If you or your loved one was a victim of an alcohol-related motorcycle accident, we invite you to contact us at the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney for help. We are the go-to law firm if you are looking for a reliable, competent, and trustworthy personal injury attorney in Orange County.
We will help you hold accountable drunk motorists for their negligent acts. Our primary goal is to enable injured motorcyclists to receive fair compensation so that they can remedy the hardships and losses they suffered.
We have found out that intoxication is a leading cause of motorcycle accidents in California. Intoxication significantly contributes to the occurrence of fatal vehicle-motorcycle accidents.
In this article, we will analyze some startling alcohol-related motorcycle accident statistics and list the most common injuries sustained in this type of crash. We will also explain how intoxication can lead to a motorcycle crash and how you can explore various legal options for compensation. Let’s get started!
Alcohol-Related Motorcycle Accident Statistics
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that one person dies every 50 minutes due to an alcohol-related accident. In 2016, 28% of all accidents in the United States were caused by intoxicated driving, resulting in 10,497 deaths.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 5172 motorbike riders died in the year 2017. Also, in the same year, as per the Insurance Information Institute (III), there were a total of up to 89,000 injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents. One thousand seven hundred four motorcyclists died due to alcohol-impaired collisions.
The NHTSA illustrates that intoxication is a leading cause of motorcycle accidents in the United States. A motorcycle accident can occur if either the motorcyclist or a motor vehicle driver is intoxicated. For instance, in 2013, 28% of motorcycle riders who died in accidents were found to be having high blood-alcohol concentration. On the other hand, in the same year, 23% of passenger vehicle drivers, 21% of small truck drivers, and 2% of large truck drivers were found to be intoxicated at motorcycle accident scenes.
Also, as per the NHTSA, alcohol-related motorcycle accidents frequently occur at night, especially during the weekends. This is when most people go to clubs and parties to unwind and relax, and end up attempting to drive themselves home while intoxicated.
According to the Southern California News Group, the number of motorcycle accidents in California is continuously increasing. For instance, in the year 1994, there were only 2,320 motorcycle accidents in California. This number shot up to 5,286 in 2016.
California is among the top 15 states that have the highest number of fatalities for motorcycle accidents. The most common causes of motorcycle accidents include impaired driving, distracted driving, and excessive speed.
Also, most motorcycle crashes involved single-vehicles. 26% of injured motorcycle drivers had a BAC that was or exceeded 26%.
How Drunk Driving Causes Motorcycle Accidents
A car, bus, or truck driver who is intoxicated can cause a motorcycle accident. Also, a motorcyclist who is driving while under the influence of alcohol can cause a collision.
In California, an individual should not have a BAC that is or exceeds 0.08% while driving. However, scientific research has shown that even BAC levels below 0.08% can result in accidents. A driver may not show physical signs of impairment, but this doesn’t mean that he/she cannot cause an accident. Note that an individual can be convicted for DUI even if he/she didn't exceed California's prescribed BAC limits, provided that the Department of Prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he/she was intoxicated.
Individuals who are most likely to cause motorcycle accidents are those who practice binge drinking or have alcohol addiction problems. Such individuals can consume large amounts of alcohol within a short period, making them more prone to becoming involved in accidents.
Alcohol can be absorbed in an individual’s bloodstream within 30–120 minutes. During this period, your breathing rate will slow down, and you will lose some of your cognitive skills. This is why it is dangerous to drive after drinking.
Generally, alcohol affects an individual’s ability to drive. For a person to drive properly and carefully, he/she must have a high concentration, good judgment, and fast reaction time. Alcohol will make him/her lose these qualities. This will increase the risk of an accident. Here is a comprehensive explanation as to how alcohol can affect an individual’s driving skills:
1. Reduced Reaction Time
Alcohol absorbed into the bloodstream of an individual can reduce his/her reaction time. A person who is driving while intoxicated cannot quickly respond to various situations that may arise while on the road. This may easily result in a crash.
For instance, a motor vehicle driver may find it difficult to stop when he/she sees a motorcyclist crossing the street. This is because he/she has a slower reaction time, and his/her brain will take longer to process how the situation is and prevent a crash.
2. Poor Coordination
Heavy drinking can affect an individual’s motor skills, including foot, hand, and eye coordination. Without these coordination skills, a motor vehicle driver may find it difficult to avoid a roadside hazard.
Some examples of telltale symptoms of poor coordination include swaying, trouble walking, and difficulty in standing straight. Moreover, a motor vehicle driver who has taken a lot of alcohol may even find difficulties in getting inside the car and igniting it.
3. Reduced Concentration
Alcohol reduces an individual’s concentration capacity, regardless of the amount taken. Generally, driving requires undivided concentration. A motor vehicle driver needs high concentration to stay in the correct lane, avoid driving over the speed limit, and to observe traffic signals.
If an individual has poor concentration, his/her attention span is reduced. This increases the risk of a collision.
4. Decreased Vision
Excessive consumption of alcohol can reduce an individual’s vision. After an individual has taken alcohol, he/she may have a blurred vision. Also, the person may find it difficult to control his/her eye movement.
