Motorcycle Accident ATTORNEYS
Every year, more than 30,000 people die in motor vehicle accidents across the United States. Of the victims, approximately 13 to 15% are motorcyclists. On average, riders are six times more likely to die in a motorcycle accident than other vehicle drivers.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, Penney & Associates understands the challenges you’re facing. Our firm has practiced personal injury law in California for over 25 years. We have served clients throughout the state, with offices in Roseville, Sacramento, Chico, Irvine, Rocklin, Santa Clara, and elsewhere. Our attorneys are ready to help you file your damage claims, represent you in court if necessary, and help you win the settlement you deserve.
YOU CAN AFFORD A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT ATTORNEY
Motorcycles offer riders far less protection than other vehicles. You or your loved ones could be suffering from injuries that could take months to fully recover from. During this time, you might lose wages from being unable to work even as your medical bills pile up, putting your family at financial risk.
Penney & Associates accepts personal injury cases on a contingency basis, meaning there are no out-of-pocket costs to retain one of our motorcycle accident attorneys. We are paid a percentage of the damages you recover. If you don’t win, we don’t get paid. But our first concern is never getting paid, but rather ensuring that you get the best legal representation possible.
On September 23, 2005, a plaintiff represented by Penney & Associates was a passenger on a motorcycle driven by her fiancée. The defendant was operating a 10-ton flatbed truck loaded with construction materials. The truck was stopped on the northbound shoulder of the highway, traveling in the same direction as the plaintiff.
The defendant admitted that he was lost and should have been traveling in the opposite direction. They performed an illegal U-turn across the double yellow lines, directly into the path of the plaintiff’s motorcycle. The operator of the motorcycle had to lay the bike down to avoid impact.
The plaintiff came off the bike and slid toward the truck, which ran over the edge of her right hip and caused a fracture of the right pelvis. She also subsequently suffered from pain in her wrist and elbow. Sadly, her fiancée did not survive the accident.
The defendant offered a settlement of $200,000, which was refused by the plaintiff, who sought the sum of $650,000. The case went to trial, and the jury awarded the plaintiff $775,361—$59,563 for medical costs, $15,798 in lost wages, and the rest in general damages. The defense’s motion for a new trial was denied. Larry Eslinger and Kevin Elder of Penney & Associates represented the plaintiff in this case.
WHAT ARE POTENTIAL CAUSES OF A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT?
Because motorcycles share the roads with other motor vehicles, they also must deal with the same risks. But because of the unique characteristics of motorcycles, certain types of accidents may occur more frequently, and oftentimes with far greater consequences. According to the Department of Transportation’s groundbreaking Hurt Report, 98% of multi-vehicle accidents involving a motorcycle result in injury, with 45% resulting in serious injuries.
But while many motorcycle accidents involve serious injuries, causes vary:
- Other Drivers: Whether it’s a standard car, SUV, full-sized pick-up truck, or big rig, other drivers represent one of the greatest threats to motorcyclists on the road.
- Distracted driving: Anyone operating a motor vehicle is expected to pay attention to the road around them. Being distracted by other passengers, a mobile phone, or a stereo for even one second can lead to tragic consequences.
- Alcohol and Drugs: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is one of major causes of auto accidents today. Even if the impaired driver sees a motorcycle, they may be too slow to react. Worse, they may overreact and cause a multi-vehicle accident.
- Reckless driving: Speeding, switching lanes without signaling, or purposely driving to menace others on the road are all unsafe behaviors. A motorcyclist encountering an unsafe driver on the freeway may have less than a second to respond to a larger vehicle suddenly shifting into their lane.
- Road Hazards: Potholes, cracks in asphalt, a road deformed by tree roots, debris left in the road, and other obstacles present a hazard to all drivers. But motorcyclists have far less protection from these hazards. A pothole that is inconsequential to an SUV could send a motorcycle off the road, or into other vehicles. Poor lighting at night can make an already difficult to see motorcycle all but invisible to a distracted driver.
- Manufacturing Defects: Motorcycle manufacturers take great pains to ensure that their vehicles are safe to ride. Unfortunately, some issues do slip through the cracks, and a rider may not hear about a part or motorcycle recall until after an accident.
