Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

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The state of Georgia had 112 motorcycle accident deaths during the first nine months of 2009. That figure had dropped to 98 fatalities during the first nine months of 2010. A small drop like this may not mean much, especially since the sharpest declines were noted during the first few months of the year, when Atlanta motorcycle accident lawyers noted fewer motorcycles on the streets.

The Governors’ Highway Safety Association has released projected estimates for motorcycle accident fatalities last year, and predicts that there will be 4,376 motorcycle accident fatalities in 2010. That is a 2.4% decline from last year, and the agency is warning that motorcycle crash fatalities over the next couple of years could actually increase unless both the federal and state administrations begin taking stronger steps to prevent such accidents. In Georgia, many motorcycle accidents occur on I-75/I-85 going through downtown Atlanta due to the high rates of speed coupled with the numerous lane shifts and merges that occur when Interstate I-75 and Interstate I-85 merge as they go through the Atlanta city limits. While these road conditions may not be the proximate cause of the numerous motorcycle wrecks which occur on our interstate, the road conditions certainly do play a part.

As with every other car accident case, there are essentially four elements that a plaintiff in this situation must prove in order to recover for the negligence of another driver. They are:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to use reasonable care (and every driver owes this duty to all other people);
  • The defendant failed to do so and breached that duty;
  • That breach caused the accident; and
  • The plaintiff suffered damages in the form of personal injuries due to the negligence of the at-fault driver.

While a lawsuit is certainly available to help the injured victims of motorcycle accident recover for their injuries, there is more that could be done to save lives in motorcycle accidents every year. For instance, enforcing stronger helmet laws for motorcyclists would help. The Governors’ Highway Safety Association report is also drawing attention to an unwelcome trend-helmet use of the country is actually down by 15%. In Georgia, we could also invest in awareness among motorists about avoiding collisions with motorcycles.
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There’s no doubt that motorcyclists face myriad of challenges as they ride on Atlanta’s congested streets. Just last week, yet another motorcyclist was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Atlanta.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the motorcyclist had run out of gas, and had stopped his motorcycle in the merge area between the westbound lanes of I-20 and I-285 on-ramp. He was struck by a motorist, who then drove off from the scene of the accident. Unfortunately for the motorist, an off-duty trooper was just behind the motorcycle, and gave chase and the at-fault driver has been arrested and faces a host of charges. The motorcyclist did not survive the crash.
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As an experienced Georgia lawyer, I represent many clients who have been seriously injured or who have complex legal needs. This entry is one of a series of blog posts which address frequently asked questions. Knowing the answers to these common questions will allow those who need to hire a Georgia lawyer to make a more informed decision.

What should I look for in choosing a lawyer in Georgia to represent me?

Before hiring a lawyer in Georgia, you should conduct some basic background research to determine if the lawyer you are considering hiring is the right lawyer for the job. Many times the best marketer gets hired by the client, and this is a shame, because you deserve to have an experienced and dedicated lawyer representing you. As a general rule, staying away from the “heavy advertisers” such as those lawyers who advertise on daytime T.V., on the back of city busses, and on the front pages of the Yellow Pages is advisable. Many of these lawyers simply spend a lot of money on advertising and refer most of their cases to other lawyers who actually do the work.

Some factors which should be considered before hiring your lawyer are: (1) education–from which law school did the lawyer graduate. Law school educations vary greatly. Make sure your Georgia lawyer graduated from a top law school; (2) how much experience does this lawyer have. The practice of law is one of those professions that, with few exceptions, the more experience a lawyer has, the better. Lawyers often draw upon prior cases and situations in which they were involved to successfully prosecute current cases. The more experienced your lawyer is, the more prior experiences to draw from. Experience matters; (3) ask about courtroom experience and results. Many lawyers are vague about this. Many call themselves “litigators” yet have no direct trial experience. If you have an important case and go to trial, you will want an experienced trial lawyer (i.e., one who has ample “first chair” trial experiences and results to share with you) on your side at the courthouse. Ask specific questions and expect direct answers; (4) try to hire a lawyer that you like. I realize that, many times, you must make a fairly quick decision, and you have little chance to really get to know a lawyer before you hire them. But, try to get to know the lawyer you are considering hiring. Then, use your instincts and ask yourself, “is this someone who is trustworthy, likeable and easy to get along with?” You can usually answer this question. If the answer is, “no” or “I don’t know”, then keep searching and hire a different lawyer. A good trial lawyer is someone who can be trusted by all (by you, by opposing counsel and by the judges and courtroom staff). A good trial lawyer has a personality that people genuinely like and respect. A good trial lawyer instills confidence and competency in everyone involved. You should have these good feelings about your lawyer, or you should continue your search. “Why,” you may ask. Because your lawyer will need all of these skills to successfully prosecute your case, whether it involves negotiating with the other side’s insurance company, working with you, or trying your case in a court of law.
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On my main web site, you can find the Motorcycle Accidents page which explains the legal aspects of a motorcycle accident. However, I recently came across a report on motorcycle accidents that I would like to share. It is called the Hurt Report and a full copy is available for ordering. Since it is a 1981 report, many people would discount it as not being up-to-date or relevant. However, to me, it appears just as accurate and pertinent today as it was almost 30 years ago.

