How Distracted Drivers Endanger Motorcyclists

There has been a major increase in motorcycle accident fatalities in recent years. Over the past couple decades, the average number of motorcyclists killed in accidents each year has nearly doubled. During the 1990s, the number of individuals killed in motorcycle crashes were less than 3,000 per year. Today, motorcycle fatalities routinely exceed 4,000 or even 5,000 in any given year.

Many believe that the sharp increase in motorcycle crash fatalities is largely due to the evolution of the electronic age. In the early 2000s, texting started to become popular. And by the time Apple introduced its first iPhone in 2007, many motorists were regularly sending and receiving texts. That same year, the number of motorcycle accident fatalities exceeded 5,000 for the first time.

Today, just about everybody uses texting to communicate. Smartphones also provide numerous other ways to stay connected, such as emailing, social media messaging, social media status updates, and watching YouTube videos. All too often, this proves to be far too much of a temptation for many motorists.

What is Distracted Driving?

Motorists have always had distractions, and any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from the road is considered to be distracted driving. Examples include tuning a radio, adjusting a music player, eating and drinking, grooming, using a GPS/navigation system, talking on the phone, talking with passengers, and of course, smartphone activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) separates driver distractions into three general categories:

  • Manual: Any distraction that causes a motorist to take their hands off of the wheel.
  • Visual: Any distraction that causes a motorist to take their eyes off of the road.
  • Cognitive: Any distraction that causes a motorist to take their mind off of driving.

Any of the aforementioned examples can be dangerous, especially those that fall into two or more of the general categories of distraction. Texting while driving and similar activities are particularly hazardous, however, because they fall into all three categories, thus taking the focus of the motorist completely away from the primary task of driving.

Distracted Driving and Motorcycle Accidents

The CDC says that distracted driving kills thousands of individuals and injures hundreds of thousands more each year. And while everyone is at risk of being involved in an accident that is caused by a distracted driver, the risk of serious injuries and fatalities from these types of accidents is much greater for motorcyclists.

Motorcyclists already have a lower profile than other vehicles, and they are not as easy to see, especially when a motorist is distracted or inattentive. In addition, motorcyclists do not have a steel cage and a seatbelt to protect them, and when there is a collision with another vehicle, there is not much that separates their bodies from the pavement. These are just a couple reasons why motorcyclists are approximately 28 times more likely to be killed in a collision (per vehicle mile traveled) than occupants of motor vehicles.

Just how bad is the problem of distracted driving and motorcycle accidents? According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article from 2017, approximately 40% of all motorcycle accidents are caused by driver distractions.

Most states now have bans on texting while driving, including Alabama. And numerous surveys have shown that the vast majority of motorists believe that this type of activity is dangerous and unacceptable. Unfortunately, many of these same people continue to give in to the temptation to send messages through their smartphones while driving.

Many experts believe we need stricter penalties to help deter drivers from engaging in this behavior. For example, in Alabama, the penalty for a first-time distracted driving violation is only $25.00 and two demerit points on your driving record. A second-time offense is just $50.00, and a third time offense is just $75.00.

For motorcyclists who are at the mercy of distracted drivers, defensive driving is more important than ever. Motorcyclists should be on the lookout for signs that a motorist may be distracted. Some behaviors that may indicate distracted driving include:

  • Vehicles weaving over the center line;
  • Vehicles moving back and forth between lanes;
  • Vehicles stopping for extended times at stop signs;
  • Vehicles remaining stopped at a stoplight even after it turns green.

If you see signs of distracted or inattentive driving, keep your distance from these vehicles, give them plenty of space, and be cautious when you pass them.

Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident in Alabama? Call the Experienced Car Accident Attorneys at Burge & Burge

Even with all the caution in the world, accidents can still happen. And when these accidents are caused by the negligence or reckless actions of a distracted driver, those who suffer injuries deserve to be fully compensated. If you or someone close to you has been injured in a distracted driving accident, contact Burge & Burge for a free consultation and case assessment.

Call us today at 205-251-9000 or message us through our web contact form. You may also stop by our Birmingham office in person at your convenience.

Are Senior Motorcycle Riders at Greater Risk for Injury?

Motorcycle riding is a favorite pastime in Alabama, and because of our warm weather, riders can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Yellowhammer State throughout the year. There is simply nothing like the exhilaration and sense of freedom you get when you glide down the open road with the wind in your face on a warm sunny day.

Riding a motorcycle is wonderful, but it comes at a cost. Because riders are not protected by a steel cage, they are at much greater risk of injury when they are involved in a collision. Motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to be killed in a crash than occupants of a motor vehicle, and in the majority of cases, these types of accidents are the fault of the motorist.

