Accidents involving motorcycles are on the rise in British Columbia and so it is essential that both car drivers and motorcyclists are mindful of the risks involved in sharing the road. If you or a family member have been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, it is important that you are aware of your rights, including what liability issues are involved and your eligibility to file a personal injury claim.
Accident Causes Motorcycle accidents usually occur as the result of negligence and the accidents are not necessarily caused by the motorcycle driver themselves. Unfortunately, there is a trend of car drivers not paying attention to motorcycles. Examples can include; the opening of car doors without looking, changing lanes without checking the blind spot, vehicles turning left, sudden stops, impaired driving (related to alcohol, drugs, or use of personal devices), and hit and run accidents. This can be due to a lack of awareness of how motorcycles operate, or sometimes due to a certain hesitance by car drivers when motorcycles approach their vehicles, especially at high speeds. Regardless, motorcycle operators need to exercise a high degree of caution when sharing the road with car drivers. They need to be aware that car drivers often follow motorcycles too closely on the road, and give themselves extra room when maneuvering between cars. Higher Risk of Accidents As a result of higher risks, motorcyclists are over-represented in road trauma statistics. While motorcycles in B.C. only make up approximately 3% of insured vehicles, they are involved in approximately 10% of road fatalities. Further, between 1996 and 2010, motorcycle fatalities increased 57% in the province. This rate is even higher for motorcyclists under the age of 25. In order to prevent injurious and fatal motorcycle accidents, it is important to understand why motorcyclists are often the most vulnerable parties on the road, in comparison to drivers of other type of vehicles. Due to their small and very narrow shape, motorcycles are often hard for other vehicle operators on the road to see. Since motorcycles have only two points of contact with the road, an extremely high degree of expertise and skillful control is required on the part of the driver, in order to maintain constant balance and traction. Finally, there is no impact protection provided by a motorcycle, so that when a collision occurs, the driver is completely exposed. Legislative Amendments The B.C. Motor Vehicle Act defines motorcycle as “motorcycle” as a motor vehicle that runs on 2 or 3 wheels and has a saddle or seat for the driver to sit astride. In 2012, several important amendments to the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act were brought into force. These amendments were created in response to the increasing concern over the high number of fatalities on B.C. roads, especially in the preceding five years leading up to the amendments. In those 5 years alone, there were 203 motorcyclists killed on B.C. roads, while 5,172 were injured. As a result, all motorcyclists and motorcycle passengers must now wear a helmet that meets designated safety standards. Further, they must produce their helmets on demand to a peace officer. The driver of the motorcycle must be seated astride the driver’s seat, while passengers must be seated behind the operator, astride the passenger’s seat with feet on foot pegs or floorboards, or be properly seated in a side car. Damages If the injuries sustained by you or by your family member as a result of a motorcycle crash were severe, it is possible that a high quantum of damages may be awarded. For example, in the 2012 B.C. Supreme Court case Jarmson v. Jacobsen, the defendant was found responsible for causing a crash that seriously injured the plaintiff and his daughter, who were riding on the plaintiff’s motorcycle. In this instance, the plaintiff sustained a shoulder injury, a knee injury, as well as a traumatic brain injury. As a result, the court found that these injuries were severe enough that his future earnings and personal life would be significantly impacted and that, in turn, the damages should reflect this. The total of his damages was just over $1,000,000 including a special in-trust claim for the daughter and an award of $230,000 in non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering). Additional Coverage Options ICBC’s Autoplan insurance coverage is required for a motorcycle in B.C. The basic Autoplan protection includes accident benefits, such as medical expenses and rehabilitation costs. It also includes Third Party Liability coverage up to $200,000 for damages claimed by other drivers against you, if you were the at-fault driver. However, there are also a variety of additional coverage options available. These premium coverages are additional safeguards for motorcyclists. While the basic Autoplan includes up to $200,000 in Third Party Liability coverage, the costs of a serious accident could potentially be much higher, and you could be responsible for the difference. As such, additional third party liability insurance coverage of at least $1 million for all drivers is the current minimum recommended. This supplementary coverage would provide additional coverage for you if you are sued as the at-fault driver in a motorcycle crash. Filing a Claim In order to pursue a claim, a lawsuit can be filed against the driver who may have injured you while you were on your motorcycle. If it is determined that the driver who struck you was acting in a negligent manner, you will have a claim against them. This can include the types of unsafe driving practices mentioned above, such as car drivers crowding motorcyclists on the road. Conversely, if you were the at-fault driver, you may need to defend a claim against yourself. In these types of lawsuits, expert testimony will be required. However, before the claim is even pursued, a thorough accident investigation will have to be conducted in order to complete a proper accident reconstruction. It is sometimes necessary utilize engineers in order to create re-enactments of the accidents. Medical opinions by health professionals may also be required. In order to proceed, guidance on whether you are eligible to file a claim may be sought through a personal injury lawyer consultation. A personal injury lawyer in Vancouver, Surrey or Burnaby who has experience in these highly specialized and complex actions is highly recommended. At Bronson Jones & Company LLP, our lawyers have the expertise needed for a motorcycle accident claim. We are specialized in personal injury motor vehicle accident claims and will review the details of your motorcycle accident. No fees are required up front at our firm and instead we charge a contingency fee when the damages are recovered. A personal injury lawyer at our Surrey location or our 12 other offices can provide you with a free consultation. Contact us today at Bronson Jones & Company LLP.