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Motorcycle Injury Resources

Enthusiasm for motorcycles is thriving in Massachusetts, with more than 125,000 registered bikes in the state and a rapidly rising number of rallies, rides, bike shows and benefits every year. The last decade has seen a sharp rise in sales across the country, with some 9.5 million motorcycles registered in the U.S.

For some, it’s a convenient, cheap means of commute. For others, it’s a summertime weekend indulgence. But this spike in popularity has led to concerns about safety and the toll of human and economic losses when serious crashes occur. Motorcycle deaths accounted for 13 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2014, and were more than double the number of motorcycle deaths in 1997.

At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our Boston motorcycle accident lawyers are staunch advocates of the rights and interests of motorcycle operators and passengers. We recognize that for many, motorcycles are more than just a mode of transportation. They are integral to one’s identity, and those who share this passion are part of a greater community.

Motorcycle accidents are a reality of daily life in that community, but that does not mean they are unavoidable. A significant number of these crashes can be attributed to the negligence of other drivers, many of whom simply don’t pay attention or look twice.

Almost half of all fatal motorcycle accidents in Massachusetts occur in the Boston metropolitan area.

Nearly 4,700 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2013, with 40 of those deaths occurring in Massachusetts. That’s according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which also reports between 2010 and 2013, there were nearly 200 motorcyclists who died on our roads.

A motorcycle accident can leave riders and their families reeling – physically, emotionally and financially. Here, we offer resources to help guide you the process of obtaining compensation for your losses.

What to Do After a Serious Motorcycle Accident?

If you are on the roadway, wondering What to Do After a Serious Motorcycle Accident, that means you are at least conscious and alert – a very good thing.

In that scenario, here are the basic courses of action that are advised:

  • Relocate all persons to a safe place to prevent further accidents and injury.
  • Call 911 and wait for instruction and assistance from emergency responders.
  • Gather the personal information of all involved.
  • Identify any potential witnesses.
  • Take notes and photos of the accident scene. Even if the event seems vivid in your mind, your memory will fade.
  • Notify your insurance company (but do not give a detailed or recorded statement).
  • Contact an experienced injury attorney.

You will want to make sure you do not refuse medical attention. Avoid giving a recorded statement to any insurance adjuster, and do not offer an apology to anyone, as this could be construed as an admission of fault. Provide the police with only basic detail, but refrain from guessing about speed or distance.

In cases where a motorcyclist is transported from the crash scene to a hospital before having a chance to do any of this, make sure to contact a personal injury attorney to determine your next step.

What if the Other Driver Was At-Fault?

If the Other Driver Was At-Fault, you have a right to pursue compensation if losses from your injuries exceed more than $2,000 or result in:

  • A broken bone
  • Substantial loss of hearing or sight
  • Permanent or serious disfigurement or disability.

Although Massachusetts is a no-fault state when it comes to auto insurance, your personal injury protection (PIP) benefits are only going to go so far if you’ve been involved in a serious motorcycle accident. If you are seeking excess damages from the at-fault driver’s insurer (or if you are a passenger seeking benefits from the motorcycle operator’s insurer), an experienced injury attorney can help further your claim.

What if the Motorcyclist is At-Fault?

It’s estimated about 40 percent of motorcycle accidents involve situations where the motorcyclist shared some portion of the fault. How this will affect a case depends on the situation. Massachusetts law says that a person is at-fault if his or her driving behavior at the time of the crash was more than 50 percent of the reason for the crash.

First, it’s important to note the investigations by police and the insurance adjusters are not the last word on whether a Motorcyclist is At-Fault. Their conclusions can be successfully challenged by an attorney.

Secondly, even when motorcyclists do share a portion of liability, they can still collect – so long as that percentage of fault doesn’t exceed 50 percent. However, his or her portion of compensation will be reduced by his or her percentage of shared blame.

In cases where the motorcycle passenger is taking action against the motorcyclist (often in single-vehicle crashes), it will be the motorcyclist’s insurance company that will ultimately pay damages. If the policy doesn’t cover the full extent of those damages, passengers – or their surviving family – may want to explore damages available any under existing uninsured/ underinsured motorist (UM/ UIM) policies.

