Virginia Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Many motorcycle riders are extremely adept and far more careful than other drivers on the road. But a lack of awareness from other drivers still puts motorcyclists at great risk. If you, or someone you love, have suffered an injury as a result of a motorcycle crash in Northern Virginia, you may benefit from retaining the services of a Virginia motorcycle accident lawyer. Your attorney will gain understanding of the nature of your accident, unique complications posed by your accident, and will fight vigorously to obtain compensation for your damages.

Unlike automobiles, there are not a lot of safety measures that can be added to protect motorcycle riders because of the way these bikes are designed. As one of the smallest vehicles on the roadway, a motorcycle does not fare well in a collision with a tractor trailer, sport utility vehicle (SUV), pickup truck, or even the smallest of passenger cars. It is not uncommon for a motorcyclist to be thrown from his or her bike or to become pinned beneath their vehicle.

While Virginia state law mandates the use of protective helmets for the riders – both drivers and passengers—these helmets only provide a nominal amount of protection, especially in more serious crashes. Contact a Virginia motorcycle accident lawyer today for more information on filing a personal injury claim

Advantages of a Hiring Accident Lawyers

If you have suffered a serious injury in a motorcycle accident due to the reckless or careless actions of another driver, or if your motorcycle malfunctioned because of faulty maintenance or defective parts, there may be financial compensation available for you. Personal injury, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and numerous other factors associated with your accident may cause serious financial burdens to you and your family. With the help of a qualified Virginia motorcycle accident lawyer, you can pursue a monetary award from those responsible for your injuries. If you have lost a loved one, your attorney can help you pursue a wrongful death claim. Call our law offices today to schedule a free, initial consultation with one of our skilled NoVa motorcycle accident attorneys.

Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries

There is no other feeling in the world like flying down the highway with nothing but two wheels and a purring engine between you and the pavement. Unfortunately, however, there are few other types of accidents that can cause injuries as severe as those commonly associated with motorcycle wrecks. Even if a rider is wearing a safety helmet and appropriate clothing, there is only so much that any kind of protective gear will do to keep a motorcyclist from getting hurt after they are thrown off their bike in a collision.

The most common type of injury that motorcycle riders—especially those who do not obey Virginia’s helmet laws—experience in accidents is traumatic damage to the brain, which can often result in permanent injuries and may even have fatal complications. However, there are numerous other ways in which a rider could get hurt due to someone else’s negligence, including but not limited to:

  • Broken bones, particularly the ribs, collarbone, arms, and legs
  • Severe skin abrasions, more commonly known as “road rash”
  • Soft tissue damage, ranging from ligament strains and sprains to muscle layers being scraped away during a skid across asphalt
  • Spinal cord damage, which often results in permanent partial or full-body paralysis

Recovering Fair Compensation After a Motorcycle Wreck

Depending on the severity of physical damage a motorcycle accident causes, a rider involved in a crash may be eligible to seek financial restitution through a civil claim for damages. Broadly speaking, there are two types of damages a personal injury plaintiff could potentially receive: compensatory and punitive. Since punitive damages—which are meant specifically to punish the defendant—are only available in cases involving extreme negligence or intentional misconduct, the vast majority of motorcycle accident claims focus on recovering compensatory damages, which are meant to make up for specific losses experienced by the plaintiff.

Compensatory damages can be either economic or non-economic in nature, depending upon whether a particular loss can be given an objective financial value. For example, medical expenses for treatment sought immediately after a motorcycle crash would be considered economic damages, since their value could be proven through the bills a plaintiff received from the hospital or through a statement provided by a plaintiff’s insurance provider. Conversely, enduring physical pain that same rider experiences as a result of their crash would be a non-economic loss, since pain cannot be assigned a price tag based on quantitative information, its value is instead whatever the plaintiff and their Virginia motorcycle accident attorney believe would suffice for the suffering they sustained.

Recovering comprehensively for incurred damages can be especially complicated if an accident results in any kind of permanent disability or disfigurement. In this situation, it is critical for a plaintiff to think not only about the injuries they have already suffered, but also the losses they will likely suffer in the future as the result of an accident. For example, a loss of future earning capacity due to the inability to hold down a job and earn income because of a loss of a limb, or a future loss of enjoyment of life due to permanent paralysis. Working with legal counsel is particularly important for any motorcycle accident victim dealing with a permanent injury, as a seasoned attorney could utilize their past experience and expertise to predict future damages and seek recovery accordingly.