When a motor vehicle driver has impaired vision, he/she may not see a motorcyclist approaching. Therefore, the driver may hit the motorcyclist, resulting in an accident.
5. Inhibition of Judgment
Typically, an impaired motor vehicle driver has poor judgment. This is because alcohol affects the control processes of the brain.
An individual’s judgment skills play a significant role as to how he/she makes decisions. A motorist must foresee potential hazards, and plan how to avoid them. For instance, a car driver should yield to the right of way when he/she notices a motorcyclist. If the driver has poor judgment, he/she may attempt to cut off the motorcyclist. Moreover, he/she may not be able to stay alert. This makes him/her completely unaware of the surrounding conditions, including potential hazards.
The Most Common Types of Alcohol-Related Motorcycle Accidents
The following are the most common types of alcohol-related motorcycle accidents in California:
- Head-on collision – A motor vehicle driver may fall asleep or become drowsy while behind the wheel. This may make him/her veer into an oncoming motorcyclist.
- Rear-end collision – An impaired motor vehicle driver has a slow reaction time. This means that he/she cannot quickly react when a motorcyclist stops abruptly or slows down while in front of him/her. This will make the driver rear-end the motorcyclist.
- Striking accident – A person who is driving while under the influence of alcohol has poor visibility. He/she may not see a motorcyclist driving alongside him/her. The impaired driver can strike the motorcyclist accidentally, making him/her suffer catastrophic injuries or even die.
- Wrong-way collisions – An impaired driver can’t read, understand, and obey traffic signs. Such a driver may not realize that he/she is on the wrong way, possibly in a one-way lane, or a highway exit or entrance. This increases the likelihood of a motorcycle accident.
Common Injuries in an Alcohol-Related Motorcycle Accident
As a motorcyclist, you may sustain either simple or fatal injuries when involved in a crash. Generally, simple injuries are more prevalent in comparison to fatal injuries. In fact, according to the NHTSA, the most common type of injury sustained in a motorcycle accident is road rash. This is hard to believe, right?
But, alcohol-related motorcycle accidents mostly result in catastrophic injuries. This is because they are majorly caused by motor vehicle drivers, who may rear-end, side-end, or hit motorcyclists. In these accidents, motorcyclists and their passengers end up sustaining grievous bodily injuries because they are unprotected. Their counterparts, the motor vehicle drivers, may come out of the accident scene with little or no injuries.
Below, we break down for you what you are most likely to sustain if you are involved in an alcohol-related motorcycle accident:
1. Muscle Damage
A human being has at least 600 muscles, and each one of them can be damaged in an accident. The degree and extent of muscle damage typically depend on the impact force of the crash.
A motorcyclist may experience just a simple sprain, or his/her muscle tissue may be torn. Muscle damage injuries may take several days or a couple of weeks to heal, depending on the strength of an individual’s immune system.
2. Biker’s Arm
The term biker’s arm refers to an arm injury that frequently occurs in a motorcycle accident. You can fit this arm injury into various categories, including bruises, tendons, muscle injuries, broken bones, or fractures.
When a motorcyclist notices that an oncoming motor vehicle is about to hit him/her, he/she may put his/her arms down to break the fall. This act is the one that results in the arm injury.
3. Leg Injuries
Leg injuries may include muscle injuries, bruises, breaks, sprains, and cuts. When a motorcyclist is riding, his/her feet are close to the ground. This means that the feet will most likely be the first body part to touch the ground in the event of a fall.
Most leg injuries are simple, and they do not require extensive treatment. But, some of them may tend to be severe if the feet come into contact with foreign objects on the ground, including gravel, asphalt, and hot exhaust pipes. Severe leg injuries may need skin grafts and surgeries, making the victim spend a lot of money, time, and resources on recovery.
4. Head Injuries
A motorcyclist can sustain a head injury in a crash, even if he/she had put on a helmet. According to the NHTSA, protective gear reduces the risk of head injuries, but it can't eliminate the possibility of sustaining one in the event of an accident.
Head injuries are prevalent in alcohol-related motorcycle accidents that have a high-impact force. The severity might be just a single bump, a tiny cut, or even a concussion or a traumatic brain injury.
Traumatic brain injuries are life-threatening, and they may diminish the victim’s quality of life. A motorcyclist who has sustained a traumatic brain injury may have to rely on others for life to perform the most mundane tasks, including eating, bathing, or dressing up.
Also, the eardrum is prone to sustaining injuries in a motorcycle accident. A motorcyclist who is hit on the side by a car, truck, or bus may fall on his/her ears, and therefore affect the eardrum. This may result in permanent or temporary hearing deficit or, in the most unfortunate circumstances, a complete loss of the ability to hear.
5. Facial Injuries
Helmets also help in the prevention of facial injuries. But, it is only a full-sized helmet that can effectively protect the face, though you may still sustain a bruise, cut, or even a concussion if the crash has a high impact force.
