The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 539 motorcycle fatalities in California in 2020, with six percent being unhelmeted victims. Moreover, motorcycle accidents accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities, resulting in 5,579 deaths. Statistic says 2020 has the most number of motorcyclists killed since 1975.
In February 2023, a fatal motorcycle accident occurred in the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles County. An SUV collided with a motorcycle, trapping the motorist under the vehicle. The rescuers pronounced the rider dead at the scene.
Another incident in Long Beach involved an SUV colliding with a 2014 Kawasaki motorcycle traveling at high speed. According to the police officers, the motorcyclist sustained significant lower-body injuries.
Contact a motorcycle accident attorney if you find yourself in a motorcycle accident. A lawyer with years of experience can assist you through the process of an injury claim and help you demand compensation for your losses.
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Motorcycle Crash Claims in Los Angeles, California
A personal injury case in Los Angeles begins with filing a complaint against the at-fault driver, insurance company, or manufacturer. The next steps involve serving the summons and participating in an alternative dispute resolution. The case usually ends with a trial and judgment.
Before discussing the legal process for an injury claim, you must know the statute of limitations. It bars claims after a specific period, which varies based on state laws. For instance, the California Code of Civil Procedure‘s Section 335.1 states that a personal injury action shall be filed within two years.
However, in cases of actions against the government, a person has six months to file an administrative claim. After filing an accident claim, the city has 45 days to respond. If it denies your claim, you have six months to initiate a lawsuit against the government.
The court may not entertain your claim if you file beyond the period prescribed by law. As a result, you cannot recover compensation from the at-fault driver, company, or government agency. Consequently, you must pay for your medical bills and other expenses. Hence, following the statute of limitations is essential. Hire the services of an attorney or law firm to help you file your case on time.
File a civil complaint
Section 411.10 of the California Code of Civil Procedure states that filing a complaint starts a civil action and stops the clock on the statute of limitations. Moreover, the plaintiff must pay the filing fees.
Section 422.40 of the Code of Civil Procedure requires that the complaint include the title of the action with the names of all parties. A complaint should also state the jurisdiction of the court, the cause of action, and the requested damages.
Jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority to hear and decide cases, while the cause of action allows a plaintiff to seek legal remedy. In a personal injury case, common causes of action include motorcycle accidents, vehicle collisions, product defect accidents, and dog attacks.
You can base your claim on negligence and product liability. The elements of negligence are as follows:
- the defendant owes a legal duty to the plaintiff;
- the defendant violated that obligation;
- the plaintiff suffered an injury; and
- the defendant’s breach caused the injury.
For example, a 30-year-old man drove over the speed limit. He caused injuries to a woman rider, who had to undergo emergency surgery. In this scenario, the injured driver can demand compensation for her medical expenses.
Aside from drivers, injured motorcyclists can also recover compensation from motorcycle manufacturers by invoking the product liability doctrine. The following elements must be present to use the doctrine:
- the defendant, a commercial seller, sells an item to the plaintiff;
- the plaintiff suffers an injury;
- the defendant sold a defective item; and
- the defect caused the plaintiff’s injury.
Apart from jurisdiction and cause of action, the complaint should also specify the requested damages, including past and future expenses due to the motorcycle accident injury.
Service of summons
After filing of complaint and payment of filing fees, the clerk of the court shall issue a summons to the defendant, as mandated by Section 412.10 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. The summons shall include certain information, such as:
- the court’s instruction that the defendant should file an answer within 30 days of receiving the summons; and
- the court’s warning that failure to answer may result in a judgment favoring the plaintiff, causing financial loss to the defendant.
If the defendant fails to answer, the court may rule in your favor without allowing the other driver to participate in the proceedings. Hence, the defendant needs to file his answer to protect themselves. In their response, they may raise defenses to excuse or mitigate liability.
For example, the other driver may argue that you filed the case beyond the two-year limitation, which could result in the court dismissing your case. They may also shift the liability to you by presenting evidence indicating that your negligence caused the motorcycle crash, such as videos showing you speeding. Consequently, they may deny liability for your medical expenses and lost wages.
Moreover, the defendant may try to reduce your damages. Under Section 1714 of the California Civil Code, the state follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence. Individuals can claim damages for the percentage of fault attributed to the other party.
For example, you are seeking $100,000 from the defendant, but they argue that you are 99 percent responsible for the accident. In this case, they can reduce your injury claim to only $1,000.
Participate in an alternative dispute resolution
Rule 3.722 of the California Rules of Court authorizes courts to have a case management conference. The conference allows them to decide if they should assign the case to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. The parties should receive notice of the conference within 45 days before the scheduled date.
Mediation and settlement conferences are two ADR options for motorcycle accident cases.
Mediation can be especially effective when parties have heightened emotions due to the traumatic nature of the accident.
Motorcycle accident cases can cause emotional and psychological trauma, making it difficult for the parties to negotiate with themselves. Fortunately, experienced mediators can talk to the parties separately and guide them to communicate in a non-destructive way.
On the other hand, a settlement conference involves the parties, their personal injury lawyers, and a judge or a settlement officer to discuss potential settlement offers. The judge or officer can assist the parties in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their claim and determine whether a settlement is a good option based on the evaluation.