Study Shows Senior Motorcycle Riders at Greater Risk for Injury

All motorcycle riders run a risk for injury, but research indicates that the risk of serious injury is heightened as we get older. A study that was published in 2013 by Consumer Reports shows that the injury risk is highest among senior motorcyclists, defined as riders age 60 and above. This is significant, because the senior riding population has risen sharply over the past couple decades.

The primary reason for the increase in senior motorcyclists is our aging population. Baby Boomers, who have loved riding since they became adults, are now entering retirement. This gives them more free time to enjoy the open roads.

As we get older and our bodies experience more wear and tear, it stands to reason that we would not be as durable as we were during our 20s and 30s. And this is exactly what the study showed. Younger riders, those between the ages of 20 and 39, are involved in far more accidents than those in the senior age group (which is another finding that makes sense). However, motorcycle accidents seem to be much harder on older riders. The study found that:

  • Riders age 60 and over are 2.5 times more likely to require emergency room treatment in a motorcycle accident than riders in the youngest age group;
  • Middle-aged riders (those between the ages of 40 and 60) are 66% more likely to require emergency room treatment than younger riders;
  • Senior riders are three times more likely to require hospitalization than younger riders.

Fractures are among the most common types of motorcycle accident injuries among riders in all age groups, but younger riders tend to suffer broken arms and sometimes broken legs, while riders in the 60 and above age group often suffer more serious fractures, such as in places like the chest and back. When we age, our bone density decreases, making our strongest and most solid bones more brittle, and this helps explain why seniors tend to end up with more severe injuries after a motorcycle accident.

How Senior Motorcyclists Can Protect Themselves

The authors of the study listed several recommendations to help seniors stay safer when they are out riding: 

  • Take a Motorcycle Safety Course: Many Baby Boomers are new to motorcycle riding or they are just getting back into it after hanging up the helmet for a few decades while they were raising their family. Whatever your level of skill, it is good to take a motorcycle safety course or refresher course, so you are up to speed on all the best safety practices.
  • Wear DOT-Approved Helmets: In Alabama, all motorcycle riders are required to wear helmets that are made of non-shattering materials and contain a hard, exterior shell. Be sure to wear a state-approved helmet whenever you are riding.
  • Wear Extra Chest Protection: Middle-aged and senior riders can better protect vulnerable areas of their body by wearing extra chest protection.

Another precaution that all motorcycle riders should take is to wear reflective clothing to help other motorists see you better. Distracted driving is a growing epidemic these days, and because of driver inattentiveness, motorists often fail to notice motorcycles that are riding nearby. By wearing bright and reflective clothing, you can vastly reduce the chances of this happening.

Injured in a Motorcycle Accident in Alabama? Contact a Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer

Sometimes, you do everything right and still end up in an accident. If you have been hurt in a motorcycle crash that was the fault of another person or party, you need strong legal counsel by your side advocating forcefully for your rights and interests.

Call the experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at Burge & Burge at 205-251-9000 for a free consultation and case assessment. You may also message us through our web contact form or stop by our Birmingham office in person at your convenience.

I was Injured in a Motorcycle Accident, do I Need to Retain an Attorney?

Motorcycle accidents can be severe and life-changing, often resulting in serious and catastrophic injuries. In fact, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 100,000 individuals are injured in motorcycle crashes each year. And because they are less protected than drivers and occupants of other types of vehicles, motorcyclists tend to sustain the most severe injuries after a crash.

Many people who are injured in a motorcycle accident wonder if they need to retain an attorney to help them with their accident claim. Of course, an attorney will collect a portion of your compensation as their fee for handling your claim, and this is definitely a major consideration in deciding whether or not it is worthwhile to retain legal counsel.

There are times when it may be fine for you to handle your motorcycle accident claim on your own. For example, if the accident was unquestionably the fault of another party, you sustained relatively minor injuries, and the insurance company has offered a settlement you believe is fair, then you can probably handle the claim on your own, take the settlement, and move on with your life.

If, on the other hand, your injuries are moderate to severe (and maybe you do not even know the full extent of them yet), there is some question about who was at fault, and there are other complicating factors, retaining an attorney is highly recommended. Accident injury cases can be complex and confusing, and there are numerous potential pitfalls that could trip you up and cause you to receive less compensation than you deserve, or even lose out on receiving any compensation at all.

An experienced personal injury attorney is familiar with the claims process and the common tactics insurance companies use to try to diminish the value of the claim or deny it all together.  Here are just a few ways an attorney can help you successfully pursue a motorcycle accident injury claim:

Your Attorney can Protect your Legal Right to Compensation

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident in Alabama, you may be facing an uphill battle trying to recover compensation. Alabama is a “contributory negligence” state. This means that if an injured party is found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident that caused their injuries (even 1%), they can be barred from recovering compensation.