Defect Roadways/ Roadway Obstacles

Motorcycles are more susceptible than other types of vehicles to roadway defects and roadway obstacles. Gravel, flooding, potholes and debris – all these things that might cause a minor bump to someone in a passenger car can cause serious injury and death to motorcyclists due to the bike’s low stability and exposed two-wheel nature.

The NHTSA reports in cases where a road defect was a precipitating cause, 80 percent of those resulting crashes will result in a fatality or severe injury, such as bone fractures or traumatic brain injuries.

If you encounter Defect Roadways / Roadway Obstacles that result in a motorcycle accident, consult with one of our skilled injury lawyers to determine whether you may have a case against the local municipality or state entity responsible for safe design, construction and maintenance of the road.

How Dangerous is Riding in Massachusetts?

Motorcyclists inevitably face higher risks on the road than those in passenger cars.

But just How Dangerous is Riding in Massachusetts?

Consider that motorcyclists are roughly 26 times more likely than those in passenger cars to die in a crash (per vehicle miles traveled) and they are five times more likely to be hurt.

Between 2010 and 2013, there were nearly 200 motorcyclists killed in Massachusetts. It’s unclear exactly how many were injured, but we do know that nationally in 2013, there were 4,660 motorcyclists killed, which was 5.3 percent of the total 88,000 seriously injured, according to the NHTSA. If we applied those same figures here, that would mean 3,770 motorcycle injuries statewide during that three-year period.

The chances of injury or death are higher for older motorcyclists, who account for more than half of all motorcycle deaths and often sustain more serious injuries than their younger counterparts.

Do I Need a Safety Course?

Newer riders may wonder: Do I Need a Safety Course to operate a motorcycle in Massachusetts?

The answer is: Yes and no.

The Commonwealth does not mandate that new riders applying for a Class M motorcycle license undergo a safety course if they are over the age of 18. However, junior operators under the age of 18 must successfully complete a safety course approved by the Massachusetts Rider Education Program (MREP). Junior riders also need parental permission.

In some cases, the courts will require motorcycle safety training for those operators who may have been ticketed for careless driving or cited for being at-fault in a crash.

Of course, just because it’s not required by law doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea for all operators. Even those with experience could use an occasional refresher course. It can help those seeking to obtain their Class M license, and it also helps to build on your safety knowledge – which can be powerful when you’re facing a collision with only seconds to react.

Common Causes

In many motorcycle accidents, there may be more than one causal factor at play. Sifting through those to properly identify potential defendants – and anticipate arguments of contributory negligence – is important.

Some of the most Common Causes of Boston motorcycle accidents include:

  • Cars turning left – This accounts for 42 percent of all motorcycle accidents.
  • Car changes lane into you – Motorcyclists need to be mindful of driver blind spots and drive defensively.
  • Road defects, hazards and weather conditions – Construction debris, uneven lanes, loose gravel, snow/ice and flooding all pose serious risks to riders.
  • Speed – Almost half of all motorcycle accidents involve at least one driver who was speeding.
  • Lane splitting – Motorcyclists who ride between two lanes of traffic – usually to beat congestion – may be putting themselves and their passengers at serious risk.
  • DUI – In 2013 fatal motorcycle crashes, 27 percent of operators were impaired by alcohol – more than the 23 percent for passenger car drivers, 21 percent for light truck drivers and 2 percent for large truck drivers.
  • Defective Vehicle Parts – If the tires, brakes, accelerators or other parts are not working properly, it could result in a crash for which the manufacturer may be responsible.
  • Driver distraction – Motorists have never had a great record when it came to watching for motorcyclists, but it’s gotten worse in recent years with the proliferation of the smart phone.
Motorcycle Injuries

There no guarantee of safety on a steel horse.

Some of the most common Motorcycle Injuries incurred in crashes include:

  • Head Injuries
  • Spinal Injuries
  • Road Rash
  • Muscle Damage
  • “Biker’s Arm”
  • Leg Injury

These injuries can result in permanent disfigurement, disability, paralysis or even death.

The CDC reports nearly one-third of all non-fatal motorcycle injuries occur to the legs and feet. This is interesting when you consider that for all the safety gear that is recommended for motorcyclists, leg and foot protection is often ignored.

