Because a motorcycle rider’s only protection in a crash is a helmet and clothing, riders often suffer serious head injury, back or spinal cord trauma, or other life-altering injuries in a motorcycle accident. Accidents are often caused not by the biker, but by inattentive or reckless drivers of automobiles, trucks, buses and other vehicles. The San Francisco motorcycle accident attorneys at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger have 50 years of experience handling catastrophic injuries, permanent disability and an ongoing need for medical care. Motorcycle riders whose right of way has been violated experience their lives being turned upside down without warning.
Our San Francisco motorcycle accident lawyers can help you and your family protect your legal rights. We have a track record of standing up to insurance companies, corporations, and government entities. We work to get you the full compensation you deserve.
Call us today (415) 981-7210 to schedule a free consultation. Our caring and skilled San Francisco injury attorneys will outline your legal options and discuss the next steps in your case.
Automobile insurance companies are notorious for taking advantage of motorcycle accident victims by denying legitimate claims or lowballing settlement offers. When you hire a motorcycle lawyer from Walkup, you hire an ally. We are on your side and willing to fight for full compensation for you and your family.
If you or a loved one recently suffered harm in a San Francisco motorcycle accident, you may be eligible to collect compensation for the full extent of injuries, pain, and suffering. The attorneys at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger are committed to helping your family recover damages that arise from another party’s negligence. If you believe that someone else is legally responsible for your motorcycle accident, contact our firm to schedule a free review of your legal options today.
What Causes Motorcycle Accidents in San Francisco?
Motorcycle accidents might not be as common as passenger vehicle crashes, but they have a higher chance of ending in serious injuries. Motorcycle deaths happen 27 times as often as deaths in other vehicles. Motorcyclists don’t have the protective metal shell preventing them from striking the asphalt, a vehicle, or other objects in a collision. Motorcycles also handle differently than larger cars and are more susceptible to roadway hazards such as potholes. To stay safe as a motorcyclist in California, the best thing you can do is to learn what the most common causes of accidents are – and how to avoid them.
Negligent Passenger Vehicle Drivers
Between motorcycles and passenger vehicles, the latter is always in the power position. It is the driver of the passenger vehicle that bears the most responsibility to prevent crashes since the motorcyclist has the most to lose. While this doesn’t always place the blame for motorcycle accidents on other drivers, it’s something drivers should think about when near motorcycles on California’s roadways. Other drivers can cause collisions when they do any of the following:
- Text and drive
- Drive distracted or drowsy
- Drive while intoxicated
- Fail to yield the right-of-way at intersections
- Turn left into an oncoming motorcycle
- Fail to detect a motorcycle when pulling out
- Merge lanes on top of a motorcycle
- Follow or pass too closely
Speeding, passing too closely, and failing to yield the right-of-way at intersections are all dangerous acts of negligence that would likely lead to driver liability in the event of a motorcycle crash. If a driver runs a red light, for example, he or she could cause a fatal motorcycle accident.
It is up to a passenger vehicle driver to pay attention to the road, avoid distractions, follow all traffic rules, and watch carefully for motorcycles at all times. Reasonable and prudent drivers can prevent a great number of motorcycle accidents simply by obeying the law. When they cause motorcycle accidents and injuries, victims can hold negligent drivers liable for damages, including medical bills, pain, and suffering, and lost income.
While mentioned under negligent driving, it deserves its own section. Distracted drivers are deadly. Every year, thousands of people die because of drivers who are not paying enough attention to the road. Texting and driving have been a significant driving factor in the increase in distracted drivers, despite laws prohibiting this behavior. Motorcyclists are especially at risk of distracted drivers because they are already more difficult to spot than other vehicles. If a driver isn’t looking at the road, or only halfway paying attention, he or she could easily miss a motorcycle and pull out in front of it.
Motorcycles are much more susceptible to the dangers of roadway hazards than larger passenger vehicles. While a passenger vehicle can roll right over loose gravel, potholes, bumps, and debris, these hazards present extreme dangers to motorcycles. The smaller size and weight of the motorcycle makes it less stable in uncertain conditions. Hitting a roadway defect can lead to loss of control of the bike and a major single-vehicle accident.
If on a public road, the city could be liable for these accidents, if it knew or reasonably should have known about the defect yet did nothing to repair it. Private property owners might also be liable if the crash occurs somewhere such as a private parking lot.
