Wisconsin is a beautiful place to ride a motorcycle, but the reality is, it’s also an easy place to be injured on a motorcycle. Between 2011 and 2016, an average of 84 people died each year while riding motorcycles in our state, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. An average of 2,049 people was injured in motorcycle crashes annually in the same period. If you or a loved one has experienced an accident speaking with a skilled motorcycle accident attorney could help.
In a slightly different time period, 2013 to 2017, 1,510 motorcycle crashes occurred annually in Milwaukee County alone, on average. A local television station pointed out that the level of motorcycle accidents amounts to one every four hours throughout Wisconsin.
Motorcycle crashes are frequent because so many things cause them: a careless driver of another car or larger vehicle who pulls into a lane without even registering the presence of a motorcycle, a heedless driver who opens a door right in the path of an oncoming bike, or a spin-out in loose gravel or inclement weather. Last year, a biker even suffered a severe head injury because of a collision with a deer.
Motorcyclists, even when wearing helmets, are relatively unprotected in the case of an accident, no matter what the cause. Bikers can be hit by another vehicle, including much larger and heavier vehicles. Occupants in these vehicles are surrounded by tons of metal and cushion, and often by airbags as well. Bikers have no such protection. They can be knocked to the pavement, breaking bones and suffering bruises and even traumatic brain injury (TBI). They can be thrown many feet from the scene of impact, which is often deadly.
Before we get to 15 of the most common motorcycle accident injuries, let’s take a closer look at the causes and effects of motorcycle accident injuries in Wisconsin.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?
Collisions With Another Vehicle
One of the most devastating causes of motorcycle accidents is collisions with another vehicle. Far too often, other drivers don’t apprehend the presence of a motorcycle in the same way that they would apprehend the presence of another vehicle. Cars can pass on a two-lane highway, for example, and believe the oncoming lane is clear, never noticing that, in fact, a motorcycle is in the lane. The result can be a head-on collision.
A vehicle making left-hand turns also can collide with a motorcycle, for the same reason; a motorcyclist coming straight or overtaking the car isn’t “seen” in time to avoid a collision.
Failure to Yield
A car or other vehicle all too often fail to yield to a motorcycle, whether at stop signs, intersections, passing lanes, and even blinking traffic lights. Since the motorcyclist has the right of way, he or she may be pulling out or preparing to, only to find that the vehicle that was supposed to yield is bearing down on or colliding with the bike.
Unsafe Lane Change
A vehicle driver who is changing lanes may fail to see a bike, or the driver may also fail to see a motorcyclist who is changing lanes. Drivers who switch lanes without checking their blind spots or using their turn signals to communicate intent may also cause an accident.
One of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents is when a car or other vehicle is parked and the driver’s side door opens straight into the path of a motorcyclist. Many people call this being “doored.” Vehicle occupants often fail to check before opening their doors. An accident can result from the bike hitting the door directly, or from the motorcyclist trying frantically to come to a stop before hitting the door.
Drug and Alcohol Impairment
One-quarter of people killed in motorcycle accidents have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or above, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among drivers 35 to 39 years old, the figure is considerably higher, at 38 percent. In Wisconsin, a BAC above the legal limit is involved in 31 percent of all traffic-related fatalities, from any vehicle.
Going above the speed limit, or driving at a faster speed than is safe due to weather or traffic conditions, causes accidents. Vehicles are less likely to be able to stop and a driver’s ability to react in time is weaker. Speeding-caused accidents are also likely to be more serious, because the greater the impact, the more severe the collision and resulting injuries.
Road hazards that mean nothing to a car can cause a potentially fatal accident on a motorcycle. A pothole or uneven pavement can cause a motorcycle to spin or a motorcyclist to lose control of his or her bike. Obstacles in the road, such as sand and gravel, can also cause accidents. Slick pavement is also a hazard, especially if it’s because of ice.
What Injuries Result?
As you can see from the list of common motorcycle accident types, people can sustain injuries in almost any way imaginable when riding a motorcycle. The common feature is that the potential for severe and even catastrophic accidents is extraordinarily high. A catastrophic accident can require around-the-clock care for the rest of the injured individual’s life.
People injured in a motorcycle accident can suffer:
- TBIs, such as concussions
- Spinal cord injuries, such as paraplegia or quadriplegia
- Eye injuries
- Abrasions, including road rash
- Fractured bones
- Soft tissue injuries
- Disfigurement and/or scarring
- Loss of limb(s)
- Internal organ damage
It isn’t just the types of injuries that matters, though. It’s also that almost any motorcycle accident is going to be much more serious for the biker than for the other party. If you sustained serious injuries in a motorcycle accident that wasn’t your fault, you deserve justice.
Can I Receive Compensation for My Injuries?
If you were injured in any of the above ways, you should speak with an attorney to determine your eligibility to seek compensation for your injuries.
Compensation for damages depends on the other party’s responsibility. If another driver caused the accident, he or she can be deemed negligent if it stemmed from failure to operate a vehicle safely or failure to follow Wisconsin laws. Drivers who ignore motorcycles and open their car doors without checking to see if anyone is coming arguably fail to operate their vehicles safely. If negligent behavior caused an accident, a court can hold the negligent actor responsible.
In Wisconsin, an injured motorcyclist can receive compensation for:
- Medical bills (doctor’s visits, surgeries, hospitalization, and more)
- Rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages from work
- Lost earning potential if the accident renders you unable to work long term
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship
Ordinarily, this compensation is the responsibility of the at-fault party’s insurance company. (All drivers in Wisconsin are required to carry insurance.) Injured motorcyclists should remember, though, that insurance companies have an incentive to minimize the payout from claims.
Contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer if you have more questions, or if you need to negotiate with the insurance company or file a personal injury lawsuit for damages.