- Poor Maintenance: Most repair shops that maintain motorcycles follow strict guidelines to ensure the safety of their customers. However, a single forgotten screw or safety seal can be enough to compromise the entire bike.
WHO MAY BE HELD LIABLE?
Depending on the circumstances of your motorcycle accident, you may be able to hold the driver, the driver’s employer, your bike’s manufacturer, and even a property owner liable for your accident. In California, there are five requirements that a negligent claim must satisfy in order to succeed in pressing your case:
- Legal duty: The defendant must be legally obligated to behave in a certain way with regards to the motorcycle rider. In almost all circumstances, the driver of a vehicle is obligated to show reasonable care when sharing the road with motorcyclists and other vehicles.
- Breach of duty: Once the legal duty has been established, it must be shown that the other driver failed to fulfill that duty to show reasonable care while driving. For instance, if it is shown that they exceeded the legal speed limit, this is a demonstration of a breach of duty, as the driver carelessly or recklessly broke the law.
- Proof of Damages: The motorcyclist must be able to show that the accident harmed them in some legally relevant way—they were injured, their property was damaged, and/or they incurred financial losses (via medical bills, time off from work, etc.).
- Cause-in-Fact: After establishing the damages, it must be shown that the defendant caused those damages. This is typically done by showing that if the defendant had not acted in a certain way, that the accident and resulting consequences would not have occurred (e.g. If the driver had not sped and lost control of their car, they would not have hit the motorcyclist).
Alternatively, if road conditions were the cause, you must be able to show that a failure to maintain the road was responsible for the accident (e.g. potholes that have gone for months without repair, despite constant reports from the victim or other drivers.)
- Proximate Cause: Lastly, it must be shown that the consequences of the defendant’s actions could have been anticipated. For instance, it could have readily been foreseen that speeding or driving recklessly could potentially result in an accident.
Lane splitting—the act of a motorcyclist driving between lanes when traffic is slow or stopped—has long been a controversial practice. 38 states have explicitly banned lane splitting, with lawmakers citing the risk to both motorcycles and the vehicles they pass between. But in several states, lane splitting has existed in a sort of legal limbo, not banned by law, but not explicitly legal either.
EVEN IF YOU WERE LANE SPLITTING WHEN YOUR ACCIDENT HAPPENED, YOU MAY STILL HAVE A CASE!
But on January 1, 2017, California became the only state in the country to make lane splitting legal when Assembly Bill 51 went into effect. Signed by Jerry Brown in 2016, the law defines lane splitting as “driving a motorcycle, that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.”
While the law does not define ‘safe’ lane splitting, the California Highway Patrol has issued safety guidelines which indicate that traveling at more than 10 mph faster than surrounding traffic is unsafe, and that lane splitting should not be performed if traffic is moving at 30 mph or faster. In addition, highway patrol officers and police have the discretion to ticket riders perceived to be lane splitting in an unsafe manner.
With all that in mind, riders in California do have the right to lane split, and other drivers have the responsibility of driving safely and being aware of drivers around them. If another driver’s negligence or intentional acts while you were attempting to lane split resulted in a serious accident, you still have the right to restitution.
WHY YOU NEED A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT ATTORNEY
Motorcyclists have the same right to the road as other drivers. Unfortunately, motorcycle riders are often considered risk-takers who place themselves in danger, a stereotype that persists even when they are not at fault for their accidents. It affects the perception others have on the road, and even inside the court room before a jury.
In addition to this, insurance companies often play off this stereotype when working on motorcycle accident claims. Insurance adjusters are trained to look for anything that could be used to limit their pay out for an accident. They will try to use the rider’s own social media profiles against them, looking for contradictory statements or photos to prove that their injuries were not as severe as reported. They may even try to use lane splitting as cause to limit a settlement or insurance pay out.
The motorcycle accident attorneys at Penney & Associates are familiar with the various tactics used by insurance companies. We can counsel you on how to respond to questions from opposing attorneys or insurers. Our extensive experience with motorcycle accident cases means that we know how to gather the evidence necessary to prove your claims in court. We even work with independent experts, in order to accurately recreate your accident, and challenge any counterclaims made by defendants.