Motorcycle Rider Error
Motorcycle operators are not impervious to liability for accidents. They may share fault or be entirely at fault for mistakes such as speeding, alcohol use, unsafe lane-splitting (lane-splitting is legal in California but within boundaries), weaving through traffic, running red lights, or riding bikes that do not comply with the law. Motorcyclists have all the same rights and responsibilities as other drivers on the road, plus additional rules that apply only to them.
Motorcyclists do not immediately lose the right to sue if they contribute to crashes in California. Instead, the courts will split fault, assigning percentages to each involved party. As long as the motorcyclist is 50% or less at fault, he or she can still receive compensation. There is often more than one party at fault for a motorcycle accident. Possible defendants include other drivers, the city, a motorcycle part manufacturer, or a property owner.
Vehicle or Part Failure
Unlike a motorist who can typically roll to a stop or pull over in the event of a part failure, a motorcyclist might not have the time or ability to do so before crashing. Tire blowouts, failing brake pads, leaking fuel tanks, and overheating engines have all caused motorcycle accidents in the past. It is up to the motorcyclist to maintain his or her bike, take it in for repairs, and make sure it’s in safe working condition before hitting the road. Sometimes, however, part malfunctions are not due to motorcyclist error.
Defective or Dangerous Motorcycle Parts
If a motorcycle part has a defect or design flaw that makes it susceptible to failure, it is the part manufacturing company or distributor to blame for a resultant accident. Motorcyclists can become victims of product defects if the company does not realize its error or intentionally keeps quiet to save money. In these cases, injured parties can bring product liability lawsuits against the company in charge of the failed vehicle part.
Who’s at Fault in a Motorcycle Accident?
Unfortunately, most motorcycle accidents arise from another driver’s negligent behavior. Motorists simply aren’t as careful around motorcyclists as they should be, and distracted driving or carelessness often play a role. Determining fault in a motorcycle accident requires an examination of the following elements:
- Did the other driver owe you a duty of care? This is usually the easiest aspect to prove, as all drivers owe a duty of care to others on the road. In a legal sense, a “duty of care,” means that we all have a responsibility to be reasonably careful around one another on the road by observing traffic laws.
- Did the driver breach his or her duty of care? If so, he or she may have committed negligence. Examples of negligence in a motorcycle accident may include failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to comply with applicable traffic laws, and failure to reasonably avoid an accident.
- Did this breach lead to your injuries? A plaintiff (injured person) in a motorcycle accident case must show that another driver’s negligence led to the harm he or she suffered.
- Did you incur damages as a result? In other words, California law only allows you to collect something if you lost something. Examples of damages include medical bills, lost wages, and even intangible damages like pain and suffering.
There is also another concept that may come into play during a motorcycle accident claim, called “comparative negligence.” In some cases, a motorcyclist may be partially at fault for an accident – a jury typically decides if and how much an injured motorcyclist shares the blame for an accident. If you do share some fault for a motorcycle accident, it will reduce your claim amount by your percentage of fault.
Since motorcycle accident claims fall under the purview of the civil law, the burden of proof is much lower than it would be in a criminal proceeding. While a jury must decide in a criminal proceeding that a defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it must decide on a civil case based on the idea it was “more likely than not” that a driver committed negligence.
Navigating motorcycle cases can be complex and require the guidance of a personal injury attorney who can represent your rights in court. Contact the attorneys at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger to schedule a free case evaluation today.
Wrongful Death and Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents often lead to incapacitating injury or death. If you recently lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident and believe that someone else is at fault, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim under California law. Wrongful death claims are available to “next of kin” in California, which means you may be able to receive compensation if you’re a surviving spouse, child, parent, or sibling. A wrongful death attorney can help you determine your eligibility to file a wrongful death action on behalf of your loved one.
Surviving family members of a motorcycle accident can file a wrongful death action to receive compensation for the following types of damages:
- Expenses related to the deceased’s final injuries – medical bills
- Reimbursement for funeral and burial costs
- Lost in earning capacity and future income
- Loss of benefits
- Nonmonetary damages, such as emotional distress, loss of partnership and guidance, or loss of consortium
Evidence to Help Your Motorcycle Injury Lawsuit
If you were recently involved in a motorcycle accident, collecting and preserving important evidence will be one of your most important jobs. The following represent some of the most important pieces of evidence in a motorcycle injury lawsuit:
The Police Report
The law requires San Francisco police to report to the scene of an accident if anyone reports an injury. After investigating the accident scene, the responding police officer will create a police report that will include diagrams and photographic evidence, contact information of any witnesses, and any other information such as inclement weather conditions. It will also note if the other driver received a citation for breaking any traffic laws – e.g., speeding, failure to yield, or cell phone use. This report will be invaluable for the negotiating process.
