Were You Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?

While motorcycle riding is a popular and exciting activity, it is an unfortunate fact that if you are struck or otherwise involved in an accident you are much more likely to be catastrophically injured. Unlike passenger vehicles, motorcycles offer little protection from injuries, even if the driver wears a helmet and other protective equipment. If another driver is the cause of your accident or hits you while operating their vehicle recklessly or dangerously, or if they are proven negligent in failing to obey the rules of the road, you may be eligible to pursue compensation for your injuries and other damages.

Many of us like to ride motorcycles. The main reason is that they are fun. They also save a lot of money on gas. However, riding a motorcycle also comes with lots of added dangers. Unlike a passenger vehicle, which has seatbelts, airbags, crumple zones, and other safety features designed to prevent injury in a crash, a motorcycle has none of those things. Your only barrier against injury is your jacket, your helmet, and your skin! Often a very minor accident can result in very serious injuries. According to a 2008 study by Standroth and Knudsen, two Swedish researchers, the risk of being killed on a motorcycle per passenger is approximately 20 times higher than for a passenger car occupant. According to another study by Folksam in 2009, while the risk of serious injury and death for passenger car occupants has been systematically reduced since the 1980s by about 75%, the risk of serious injury and death for motorcycle riders has remained about the same. In addition to the lack of protection, motorcycles can be dangerous because they have a smaller visibility profile. That means that drivers of passenger vehicles and trucks can easily miss the motorcycle and cause an accident. A familiar refrain from drivers of larger vehicles is “I didn’t see him” or “He came out of nowhere.” Rear-end accidents are also a significant danger for motorcycle riders. That’s because braking on a motorcycle takes a certain degree of skill—a skill which some motorcycle drivers possess but novices lack. And finally, motorcycles have less stability than passenger cars because they only have two wheels, and can fishtail or spin out of control perhaps more easily than a passenger motor vehicle, especially on slick surfaces. Due to the lower stability, a person driving a passenger car which starts to skid out of control may have an easier time bringing that car back onto the road to safety, as compared to a motorcycle, which is very difficult to maneuver once a skid or slide begins. People who are injured in motorcycle accidents often sustain catastrophic injury or death. If you or your loved one was injured in a motorcycle accident, you need to get experienced motorcycle counsel to assist you.

The injuries caused by motorcycle accidents are most often severe and require extensive medical treatment, so you should not hesitate to contact a talented and knowledgeable lawyer from our firm immediately to get a free consultation of your case and legal options. At The Medler Law Firm, our attorneys have years of experience in handling personal injury cases involving motorcycle accidents, and we are prepared to fight aggressively to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. We can assist you in litigation with the insurance companies and take the burden of filing and advocating for your claim or lawsuit, and we will take all steps necessary to make the process as stress-free as possible during your recovery.

Pursuing Compensation

As a motorcycle rider has little protection besides a helmet, the severity of injuries resulting from a collision or being thrown off a motorcycle can be very serious. Broken bones, concussions and other head and brain injuries, spinal damage and burns are only a few of the injuries that can result from a motorcycle accident. If another driver is responsible for your injuries you may be able to receive compensation for:

  • Your medical expenses and medication
  • Any necessary therapy or physical rehabilitation
  • Loss of wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering

It is important to realize that if another is at fault for your accident and injuries, you need to protect your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve for your suffering and losses.

Is a Motorcycle Without Anti-Lock Brakes Defective and Unreasonably Dangerous?

