Spurred by rising gas prices, the popularity of motorcycles has been rising. Unfortunately for motorcycle riders, most motorists fail to carefully respect them on the road. Too many people driving larger vehicles fail to check their blind spots when changing lanes, or properly look when pulling out or turning. Many non-motorcycle motorists also blame motorcycle drivers for any accident because of the stigma of motorcycle riding as being dangerous and the stereotype of motorcyclists as living dangerously. However, many accidents involving motorcycles occur because the other driver failed to properly check for vehicles smaller than a sedan. Many people blame motorcyclists for accidents when they were not wearing helmets. While motorcyclists are required by law to wear helmets in Oregon, the refusal to do so does not mean that a motorcyclist caused an accident or is legally responsible for even head or brain damage caused by an accident.
Oregon roads can be especially hazardous to motorcycle riders due to wet weather and hilly terrain. The wet weather can make steep roads slippery and make it harder for other drivers to see motorcycles. Other dangers on the road are especially hazardous to motorcyclists making it even more unlikely that drivers will take notice of them. Drunk drivers are less likely to be able to notice and adjust to motorcyclists. Distractions such as personal electronics, eating or drinking coffee while driving, adjusting the radio or GPS unit and even unruly children can greatly reduce the ability for drivers to take notice of motorcyclists.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gathers statistics on motor vehicle accidents and according the Administration:
5,290 motorcyclists were killed in accidents in 2008 nationally
96,000 injuries were sustained in on motorcycles in 2008 nationally
A study in 2005 revealed that helmets are 37% effective in preventing fatalities to motorcycle drivers and 41% effective in preventing motorcycle passenger fatalities
About 1,829 lives of motorcyclists were saved in 2008 by wearing helmets
Motorcycle drivers are over 30 times more likely to be killed in accidents than other motor vehicle drivers
The size and weight differential between most motor vehicles and motorcycles and the fact that motorcycles do not have a reinforced steel frame, airbags or seatbelts makes accidents on them far more likely to be catastrophic. Because they come into direct contact with other vehicles, roadside objects and the road itself, motorcycle riders are more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, neck and back injuries, sever bone fractures and amputation. Many injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents cause large medical bills and require prolonged hospital stays, difficult rehabilitation and sometimes, permanent damage. The costs incurred by motorcycle accident victims can be quite high including medical bills, lost wages and damage to property, often including a totaled motorcycle.
Unlike the requirements for insurance of passenger cars, Oregon does not require motorcycle insurers to include no fault Personal Injury Protection. Because of this, motorcycle drivers without the PIP may have to pay for care through their personal health insurance or even out of pocket if no such insurance exists. Even if the accident was someone else’s fault, motorcyclists may have to pay up front to be later reimbursed by the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company. There may be providers who will work with motorcycle accident victims and not demand payment before a settlement can be reached.
Though the law holds no bias against motorcyclists, jurors and insurance companies often do. This is part of why it is so important to speak to an attorney before signing any papers from insurance companies after a motorcycle accident. An attorney can also conduct an investigation into the accident and help clients seek medical care that can help to understand what the client is entitled to. The investigation and medical exams are important to best understand what the liability and costs to those who were injured.
It is important to speak to an attorney quickly after an accident to start the process of filing a claim. Many claims can take months or even years to resolve and motorcycle drivers may not have insurance policies that include Personal Injury Protection. Motorcycle accident victims may feel pressured into taking a settlement because he or she may have to pay out of pocket for medical expenses. Clients may also be pressured by their health insurance provider to timely secure reimbursement for medical costs. Because of this, getting the process started as quickly as possible is very important.
Team Oregon – Motorcycle Safety à http://teamoregon.orst.edu/to_web/index.shtml
Oregon Motorcyclist à http://oregonmotorcyclist.com/
Oregon Motorcycle Association à http://www.omraoffroad.com/
ODOT Motorcycle Safety à http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TS/motorcyclesafety.shtml