Motorcycling can be a relaxing or exhilarating hobby, a cost effective way to commute, and much more. It can also be dangerous. The number of motorcyclists killed in crashes dropped by almost 5 percent to 4,985 in 2018, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but motorcycle riders continue to be overrepresented in traffic fatalities. Motorcycles have inherent risks that other vehicles do not, because of their smaller size and lower visibility, and the comparative lack of crash protection (compared to a compact car, for example, with a low center of gravity, crumple zones and airbags).
Still, there are many ways that motorcycle operators can lower their risk of injury, according to experts. These include always wearing proper protective equipment, riding responsibly and never impaired by alcohol or drugs, and making sure your motorcycle is well maintained and that you have the proper license and training.
In 2018, 79 motorcyclists were killed and more than 1,200 were injured on Louisiana roadways, according to the Center for Analytics & Research in Transportation at Louisiana State University. Louisiana law requires all motorcycle operators and riders to wear DOT-approved helmets, a law that was reinstated in 2007 and credited with dramatically reducing motorcyclist death and serious injury in the state.
Traumatic brain injury
Widespread use of helmets and new helmet technology have helped reduce motorcycle fatality rate over the last decade. But even with a DOT-approved helmet, a motorcyclist who survives a crash faces high risk of serious brain injury from the force of impact with another vehicle, the road or other object. Riders who have suffered a traumatic brain injury can have lasting impairments to their ability to speak or carry out other functions vital to daily life and in order to work. These injuries can result in the need for extensive rehabilitation and major long-term healthcare costs.
These painful scrapes, abrasions and more serious injuries that can resemble burns are caused when a motorcyclists makes contact with and slides along the road surface. Our skin acts as our primary protective layer, so infection can be a serious risk with road rash injuries. Scaring and permanent nerve damage as well as damage to underlie connective tissue are risks. Severe road rash can require skin grafting and/or physical therapy and other ongoing treatments to heal.
Lower Limb Injuries
Motorcyclists are more likely to injure their legs and feet than any other part of their bodies. The Center for Disease Control studied over a million motorcycle injuries and found that nearly 30 percent of the injuries occurred to the lower extremities.
When you’re on a motorcycle, your legs are very closest to the ground. If you’re in a crash, they are often the first thing to come into contact with pavement. If a motorcycle rolls, it can crush a rider’s leg or foot, and result in fractured or broken bones. Lower limb ligament and tendon injuries are also common for motorcyclists who experience a crash, as is road rash.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Head and neck injuries make up nearly a quarter of all injuries that result from motorcycle accidents. In serious motorcycle crashes, spinal cord injuries can cause the most serious and lasting damage. While helmets provide a significant level of protection from traumatic brain injury, they provide little in the way of spinal cord protection and may actually transfer the impact of a crash toward the spine. Spinal cord injuries can result in chronic pain, temporary or permanent paralysis, and in the most serious cases, paraplegia or quadriplegia. Spinal cord injuries almost always involve significant damages to the injured party, including long-term healthcare costs and lost wages.
Injuries to the ribs or surrounding structures (for example, the sternum or clavicles) are very common in motorcycle crashes. Injuries to this area can be life-threatening as the rib cage protects vital organs, especially delicate lung tissue. Trauma to the thorax area (the chest down to the diaphragm) can result in a collapsed or punctured lung and/or internal bleeding. Damaged tissue can result in long recovery times and can lead to secondary injuries from infection.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident in Louisiana, you owe it to yourself to speak with a skilled attorney who can help you understand your rights, evaluate your case and your options, and build a strong case for getting the compensation you deserve.
A number of state laws determine how motorcycle accidents should be handled, who is at fault, the types of damages that can be sought, and award amounts in New Orleans and across Louisiana.
Requirement to Report Vehicle Accidents
By law, drivers in Louisiana must report any vehicle accident immediately, if that accident results in injury to or death of any person, or results in property damage over $500. This typically means calling 911 immediately. A law enforcement officer then investigates and generates an accident report that is publicly available at the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
Louisiana motorcycle accident judgements are subject to a “comparative fault” law. This means that a court can find you, the victim, partially at fault for your motorcycle accident. You can still recover damages for your case. But the court will reduce your award by the percentage that it decides you were at fault. So, if you would have received a $100,000 award and you are found to be 20% at fault, your award would be reduced by 20% to $80,000. An insurance company will use the same formula to determine what it will offer as a settlement. “Comparative fault” is almost always a judgment call that is subject to your ability to negotiate with insurers or persuade a judge or jury. A skilled attorney with knowledge of past awards and how “fault” is determined under Louisiana law can be invaluable in this process.
You have one year from the date of your auto accident to file a claim in Louisiana, including any claim for injury or vehicle damage. This is a shorter deadline than most states, and if you miss it you likely lose your ability to negotiate for fair compensation. So speak with an attorney experienced in Louisiana motorcycle accident claims and personal injury law right away. This way, you and your legal team can build the strongest case possible for the compensation you deserve.
Other Louisiana Laws
Personal injury, wrongful death, defective product, or other civil case law could play a potential role in your case, as could criminal law if a party is prosecuted for a crime related to the accident, such as driving under the influence or hit-and-run. A skilled attorney with experience winning for victims in Louisiana motorcycle accident cases can help you better understand how these laws affect potential outcomes of your case.
Even the safest operators can be involved in a motorcycle crash. If you are injured, contact a trusted attorney with experience in Louisiana motorcycle accident cases before you sign any document that could limit your right to pursue compensation for your injuries. Charbonnet Law Firm has won strong settlements for clients in the New Orleans area for years. Let our skilled, caring legal team protect your interests while you focus on recovering.