In our opinion, yes! In a traffic event which requires an emergency braking maneuver, staying upright on the motorcycle, and stopping in time, becomes a life-or-death proposition. A motorcycle which does not come equipped with critical safety features to allow the rider to “stay in the saddle” and brake quickly and safely is defective and unreasonably dangerous. Anti-lock brakes (“ABS”), a braking safety system which has been available for installation on motorcycles since at least 1988, is the obvious answer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) should make ABS mandatory on all motorcycles which are designed for on-the-road use. In cases in which a plaintiff motorcycle rider was operating a motorcycle which was not equipped with ABS, failed to stop in time, and rear-ended the vehicle in front, causing a catastrophic injury or death, the motorcyclist’s attorney should investigate whether a products liability claim could be made against the motorcycle manufacturer or dealer for failure to equip the motorcycle with ABS. The research data on the safety of ABS systems on motorcycles began as early as 1988, but the real scientific safety consensus was reached in approximately 2009 or 2010. Any motorcycle over 125cc manufactured after that time which is intended for on-road use should come equipped, as a mandatory feature, with ABS.

History of ABS on Motorcycles

Aircraft pioneer Gabriel Voisin first developed an ABS system for airplanes in 1929. This led to the development of the Maxaret aircraft anti-skid system. In 1958, testing of the Maxaret anti-skid system led to the first installation of ABS on a motorcycle, the Royal Enfield Super Meteor. Stopping distances in that early study were reduced significantly when compared to regular locked wheel braking. Chrysler first put ABS in a car when it launched the 1971 Imperial, and Ford followed with the Lincoln Continental in the same year. In 1988, BMW introduced the K-100 motorcycle, the first motorcycle with an electronic-hydraulic ABS. The first Japanese motorcycle manufacturer to provide ABS was Honda. In 1992, Honda introduced the ST1100 Pan European, in which ABS was an optional feature. Honda introduced the first supersport ABS on the CBR600RR and CBR1000RR models. In 1997, Suzuki offered the GSF1200SA Bandit with ABS. In 2005, Harley-Davidson joined the ranks by offering ABS on police motorcycles. Since that time, there are dozens of models of motorcycles which have ABS as an optional or mandatory feature.

How ABS Works on a Motorcycle

ABS operates by preventing the two wheels of a motorcycle from locking during a braking maneuver. The concept behind ABS is that a skidding wheel provides less stopping force than a wheel that is rotating. Antilock brakes have sensors which monitor the speed of each wheel and then automatically pulse the brake fluid pressure if wheel skidding is detected. This allows for the wheel to continuously rotate, giving the greatest amount of friction and stopping force.

Why ABS on a Motorcycle is Different than ABS on an Auto

Many people argue that the ABS experience with passenger cars has not been all that impressive. A 1994 Highway Loss Data Institute study and a subsequent 1995 study compared insurance claims for groups of identical cars with and without antilock brakes, and found no differences in the frequency or cost of crashes. Because ABS works well in wet and slippery roads, researchers performed a similar study over 29 months in winter months, and again found no difference in claim frequency for vehicles with and without ABS. A 1997 HLDI Study and a 2001 update similarly found no difference in overall fatal crash rates for passenger cars with and without ABS. According to one federal report, the overall net effect of ABS on both police-reported crashes and fatal crashes was “close to zero.” Many opponents of a mandatory ABS requirement for motorcycles have pointed to this passenger car research and have argued that the research is applicable to motorcycles. Whatever the reason is for the lack of an overall effect on passenger cars, however, the evidence is quite different when it comes to ABS for motorcycles. For motorcycles, as seen below, the differences in crash rates for motorcycles with versus without ABS are quite significant.

Why is ABS so helpful for motorcycles? On a car, one braking action (applying the stop pedal), operates the front and rear wheels. That is not much to think about in an emergency. On a motorcycle, on the other hand, the front brake is operated by a hand lever and the back brake is operated by a foot pedal. On a motorcycle, unless a “Combined Braking System” (“CBS”) has been installed on the motorcycle, the operator has to apply both the hand lever and the foot pedal to get both brakes working. There is also a skill technique learned in Motorcycle Safety Training Classes (or through years of experience), which is taught to the motorcycle operator concerning how much pressure to use for the hand lever and how much to use on the foot pedal, and how to use these two brakes harmoniously at the same time in an emergency braking maneuver. In other words, braking is more complicated, and there are more things to think about on a motorcycle versus a passenger car. In addition, staying upright and balanced is not a concern for a car. If the motorcycle skids, it is extremely difficult to keep the motorcycle under control so that it does not spin, fall down, or go out of control. That is not to say it cannot be done. Many bikers learn the technique. But it is far more difficult to keep the motorcycle upright and in control when it is skidding versus when the wheels are rotating. ABS helps with these problems.