Photos of the Accident Scene
If possible, take pictures of the accident scene while waiting for the police to arrive. Be sure to take pictures of your motorcycle as it lies on the ground and skid marks around the scene if possible. Photograph the other vehicle, the other driver’s license plate, and any other property damaged in the accident.
Your helmet can prove to be a valuable piece of evidence should your case go to trial, so don’t alter it in any way. Take a picture of it at the scene if possible. Your helmet can help show a jury that you didn’t contribute to your own injuries and that you took reasonable precautions to avoid becoming hurt in a motorcycle accident.
The police are busy and may not have had time to speak to all witnesses who were at the accident scene. If you collected this information yourself, your motorcycle accident attorney can speak with them and collect further evidence to help your case.
Other Forensic Evidence
Thanks to innovations in technology, many intersections, and roadways in the San Francisco area have surveillance cameras. Your attorney can help gather more evidence by determining who owns the footage and asking to see a videotape of the accident. Even if the owner refuses, your attorney can ask for a subpoena should filing a lawsuit become necessary.
Debris can also serve as important forensic evidence. Take pictures of the damage to your motorcycle, as well as any damaged city property such as guardrails and concrete abutments. If you cannot do this yourself due to your injuries, your attorney may be able to do it for you
Your Medical Records
Last, your medical records will serve as important evidence for the damages you suffered in the wake of your accident. They will serve as an official testament to your injuries and medical bills. If an ambulance transported you to the hospital, ask for a copy of the EMT’s notes. Be as thorough as possible when describing your injuries to a doctor, as this will end up in your official medical record. You’ll also need copies of the emergency physician’s notes and the results of any imaging and scans.
California Motorcyclist Laws
Motorcyclists must follow all applicable traffic laws, as well as some specific laws to owning and operating a motorcycle. To fulfill your duty of care, you must observe these essential motorcycle laws you might not know about:
- Your handlebars must be an appropriate height. According to California law, your handlebars must be no more than six inches above your shoulder height when sitting in a seat.
- You must have a valid motorcycle license. This requires that you be over the age of 16 and complete a motorcycle rider training course.
- If you own a motorcycle produced after 1973, you must have (and use) your front and rear turn signals.
- You must have a properly working exhaust system in accordance with the Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act of 2010.
- There is no minimum age for minors who want to ride on a motorcycle with a licensed adult. However, California law stipulates that all passengers have a seat that’s securely fastened to the machine and have footrests. Additionally, each passenger must keep his or her feet on the footrests any time the vehicle is in motion. If you do ride with minor children, educate them about the importance of safe riding and provide them with a secure-fitting helmet.
One of California’s more controversial laws regards the practice of lane-splitting. Thanks to a recent bill, it’s legal to lane split in California if you do it in a “safe and prudent” manner. Lane splitting is not necessarily indicative of negligence in a motorcycle injury case.
Since lane-splitting legislation is relatively new, it may be one of the more important aspects of your motorcycle injury case. If you incurred injury during the practice of lane splitting, a jury will have to determine if you did it in a safe and prudent manner. Generally, it’s inadvisable to lane split when traffic is moving more than 30 miles per hour, and motorcyclists should not lane split more than 10 miles per hour faster than the speed of traffic.
Adherence to these motorcycle laws, as well as applicable traffic laws, will be important to your motorcycle injury case. If you have any further questions, talk to your personal injury attorney.
How to Get Maximum Compensation After a Motorcycle Crash
The negligent driver of a car, truck, bus or other vehicles may fail to yield the right of way to a motorcycle, merge into a motorcyclist’s lane or follow too closely. A driver will often use the excuse that he or she “just did not see the motorcycle” until it was too late or that the motorcycle was going too fast and “came out of nowhere.”
