There were 64 motorcycle fatalities in Bucks County, PA between 2008 and 2012 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Among the common causes of motorcycle fatalities are poor weather and road conditions, driver or rider behavior (speeding, failing to use a turn signal, etc.) and more.
In the event of a motorcycle accident, it’s important to determine what caused it and who is responsible for the accident to establish liability for damages.
Cause of Fatal Motorcycle Accidents
Either the rider or a driver of another vehicle may be at fault for an accident and may engage in or ignore certain conditions that can lead to an accident.
Some possible causes of motorcycle fatalities include:
- poor weather conditions;
- not using a turn signal;
- lane splitting;
- ignoring traffic conditions;
- ignoring traffic signs;
- driving on the wrong side of the road;
- drivers not seeing the motorcyclist;
- driving under the influence; and
- vehicle defects (with the bike or another vehicle).
Motorcycle helmets protect the rider from head injuries and may prevent crashes from becoming fatal accidents. According to the NHTSA, helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries in a motorcycle accident.
Speeding and driving under the influence are significant causes of fatal accidents as well. The NHTSA also notes that in 2011, riders in 35 percent of motorcycle deaths were speeding, and 30 percent of riders in fatal accidents had a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.
Rider errors and other single vehicle accident causes account for a significant proportion of fatal accidents. The NHTSA reports that in 2011, 49 percent of motorcycle deaths involved multiple vehicles while 23 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes involved colliding with a fixed object.
The report also found that in 75 percent of two-vehicle fatal motorcycle accidents, the car strikes the motorcycle from the front, and only six percent involved a vehicle striking the motorcycle from the rear.
Finally, 38 percent of fatal two-vehicle motorcycle accidents involve cars making a left turn. At intersections, motorcycles are not as visible and bikers should watch out for careless drivers.
Legal Options after Fatal Accidents
The rider’s surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit after a fatal accident.
The decedent’s personal representative can bring the claim for the benefit of the surviving:
- child; and
Like a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiffs need to prove the other driver was negligent in the accident and that the negligence caused the rider’s death. Negligence generally means failing to provide reasonable care to prevent harm to others.
Legal Help is Important in Fatal Accident Cases
Sometimes insurance companies offer lower settlements than they should receive after a serious or fatal accident. Pennsylvania is a comparative fault state meaning damages are reduced by the claimant’s proportion of fault for the accident under the law.
For example, if a rider was 20 percent at fault for a fatal accident and sustained $100,000 in damages, the family can only collect $80,000. Make sure you have an attorney who can investigate and demonstrate the cause(s) of the accident to establish the other driver’s fault.