The Research: ABS Saves Lives

ABS on a motorcycle has three principal benefits: (1) it allows greater stability for the operator to stay in the seat and avoid a fall-down or lay-down, where injuries will be significantly enhanced; (2) it allows faster stopping distances on all types of pavement for novice riders; (3) it allows faster stopping distances on wet and slippery surfaces; and (4) it reduces the panic of a novice driver, leading to better and safer braking.

The research showing that ABS on motorcycles saved lives started as early as 1992 and continues to this day. Nearly every research paper has shown that ABS motorcycles are safer, especially with novice riders, and have the potential of saving lives. Here are just some of the research papers:

Kneebone, Michael, “No Fault Braking: A Real-World Comparison of ABS Systems,” http://www.ibmwr.org/prodreview/abstests.html (Sept. 1992)(novice riders took significantly more distance to brake on non-ABS bikes)

Kramlich, Thomas, and Sporner, Alexander, “Motorcycle Braking and its Influence on Severity of Injury,” GDV Institute for Vehicle Safety, München, Germany 2003 (in 90% of motorcycle crashes involving a fall before the collision, ABS would have prevented the fall; in-depth data from 910 motorcycle accidents on German roads; found ABS to be beneficial in 54% of cases, and to reduce all fatal and severe motorcycle crashes by 8 to 10%).

Vavryn, K, and Winkelbauer, M., “Braking Performance of Experienced and Novice Motorcycle Riders,” Austrian Road Safety Board (Jan. 2004)(deceleration of novice drivers achieved with ABS almost equals that of experienced drivers; the average driver does not do well in achieving braking deceleration suitable for road traffic, but with a motorcycle fitted with ABS, they do; “ABS should be mandatory equipment for every powered two-wheeler”)

Green, D. “A Comparison of stopping distance performance for motorcycles equipped with ABS, CBS, and conventional hydraulic brake systems,” Paper presented at the 2006 International Motorcycle Safety Conference, March 28, Long Beach CA (2006)(ABS on motorcycles reduced braking distance).

Gail, Jost, et al., “Anti-Lock Braking and Vehicle Stability Control for Motorcycles—Why or Why Not? Federal Highway Research Institute of Germany (2009)(riders achieve shorter braking distances with ABS than without, even on a closed test track; there was low significance between brake performance and the experience of the rider; drivers showed a significantly higher heart rate [fear caused by possible accident] when performing tests without ABS versus with ABS; cost-benefit analysis was also conducted and “shows clearly that ABS for motorcycles is economically reasonable”; “the full potential of ABS can only be achieved by making ABS mandatory”);

Roll, Georg, Hoffman, Oliver, and Konig, Jens, “Effectiveness Evaluation of Antilock Brake Systems (ABS) for Motorcycles in Real-World Accident Scenarios,” Continental AG, Division Chassis and Safety, Paper Number 09-0254 (2009)(50% of accidents could have been avoided with ABS).

Rizzi, Matteo, et al., “The Effectiveness of Antilock Brake Systems (ABS) on Motorcycles in Reducing Real-Life Crashes and Injuries,” Traffic Injury Prevention, Vol 10: pp. 479-487 (2009)(analysis of 164 fatal motorcycle crashes showed that 14% could have been definitely avoided with ABS; another 16% ABS would have definitely had an influence; another 14% ABS would have probably had an influence; and another 22% would have perhaps had an influence; the overall effectiveness for ABS, including head-on collisions, was 38% for all motorcycle casualty crashes and 48% for all severe and fatal motorcycle crash outcomes).