Since we cover the law on our web site, this is simply an instructional piece which illustrates HOW motorcycle accidents happen. Once we know HOW they happen, we can glean WHY they happen. Then, once we know HOW and WHY they happen, our readers can hopefully use this information to become safer bikers and drivers.

Some points of interest:

-About 1/4 of all motorcycle accidents are single vehicle accidents;
-1/3 of all single vehicle motorcycle accidents were due to something other than rider error such as roadway defects (i.e., potholes), vehicle failure, and animal involvement;
-When the motorcycle accident involved another vehicle, the driver of the other vehicle violated the motorcycle rider’s right of way and was at fault 2/3 of the time;
-The number one cause of motorcycle accidents is the failure of other drivers to see the motorcycle on the road, with the most common infraction being a car making a left-hand turn and cutting off the motorcyclist who is traveling straight in the left-hand lane;
-Motorcycle riders between the ages of 16 and 24 are over-represented in accidents, while riders between the ages of 30 and 50 are under-represented;
-Almost half of fatal motorcycle accidents involve alcohol consumption;
-The likelihood of injury from a motorcycle accident is very high–over 96%;
-Groin injuries were very common;
-The use of a helmet is the single most critical factor in reducing serious head injuries to motorcycle riders.

Considering that there were over 1,500 motorcycle riders killed in Georgia accidents last year, the above information should prove informative and helpful. It is our sincere hope that all Georgia motorcycle riders can ride safely.

While every accident has its own set of facts and nuances, it is important that the injured party retain counsel as soon as possible. Once retained, a thorough investigation will be conducted to determine the road conditions, factors that caused or contributed to the wreck, potential responsible parties, potential layers of insurance that may apply to the claim, eye witnesses, contact information for police who arrived at the scene, EMT personnel involved, witnesses, medical professionals who may have rendered care and treatment to the injured, towing companies involved, etc. Pictures of the property damage to the vehicles should also be timely taken to document the severity of the damage.

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According to an Atlanta police spokesman, an unidentified motorcyclist “struck a bridge abutment and was killed instantly” this morning. This appears to be yet another catastrophic single vehicle Atlanta accident. At first blush, that might end the inquiry as to who was at fault in this tragic case.

As an experienced injury lawyer who has litigated similar accidents, I feel it is important to note that a full investigation of the facts of this case should be conducted in order to determine liability and all potential defendants. As I pointed out in a recent post on this blog, others have been able to recover against County or City governments in cases where the roadway conditions cause of contributed to the accident. In the other single vehicle accident case discussed recently on this forum, the plaintiffs were able to recover a substantial amount of money, even though it was a single vehicle accident. The legal theory under which many single vehicle accident vicitms successfully bring lawsuits is one of nuisance. This is the theory used by the Tottens when they sued the county in which the bike accident occurred alleging the county (and not the bike rider) was liable for the fall because it promoted the road as a bike path but failed to maintain it in a safe condition. An important fact in the case was that the County allowed a hole around the paving marker to grow deeper with each road paving. As you will see below, this is what helps to establish a cause of action for nuisance (vs. a cause of action for negligence, which is a much narrower and more difficult legal theory to assert against municipalities, cities, counties, states, etc.)

“Before a municipality may be held liable for maintenance of a nuisance, (1) the alleged defect or degree of misfeasance must exceed mere negligence; (2) the act must be of some duration and the maintenance of the act or defect must be continuous or regularly repetitious; and (3) the municipality must have failed to act within a reasonable time after knowledge of the defect or dangerous condition. [Cits.]” Shuman v. Mayor &c. of Savannah, 180 Ga. App. 427, 428 (349 SE2d 239) (1986).