Motorcycles are a popular transportation method in the United States. People use motorcycles for all kinds of reasons from recreation to sport to simply getting to and from work. According to the Insurance Information Institute, there were “about 8.4 million motorcycles on the road in 2014.” Motorcycles have been in use since the late 1800's. The first U.S. company to make a production motorcycle was the Metz Company, which created the Orient-Aster motorcycle in 1898. A few years later, in 1903, the well-known brand, Harley-Davidson came out with its first motorcycle. The motorcycles we see on the roads today have come a long way since these early models, but riders today face some of the same challenges when it comes to crashes. Motorcycles offer very little protection to their riders and, unfortunately, a motorcyclist who gets into a crash may face serious injury or even death.
Motorcycle Fatality Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there was an increase in traffic fatalities in 2015, with over 35,000 people losing their lives on the roads and highways of America. One of the groups that saw an increase in fatalities were those who ride motorcycles. The NHTSA reported that there was a 9% increase in motorcyclist fatalities in 2015. This was a reverse from prior years. In 2014, there were fewer motorcycle fatalities than in 2013. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the majority of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2014 were the result of multi vehicles crashes (58%). The other 42% of crashes were single-vehicle crashes. These numbers have remained fairly consistent for over 30 years.
Injuries And Helmet Use
Motorcycle riders who get into crashes are more likely to suffer serious injuries because motorcycles don't afford riders the same protection that cars provide to drivers. According to Livestrong, the three most common types of injuries are bone fractures, road rash, and head injuries in motorcycle crashes. Proper riding attire and helmets can help reduce the likelihood of injury.
Head injuries can be particularly devastating because a traumatic brain injury can leave a person with permanent brain damage and in need of life-long care. Helmet use helps to reduce the risk of a motorcycle rider dying by 37% and reduces the chance of a head injury by 69%. The NHTSA estimated that in 2013 and 2014, helmets saved over 1600 lives each year.
Despite the fact that helmets can save lives, only some states require all riders and passengers to wear helmets when riding a motorcycle. Laws that require motorcyclists to wear helmets are called, “universal helmet laws.” Presently, only 19 states, as well as the District of Columbia, require all riders to wear helmets. Colorado is not one of the states with a universal helmet law. It is among the 28 states that have laws that require just some riders to wear helmets. For example, in Colorado, those 17 and younger must wear helmets. In addition, there are three states --New Hampshire, Illinois, and Iowa—that have no laws on the books about helmet use.
Motorcycle Accidents And Negligence
When pursuing a lawsuit against a driver who's careless or reckless driving has left you or a loved one injured, the legal theory that you are likely going to be seeking to hold the driver liable under is that of negligence. Negligence is “the failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonable prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation.” Black's Law Dictionary 1135 (9th ed. 2009). If you can show that the defendant was negligent, that is that the defendant did not exercise the proper standard of care, then you may be able to hold the defendant liable for the injuries you sustained as a result of the defendant's careless actions.
In order to prove that the defendant did not meet the proper standard of care and was negligent in Colorado, the plaintiff has to show “first, the defendant owed a legal duty of care; second, the defendant breached that duty; third, the plaintiff was injured; and fourth, the defendant's breach caused that injury.” Vigil v. Franklin, 103 P.3d 322, 324 (Colo. 2004). If the plaintiff can prove all of these elements through evidence and witness testimony at or before trial, then the plaintiff may be able to seek just compensation from the defendant.
In a personal injury case, the defendant can raise a number of defenses in order to reduce or negate liability. One of these defenses is comparative negligence. Comparative negligence can be used if the plaintiff is partially liable for his or her injuries. Under comparative negligence, if a plaintiff is partly responsible for the injuries that he or she sustained in the accident, then the plaintiff's damages are reduced based on the amount of his or her fault.
Traditionally, if the plaintiff was even a little at fault for his or her injuries then the plaintiff could not recover any damages at all. Some states and the District of Columbia still follow this doctrine, which is called contributory negligence. Most states, including Colorado, have moved away from contributory negligence because it is such a harsh doctrine.
Under Colorado law, if a plaintiff is less negligent than the defendant, the plaintiff can recover damages for his or her injuries. C.R.S. 13-21-111 (2016). If the plaintiff is found to be equally at fault or more at fault for his or her injuries, than the plaintiff may be barred from recovering any compensation from the defendant.
Contact A Denver Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured while operating a motorcycle or as a passenger on a motorcycle, contact an experienced and knowledgeable Colorado attorney today. An attorney can help you to hold the person responsible for your injuries accountable for their actions and recover just compensation for your injuries. Jeremy Rosenthal has been practicing law in Colorado for over a decade. He has extensive experience in personal injury cases and is dedicated to helping his clients through the legal process so that they can move on with their lives. Contact his office today for a free consultation or fill out the online form here.