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Motorcycle Fatalities

Motorcycling comes with serious risks. In the event of a crash or collision, motorcyclists have little protection from much heavier cars and trucks.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2019, 5,014 motorcyclists died in crashes. While that number is down slightly from 2018 statistics, even a single motorcyclist death is one too many. The truth of the matter is that most fatal motorcycle crashes are caused by negligent motorists and are easily preventable.

The motorcycle attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman have been advocating for Boston bikers and their families for over 25 years. Not only are our motorcycle attorneys the best in the business, but many of them are ardent riders who understand the intricacies of these cases.

If a loved one was killed in a motorcycle crash, contact our office today for a free legal consultation. We know the devastation that comes when a family member is killed by a careless driver and we will fight to make sure your family receives the maximum compensation available under the law.

Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Fatal Motorcycle Accident

When a loved one is involved in a deadly crash, family members of the deceased motorcyclist can bring a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death occurs when a person is killed as a result of another party’s negligence or recklessness. Although no sum of money can compensate a family for the devastating loss of a spouse, parent or other family member, wrongful death damages can help ease any financial difficulties caused by the loss. In order to recover damages, the surviving family members must be able to prove that the negligent party caused the motorcyclist’s death.

Family members can pursue wrongful death claims for economic and noneconomic damages, including:

  • Loss of financial support
  • Medical expenses racked up prior to the motorcyclist’s death
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of companionship
  • Punitive damages

Punitive damages are awarded in cases in which the negligent party’s conduct was extremely reckless or reprehensible. Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant and deter future misconduct. It’s not unusual for a punitive damages award to hit $1 million or more. In Massachusetts, punitive damages are only available in wrongful death cases.

Family members have three years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death action in the proper Massachusetts court.

You can read more about wrongful death damages in Massachusetts at MGL c. 229 § 2.

Motorcycle Accident Fatalities in Massachusetts

To get an idea about the risk involved in motorcycle riding, consider these statistics from NHTSA:

  • When researchers looked at vehicle miles traveled in 2019, motorcyclists were approximately 29 times more likely than individuals riding in cars to die in a crash, and were four times more likely to be injured.
  • Of those motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2019, 30% did not have valid motorcycle licenses.

All states require that motorcyclists have a standard driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement. In Massachusetts, all motorcyclists must also pass a road test and bike riders who are under 18 must complete a basic rider course. Regardless of age, education, and training, courses can help motorcyclists stay safe on the road.

Massachusetts has its fair share of fatal motorcycle crashes. In 2018, 59 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents in the state, accounting for 16% of all traffic accident fatalities. More than 30% of those fatalities involved bike riders in the 25 to 35 age range.

How safe is Massachusetts when compared to other states? An insurance website looked at crash data to determine which states had the highest rates of motorcycle rider fatalities per registered motorcycle. Mississippi, Texas and South Carolina had the highest rates of fatalities and South Dakota, Michigan and Montana had the lowest. Massachusetts came in at number 37, which makes it safer than 36 other states.

The researcher concluded that weather plays a key role in motorcycle rider fatalities. Colder states tend to have lower fatality rates while warmer ones have higher ones. Bikers in warm weather states are more likely to take to the roads all year long.

According to a report by Massachusetts Vision Zero, a group committed to reducing the number of traffic fatalities in Boston to zero, in 2020, more drivers, passengers and motorcyclists died in crashes in Boston than in any of the four previous years. This increase in crashes is believed to be the result of an uptick in speeding vehicles during the coronavirus pandemic because of less traffic on roads.

Negligent and Distracted Drivers Cause Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

Negligent motorists - Most motorcycle crashes are caused by drivers who fail to spot motorcycles on the road. The driver may be speeding or just not paying attention. The driver may have run a red light, failed to yield to the motorcyclist, or violated some other traffic law. While head-on collisions are the most dangerous type of car versus motorcycle collision, left turn, lane switching, and lane splitting accidents can also result in serious injury and death. More than half of all motorcycle accident deaths involve head-on collisions.

Distracted drivers - Drivers who are on their cellphones or fiddling with other types of technology may not see a motorcycle until it is too late to veer out of the way. Cellphones are not the only distraction that today’s drivers face. Drivers who are eating, grooming, or tending to children while behind the wheel are often too distracted to pay attention to others on the road. Here is a scary statistic from research funded by the NHTSA: Drivers are distracted more than 50% of the time.

Drunk drivers - Even though the dangers of drunk driving have been well documented, individuals continue to drink and drive in the Boston metropolitan area. Drunk drivers pose a serious threat to motorcyclists as alcohol affects a person’s reflexes, reaction times, and impairs judgment.

Poor road maintenance - Potholes, roads with poor drainage, and roads obstructed by debris, are some examples of roadway hazards that can lead to fatal motorcycle crashes. Overgrown vegetation, missing stop signs, and malfunctioning traffic signals can also lead to fatal collisions. State and local municipalities are responsible for the upkeep of public roadways and can be held liable in certain cases. These claims are subject to strict time limits, so it is important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible

Defective road design - Roads designed with sharp curves, narrow shoulders, and other defects can be dangerous. A government entity may be held liable for such hazards.

Defective motorcycles – Motorcycles that have design or manufacturing defects can malfunction and cause fatal injuries. Cracked frames, brake failures, steering problems and fuel system problems are some examples of defects that often occur without any warning. The motorcycle manufacturer and part manufacturer can be held liable, as can the motorcycle shop where the bike was purchased.

Defective helmets – In Massachusetts, riders and passengers are required to wear motorcycle helmets. Research has found that helmets save hundreds of lives each year and billions of dollars in economic costs. Helmets that are defective will not protect a rider the way that they should and can cause fatal injuries. Companies that design, manufacture, and sell these helmets can and should be held responsible

Many people are under the impression that they cannot file a wrongful death claim because their family member was not wearing a helmet or following some other law when the fatal accident occurred. This is not true. Compensation may still be available. A motorcycle attorney will be able to determine if you have a viable claim.

For a free legal consultation, contact the motorcycle attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC in Boston today at (617) 777-7777 or use our online form.

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