The California Office of Traffic Safety reports that 453 motorcyclists or passengers died in fatal motorcycle accidents during 2013. Those motorcycle deaths represent a small increase in the number of fatal motorcycle accidents from 2012 and a 24% increase since 2013.
Studies suggest that helmets are 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcyclists. Unfortunately, wearing a helmet does not guarantee that a rider will survive a collision with a heavier vehicle. Riders who comply with California's motorcycle helmet law remain at risk of death from internal organ damage, blood loss, and spinal injuries. Even the best helmets cannot prevent the possibility of a fatal brain injury.
If a member of your family died in a fatal motorcycle crash that was caused by another person's careless driving, your only measure of justice is compensation for the wrongful death. Timothy J. Ryan & Associates has decades of experience helping the families of motorcycle riders pursue wrongful death car accident claims.
To learn whether you might be entitled to wrongful death compensation for a motorcycle accident that claimed the life of a family member, call Timothy J. Ryan & Associates at 800-838-6644.
Causes of Motorcycle Collision Deaths
Drivers who turn left in front of oncoming motorcycles are the leading cause of fatal motorcycle collisions. Since motorcycles are smaller and less visible than cars and trucks, drivers tend to overlook them as they approach an intersection. When drivers do see an oncoming motorcycle, they often misjudge the speed at which it is traveling.
Drunk drivers are a menace to everyone on the road, particularly motorcyclists. The distraction and blurred vision that accompany intoxication make drunk drivers more likely to strike a motorcyclist than to collide with a more noticeable vehicle.
Other fatal motorcycle collisions include:
- Sideswipes by vehicles that change lanes without observing a motorcycle in the adjacent lane.
- Sideswipes by vehicles that shift position while a motorcycle is lane splitting.
- Head-on collisions when vehicles cross the centerline and strike oncoming motorcycles.
- Rear-end collisions with a motorcycle that is stopped in traffic or that slowed to avoid road debris.
- Colliding with the side of a motorcycle after running a red light or failing to yield at an intersection.
- Merging into traffic from an onramp without yielding to a motorcycle that occupies the traffic lane.
- Exiting a driveway or parking lot into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.
- Backing a vehicle into a motorcycle.
- Opening a door into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.
Some deadly accidents that do not involve collisions are nevertheless caused by negligent drivers. A motorcyclist who drives into a ditch to avoid being sideswiped by a car that is changing lanes has been the victim of a negligent driver. The inability to identify the driver often precludes the possibility of making an insurance claim when a rider dies in a non-collision accident, but a wrongful death claim can be pressed when witnesses or traffic cameras help the police find the negligent driver.
Wrongful Death Compensation for Motorcycle Accidents
In California, certain surviving family members are entitled to seek compensation when a motorcyclist is killed by a negligent driver. A “negligent” driver is one whose careless behavior contributed to the accident. Failing to obey traffic laws (including a failure to yield) is usually strong evidence of negligence.
One of the first tasks of a wrongful death lawyer is to determine which family members are entitled to make a wrongful death claim. California law always entitles the deceased victim's spouse to pursue wrongful death compensation, as well as the victim's domestic partner if the partnership was registered. Other family members who can always pursue a wrongful death claim include living children and the children of a deceased child.
In addition, certain other family members can make a wrongful death claim if they depended on the deceased for financial support or if they would have been in line to inherit from the deceased if the deceased had died without a will.
Compensation for the wrongful death of a motorcyclist in California includes:
- Financial support that the family member would have received from the motorcyclist if the accident had not occurred.
- The economic value of gifts and services the victim would have provided, including such things as home maintenance and meal preparation.
- The loss of the deceased victim's love, companionship, protection, emotional support, and guidance.
- In the case of a spouse or domestic partner, the loss of enjoyment of sexual relations.
California law sets no limit on the compensation that can be awarded. The amount that a jury is likely to award depends on the circumstances surrounding the death, the income the motorcyclist was earning, if the motorcycle was defective in any way, and the rider's relationship to his or her family. Timothy J. Ryan takes all of those factors into account when evaluating a wrongful death claim for settlement.
Choosing a Wrongful Death Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
Experienced wrongful death attorneys usually charge similar contingent fees, so your selection of a lawyer should not be driven by price. Rather, you want to find a lawyer who has a track record of success, who understands motorcycle accidents, who negotiate fair settlements in motorcycle accident wrongful death cases, and who knows how to persuade juries that motorcycle riders are ordinary people, not thugs and criminals.
Timothy J. Ryan has decades of experience providing aggressive and compassionate representation to the families of motorcycle death victims. To learn how Timothy J. Ryan & Associates can help your family achieve justice when a loved one has been killed by a negligent driver in a motorcycle accident, fill out our online contact form or call our office at 800-838-6644. Remember that delay can cause you to lose your right to receive compensation.