There is no doubt that the insurance company will attempt to use the state’s defendant-friendly legal standard against you by trying to get you to admit fault or otherwise show that you bear some responsibility for the accident. If you retain an attorney early on in the process, they will advise you on what to say and what not to say, and they will go to work immediately to gather important evidence to help prove that the other party is 100% at-fault for the accident.

Your Attorney can Accurately Value your Claim

If you have never dealt with an accident injury claim in the past, you may not be familiar with the various types of damages that may be available and how much compensation you should ask for. If you work with an experienced attorney, they will have handled numerous cases like yours before, and they will have the in-depth knowledge necessary to thoroughly assess your case, determine the full extent of your injuries, call on the assistance of outside experts when necessary, and aggressively pursue full and fair compensation.

Your Attorney can Negotiate Directly with the Insurance Company

If you are not familiar with the process, it may also be difficult for you to negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance adjuster. These adjusters are trained negotiators whose interests are not aligned with yours. They work for the insurance company, and as such, their goal is to pay out as little as possible for your claim. In this situation, you need a skilled negotiator in your corner who is looking out for your interests. Your attorney will negotiate directly with the adjuster, and if the adjuster is not willing to negotiate in good faith, they will be ready and able to pursue full damages through litigation.

Injured in a Motorcycle Accident in Alabama? Call the Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers at Burge & Burge

If you or someone close to you was injured in a motorcycle crash, it is a good idea to at least talk with an attorney free of charge to discuss your case and go over your rights and options. That way, you can make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed. For a free, no-obligation consultation and case assessment, call Burge & Burge today at 205-251-9000. You may also message us through our web contact form or stop by our Birmingham office in-person at your convenience.

Do Motorcycle Helmets Impact an Injury Claim

Motorcycle accidents have been on the rise in recent years. The increasing number of distracted drivers on the roadways puts riders at the mercy of motorists who cannot seem to stay off of their cell phones. This leads to more and more accidents that are totally unnecessary; and we know that when a motorcycle rider is involved in an accident, they are 26 times more likely to be severely injured or killed.

In addition to distracted driving, there are a number of other reasons motorcycle accidents occur. Some of the most common include:

  • Speeding/Reckless Driving: When a motorist is speeding excessively or otherwise driving recklessly, they are often in a state of mind in which they have willful and wanton disregard for the safety of themselves and others on the road. So, when they encounter a motorcycle, they may not take the measures needed to avoid an accident.
  • Unsafe Lane Changes: Sometimes, it is hard to spot a motorcycle that has entered into the blind spot of another vehicle. When drivers try to change lanes without seeing the motorcycle, it can lead to disastrous consequences.
  • Turning Accidents: Similar to lane changes, turning (particularly making left turns) can also be dangerous if a motorist fails to see a motorcycle that is inside their blind spot.
  • DUI/DWI: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can affect reaction times and make it more difficult to avoid a motorcycle accident.
  • Defective Vehicle Parts: A faulty vehicle (or vehicle part) that goes bad at just the wrong time can be the cause of an accident. Examples may include computer dashboard malfunctions, faulty brake lines, and tire blowouts.

How Does the Use of a Helmet Impact an Injury Claim after a Motorcycle Accident?

The question of whether or not a motorcycle rider wore a helmet is not usually related to the cause of a motorcycle accident. In most cases, the accident most likely could not have been prevented even if the rider had a helmet on. That said, insurance companies may still use that fact that a rider was not wearing a helmet as a reason to argue that they share some fault for the accident.

The use of a helmet may very well become a factor, however, in determining how much the responsible party (or their insurer) will end up paying in damages. This depends on several variables, among the most important being the helmet laws in the state in which you were riding when you had the accident.

Alabama is one of 19 states along with the District of Columbia that has universal helmet laws. Everyone in this state, regardless of age, is required to wear a helmet when they are out riding a motorcycle. In addition, the state has strict requirements on the specifications of helmets to be worn by riders and passengers, and it is illegal to sell any helmet in the state that does not meet these specifications. This means that if you were a rider in a motorcycle accident in Alabama and you were not wearing a helmet, this could be a major factor if you are pursuing an injury claim.

There are a couple ways the other party and their insurer might use the fact that you were not wearing a helmet against you. First of all, they might argue that you are a reckless rider and that not wearing a helmet makes you partially at fault for the accident. Alabama applies the legal doctrine known as contributory negligence, which holds that even if you are 1% at-fault for an accident, you are barred from recovering compensation. So, if the defense can successfully argue that your failure to wear a helmet makes you partially responsible, you might not be able to recover damages for your injury.