Proving Someone Else at Fault for a Motorcycle Crash

The most important element of almost every motorcycle accident lawsuit in Virginia is legal negligence—specifically, the plaintiff proving legal negligence on the part of their named defendant(s) based on a preponderance of the available evidence. Importantly, this is a lower standard of proof than that which is applicable to criminal cases, in which the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Legal negligence is central to many personal injury claims primarily because it is how individuals can be held financially responsible for the consequences of their wrongful acts that resulted in an accident. In other words, a person does not have to intentionally hurt anyone, or even intentionally try to cause anyone else harm, in order to be found at fault at civil court. Instead, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant meets the four criteria necessary to prove they were legally negligent.

First, a defendant must have owed the plaintiff a responsibility to act reasonably in the interest of preserving their personal safety. In legal terms, this is referred to as a defendant’s “duty of care.”

Second, the defendant must have failed to fulfill their responsibility towards the plaintiff. In other words, the defendant must have “breached” their duty of care by doing something reckless, careless, or expressly illegal.

Third, the defendant’s breach of duty through their actions must have directly caused an accident to occur. This element is known as “causation.”

Finally, the accident that the defendant caused through their breach of a duty of care must have directly caused the specific damages, or injuries, for which the plaintiff is seeking compensation.

Depending on the circumstances, a number of different parties may bear liability for a motorcycle crash based on some degree of negligence. The most common defendant in this kind of claim is another driver who was involved in the plaintiff’s accident. Generally a defendant driver is someone who violated a traffic regulation, drove while intoxicated, or was distracted immediately prior to the accident. In other situations, a third-party manufacturer may be at fault for a defective component in the plaintiff’s motorcycle, or a local government entity may be liable for poor road conditions that caused a plaintiff to lose control of their motorcycle. One of the essential services a motorcycle crash lawyer in Virginia can provide is helping to identify the party or parties who truly bear responsibility for a plaintiff’s injuries and working to hold them accountable through civil litigation.

Virginia’s Harsh Restrictions on Civil Recovery

However, defendants are not the only parties in a motorcycle accident claim who could bear liability for subsequent injuries. In some cases, a court may decide that a civil plaintiff is at least partially to blame for their own damages. Such a decision could have uniquely catastrophic repercussions for a plaintiff in the state of Virginia.

Unlike almost every other U.S. state, Virginia adheres to what is known as a pure contributory negligence system in civil claims, as opposed to the more modern comparative fault system. What this means in practice is that Virginia courts do not cut civil plaintiffs any slack whatsoever when it comes to reducing their recoverable damages based on their percentage of fault. If a motorcycle accident victim in Virginia bears any degree of fault at all for their injuries, even one percent, they are ineligible to seek any civil compensation, regardless of the severity of their injuries.

Furthermore, under the Code of Virginia §8.01-243, anyone who wishes to file suit for personal injury has only two years after the date of their injuries in which to file suit. If a claim is not filed within this two year period, a plaintiff will be barred from seeking compensation no matter who was at fault for their damages.

Because of these Virginia laws and various other potential legal roadblocks, retaining an experienced attorney can often make all the difference in how a motorcyclist’s claim for personal injuries in Virginia ultimately plays out.

Motorcycle Crash Facts

National statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrate that the number of motorcycle crash fatalities peaked in the United States in 2008, while the number of deaths in light truck and passenger car accidents dropped. This same pattern held true in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Although the number of motorcycle accidents decreased considerably between 2008 and 2009, the occurrence of such crashes has been on the rise again since 2009. In 2012, Virginia documented more than 2,400 motorcycle crashes, which resulted in the injuries of approximately 2,150 people and caused nearly 80 deaths.

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, motorcycles accounted for 2 percent of all the state’s traffic accidents, more than 3 percent of all traffic-related injuries, and greater than 10 percent of all traffic fatalities in the Commonwealth. Generally, those persons involved in motorcycle accidents are overwhelmingly male, representing between 88 and 98 percent of accident victims in all age brackets. It is estimated that the vast majority of motorcycle operators involved in a crash, nearly 95 percent, are not found to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the accident, which our NoVa motorcycle accident lawyers believe speaks volumes to the nature of most riders’ responsibility.