In some instances, you may experience facial scarring and disfigurement, as well as teeth damage. This means that you may have to spend a lot of money on plastic surgery or endure the emotional trauma and social stigma that comes with this type of injury for the rest of your life.
6. Spinal Injuries
Spinal injuries do not frequently occur in alcohol-related motorcycle accidents. However, a motorcyclist can sustain a spinal injury, including slipped discs, if he/she is thrown over the motorcycle's handlebars and lands onto the ground in a collision. Spinal injuries may become more severe if the motorcyclist hits another larger or fixed object, such as a guard rail or tree. The long-term effect of these spinal injuries may be either permanent or temporary disability or paralysis.
7. Road Rash
If a motorcyclist falls off from the bike and onto the ground, his/her skin will come into contact with the pavement if it is unprotected. The term ‘road rash’ refers to any skin and bone abrasions that an individual can sustain in a motorcycle accident. These injuries may result in permanent scarring or make the victims undergo costly skin-graft treatment procedures.
8. Burn Injuries
A motorcyclist can sustain serious burns when involved in an accident. These burns may occur if the motor vehicle gas tank spills, and the spilled gas interacts with other foreign objects and causes a fire. Extremely severe burn injuries may require skin grafts for the victim to resume a normal life.
What to do When Involved in an Alcohol-Related Motorcycle Accident
There are crucial steps that you should take when involved in an alcohol-related motorcycle accident. These steps will help you in proving your claim. Here is what you should do after a motorcycle accident:
1. Collect Contact Details
You should record the contact information of any person present in the accident scene, including the motor vehicle driver, other injured individuals, and eyewitnesses. Make sure you jot down their names, residential addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information. This contact information should be kept in a safe place. It will be quite useful when filing and proving your claim.
If possible, you can take several photographs of the accident scene. These photos should be taken from various angles, and they should capture the vehicle’s license plate.
2. Contact the Police
Call the police and inform them that you have been involved in an accident. Explain to them your exact physical location and request for medical help too.
When the police arrive at the accident scene, they may try to identify the liable party. Often, a law enforcement officer may subject an intoxicated driver to a field sobriety test or a DUI chemical breath test. If the driver fails this test, he/she will be put under arrest. You can use your smartphone to take a video of how the driver conducts himself/herself during these tests.
Also, you should request the law enforcement officer to give you a copy of the police report. When you get the report, make sure you read it comprehensively. If you notice any errors, you should inform the officer who investigated the accident scene and request him/her to correct it as soon as possible. Don't procrastinate asking for corrections, because the investigating officer’s memory about the accident may be short-lived, and he/she may refuse to correct it if you delay.
Moreover, jot down the investigating officer’s identity information. Your personal injury attorney may use it to contact him/her to solicit any further details about the accident.
3. Talk to Eyewitnesses
You will require witnesses when proving your claim in a California court. Note that the standard of proof in California personal injury cases is on a balance of probabilities, and the burden of proof is on the plaintiff.
If it is possible, you can interview all the people present in the accident scene, and record what they say. Also, you should get their contact information.
4. Do Not Admit Fault
Do not apologize or admit fault at an accident scene, even if you believe that you were fully or partly responsible for it. If you do so, you will incriminate yourself.
The defendant can use what you say while at the accident scene to escape liability. This means that you won’t receive compensation for your injuries.
Compensation for Victims of Alcohol-Related Motorcycle Accidents
If you successfully prove your claim in a California court, the jury can award you up to three types of damages. These damages include special, general, and punitive damages.
Special damages are also known as economic damages. They are primarily meant to compensate for losses that can be quantified monetarily. Typically, special damages cover for the victim’s medical bills and lost wages.
For you to prove that you are entitled to special damages, you must adduce evidence showing that you sustained injuries that required medical attention. You will have to show the jury copies of your medical reports and bills. Also, you will be required to demonstrate how the injuries prevented you from working or running your business. You will have to adduce evidence showing how many work or business hours you missed, and the financial implications of being absent.
On the other hand, general damages are also referred to as non-economic damages. They cover for losses that cannot be explained in financial terms, including mental anguish, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering. General damages are largely issued as per the jury’s discretion.
California courts rarely award punitive damages. They are only awarded in situations where the plaintiff has sufficient proof to show that the defendant acted extremely maliciously and with a blatant disregard for human life. For instance, you can receive punitive damages if the defendant was a repeat felony DUI convict.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits for Alcohol-Related Motorcycle Accidents
Unfortunately, your loved one can die in an alcohol-related motorcycle accident. He/she can die immediately after the collision or while seeking medical attention.
In this situation, you can institute a wrongful death claim for compensation. Wrongful death claims usually have a high-dollar value. Damages for the victim's wrongful death customarily covers the total medical expenses, lost and future earnings, as well as burial and funeral expenses.
Find an Orange County Motorcycle Accident Attorney Near Me
We at the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney have extensive experience in representing alcohol-related motorcycle accident injury victims. Don’t risk your future by attempting to file a claim by yourself, or accepting the first settlement offer from an insurance company. Call us today at 714-876-1959 for a free case evaluation.