Entering an ADR can help the parties save time because they can reach an agreement within a few weeks. It is also cost-efficient since going to trial entails attorney fees and other litigation expenses. Moreover, it increases satisfaction among the parties since they have better control over the outcome of the case.
Go to trial
The parties may proceed to trial if they cannot reach a settlement. Your personal injury attorney will provide legal representation by arguing on your behalf and examining defense witnesses. Your motorcycle accident lawyer will also be responsible for filing court documents, such as pleadings, briefs, and expert testimony.
In case of trial by jury, Section 607 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides the order of trial. First, the plaintiff states the issues and facts of the case, followed by the defendant. Next, the plaintiff and defendant must present their evidence, respectively.
After the presentation of evidence, the parties may offer rebuttals. The plaintiff may conclude their arguments and wait for the jury’s verdict. It may seem simple, but trials may last several months or years, depending on the complexity of the case and the number of parties and witnesses involved.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Los Angeles
The common causes of motorcycle crashes include driving under the influence, speeding, improper lane changes, manufacturing defects, and road hazards.
Driving under the influence
DUI is a criminal offense that involves operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs, and other substances. It presents accident risk to motorists. The 2020 Traffic Safety Facts documented 197 motorcycle rider fatalities in California due to alcohol impairment.
The study found that 122 riders have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.08 g/dL, while 75 motorcyclists have a BAC of at least 0.15 g/dL. According to the US highway safety regulators, drivers with 0.08 BAC will likely lose concentration and speed control. They might also suffer from short-term memory loss and impaired perception.
However, having a 0.15 BAC poses a greater crash risk. Drivers with this level of alcohol in their system will likely have blurred vision, making it unsafe to operate a vehicle. They might also lose coordination and balance, as well as restlessness.
Section 22349 of the California Vehicle Code sets the maximum speed limit at 65 mph on highways. But in 2022, Los Angeles approved the plan to lower the speed limit by five mph on about two percent of city streets. Local officials and residents applauded the decision since it can lessen deadly crashes.
Local news reported a hit-and-run incident involving a speeding driver in the Inland Empire in southern California. The California Highway Patrol stated that the speeding vehicle collided with a motorcycle, causing severe leg injuries to the motorcyclist. The 25-year-old man also sustained bone fractures and road rash.
Improper lane changes
Unsafe lane changes by motorists can result in serious injuries from motorcycle and car crashes. Examples of dangerous driving habits may include failing to check mirrors and signals before changing lanes.
Distracted driving may also lead to improper lane changes. It involves taking your attention off the road. For example, using your cell phone while driving. Inattentive driving can cause you to overlook blind spots and disregard traffic regulations, potentially leading to accidents.
Accidents can happen even without the fault of motorists. Sometimes, injuries and fatalities from road accidents can result from defective products manufacturers sell. In such cases, companies issue a recall to prevent consumers from using the item once they discover flaws.
For instance, Bombardier Recreational Products recalled 2022 Can-Am Ryker motorcycles due to steering problems. Dealers reported that some bolts broke during the handlebar installation. Moreover, the company received consumer reports complaining of broken bolts while driving.
In 2018, Harley-Davidson recalled almost 57,000 motorcycles due to an oil line defect. According to the company, a clamp on the cooler line may have been installed incorrectly. The defect allegedly caused two accidents and a minor injury.
Aside from driver and manufacturer negligence, road hazards can lead to motorcycle accidents. Potholes, rough roads, and bumpy edges can affect motorists’ control of their vehicles. In 2011, a Los Angeles police officer lost control of their motorcycle after hitting a pothole and suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
In addition, poor weather conditions can greatly affect a person’s driving ability. For example, fog, rainfall, and snow storms can reduce visibility and cause slick surfaces. Moreover, strong winds can blow leaves, sticks, and debris toward a motorcyclist’s helmet, leading to distraction.
Did you know?
Section 27803 of the California Vehicle Code mandates the use of safety helmets by motorcyclists and their passengers. The law puts California among the states that require helmet use, including Alabama, Louisiana, and Nebraska.
Find a Los Angeles Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
Visit The Personal Injury Center to access free legal information about road accidents involving motorcycles, cars, and trucks. We can match you with an experienced personal injury attorney who can get you the compensation you deserve.
Motorcycle accidents can cause physical injuries, mental trauma, and fatalities. Book a free consultation with The Personal Injury Center to know more about the claims process.
FAQs on Los Angeles Motorcycle Crash
Does the law treat motorcycle accidents differently from car collisions?
The law is supposed to treat motorcycle and car accidents equally. But, sometimes, biases and stereotypes toward motorcyclists can come into play. Hence, a personal injury attorney must thoroughly investigate and prove that their client did not cause the collision.
Is a safety helmet effective in preventing injuries and fatalities?
US highway safety regulators found that helmets are almost 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle rider deaths and 41 percent for passengers.
What case can a family member file if a loved one died in a motorcycle crash?
The family member can file a wrongful death case based on intentional or negligent acts of the other driver or manufacturer. The surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, and other dependents may be entitled to damages.