German Federal Highway Research Institute (2008)(mandatory installation of ABS on motorcycles above 50cc could avoid 12% of all motorcycle accidents with fatal or serious injuries).

Teoh, Eric, “Effectiveness of Antilock Braking Systems in Reducing Fatal Motorcycle Crashes,” Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Oct. 2008 (motorcycles equipped with ABS had 19% fewer insurance claims for collision damage per insured vehicle year than the same motorcycles without ABS; fatal crash rate for motorcycle per 10,000 registered vehicles was 4.1 for non-ABS motorcycles, and 6.7 for the same model motorcycles without ABS; motorcycles with ABS had a fatal crash rate 38% lower than the non-ABS versions).

Teoh, Eric, same study, updated in March 2009 with new data (19% fewer insurance claims for ABS versus non-ABS motorcycles; 28% reduction in fatal motorcycle crash rate with ABS).

Teoh, Eric, same study, updated in January 2010 with new data (22% fewer insurance claims for ABS versus non-ABS motorcycles; 37% reduction in fatal motorcycle crashes with ABS).

Highway Loss Data Institute Dec. 2009, “Motorcycle Anti-lock Braking System (ABS); Insurance Special Report A-81””(22% reduction in claim frequency for motorcycles equipped with ABS; 19% overall decrease in collisions losses).

Swedish Road Administration (2009)(effectiveness of motorcycle ABS of 38% on all crashes and casualties and 48% on all severe and fatal crashes).

The National Highway Transportation Administration Provides Hope to Safety Advocates for Mandatory U.S. Motorcycle ABS Requirement, then Dashes Hope

In October 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced in its 2009-2011 agenda that it was considering the possibility of an antilock brakes requirement for motorcycles. The Agency’s proposal was welcomed by those in the safety industry, and manufacturers like motorcycle systems like Bosch. The NHTSA’s own studies have shown that ABS can significantly reduce stopping distances on the test track. Statistical analyses by researchers across the globe also provided additional support for an ABS requirement. See these comments to NHTSA:

Bosch, Comments on NHTSA Vehicle Safety Rulemaking and Research Priority Plan 2009-2011 (Docket Number NHTSA-2009-0108), dated October 1, 2009 (Bosch opining that all motorcycles above 125cc should be equipped with ABS; in Germany, 89% of all fatal motorcycle accidents occurred with motorcycles over 125cc).

Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, April 30, 2010 comments on the same NHTSA docket (urging a modification to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 122 to require ABS systems on motorcycles).

Unfortunately, however, on July 19, 2010, in Docket No. NHTSA-2002-11950, NHTSA rejected its own proposal and published a report entitled “Motorcycle Antilock Braking Systems and Crash Estimated from Case-Control Comparisons, Mathematical Analysis Division,” in which NHTSA claimed that it did not find “statistically significant results to suggest that ABS affects motorcycle crash risk.” NHTSA argued that IIHS researchers were unable to control for possible differences in the riding habits of people who buy motorcycles with ABS compared with those who do not purchase these type of bikes. Maybe people who buy ABS-equipped bikes ride more or less miles than people who buy non-ABS bikes, they postulated. But the government did not consider the Highway Loss Data Institute study from 2009, which was submitted for review to the NHTSA and which DID take into effect factors known to affect crash rates like rider age, sex, the bike’s location, and this study nevertheless still found a significant benefit of ABS—a 22% reduction in collision claims. In its August 18, 2010 comments to the NHTSA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety criticized the bogus and faulty government study, and in a September 28, 2010 bulletin, called the Federal study of anti-locks “junk science.” See IIHS, Status Report, Vol. 45, No. 10, “Federal Study of Antilocks is Junk Science” (Sept. 28, 2010).

ABS on Motorcycles Mandatory in the European Union since 2016

Not all governments are this blind to the notion of improving safety for motorcycle riders. In the European Union, motorcycles with an engine displacement of 125cc or more have been required to have ABS as mandatory equipment beginning in 2016.

