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Motorcycle Accidents Lawsuits

“What Should I Do If I've Been In A Motorcycle Accident?”

While riding a motorcycle in a vehicle-friendly state like California can have all sorts of benefits, it's not without risks. Motorcycle accidents resulting in fatalities have more than doubled since 1997. Motorcycle deaths also increased as a total proportion of vehicle accident fatalities, from 5.7% to 14%, between 1994 and 2016 - even though motorcycles account for only about 3% of all registered vehicles.[1]  Even minor accidents can result in thousands of dollars spent on repairs, enormous sums in time lost from work, and medical bills, not to mention the possibility of prolonged pain and the inconvenience to yourself and your loved ones. If you've been in a motorcycle accident, it is essential that you act now.

If you've been injured in a motorcycle accident, monetary damages are available to compensate you for an array of harms. Damages available include: 1) Medical treatment expenses; 2) money for lost wages; 3) money for lost earning capacity; 4) compensation for your emotional distress, pain, and/ or suffering; 5) loss of consortium (compensating you for the loss of a spouse or partner's companionship); and, 6) punitive damages, which are awarded to punish willfully wrongful conduct or extreme indifference.

The Kann California Law Group now offers motorcycle accident lawsuit representation. Unlike criminal law, which is concerned primarily with incarceration, motorcycle accident lawsuits focus on compensating you for your injuries and remunerating you for your lost earnings. Below you'll find information on who can sue after a motorcycle accident in California, an overview of statistics on motorcycle accidents in this state, advice on the four things you should do if you've been in a motorcycle accident, information about who's responsible for motorcycle accidents caused by road conditions, facts about damages available to persons involved in motorcycle accidents, a discussion of compensation in Wrongful Death lawsuits, a summary of motorcycle accident negligence law and a brief description of how being comparatively at fault affects your case.

Please feel free to contact the Kann California Law Group in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County with further questions. Your goes directly to a lawyer - guaranteed.

Who Can I Sue After A Motorcycle Accident?

If you've been injured, California accident law permits you to sue almost anyone or any institution. This includes car drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, commercial drivers, and governments. There are also enough kinds of damage award available to compensate you for most, if not all, the injuries you endure because of your accident.

Motorcycle Accidents In The US: An Overview

Experience and common sense tell us that motorcycles are less visible than larger vehicles. They are also less stable and do not provide the protection afforded by enclosed vehicles. Furthermore, motorcycles are also often driven in ways demonstrating high-performance capabilities. Considering these facts, it should come as no surprise that the risk of death for motorcyclists is almost thirty times higher than it is for cars.[2] But other factors can significantly affect the risk of getting into a serious motorcycle accident.

Factors Affecting the Likelihood of Getting Into A Motorcycle Accident

There were almost 5,000 motorcycle deaths in 2016 in the US. These accounted for 13% of all motor vehicle deaths in the country.[3] The following factors have been shown to relate to the likelihood of getting into a serious motorcycle accident:

  1. Whether You Use A Helmet

California has a universal helmet law requiring helmet use by both motorcycle riders and passengers. The motorcycle driver can be ticketed if either the driver or passenger is not wearing a helmet.[4] The law exists because failing to wear a helmet in an accident increases your chance of brain injury by 67%. Even more alarming, you increase the odds of dying by 37% if you're not wearing a helmet when you get into an accident while riding.[5]

     2. Whether You Drive Impaired

Driving impaired by alcohol or drugs is the most obvious factor on this list. For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveals in a recent study that more than 25% of motorcyclist accident fatalities involved a motorcycle driver with a blood alcohol level in excess of the legal limit.[6]

     3. Whether You Have A License

One of the more surprising factors on this list reveals the frequency with which people without proper licenses operate motorcycles. According to the IIHS in a recent study, more than 25% of motorcycle driver deaths involved drivers who were not licensed to operate a motorcycle. In fact, 1,250 of more than 4,600 motorcycle accident deaths involved drivers who drove without a valid license in 2016.[7]

     4. The Date and Time

The IIHS says that 61% percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2018 occurred between May and September. Furthermore, fatalities peaked in June and were lowest in December. Additionally, 48% percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2018 occurred on weekends. Those deaths were more likely to occur after 6 p.m. than on weekdays.[8]

