Smart motorcyclists know that the open road is just as dangerous as it is beautiful. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 14% of all traffic fatalities in 2021 were motorcyclists. Riders were also four times more likely to be injured in a car crash than those inside a car.
Responsible motorcyclists know the risks and take care of themselves and their bikes. But even they can’t be responsible for everyone else’s driving. Accidents happen, and for motorcyclists, the consequences can include road rash, broken ribs, punctured lungs, crushed bones, and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
Unfortunately, these dangers can lead to a perception that just being on a motorcycle is careless. When you’ve been in an accident, the last thing you need is to suffer from an assumption that you were somehow more at fault just because you weren’t driving a car.
How do they figure out who is really at fault? Who are “they”? And how can you defend yourself if they’re wrong? Let’s go over some common questions about motorcycle accidents in Georgia.
What Leads to Motorcycle Accidents?
NHTSA data shows that most fatal motorcycle accidents are between motorcyclists and moving cars, although riders have more fatal collisions with fixed objects than cars do. Additionally, road hazards like gravel, potholes, cracks, and joints can pose dangers to motorcycle riders that cars can ignore, leading to accidents.
Many fatal accidents took place when:
- Cars were making left-hand turns (43% of fatal two-vehicle crashes)
- Motorcyclists were speeding (33%)
- Motorcycle riders or passengers were intoxicated (28%)
What Are the Laws on Georgia Roads?
Georgia motorcyclists must obtain a motorcycle license from the DDS. Motorcycles, like autos, must carry at least minimum insurance coverage.
Helmets are mandatory for riders and passengers, as are footwear and eye protection (unless the motorcycle has a windscreen). A rider may not carry any cargo in a way that prevents them from grasping both handlebars. Likewise, a passenger may not ride anywhere but in a seat.
Motorcyclists have to follow all traffic laws that apply to other road users—the Uniform Rules of the Road. Lane splitting and filtering are illegal. For a closer look at the regulations for bikes and operators, see the Motorcycle Operators’ Manual.
When someone violates a traffic law before or during a collision, this can lead to a finding of “negligence per se.” This means that they are automatically considered negligent—even though that may not be true in the context of the accident itself. And that can reduce a potential recovery or even risk all of it.
How Do Damage Awards Work in Georgia?
Under state law, a plaintiff in a personal injury case can recover damages when they were partly at fault for the accident—but only if the court finds that they were less than 50% at fault. The plaintiff’s percentage of fault reduces the amount of damages they may receive. Thus, if a court found a plaintiff to be 40% at fault, their damage award would be reduced by 40%. And if the plaintiff was found to be 50% or more at fault, they could not recover any damages.
Who Determines Fault from an Accident?
Most personal injury cases, and almost all auto accident cases, are not decided in court. Instead, they are settled between insurance companies and a claimant, who may or may not have an attorney.
Insurance adjusters review the accident scene using photos, police reports, witness statements, and surveillance videos where available. The insurance adjuster then produces a report with a determination of fault by percentage. This is what they claim that a court would find if the case went to trial. On the basis of this report, the insurance company may offer a settlement or deny coverage altogether.
An insurance company’s accident report usually suggests they should pay very little if anything at all. They have no reason to favor a claimant in a settlement, and their determination of fault may be biased or incorrect. The company’s software often determines the settlement offer!
Personal injury attorneys can fight back. They know how to review the accident evidence and determine whether the report was in error. Insurance companies know that attorneys get results. Their own industry reports show that claimants who have attorneys are more likely to receive a settlement and to receive more money than unrepresented claimants.
What Should a Rider Do After an Accident?
Be very careful about moving yourself if you are injured. Even if you feel unhurt, be sure to get a medical exam as soon as possible—serious crash injuries often “hide” or have later onsets.
First, ensure everyone’s safety. After that, you will need to report the accident to local law enforcement if it caused any injury or $500 worth of apparent damage. Move the vehicles out of traffic, if necessary. Get contact information and insurance details from the other parties—a driver’s license photo is best. If you can get contact information from witnesses, their accounts could prove very helpful.
Your insurance company will likely require you to report quickly. But before you make a statement, your best move is to call an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible.
At The Scott Pryor Law Group, we specialize in getting injured claimants what they need and deserve to get their lives back on the road. And if you don’t recover, you don’t have to pay us. Call us at (404) 474-7122 to schedule a free consultation.