Another argument the defense might make is that your injuries would have been less severe if you were wearing a helmet. This could be a particularly effective argument if you suffered head injuries as a result of the accident. In such cases, you need an experienced advocate in your corner who can skillfully argue that your head injuries would have been just as severe even if you had been wearing a helmet.

Speak with a Seasoned Alabama Motorcycle Accidents Lawyer

If you or someone close to you was injured or killed in a motorcycle accident, it is important to understand your rights and options. Regardless of whether or not you were wearing a helmet, you might still be entitled to compensation, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. At Burge and Burge, we have represented countless clients who have suffered injury in all types of motor vehicle accidents, and we have a successful track record with even the most complex and challenging cases.

For a free consultation with one of our skilled personal injury attorneys, call us today at 205-251-9000, or you may send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.

What Do I Need to Know After a Motorcycle Accident?

Each year, thousands are killed and tens of thousands are injured in motorcycle accidents throughout the country. When a motorcycle crashes into a passenger vehicle, motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to be killed than those driving and riding in other vehicles. Some of the leading causes of these types of accidents include alcohol, speed, and distracted driving.

Being involved in a motorcycle accident is an unsettling experience. Immediately afterward, you may be shaken up and it might take a while to collect your thoughts. Once you have calmed down and assessed what happened, it is important to know what to do next. The actions you take right after a motorcycle crash will have serious repercussions with regards to dealing with your insurer and ensuring that your legal rights are protected. Do your best to remain calm and keep your composure during the aftermath of the incident.

Here are five steps you should take right after a motorcycle accident:

  1. Seek Medical Attention for Anyone who is Injured

The first priority is to make sure that anyone who is hurt gets medical help immediately. Check yourself and others for injuries and call 911 if anyone is hurt. Some injuries may be difficult to detect right away. For example, if a car collided into your motorcycle and your head hit the ground, you may not feel anything immediately, but you should definitely get something like that checked out ASAP. Another type of injury that is hard to detect is internal bleeding and other internal injuries. Injuries to internal organs can become fatal if not treated promptly, so be sure to have everyone checked for that as well.

  1. Take Multiple Photos of the Scene

Once you have ensured that the accident scene is safe, take as many photos as possible from several different angles. The more photo documentation you have, the easier it will be to prove who was at fault for the accident. This is especially important in states like Alabama, where they use the legal doctrine known as “contributory negligence”. Contributory negligence means that even if a plaintiff is just 1% at fault for an accident, they are barred from recovering damages. So if you want to be successful with any type of legal action, you need to have extensive amounts of evidence to prove your case.

  1. Gather Information

Exchange information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Obtain their name, address, phone number, insurance information, and driver’s license numbers. In addition, note plate numbers and the make, model, and description of the vehicles. You will also want to speak with any witnesses that saw what happened and obtain their contact information. If possible, take note of (or even record on your smartphone) what the witnesses say while everything is still fresh in their mind. Memories can fade, and it will help your case to have as much information as possible before everyone goes their separate ways.

  1. Call the Police

If anyone is hurt or there is substantial vehicle damage, contact the police. The police will interview those involved in the accident as well as any witnesses and prepare a report. Having a police report on file will be another piece of evidence that can help your case. However, be sure to review the report as soon as it is available for any discrepancies that may need to be corrected.

  1. Report the Accident to your Insurance Company

As soon as is convenient, contact your insurer to report your motorcycle accident. Most insurance companies want to be notified within 72 hours of the incident, so do this sooner rather than later. Be ready to present your insurer with all the facts about what happened. Also, it is very important when you talk to them or anyone else that you do NOT admit any fault at all for the accident.

As stated earlier, any admission of fault severely damages your chances of recovering compensation. Along these same lines, do not give your insurer any detailed information about property damage or injuries. Insist that you will wait for an estimate from an auto shop and for a full medical exam, so you can provide the most accurate assessment.

Speak with an Experienced Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer

After a motorcycle accident, it is not uncommon for the other party’s insurer to approach you with a settlement offer. Insurance adjusters often make lowball offers in hopes of settling quickly and getting the case off the books. Before accepting any offer from an insurance company, speak with a seasoned accident injury attorney, so you fully understand your rights and options.

At Burge and Burge, we have more than five decades of combined experience handling motorcycle accidents and other types of personal injury cases. Our extensive knowledge and successful track record in this area of the law give our clients the assurance that when they work with us, they are in the best possible position to obtain a favorable result.

For a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, call us today at 205-251-9000 or send us a private and confidential message through our online contact form.