In the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Traffic Crash Facts 2012 Report (PDF), it is shown that nearly two-thirds of motorcycle accidents are not in direct relation to any particular traffic violation. The violations or negligent driver actions which are most likely to cause an accident in the other fraction of motorcycle accidents are as follows:

  • Following too closely
  • Speeding
  • Avoiding another vehicle
  • Failure to yield
  • Improper lane change
  • Improper passing

Because motorcycle riders have a higher frequency of fatality when involved in a traffic collision, it is important to watch out for motorcycles at all times. Awareness of motorcycles on the roadway is key to preventing motorcycle accidents.

The Need for Speed

Motorcycle engines are categorized in cubic centimeters (cc) based on the volume of fuel and air the engine forces through each rotation of the engine cycle. The higher the cc-rating, the more power and the higher the speed.  Motorcycle engines range from 50 cc to more than 2,000 cc.

Our Virginia motorcycle accident lawyers understand the thrill of fast bikes. But unfortunately, based on crash data, certain motorcycles are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents than others. In 2011, nearly 30 percent of fatally wounded motorcyclists drove a bike with an engine capacity of 1,400 cc or greater. Based on personality type, budget, and transportation needs, there are different types of vehicles available. The five main motorcycle designs include the following:

  • Dual-purpose motorcycles
  • Off-road motorcycles
  • Standard/traditional motorcycles
  • Sport motorcycles
  • Street motorcycles

Of these types of bikes, sport bikes or super-sport cycles are the most likely to be involved in fatal traffic collisions. While speeding is not listed as the leading reported cause of motorcycle accidents, bikes that are known and made for speed tend to produce more deadly results when involved in a collision.

Motorcycle Safety and Helmets

Since the leading cause of motorcycle fatalities stems from head injuries, a great deal of research has been done to determine the effectiveness of helmet use in preventing serious injury and death. As a Virginia motorcycle accident lawyer will tell you, evidence supports the fact that helmets provide a significant level of protection for motorcycle riders.

According to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets saved an estimated 1,784 motorcyclists’ lives in 2007 and an additional 800  lives could have been saved had the rider been wearing a helmet at the time of their fatal crash. You can view the full NHTSA report here (pdf). In an effort to prevent serious and fatal injuries, Virginia, along with Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands have invoked a universal helmet law. An additional 28 states and Guam have a partial helmet law which requires certain drivers and passengers to wear a helmet.

Virginia Motorcycle Laws

Motorcycle laws vary from state to state, and knowing what is required of a motorcycle operator is the responsibility of the driver. Out-of-state riders should be particularly aware about the nuances of Virginia laws. The Commonwealth incorporates these and other regulations into motorcycle traffic safety:

    • According to the Code of Virginia Section 46.2-910, eye protection is required for a motorcycle driver unless the motorcycle is equipped with a windscreen.
    • There is no law regarding the maximum acoustical level permitted; however, it is unlawful to operate a motorcycle that has no muffler or other sound-dissipating device, per Section 46.2-1050 of the Code.
    • There is no minimum passenger age restriction; however, if a motorcycle is carrying a passenger, it is required that the passenger have both a footrest and a seat, according to Section 46.2-909.
    • In Section 46.2-1050, the code states that operable radar detectors are prohibited on any personal motor vehicle, including motorcycles.
    • While on roadways, according to Section 46.2-910, it is mandatory that all motorcycle operators and their passengers wear a protective helmet which has met or exceeded the standards and specifications of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, Inc., or the federal Department of Transportation.
    • Unlike automobiles, it is permitted that two motorcycles may drive abreast, sharing a lane while travelling side by side.
    • Turn signals are not required on motorcycles in the Commonwealth.
    • Section 46.2-833 states that motorcycles may cautiously move through non-responsive red lights after two complete cycles of the signal or 120 seconds, whichever is shorter.
    • In Section 46.2-1082, it is written that “no person shall drive a motor vehicle on a highway in the Commonwealth if the vehicle is not equipped with a mirror which reflects to the driver a view of the highway for a distance of not less than 200 feet to the rear of such vehicle.” Motorcycles are not excluded from this requirement.

Call a Virginia Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today

When you’re injured, there is no substitute for experienced legal representation to assist you in getting the compensation you deserve. After reading this informational page, we hope you’ll call our law offices and complete your free initial consultation. Our legal team is standing by to field any questions you may have!