Extreme Risk of Lower Extremities Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents
When you think about the design of a two-wheeled, open vehicle like a motorcycle, you would probably not be surprised to learn that serious, catastrophic injuries are common in motorcycle accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) takes this assumption a step further by revealing that when involved in a motorcycle accident, the rider’s lower body is most likely to suffer most likely to suffer severe bodily harm. In a publication on Lower Extremity Injuries in Motorcycle Crashes, researchers indicated that there are unique implications for the hips, thighs, shins, and feet in collisions. The physical, financial, and emotional losses for victims are substantial, since many may be out of work for an extended time or be permanently disabled as a result.
Statistics on Lower Body Injuries to Motorcycle Riders
There are fewer registered vehicles and licensed motorcycle operators as compared to motorists in the US, but the numbers of deaths and injuries are proportionately much higher. Statistics from the NHTSA and other sources reveal the severity of the problem on lower extremities injuries, as well as the dangers of motorcycle crashes in general:
- In 2017, 5,172 motorcycle riders lost their lives in accidents, down 3% from the previous year. However, this figure is 16% higher than the 4,469 victims who were killed 2009 – and more than double the 2,028 fatalities that occurred in 1997.
- The estimated number of injured motorcyclists is also on the rise. There were 14,000 people hurt in 1997 and 25,000 in 2006, an almost 80% increase. In 2016, the number of injuries skyrocketed to 104,000 before dropping to 89,000 in 2017.
- Around 47% of all motorcycle accident injuries affect the lower extremities, followed by 40% to the upper extremities.
- As a whole, the rider’s leg is most likely to be injured in a collision. The pelvis, knee, and thighs round out the top four.
- Hip injuries account for just 4% of all lower body injuries, but they tend to be quite severe. More than 37% of all hip trauma involves dislocation.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Crashes
Just like any other vehicle on the road, a motorcycle can be involved in an accident for the same reasons as automobiles. Usually, the underlying cause is carelessness on behalf of another motorist, such as:
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Failure to yield right of way;
- Running through red lights or stop signs;
- Ignoring traffic signage; and,
- Improper lane changes.
In addition, as texting, talking, surfing the internet, and other forms of cell phone use have increased the potential for vehicle crashes, these activities also heighten the threat of motorcycle accidents. Motorists can also be careless through distracted driving that is not related to phone usage. Examples include adjusting the radio, eating or drinking, using a GPS, putting on makeup, and many other risky activities that take the driver’s attention away from the road.
Risk Factors Make Motorcycle Accidents Unique
The most notable risks of riding a motorcycle are due to its design, though other factors do increase the likelihood of crashes.
- Motorcycles are less balanced because of their two-wheeled structure. Conditions that have a minimal effect on automobiles could have tragic consequences for a rider, including potholes, bumps, slippery surfaces, steep grades, and sharp curves.
- A motorcycle rider is not protected by a metal shell, which would offer some shield against the violent force of a crash.
- In the vast majority o f motorcycle accidents, the rider will be ejected or fall from the vehicle. As a result, there can be a secondary impact when his or her body hits the ground – and it may be even more severe.
- The lower, narrower profile of a motorcycle means the vehicle is less visible to other motorists, so they may not even know a rider is in the vicinity.
Your Rights as the Victim of a Motorcycle Collision
Though the underlying cause of accidents is usually driver carelessness, the legal basis for liability is negligence. To recover compensation for losses stemming from lower body injuries, you must prove four essential elements:
- The responsible motorist had a duty to drive safely, an obligation that applies to all drivers;
- That person breached the legal duty of care;
- The breach of duty was a direct cause of the motorcycle crash in which you sustained lower extremities injuries; and,
- You suffered losses as a result of your lower body trauma.
However, you should note that there may be adverse consequences for your rights even if you can prove these four elements. The reason is Maryland’s contributory negligence law, which puts the focus on your actions. If you were also at fault, even just slightly, you can recover NO compensation for your losses. The examples of motorist carelessness mentioned above can hurt your claim, but there are other forms of negligence specific to motorcycle riders. For instance, contributory negligence could be a bar to financial recovery if you were lane splitting.
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