The Research Continues….

Even after the NHTSA’s sad position on this issue, research in the field continues to show the effectiveness of ABS on motorcycles in reducing crashes. For example, see these recent studies:

Teoh, Eric. “Effectiveness of antilock braking systems in reducing motorcycle fatal crash rates,” Traffic Injury Prevention, Vol. 12: 169-173 (2011).

Teoh, Eric, “Effectiveness of Antilock Braking Systems in Reducing Fatal Market Crashes,” IIHS, updated in May 2013 with new data (31% reduction in fatal motorcycle crashes for ABS versus non-ABS motorcycles).

Highway Loss Data Institute, “Evaluation of antilock braking systems (ABS) and ABS in conjunction with combined control braking systems (CCBS).” Bulletin 30(10), Arlington, VA (2013).

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Crash Avoidance Technologies,” (see IIHS website).

Even though the federal government is behind on this issue, experienced motorcycle accident lawyers can fill in the safety gap by holding motorcycle manufacturers responsible where an accident is caused, or contributed to be caused, by the absence of anti-lock brakes. To our knowledge, our law firm is the only one who has successfully sued a motorcycle manufacturer for failing to have ABS. If you have been injured, or your loved one has been killed, in a motorcycle accident, and you believe that lack of ABS played a factor, call the experienced personal injury lawyers at The Medler Law Firm today.

Links for Motorcycle Safety:

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and The Highway Loss Data Institute
The National Highway Transportation Administration
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation

Here are Some Tips for Motorcycle Safety

Attend a Training Course

It is absolutely critical that anyone seeking to ride a motorcycle attend a motorcycle training course to learn how to safely operate a motorcycle. This course should include both classroom and field training. It is especially important to practice braking, because braking on a motorcycle is extremely difficult and requires a special skill, and coordination of both the front pedal and foot brake.

Never ride in a car’s blind spot

Vehicle drivers already have a hard time seeing cars in their blind spot. Because motorcycles have a reduced visibility profile, it is that much easier to miss a biker driving in the blind spot.

Be a Defensive Driver

A motorcycle driver needs to have greater defensive driver skills than the operator of a passenger vehicle. Always pay attention to other cars on the road, and be ready for them to make a mistake and fail to see you.

Wear appropriate scratch-free eye protection

Unlike a passenger car or truck, you do not have as much protection from weather, bugs, and wind.

Watch intersections

Nearly half of all motorcycle fatal accidents occur at intersections. Be especially vigilant there, and be careful not to zoom in and out around passenger cars who may not see you.

Obtain a special motorcycle driver’s license

In most states, a regular driver’s license for operating a passenger car is insufficient. Despite that fact, a surprising number of people drive a motorcycle without the proper license.

Always wear a certified helmet.

After Texas and Arkansas repealed their helmet laws, there was a 31% increase (Texas) and a 21% increase (Arkansas) in motorcycle fatalities. A DOT-certified helmet is the safest. If possible, wear protective equipment too, like a sturdy jacket, boots (leather boots are best) covering your feet, ankles and shins, and non-slip or gauntlet gloves. This may help to reduce injuries in the event of an accident. Sandals or sneakers should never be worn while riding a motorcycle. When riding at night, reflective clothing is preferable to allow you to be seen by other motorists.

Pick the right motorcycle for you

A motorcycle, like a bicycle, should fit. Driving a motorcycle which is the wrong size for you can lead to an accident. Check the location of all of your controls and make sure you can operate them properly and safely.

Think twice about carrying a passenger

A passenger on the back can greatly throw off your balance. A passenger may not be ready for a sudden acceleration or deceleration. A passenger is not belted in and can only grab your waist and hold on for dear life. If you do decide to carry a passenger, go slowly and have them wear a helmet, and do not make sudden stops or speed-ups.

