Fatal Motorcycle Accidents in Virginia

Experienced motorcycle drivers understand the importance of safety on the roadways, often wearing protective gear such as helmets, goggles, and leathers or armored jackets, as well as keeping a close watch on surrounding vehicles. Unfortunately, even the most skilled rider may be unable to fully predict or anticipate the actions of other drivers. Because of the lack of protection a motorcycle provides, even a seemingly minor auto collision can be deadly for a motorcyclist, resulting in the potential for a wrongful death claim.

Of all the registered vehicles on the roadway, motorcycles make up only about 3 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  This small percentage of vehicles, however, accounted for 14 percent of all highway traffic fatalities in 2011.  Nationally, more than 4,600 motorcycle drivers were killed that year. In Virginia alone, the motorcycle accident death toll reached 90, with the majority of the accidents occurring in Fairfax County, Chesterfield County, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Richmond.

Fatal Motorcycle Injuries

Motorcycle injuries can range from road rash and bruising to permanent mental or physical disability or even death. While some of these injuries can heal with the proper medical treatment, many leave the accident victim in need of life-long medical assistance. Some of the most common injuries for motorcyclists include the following:

  • Scrapes and lacerations
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Broken bones
  • Back injuries
  • Loss of limbs

Study of crash data indicates that motorcycle drivers five times more likely than other drivers to suffer injury in an accident, but they are more than 30 times more likely to die as the result of injuries sustained in a traffic collision.

Common Motorcycle Accidents

There are certain types of accidents that are more common for collisions involving a motorcycle. Listed below are some of the top causes of motorcycle accidents which can often have deadly consequences:

  • A vehicle turns left in front of the motorcyclist: Quite possibly the most common type of motorcycle accident, a car or truck often fails to see the motorcyclist or improperly judges speed or distance and makes a left hand turn at an intersection, cutting off the motorcycle operator, thus resulting in a collision.
  • Front brake lock: When coming to a sudden stop on a motorcycle, hitting the front brakes too hard can result in the driver getting thrown over the handlebars.
  • Speeding: When speeds become excessive, a motorcyclist may be unable to properly maneuver through a tight curve or sharp corner, or to avoid debris in the road, causing them to lose control of their bike.
  • Intoxicated driving: A driver who is impaired by alcohol and/or drugs is a danger on the roadway, no matter what type of vehicle he or she is operating. Of all the motorcyclists killed on the roadways in 2010, more than one-quarter of them were legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or greater, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • A vehicle rear-ends a motorcycle: Automobile drivers are more attuned to the sight of brake lights on other cars and trucks.  When an auto operator fails to notice that a motorcycle is stopped, a “fender bender” with a motorcyclist can produce deadly results.
  • Riding in a group: When a group of motorcyclists are riding together, it is not uncommon for one of the bikes to suddenly stop or swerve for various reasons, causing a chain-reaction of crashes within the group.
  • A vehicle improperly changes lanes: Because motorcycles are considerably smaller than standard passenger cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles, and tractor trailers, it is easy for them to get “lost” in a vehicle’s blind spot. When quickly glancing in the rearview mirror before changing lanes, an automobile driver may fail to see a nearby motorcycle. Changing lanes without taking care to adequately check blind spots can cause an automobile driver to veer into the motorcyclist, causing a potentially fatal crash.
  • Roadway debris: When rounding a blind curve, or speeding too fast for proper reaction time, a motorcyclist may be unable to avoid gravel, sand, or other roadway debris, causing the front wheel of the bike to slip and the operator to lose control.
  • Inclement weather: Just like with any other motor vehicle, rain, sleet, and snow can cause dangerous and slippery roadway conditions for a motorcycle. Heavy downpours can also limit the visibility of nearby vehicles, making it difficult for the drivers to notice an unexpected motorcyclist cruising in the rain.
  • An opened car door: A car door that is abruptly swung open on the side of a road can cause a biker to crash into the door and get thrown from his or her bike.

Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Serving Virginia

The family and loved ones left grieving after a fatal motorcycle accident are often overwhelmed by the emotional, psychological, and financial turmoil of their unexpected loss. Unsure of their legal rights, many fail to hold those responsible for the accident liable for the carelessness, recklessness, or negligence that led to the death of their loved one. Experienced and compassionate legal representation is available through the knowledgeable staff of wrongful death lawyers at our firm.  If your loved one was killed in a motorcycle accident because of another person’s preventable driver error, call our office today to schedule a free consultation.