Too often, drivers of cars and trucks fail to notice motorcycles. A Florida study, based on ten years of data, concluded that most car versus motorcycle collisions are caused by the driver of the car. The study also found that drivers who do not have a motorcycle endorsement on their licenses are less likely to notice motorcycles on the road.
Unfortunately, drivers are likely to collide with the things they do not see. Drivers who fail to observe motorcycles are a constant threat to motorcycle riders.
Left turn intersection accidents
Drivers turning left in front of an oncoming motorcyclist are a chief cause of motorcycle collisions. The Hurt Report, commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, made this telling finding: “The most common motorcycle accident involves another vehicle causing the collision by violating the right-of-way of the motorcycle at an intersection, usually by turning left in front of the oncoming motorcycle because the car driver did not see the motorcycle.” The Hurt Report also recognized that some motorcycle accidents not involving collisions, reported by the insurance industry as “single vehicle accidents,” are actually caused by a motorcyclist making an evasive maneuver to avoid a collision with a car that turned left in front of the motorcycle rider.
The Florida study confirmed the finding of the Hurt Report. A representative of the Florida Department of Transportation's Motorcycle Safety Coalition explains that drivers who turn left in front of motorcycles either fail to observe the motorcycle or misjudge the speed at which the motorcycle is traveling. This is a problem regularly seen in Los Angeles motorcycle collisions and throughout the Country. The small profile of motorcycles affects perceptions of speed and distance. A 14-wheel truck will be perceived as traveling faster and being closer than a motorcycle at the same distance moving at the same speed.
Defensive driving is a particularly important skill for motorcycle riders. Slow down when approaching an intersection. Always assume that oncoming cars will turn left at the intersection, even if they are not signaling a turn.
While it isn't easy to be noticed if you are riding a motorcycle, wearing bright clothing helps. Flying a flag may also increase your visibility. Always make sure that your headlight is working. Replace the bulb if the light is growing dim.
Wearing a helmet will not help you avoid a collision, but it might save your life if a collision occurs. Head injuries are responsible for more than half of all deaths caused by motorcycle accidents.
Motorcyclist injuries from left turn collisions
Helmets not only save lives, they can prevent traumatic brain injuries. Head injuries are the leading cause of disabilities that result from motorcycle accidents. Even riders who are wearing helmets are likely to sustain concussions when their heads strike the ground. Riders often lose consciousness and sometimes slip into a coma that can last for days or weeks. In the worst cases, riders do not wake up from the coma.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause permanent impairment of the ability to think, reason, and concentrate. A TBI may impair memory or speech. Brain injuries can affect balance and coordination. A TBI can cause the injury victim to lose the sense of taste or smell. Personality changes and depression are common in TBI victims. Even if you were wearing a helmet, you should be evaluated by a neurologist if your head struck the pavement or another object after a motorcycle accident.
Neck and spinal injuries can occur when a rider is thrown from the motorcycle or during impact with the car. The worst of those injuries can lead to paralysis. Even less serious neck or spinal injuries may produce permanent disabilities. Surgery and years of physical therapy may be necessary to achieve maximum rehabilitation.
Other common injuries that result from collisions with a vehicle that turned in front of a motorcyclist include:
- Broken bones (wrists, arms, legs, and knees are particularly vulnerable)
- Facial injuries (sometimes resulting in permanent scarring)
- Damage to muscles, ligaments, and nerves
- Road rash
- Biker's Arm (nerve damage that occurs when riders extend their arms to shield themselves from a fall)
Your entitlement to compensation
Drivers who turn left have a duty to yield the right-of-way to an oncoming motorcyclist. Their violation of traffic law is a negligent act that entitles the injured motorcyclist to compensation.
Since jurors tend to relate to car drivers more than motorcycle riders, they often attribute a degree of fault to the motorcyclist. That reality affects the settlement value of claims for compensation, but serious injuries nevertheless demand serious compensation.
The amount of compensation that an injured motorcycle rider will receive in a settlement or from a jury verdict depends on the extent of the injury that the rider experienced. It also depends on a number of other factors, including how much income the rider will lose because of the accident, the medical expenses the rider will incur, and whether the rider followed up on all treatment recommendations.
It is critical to take these and other factors into account when settling an insurance claim. Since it is also vital to understand whether the injury is permanent and how long it will take to heal, no case should be settled before those facts are known. An experienced personal injury attorney can help an injured motorcyclist maximize the compensation that he or she receives as the result of a driver's negligent left turn.