     5. The Size of Motorcycle Engine

Perhaps most surprising of all, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that the size of motorcycle engines whose drivers were killed in crashes has “dramatically” increased. Among drivers killed in 2018, 34% drove motorcycles with engines larger than 1,400 cc (cubic centimeters), compared with 9% in 2000 and fewer than 1% in 1990.[9]

     6. The Age of the Rider

The IIHS also revealed that motorcyclists under the age of 29 had the highest rate of motorcycle accident death from the 1970s through 2005. However, that trend has changed over the last twenty years or so. In that time, the fatality injury rate for motorcyclists aged 50 or older has risen to the point where over 35% of motorcyclist deaths involved riders aged 50 and over in 2016.[10]

Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

While we typically think of motorcycle accidents as involving other drivers, there are actually a number of different possible causes. These include: Vehicles pulling in front of your motorcycle; vehicles trying to merge into your lane; poor road conditions; being tailgated; colliding with a curb, a sign, or a lamppost; and hazardous weather conditions.

  • Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries

While motorcycle accidents can cause a wide variety of injuries, some of the commoner forms of injury resulting from an accident include: Broken bones; neck injuries; spinal injuries; head injuries; eye injuries; nerve damage; loss of a limb; and permanent disfigurement.

What Four Things Should I Do If I've Been In A Motorcycle Accident?

If you've just been in a motorcycle accident, remember to do the following four things:

  1. Get Medical Attention

If you've been injured in a motorcycle accident, call for medical assistance or ask someone at the scene to call for you. If you aren't injured, check on others involved and help them if they require assistance. Make sure that getting medical attention is your priority.

Remember: A doctor's evaluation can reveal injuries which aren't immediately apparent to you. Neck, back, and/or head injuries can take significant time before symptoms present themselves. Potential injuries involving the head, neck, or back should always be evaluated by a physician, it follows. The sooner you see a doctor, the better the chance is that you can treat your injuries and prevent long term problems.

     2. Get Information on the Accident

You are the first person who can investigate the facts after you've been in a motorcycle accident. Try and gather as much information as possible about the accident, including: The names and contact information for all others involved in the accident; license plate numbers; vehicle identifying information (year, make, model, color, etc.); driver's insurance information; and information witnesses can provide. Always get information on the accident.

     3. Avoid Admitting Fault

After an accident, it's a natural instinct to want to apologize for your part, if any. But you should avoid admitting fault. Admissions of fault can be used against you in court (as statements where you admit that you did something to cause an accident). In the worst case, they all-but guarantee that you will lose in a lawsuit. California law permits you to express sympathy for others after an accident. It's all right to say that you hope someone else isn't hurt or that you hope someone quickly recovers. But be careful to avoid admitting fault.

     4. Contact an Attorney

A skilled motorcycle accident attorney can deal with an array of issues. When you've been in an accident and need legal assistance, or even a medical referral, make sure that you retain a professional accident attorney who's prepared to help you. The attorneys at the Kann California Law Group in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County can help. Call them with further questions. Your call will go directly to a lawyer. It's our guarantee.

Who's Responsible When Road Conditions Cause Motorcycle Accidents?

Road conditions are often associated with motorcycle accidents. Riders are frequently hurt when they strike loose gravel, cracked cement, potholes, uneven sidewalks, or broken asphalt. However, if a property owner is involved, the property owner may be under a duty to repair known road conditions that could lead to accidents. The same may apply to a city. In the event the relevant city or property owner doesn't keep the roads in a reasonably safe condition, the owner may be liable for damages caused by the poor road conditions.

  1. Premises Liability

California law requires that property owners prevent reasonably foreseeable harms that could occur to others because of the conditions on their property. This is known as premises liability law.[11] Specifically, the law requires that property owners maintain and inspect their property, repair potentially dangerous conditions, and give proper warning of uncorrected dangerous conditions, where necessary.

     2. Proving Liability

Proving that you were injured by the negligence of another in maintaining a road requires showing who owned or controlled the property; that the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the accident; that the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury that occurred; that the owner or controller had notice of the dangerous condition for a long enough time to have protected against it; that you were harmed; and that the dangerous condition was a substantial factor in causing your harm.


What Damages Are Available In A Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?

Damages in a motorcycle accident lawsuit vary, depending on the type of injury alleged and the severity of the harm involved. The following are damage awards available in motorcycle accident lawsuits to compensate you for injuries and losses.