About 22 percent of the total number of injuries – fatal and non-fatal – were to the head and neck.

Helmet Laws

Massachusetts has one of the strictest motorcycle Helmet Laws in the country. It’s one of 19 states with a universal helmet law that requires head protection for all riders of all ages and experience.

The requirement that all motorcycle riders and passengers wear state-approved protective headgear and helmets is codified in M.G.L. 90, Section 7. It’s rooted in the fact that motorcycle operators and riders who skip the helmet are 40 percent more likely to suffer a deadly head injury.

Although the failure to don a helmet will not prohibit an injured rider from pursuing compensation, it may ultimately reduce the overall amount one can receive. It’s often left to the courts to ascertain the extent to which not wearing a helmet contributed to a rider’s injuries.

Comparative Fault

Boston motorcycle injury attorneys know that a common defense in these cases is Comparative Fault. This refers to the extent to which an injured person is responsible for causing the crash, and therefore his or her own injuries.

State statute M.G.L. 231 Section 85 holds that contributory negligence does not necessarily stop a plaintiff from recovering damages.

There are many different variations of comparative fault laws from state-to-state. The Commonwealth follows a model known as modified comparative fault, with a 51 percent bar. That means if an injured person is 51 percent or more at-fault for the crash, he or she cannot collect compensation from the other parties involved. Any amount of contributory negligence below that, they can still collect damages, though the ultimate amount they can recover will be reduced by their own percentage of fault.

Uninsured Motorist

Massachusetts law requires all motorists carry a minimum level of insurance. Unfortunately, about 20 percent of drivers don’t abide this law.

If you are struck by an Uninsured Motorist, the only protection you may have is uninsured motorist coverage. In cases where the at-fault driver may have insurance but doesn’t have enough to cover the full extent of your losses, you may pursue underinsured motorist coverage.

This sometimes referred to in auto insurance policy language as “UM/UIM” coverage.

It’s especially critical for motorcyclists, who are five times more likely than those in passenger cars to suffer a crash-related injury.

Challenging Findings of Fault

A determination of fault can be everything in your motorcycle accident case. Fault is the issue on which your ability to collect damages hinges. If you can’t show the defendant(s) was at-fault for the crash, you won’t be able to recover your losses.

Although responding law enforcement officers may indicate the conclusions of their investigation at the accident scene, understand that they do not have the final authority to issue a finding of fault. The insurance company will make a determination as well. There are some crash scenarios in which the law allows insurers to make a presumption of fault in certain pre-defined situations.

If you don’t agree with the insurance company’s conclusions concerning fault, you can Challenge Findings of Fault in court.

How Do I Choose an Attorney?

Your Boston motorcycle injury lawyer is going to be the one to represent you in bringing a case against someone else for negligence that contributed to your injury.

You need to consider what is at stake when mulling, “How Do I Choose an Attorney?”. Not only are you trying to obtain compensation for your current medical bills, but also for any future medical costs you might have, lost wages, loss of future earnings, pain and suffering, mental/ emotional suffering and loss consortium by your spouse and children. This is about the security of your financial future, and you can’t entrust it to just anyone.

You need someone who has:

  • Extensive experience in this particular area of accident law;
  • A solid reputation within the community and among past clients;
  • Ample trial experience, and will not be afraid to take a case it trial if it’s in your best interests;
  • Ample resources and can foot the bill upfront for the necessary investigation, expert witness costs and more to fully prepare your case for negotiations or trial;
  • A winning record.
How Do I Pay for an Attorney?

One of the reasons people are initially reticent to contact an injury lawyer is because they are fearful of the costs. The issue of “How Do I Pay an Attorney?” can be a major one, especially when you are struggling to make ends meet as it is.

Here’s the good news: Our Boston motorcycle accident attorneys offer services on a contingency fee basis. That means clients pay no or minimal costs upfront, and we are only paid a percentage of what you win – and only if you win.

Although attorneys do set their own contingency fees, based on the complexity of each case and the experience of the attorney, there are limits as to how much they can charge, which include stipulations to charge no more than 25 percent of any amount of recovery extending beyond $500,000.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.

Call (617) 367-2900 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL

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