court. Although it is unlikely you will have to go to court, you should remain prepared for the possibility. After your lawyer reviews your case, he or she can give you an idea of any challenges with your claim that might make settlement difficult. HOW MUCH COMPENSATION COULD I RECEIVE FOR MY BAKERSFIELD MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT INJURIES? It is impossible to predict or guarantee a specific financial outcome for your motorcycle accident injury claim. Many factors influence the value, but your lawyer can help place a monetary value on your claim and determine what constitutes reasonable compensation for your injuries. Common factors that could influence that number include:
- The extent of injuries. Motorcycle accident victims who suffer the most severe injuries typically receive more compensation. The highest value claims typically come from victims who suffer injuries that lead to permanent disabilities. Severe injuries are more costly to treat and also have a massive impact on the lives of victims and their families.
- Economic losses. More economic losses lead to more compensation to reimburse motorcycle accident victims for those losses. Medical expenses, such as ambulance service, emergency room treatment, hospitalization, and surgery, typically make up the biggest portion of economic losses. Lost wages are also hefty for some motorcycle accident victims, especially if they suffer an injury that prevents them from working.
- Non-economic damages. Motorcycle accident victims who suffer severe injuries face physical and emotional damages that contribute to the value of the claim. The highest value claims include non-economic damages such as physical and emotional pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment, and scarring or disfigurement.
- Claim review. Not every motorcycle accident that occurs provides grounds for taking legal action against another party. Our motorcycle accident lawyers evaluate each case that comes their way to determine its viability. Taking a losing case is not only bad for the lawyer, but it is bad for the client. No one wants to wait months or years for a settlement or trial only to not receive compensation for their injuries.
- Communication. Insurance companies, investigators, and other interested parties want to speak with an accident victim as soon as possible after a crash occurs. An onslaught of requests can be overwhelming, especially when a motorcycle accident victim needs to focus on their health and is likely coping with massive physical pain from severe injuries. Motorcycle accident lawyers handle communications for their clients, freeing up their time and mind to focus on recovery.
- Investigation. If you suffered injuries, you likely reported your motorcycle accident to the police, who investigated and submitted an official report. However, the official report does not have all the facts to support your claim against another party. Our motorcycle accident law firm can have an investigator thoroughly dig for facts to help your case. Investigators might get cell phone records, driving histories, video evidence, and photographic evidence. Additionally, lawyers also gather relevant medical records and police reports to support their clients’ claims.
- Valuation. Motorcycle accident victims who choose to file a claim need to know how much to seek in damages. The value of a claim is not arbitrary. In addition to adding up relevant economic losses, including medical treatment costs, lost wages, and other expenses, lawyers also place a value on non-economic damages, so clients receive compensation for the ways their injuries have impacted their lives. Sometimes they need the help of specialists or experts who can speak to estimated future costs or non-economic aspects of a claim, so they can pursue maximum compensation for their clients.
- Negotiation. Lawyers are trained negotiators who often secure larger settlements than their clients could without legal help. Negotiation skills are important, but experienced lawyers also have a strong sense of what constitutes a “good” or “fair” offer. Sometimes those who go it alone do not receive close to what they could have received with a lawyer handling negotiations. Additionally, many insurance companies drag out claims or become unresponsive when victims do not have an attorney. Hiring a lawyer can help ensure that the insurance provider and/or the defense legal team is more responsive to settlement negotiations.
- Litigation. Situations occur where settlement negotiations fail because one or both sides refuse to move. Sometimes the driver outwardly denies liability. Other times, the insurance carrier refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer. When this happens, lawyers must spend hours preparing a case for trial and advocating for their clients in the courtroom.
WERE YOU IN A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT? CALL GOMEZ TRIAL ATTORNEYS’ BAKERSFIELD MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT LAWYERS NOWStep one, immediately after an accident, call 911. Check yourself and others involved for injuries. If possible, move to a safe area. Take pictures of the accident scene from all angles. Remember that fault is a legal issue, so do not apologize or admit fault to anyone. The statute of limitations sets time limits within which injured parties are permitted to file a motorcycle accident claim. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you should consult a knowledgeable, experienced Bakersfield motorcycle accident attorney. For further information or a free consultation, contact Gomez Trial Attorneys or call us at (619) 237-3490 today.
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