  • Medical Costs: An award that may include the cost of long-term hospital care, the expenses associated with physical or occupational therapy, and prescription/drug costs, among other provisions.
  • Loss of Earnings/Wages: An award creating compensation for lost wages because a motorcycle accident caused you to miss work.
  • Loss of Earning Capacity: An award compensating you for the loss of the ability to earn money because of a motorcycle accident.
  • Pain and Suffering Compensation: Amounts meant to compensate you for “[p]ast and future physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humiliation and/or emotional distress”[12] suffered after a motorcycle accident.
  • LOSS OF CONSORTIUM: A damage award compensating you for the loss of your spouse or domestic partner's companionship after a motorcycle accident.
  • Punitive Damages: Damages (over and above basic compensation awards) assessed to punish egregious behavior and/or extreme indifference.

Note: This list is not exhaustive. If it isn't included here, contact the Kann California Law Group with your specific concern. We're certain we can fashion an award that will adequately compensate you for your motorcycle accident injuries.

Wrongful Death Compensation in Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

California permits filing a Wrongful Death lawsuit[13] if anyone has been the victim of wrongdoing leading to death. The right to sue for a wrongful death extends to spouses, domestic partners, children, and grandchildren, among others. In the event that the plaintiff wins the suit, damages available include: 1) Lost income the victim would have earned; 2) funeral and burial expenses; and, 3) compensation for the loss of the victim's support and companionship. For this reason, Wrongful Death lawsuits bear similarities to suits based on Loss of Consortium[14] (losing enjoyment of a living person's companionship, support, and/or sexual intimacy).[15]

Example: Defendant Dale drives his car intoxicated one night. He gets into an accident with Plaintiff Patrice's motorcycle. The accident kills her passenger, Teenage Daughter. Patrice sues Dale for damages including a punitive award meant to punish him for Teenage Daughter's death. Dale admits he can be sued for a range of damages but insists Patrice can't sue him for punitive damages. Is Dale correct?

Conclusion: California law permits the victim of a wrongful death to sue through a representative in what is known as a suit in “survival,” meaning that the right to suit survives the death of plaintiff. A plaintiff suing in survival can recover punitive damages. However, no right to recover punitive damages has been made available to relatives of the victim. They may instead sue for loss of consortium, which can approximate the punitive damage award they would have otherwise received. Patrice, therefore, should seek damages for loss of consortium with her minor child.[16] Dale is thus correct about the law.

Negligence, Driving and Fault in Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

Both careless and reckless driving can produce motorcycle accidents. Both are considered negligence in driving a vehicle, which, in turn, proves that the driver is at least partially at fault in motorcycle accident lawsuits.

Proving driver liability requires establishing two legal facts. They are:

          The Standard of Care

The defendant must be negligent if the defendant is to be liable under California law. This requires violating the legal standard of care. The standard of care states, generally, that negligence is “the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others.” Specifically, “[a] person can be negligent by acting or by failing to act. A person is [also] negligent if he or she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation.”[17]

As drivers, therefore, the standard of care requires that motorists act with due and cautious regard for pedestrians, other drivers, and motorcyclists. The failure to drive in a manner consistent with the standard of due care makes a driver negligent.

         The Basic Elements of Liability in a Negligence Suit

Proving negligence in motorcycle accident lawsuits also requires demonstrating the existence of the basic elements of liability in a negligence suit. These are:

  • Negligence: The defendant was negligent; AND,
  • Harm: The plaintiff was harmed; AND,
  • Substantial Factor: The defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's harm.

Note: The “substantial factor” prong of the pleading means that your claim must prove that the defendant's breach caused harm to you. In other words, the driver had to have caused actual injury.

  • Negligence Per Se

It's also possible to demonstrate a driver's negligence by showing that the driver violated a law by getting into an accident with you. This is known as “negligence per se.” To prove it, your claim must show the following:

  • Violation: The defendant violated a statute, regulation, or ordinance; AND
  • Substantial Factor: The violation was a substantial factor in bringing about your harm.

Note: If these elements are established, the judge or jury must find that the defendant was negligent unless it's also concluded that the violation was excused.

Example: Plaintiff Pierre was hit by Defendant Debora's car while he rode in a municipal street lane dedicated to motorcyclists. There was even a large sign reading “MOTORCYCLISTS ONLY” posted on the roadside. The lane was established by a City of Westwood ordinance in response to an epidemic of motorcyclist-related accidents. The fact that he was hit under these circumstances, Pierre claims in a subsequent lawsuit, proves Debora's negligence. Debora insists that Pierre must prove she was at least careless, or still worse, if he wants to recover money from her. Which of them is correct?

