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Guide to Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycles are extremely popular. Millions of Americans own and operate them, and unfortunately thousands of those Americans get into motorcycle accidents each year. Much of the advice applicable to automobile accidents applies to motorcycle accidents as well, but motorcycle accidents have their own specific set of concerns that we will outline here.

Safety. Riding a motorcycle is a uniquely enjoyable and uniquely dangerous way to travel. Statistics show motorcycle riders are sixteen times more likely to die and three times more likely to be injured as automobile occupants. Knowing about common motorcycle injuries can help you make sure that they do not happen to you, which in the long run can save you from the cost of medical treatment, legal fees, and psychological stress.

  • Head Injuries. Head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. To minimize the impact of such injuries, it is recommended that riders wear a helmet. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study estimates that wearing a motorcycle helmet can reduce the likelihood of a fatality by 29%. Not all states require riders to wear helmets, but the research is clear that doing so reducers the risk of injury.
  • Skin Abrasions. Skin abrasions occur when riders and thrown from their motorcycles and skid against the ground before coming to a stop. They are the most common form of motorcycle injury, but are also the least serious. To prevent them, consider wearing heavy boots, gloves, and padded clothing.
  • Orthopedic Injuries. When riders are thrown from their bike, they sometimes try to cushion their fall with their arms or legs, which can result in broken bones and other injuries.
  • Low visibility at night. Most motorcycle accidents occur at night. Riders should endeavor to increase their visibility to other drivers by making sure their headlights are turned on. It also helps to wear brightly colored clothing.
  • Lack of experience. Most motorcyclists learn to ride by taking lessons from their friends or families. Many states require riders to undergo motorcycle-specific training before receiving a license, but some, like Colorado and Indiana, do not. Whether your state requires it or not, getting training on how to handle a motorcycle is a good idea. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides training for all kinds of riders at a variety of skill levels.

What to do Immediately After a Motorcycle Accident. People involved in a motorcycle accident should follow the same steps concerning what to do following an automobile accident, including remaining on the scene, calling for help, and making as accurate a record as possible of what happened. In addition, motorcyclists should be wary of getting any repairs made to their motorcycles in advance of litigation, since dents to the motorcycle can be important in convincing a court of what occurred during the accident. Motorcyclists should preserve all damage to their clothing for the same reason.

Helmets. Although research shows that wearing a helmet reduces injury in motorcycle accidents, not all states require it. Twenty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico required the use of helmets by all motorcycle operators and passengers. Another 27 states make it mandatory only for those under a certain age, usually 18. Colorado, Illinois, and Iowa do not have any laws requiring the use of helmets. These laws have been known to change fairly frequently, and there are advocates on both sides of the issue.

  • Supporters of laws requiring helmets argue that, according to statistics, helmets save lives and reduce injuries. They also argue that such laws make it easier for police to identify motorcycle thieves, since such thieves usually do not wear a helmet when they take motorcycles, and that uninsured motorcyclists who get injured become a drain on taxpayers since their treatments must be paid for through public programs.
  • Opponents of law requiring helmets argue that such laws are paternalistic and impinge on the freedom of riders to use their motorcycles how they want. They argue that better education concerning how to correctly operate motorcycles would prevent injuries more effectively than would requiring that helmets be worn.

Motorcycle Insurance. Except for Washington, all states and the District of Columbia require that motorcyclists have minimal comprehensive insurance coverage. Obtaining insurance and filing a claim under a policy work just as they do when an ordinary automobile is involved, but motorcycle insurance has a few unique features.

  • When obtaining a motorcycle insurance policy, consider getting one that extends to any additions made to the bike. Many riders outfit their motorcycles with chrome accessories or custom exhausts, and not all policies cover these add-ons.
  • Compared to automobile owners, a larger proportionate number of motorcyclists are uninsured. If you are considering getting licensed to ride a motorcycle, it is essential that you obtain an insurance policy that covers you in the event of injury, lost wages, and recuperative therapy.

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