When Bad Road Conditions Cause Motorcycle Crashes
Though about 75 percent of California motorcycle accidents involve a collision with another vehicle, the landmark “Hurt Report” published by the University of Southern California Traffic Safety Center found weather was a factor in 2 percent of accidents, animals running in the road caused 1 percent of crashes, and roadway defects were involved in 2 percent of motorcycle accidents.
While that may not sound like a lot, when you consider there are about 92,000 California motorcycle injuries each year, that equates to nearly 100 spills due to road hazards. Two-thirds of bike accidents do involve some type of driver error, but in the state of California, you may still recover compensation if the road hazard was caused, in part, by the negligence of another party.
The Salamati Law Firm of Los Angeles specializes in the investigation of automobile and motorcycle accidents to identify liability issues. You may call 888-259-4060 at any time to request an examination of your claim.
Road hazards that can cause motorcycle accidents
Common road hazards identified in motorcycle accidents include:
- Animals (dead or alive)
- Blind intersections
- Bottlenecks (sudden narrowing of lanes)
- Changing speed limits
- Construction debris
- Disabled vehicles
- Fallen signs, trees or rocks
- Ice, fog, or high winds
- Loose gravel
- Malfunctioning signals
- Nails, tacks, glass, wood or debris
- Poor road design
- Rough edges
- Standing water
- Steep drop-offs
- Traffic accidents
- Uneven lanes
- Unmarked exits
- View obstructions
Top 5 road hazards for motorcycles
Of all these hazards, the top culprits behind motorcycle crashes include:
- Blind spots – Driving next to a car or truck who can’t see you in their mirrors is a road hazard waiting to happen. Be sure you speed up or slow down to stay out of the gray zone.
- Uneven road surfaces – Construction changes can be very confusing, so try to avoid changing lanes until the construction zone ends. Look ahead for divets caused by large trucks that dragged debris in their undercarriage, causing a depression in the pavement. Motorcycles are particularly susceptible to loss of control when riding over these poorly maintained road surfaces.
- Debris like gravel, oil, and sand – Vehicles on two wheels lack the stability to maintain traction on these slippery surfaces. Mainly use your rear brake and travel at a slow speed if you cannot avoid the spill.
- Obscured side roads – Poor visibility due to wild vegetation or other vehicles may make it impossible to see a vehicle turning onto the road. Be ready to react in these situations, but careful not to overcorrect.
- Intersections – The most common road hazard for a motorcyclist is an intersection – particularly where you are traveling straight and someone else is making a left-hand turn. Vehicles aren’t supposed to change lanes while going through intersections, but they often do, so be on the lookout.
Who’s to blame when road conditions cause motorcycle accidents?
Sorting out liability can be a complex task, as accidents happen in the blink of an eye. The negligent party could be:
- A government entity responsible for city planning and maintaining the road in a safe condition
- A trucking company responsible for maintaining their vehicles and securing their cargo
- Other motorists, cyclists, or pedestrians
- Companies tasked with keeping landscaping properly trimmed for visibility
In a road hazard case, it must be demonstrated that someone breached a duty of care to the motorcycle driver, which caused damage and injuries.
The “National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey”, commissioned by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, found that 75 percent of the nearly 40,000 annual “atmospheric condition” crashes involved poor roadway conditions that were largely preventable.
Motorcycle road hazard insurance
You may be wondering, “Do I really need to file a lawsuit? Shouldn’t my motorcycle insurance cover the damage and my injuries?” There are several types of insurance that may cover an accident:
- Your “road hazard warranty” will kick in to cover the cost of new tires from a puncture and roadside assistance.
- The “collision” part of your policy would cover the damage if you hit an animal or other road obstruction.
- The “comprehensive” coverage would kick in if falling debris hits you.
- Your “Personal Injury Protection” coverage will pay for medical injuries once your deductible is met.
- Some motorcycle insurers offer additional coverage for safety apparel, equipment, or new bike replacement.
While basic insurance coverage is adequate for minor collisions, we find that the vast majority of serious injuries are not sufficiently covered. Filing a personal injury lawsuit is the only way to bridge the gap in your coverage and avoid paying huge out-of-pocket expenses.
Motorcycle riding: avoiding hazards on the road
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid sudden hazards that come toppling onto the road or that appear out of nowhere around a bend. Accidents can still happen, even if you take care to make sure you are wearing the proper gear – and you check all the fluids, cables and brakes before you take off.
Motorcycle safety tips
Experts from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation say the best you can do to avoid road hazards is to:
- Reduce your speed using both brakes when the conditions are slick due to wet leaves, rain, snow or ice
- Refrain from unsafe lane changes, passing, weaving between vehicles and other sudden moves
- Try to avoid the center of lanes and intersections, where slick substances are most likely to accumulate
- Also avoid the shoulder, where dirt, gravel and snow collects on low-traction surfaces
- On windy days, beware of bridges, gaps between buildings and trees, open roads, and coastal areas
- Ride on the side of the lane with the most maneuverability and keep your distance from other vehicles
- Sit with good posture — gripping the handle bars, firmly planting feet on the pegs, with flexible shoulders
- Lean quickly in the direction you want to turn and press that hand grip when making a quick turn
- When riding over an object, grip tightly, keep a straight course, and rise up on the pegs to absorb shock
- When crossing uneven surfaces, try to go over at an angle
- Always pull over right away to inspect your bike and tires for any damage
- Take a motorcycle safety course to practice maneuvering around obstacles
As you drive, always ask yourself: “What if?” What if a car pulls in front of you? How will you react? What if a boulder tumbles off the cliff or the wind blows down a tree in your path? What if a deer jumps out into the road? Always be prepared for the worst case scenario. Sometimes good drivers do all they can to prevent accidents, but they happen anywhere due to other drivers’ recklessness, or known issues in city planning and intersection safety. In these cases, it helps to have legal advice from professionals who specialize in these matters. Call the Salamati Firm at 888-259-4060.
Motorcycle accidents due to poor road quality and conditions: resources
- Journal of Injury Prevention – Injury patterns and severity among motorcyclists treated in US emergency departments, 2001-2008: a comparison of younger and older riders. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23393164
- Los Angeles Magazine – Poorly Designed Intersections Are Costing L.A. Millions in Lawsuits http://www.lamag.com/driver/poorly-designed-intersections-cost-l-millions-lawsuits/
- Carinsurance.com – Do Insurers Pay If Your Hit A Road Hazard? http://www.carinsurance.com/kb/do-insurers-pay-if-you-hit-a-road-hazard.aspx
- NHTSA – Crash Causation Survey https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/811059
- Women Riders Now – Top 5 Road Hazards For Motorcyclists http://www.womenridersnow.com/pages/Riding_Right_Top_Five_Road_Hazards_for_Motorcyclists.aspx
- Foremost – Avoiding Hazards on the Road http://www.foremost.com/mygreatoutdoors/driving-guide/motorcycles/motorcycle-safety-avoiding-hazards-on-the-road.asp