Conclusion: Pierre can prove Debora's negligence by showing he was injured when she violated a law meant to protect people like himself – in this case, an ordinance protecting motorcyclists. The ordinance required drivers like Debora to avoid the lane so as to avoid injuries like the collision at issue in Pierre's lawsuit. Thus, Pierre need only establish further that Debora's striking him was a substantial factor in his injuries. If he does, Pierre is entitled to a finding that Debora was negligent to some degree under the theory of negligence per se. Debora, it follows, is incorrect.

How Being Partially At-Fault Affects Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

California allows parties who injured each other owing to negligence to collect awards from each other based on percentage of fault.[18] You needn't be entirely without fault to recover money for your injuries in this state, therefore, unlike jurisdictions which use the “contributory negligence” system.[19] Thus your own negligence will not prevent you from suing a negligent party for your injuries. When negligent persons injure each other, however, their respective awards may be reduced because the state allows finding that they were comparatively negligent.[20]  This legal doctrine is known as “comparative fault.”

Example: Defendant Deane was driving a pickup truck when he hit motorcycle rider Plaintiff Penelope. She sues Deane for $20,000 on a theory of negligence. Deane crossclaims (countersues) for $40,000 based on her alleged negligence. The jury determines Deane was 60% liable, meaning that he was responsible for $12,000 of Penelope's injuries ($20,000 x .60 = $12,000), and orders Penelope to pay him $4,000.  Deane insists that he is owed every penny of the $40,000 because Penelope did more damage to him than he did to Penelope. Is Deane correct or should he have to accept the $4,000?

Conclusion: Penelope was 40% liable for Deane's injuries (100% - 60% = 40%). Thus, Penelope owes Deane $16,000 ($40,000 x .40 = $16,000). The difference between $16,000 and $12,000 is $4,000. This is the amount Penelope owes to Deane. That Penelope's claim was smaller than Deane's is irrelevant; only the division of blame matters in determining a comparative fault award. Therefore, while he may not like the result, Deane should have to accept the $4,000.

Contact the Kann California Law Group

The State of California regards motorcycle accident lawsuits as serious concerns. If you have a motorcycle accident lawsuit, it's essential that you retain a skilled, dedicated attorney as soon as possible. Your rights and livelihood may be at stake.

Remember, a professional motorcycle accident lawsuit attorney may be able to:

  • Negotiate an award;
  • Win your case at trial;
  • Or get other legal relief for you, as appropriate.

The attorneys at the Kann California Law Group have an excellent understanding of the local courts and an extensive knowledge of California's personal injury justice system. We can represent you in Ventura, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles, Encino, Pasadena and many other Southern California cities.

If you or someone you know is suing in a motorcycle accident lawsuit, our attorneys will analyze the facts of the case and plan a strategy that will help to obtain the best possible outcome.

Contact the Kann California Law Group today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.


[1] See “Motorcycle-involved deaths have been on the rise for 22 years – especially in Southern California” by Steve Scauzillo. San Gabriel Valley Tribune Online, July 3, 2018. 

[2] See “Fatality Facts 2018: Motorcycles and ATVS.” Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHS/HLDI).   

[3] See above.  

[4] See California Vehicle Code [CVC] § [Section] 27803.

[5] See Endnote 2.

[6] See above.

[7] See Endnote 2.

[8] See above.

[9] See Endnote 2.

[10] See above.

[11] See California Civil Jury Instructions 1000 (CACI) (2017).  

[12] See California Civil Jury Instructions 3905A (CACI) (2017).

[13] The right to sue is created in California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) §377.60.

[14] See California Civil Jury Instructions 3920 (CACI) (2017).

[15] Compensation is available separately for the loss of minor children. See California Civil Jury Instructions 3922 (CACI) (2017).

[16] See above.

[17] See California Civil Jury Instructions 401 (CACI) (2017).

[18] See California Civil Jury Instructions 406 (CACI) (2017).

[19] See “Comparative and Contributory Negligence” at Justia.com. 

[20] See Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal.3rd 804 (1975). (Establishing, inter alia, that comparative negligence should be applied in its ‘pure' form in California.)