Practice, practice, practice

Go off to a field or a parking lot, and practice your riding and braking skills.

Be familiar with the rules of the road

Familiarize yourself with the rules of the road before going out on the road.

Don’t drink and drive

In 2010, alcohol was a factor in 42% of fatal motorcycle crashes. It goes without saying that you should not ride a motorcycle while intoxicated or impaired.

Watch Road Irregularities

If a car drives over a grate, it will not have any problem. The same cannot be said for a motorcycle. Watch out for road grates, puddles, potholes, and slippery surfaces. These are a much greater danger for motorcycles than passenger cars.

The Airbag Jacket—Yes, it’s Real!

Safety engineers have been experimenting with the use of an “airbag jacket” that will expand in the event of a motorcycle collision.

The very latest is the Ducati Multistrada D-Air. Ducati is an Italian motorcycle manufacturer. Its Dainese airbag jacket wirelessly senses the movements of the bike and deploys the airbag in case of a genuine accident. The airbag deploys in 45 milliseconds or less. That is faster than it takes to blink. It will probably run you over $1,000 for the jacket, however.

Why you need to hire Experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Motorcycle Manufacturers

Motorcycle accident cases can be very complex. Here is just one example. Many motorcycle manufacturers are Japanese. These companies are very careful to have their manufacturing arm remain solely within Japan. If you try to sue these companies, you will need to obtain service of process upon them. How will you do that if they are in Japan? The United States is subject to a treaty with Japan which allows service of process, but the procedure is expensive and can take many months. Once service is achieved, the next hurdle is that all of the relevant documents are in Japan, and are in Japanese. If a key engineer needs to be deposed, it will be necessary to fly to Japan, with an interpreter, to take the deposition. The average law firm does not have the expertise or the finances to conduct such a complex operation. Our law firm has done it and succeeded.

The Best Experts

In addition, any accident reconstruction expert hired in the case must have a firm grasp of engineering principles as applied to motorcycles specifically. Our firm has worked with some of the best motorcycle experts in the country.

Driving Mistakes

Accidents between passenger vehicles, trucks and motorcycles may be caused by a number of factors. These include texting while driving, inattention, drinking while driving, improper lane usage, failure to signal, failing to obey traffic signals and signs, speeding, following too closely, failing to yield the right-of-way, erratic driving, and improper turning. Your lawyer should be trained to spot any of these mistakes made by the other driver.

Roadway Defects

Another factor people often ignore is defects in the roadway. This sometimes can occur in regular passenger vehicle crashes, but usually will be more of a factor in a motorcycle crash case. We have successfully sued state Departments of Transportation when inappropriately installed rumble strips caused a motorcycle accident, when gravel was left on a roadway by a road construction crew leading to a motorcycle accident, and when a DOT improperly designed a road with a narrow bridge and insufficient shoulders. Your motorcycle accident may be caused by road grates, potholes, improper signage, or other problems caused by a state DOT. In addition, road construction areas are often problematic, and may have insufficient signage and barricading. You need to contact experienced counsel so that these theories of recovery are not overlooked.

Medical Malpractice in Treating Injuries from Motorcycle Crashes

And do not forget the medical care which comes after the motorcycle accident. Often, the doctors who are supposed to fix the injuries from motorcycle accidents may make mistakes. We had a case in which a motorcyclist was seriously injured and his plastic surgeon waited too long to perform a “free flap” surgery, causing the motorcyclist to lose his leg. Your lawyer should also be able to bring any medical malpractice which follows your motorcycle accident.

Experience Counts

Don’t trust your serious motorcycle accident to just anybody. Our law firm has the experience you need to win the most successful result. If you want to get maximum compensation don’t wait, call the motorcycle injury lawyers at The Medler Law Firm today.

If you have been injured or your loved one killed in a motorcycle accident anywhere in California or near any of these cities & communities, call us right now for a no-obligation case review. You may be entitled to negligence-based compensation.

There is never any fee until we win your case: