Losing a loved one in a motorcycle accident can leave you with a lot of questions and a lot of struggles ahead.
You might feel angry at the motorcycle, your loved one, or another driver involved in the accident, regardless of who actually caused it. You might wonder who carries the blame for the accident and even whether you can expect compensation for your loved one’s loss.
Do you have the right to a wrongful death claim after a fatal motorcycle accident? What should you do next?
What Causes Fatal Motorcycle Accidents?
Fatal motorcycle accidents can occur for various reasons—and the party that bears liability may depend on how the motorcycle accident happened in the first place.
#1. Single-Vehicle Accidents
In a recent year, 39 percent of motorcycle accidents involved only a single vehicle. Single-vehicle accidents usually occur because the motorcycle rider loses control of his motorcycle, often because of some dangerous activity: ignoring the rules of the road, riding during hazardous weather conditions, or speeding, for example.
#2. Lack of Helmet Use
Many motorcycle riders do not like to wear their helmets. They may feel that helmet use does not look as “cool.” They may like the feeling of the wind flowing through their hair. They may just not like the feeling of wearing a helmet.
Motorcycles, however, offer no head protection on their own, which can substantially increase the risk of traumatic brain injury or death. Wearing a helmet decreases the risk of a fatal accident significantly—not to mention reducing the risk of brain injury, facial injuries, and neck injuries, all of which could cause substantial limitations in the victim’s life. Lack of helmet use can make accidents that could have proven minor much more severe or even fatal.
#3. Driver Inattention
Keeping up with all vehicles can prove particularly difficult when a driver shares the road with a motorcycle. Often, drivers have a hard time noting the presence of motorcycles around them and taking the steps necessary to avoid an accident. Inattention, especially in tight traffic, can prove fatal to the motorcycle driver.
Driver inattention could involve active distraction, including checking a cell phone while driving, or it could occur simply because the driver failed to look around him to determine whether a motorcycle had entered a specific space. Drivers changing lanes, merging, or even turning without adequately looking for motorcycles can pose a substantial danger.
#4. Weather Conditions
Poor weather conditions can spell serious trouble for motorcycle riders, who may have a more challenging time controlling their bikes in dangerous weather. Heavy rain not only can prove uncomfortable, but it can also increase the risk that the motorcycle will slip and slide on the road.
Poor weather conditions can also make it more difficult for drivers of larger vehicles to see everything around them, which may raise the odds that they will inadvertently strike a motorcycle and cause fatal injuries.
Heavy winds can further interfere with a motorcycle rider’s safety on the road. Heavy winds can knock the motorcycle around, making it difficult for the rider to stay safe. Heavy winds may also increase the difficulty other drivers experience in avoiding motorcycles.
In poor weather conditions, motorcycle riders must exercise caution on the roads. Ideally, motorcycle riders should avoid riding in dangerous conditions, including heavy winds, heavy rain, or snow and ice. If riders must take to the roads in those conditions, often because they lack other transportation, they must remain aware of everything that happens around them.
#5. Dangerous Roads
Sometimes, road conditions can have a heavy impact on a motorcycle rider’s safety. Motorcycles, unlike passenger vehicles, have only two wheels. If one of those two wheels slides away due to gravel or obstructions on the road, it can immediately raise the risk of a severe accident.
Dangerous roads may also contain serious potholes, which motorcycle riders must carefully navigate around. Unfortunately, paying attention to those hazards in the road may mean that the rider fails to pay attention to other things happening around him, which may lead to a severe accident.
#6. Lane Splitting
Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle rider chooses to drive between two lanes of traffic, often due to a traffic jam. Most states do not allow lane splitting because of the potential danger it poses to riders and other vehicles alike.
Lane splitting puts the motorcycle in a location where other drivers do not expect a vehicle. Even a minor shift in direction could cause a vehicle to drift into the motorcycle’s lane. Since even lightly clipping a motorcycle rider can result in serious accidents with severe injuries, lane splitting can pose an immense danger.
Other drivers should not attempt to share a lane with a motorcycle, either. Like the riders of all other vehicles, Motorcycle riders have the right to take up an entire lane of traffic. Sometimes, other drivers will attempt to pass or use the motorcycle’s lane to give themselves more room to navigate. Those actions, however, may not leave the motorcycle rider with room to maneuver. As such, they may result in accidents with severe injuries.
What to Do After Losing a Loved One in a Fatal Motorcycle Accident
After you lose a loved one in a fatal motorcycle accident, you may have no idea what to do next. How do you know if you might deserve compensation? You cannot do anything to bring your loved one back, but can you take steps that might prevent similar incidents in the future? How can you protect your family in the aftermath of a motorcycle accident?