Our Bay Area motorcycle lawyers know that these excuses usually establish the inattention of the driver, not recklessness or negligence on the part of the motorcyclist. We have been successful in showing how inattention, daydreaming, cellphone use, playing with the radio or talking with passengers lead to motorcycle accidents, which result in victims’ recovery for:
- Medical bills
- Future or lifelong medical care
- Future head or spine surgery expenses
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Occupational therapy
- Skilled attendant care
- Job retraining
- Pain and suffering
- Lost past and future wages
- Spousal loss of companionship and support
The accident lawyers at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger are skilled at identifying and recovering against all responsible parties — from negligent automobile drivers to designers of defective helmets and highways — for bikers who suffered a head or other serious injury in a crash.
When a family member has suffered a serious back, brain or head injury in a motorcycle accident, your family needs the help of a compassionate and aggressive injury law firm. The California attorneys at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger can help your family obtain fair, just and full compensation by filing a lawsuit or negotiated settlement.
For a free consultation to discuss your case, call us at (415) 981-7210 or contact the Walkup firm online.
Examples Of Our Success In Motorcycle Accident Cases
Left Turn Accident — $5.75 Million Settlement
Walkup Melodia proudly represented a 25-year-old crane mechanic who sustained a spinal cord injury when he was injured riding his motorcycle in San Leandro. The plaintiff was struck by a car making a turn across five lanes of traffic at a blind curve. The driver initially denied liability for the collision, arguing that the plaintiff, who was driving on a suspended license, was at fault because he was driving in excess of the 40 mph speed limit. Additionally, the defendant faulted the plaintiff for failing to timely apply his brakes.
The reconstruction commissioned by our motorcycle lawyers demonstrated that the auto driver had the best, last opportunity to avoid the collision and that the injury would have been avoided had the driver properly scanned the roadway before driving across five lanes of traffic. During the collision, the plaintiff’s spinal cord was injured when his head hit the side of the vehicle. He sustained fractures to his T2, T3, and C1 vertebrae and was rendered a paraplegic.
Truck Vs. Motorcycle — $4.5 Million Settlement
Our Walkup motorcycle accident lawyers recovered this settlement in the amount of $4.5 million on behalf of a 50-year-old attorney who suffered a left leg below-the-knee amputation when he was struck by a left-turning semi truck. The plaintiff was amnesiac regarding the events of the accident, but had been traveling straight on a downtown street and was approaching a busy intersection. The defendant truck driver had stopped for a red light and was turning left when the collision occurred.
The defendant claimed that the plaintiff was speeding without his lights on and had been drinking earlier in the evening as evidenced by a blood alcohol in excess of .12 when he was admitted to the hospital post-accident. Our motorcycle liability team demonstrated through the testimony of both experts and nonparty witnesses that the headlight of the motorcycle was on at the time of the accident, the defendant’s view of the street on which the plaintiff was approaching was clear and unobstructed, and that the post-impact trajectory of the plaintiff’s motorcycle conclusively proved that he was not speeding. Medical expenses exceeded $450,000.
Motorcycle Accident — Head And Spinal Cord Injuries — $1.6 Million Settlement
Our attorneys represented a 26-year-old Marine who was injured in a motorcycle accident in Southern California. He sustained significant head and spinal injuries when he was struck by a vehicle. The opposing driver claimed that the motorcyclist was speeding and not positioned in the correct place on the roadway. Using experts who specialize in motorcycle reconstruction issues, we were able to reconstruct the accident in such a way as to demonstrate that the motorcyclist was fault-free.
Left-Turning Auto – $800,000 Settlement
We recovered this settlement on behalf of a motorcyclist who was forced to “lay down” her cycle in the face of a left-turning BMW. The defendant BMW operator had turned left in front of the plaintiff to enter a garage located midblock. His view of oncoming traffic was obscured by a stopped MUNI bus. He claimed that he had “inched out” so as to avoid contact with any oncoming vehicles.
The plaintiff testified that the defendant aggressively entered her lane, leaving her nowhere to go. She braked as soon as she saw the nose of the X-5 enter her lane. She sustained multiple fractures and intraabdominal injuries, incurring medical bills in excess of $150,000.
Your Motorcycle Accident Attorney in San Francisco
Motorcycles can be wonderful ways to cut commute time and enjoy a reprieve from Bay Area traffic. Unfortunately, not all motorists exercise their duty of care around motorcycle riders. If you or a loved one recently incurred a significant injury in a San Francisco motorcycle accident, contact the attorneys at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger. We commit to helping motorcyclists gain compensation for the full extent of their injuries, property damage, pain, and suffering. Contact us to schedule a free case review and take advantage of our contingency-fee legal services today.