A lawyer cannot help you make personal decisions about what comes next but can help you determine what you can do to protect your family’s right to compensation and increase your financial stability following a fatal motorcycle accident.
1. Contact a lawyer.
As soon after your loved one’s fatal motorcycle accident as possible, get in touch with an attorney. You may have plenty of things on your plate immediately after the accident, which may make it difficult for you to focus on getting legal assistance. However, you need a lawyer on your side as soon as possible for several reasons.
Your lawyer may need to investigate what led to the accident.
Sometimes, you may need evidence to establish what caused the accident—or, in some cases, who caused the accident. Some evidence, like your loved one’s motorcycle, the attorney can review later if needed. Other evidence, however, may quickly disappear after the accident.
The city will clean up the accident scene. The other driver may repair his vehicle. Witnesses may no longer remember exactly what took place, especially if the accident proved particularly traumatic.
Having a lawyer on your side soon after the accident can make it easier to collect and sort through that vital evidence, which can help you establish exactly who caused or contributed to the accident. Your loved one can no longer testify, which can make it more challenging to establish exactly what happened.
A lawyer, however, can go over the available evidence and help you pursue justice for the loss of your loved one. In some cases, a lawyer may even identify multiple factors that led to the accident. You can recover compensation from any entity that contributed to the accident and the loss of your loved one.
A lawyer can help you deal with the insurance company from the very beginning.
After you lose a loved one in a motorcycle accident, you may need to deal with the other driver’s insurance company to seek compensation for your loss. However, the insurance company may not want to pay out the total compensation your family deserves.
A lawyer can help protect your right to compensation and reduce the stress you might face when dealing with the insurance company directly. Sometimes, that may mean intercepting communications. Other times, it may mean negotiating for you. As you work with an attorney, you may find that you feel much better about your odds of recovering the total compensation your family deserves for the loss of a loved one.
A lawyer can provide you with vital advice about who can file a wrongful death claim and what compensation your family may deserve.
Do you know who has the right to file a wrongful death claim following an accident? (Hint: usually, the closest family relation to the deceased, whether spouse, children, or parents, will have the right to file a wrongful death claim. In some cases, however, other people may also have the right to file a claim and pursue compensation for the loss of a loved one in a motorcycle accident.)
Can you file a claim that includes your loved one’s final medical expenses? Should you include those costs as part of a wrongful death claim? (You may have the right to include those expenses, but it can prove complicated since your loved one’s health insurance company may try to recover some of the funds related to those medical costs. An attorney can advise you about whether to include final expenses as part of a wrongful death claim and how to manage it the most effectively.)
How much compensation does your family deserve for the loss of a loved one in a motorcycle accident? (A lot of factors can go into determining how much compensation you can recover, including what type of insurance policy the liable driver carries.)
A motorcycle accidents lawyer can help answer all your questions about compensation following a motorcycle accident, which may make it easier for your family to navigate the claim process.
2. Discuss the claim with your immediate family (especially if more than one party has the same right to file a claim).
If your deceased loved one does not have a spouse but does have more than one child, for example, each child has the same right to file a wrongful death claim. If you have already started working with a lawyer, you may need to make sure that your family members know not to deal with the insurance company directly—and that no family member should accept a settlement offer without talking to the lawyer handling the case.
When each family member has the same right to accept a settlement offer, you need to make sure that you remain on the same page so that you do not run into complications as you manage the claim.
3. Avoid talking to the insurance company directly when possible.
You have little information to provide the insurance company directly. Unless you observed the accident yourself, you cannot provide witness testimony. You do not want to inadvertently provide information that could reduce the compensation your family can recover, including accidentally accepting, or indicating that you might accept a settlement offer that does not reflect the full compensation you deserve for the loss of a loved one.
Instead, let an attorney deal with the insurance company on your behalf. When all communications go through your lawyer, it can prove much easier to avoid potential pitfalls or even traps the insurance company might throw in your way. Furthermore, by letting a lawyer handle it, you can feel more confident that everything will proceed exactly the way it should.
Do You Need a Lawyer Following the Loss of a Loved One in a Fatal Motorcycle Accident?
If you lost a loved one in a fatal motorcycle accident, you have more than enough to deal with on your own. Handling a wrongful death claim can simply add to your stress and make the whole situation more difficult to manage. Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer to learn more about your next steps, your family’s right to compensation, and how to manage a wrongful death claim following a fatal motorcycle accident.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.