view of Los Angeles at sunriseAfter a Motorcycle Crash in California

Motorcycles are a popular form of transportation in Los Angeles County, as it is an efficient and cost-effective way of getting around the city. Unfortunately, our Orange County auto accident attorney says, this also means that motorcycle crashes occur at an alarming rate in Pasadena, Torrance, Long Beach, and throughout the LA metro area.

If you or someone you love has been hurt in a motorcycle accident in LA County, there are some essential facts that you should know —including how to exercise your legal right to compensation for your losses.

The High Rate of Motorcycle Accidents in LA County

There are a few reasons LA County sees so many motorcycle crashes each year. Our weather allows for year-round riding, lengthening the average road miles traveled per biker. The high population also contributes to increased crash rates as more people on the road means more vehicles involved in collisions.

Finally, Los Angeles and the surrounding county have some of the most hazardous roads for riders in the nation, with our winding interstates and freeways causing thousands of injuries each year.

In 2020, injury facts from the National Safety Council (NSC) revealed some disturbing trends for LA motorcyclists:

  • California had almost the highest number of motorcycle deaths at 539, second only to Florida.
  • California motorcycle fatalities saw a record low of 276 in 2001, but they have been climbing steadily ever since, with yearly averages of around 525.
  • Motorcycle rider and passenger deaths increased nationwide by 11% between 2019 to 2020 and increased by 20% over the past decade.  
  • Motorcycles make up just 3% of all registered vehicles in the United States but account for 14% of all motor vehicle operator deaths and 18% of occupant fatalities.

What Los Angeles County Motorcycle Riders Need to Know Before Setting Off

Bikers are much more vulnerable compared to other motor vehicle operators on the road. Injuries sustained from motorcycle accidents can have long-term effects on victims and often require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. Even at low speeds, a collision can result in road rash, slipped discs, traumatic brain injury, back pain, internal bleeding, or even permanent paralysis. With this in mind, all bikers need to be aware of local ordinances and remain alert so they can respond to changing road conditions.

Whether you're a weekend rider or a daily commuter, you should know that:

  • We have a "Basic Speed" law. All road users are expected to obey posted limits and respect the maximum speed of California highways (65 mph). However, California has adopted a Basic Speed Law prohibiting any road user from traveling at a pace that is unsafe for current road and weather conditions, regardless of the posted speed limit. Drivers could be liable for negligence if they were going too fast on wet, rough, or congested roadways.
  • Helmets are required. No matter how you feel about riding with a helmet, these simple safety devices have been shown to significantly reduce serious (and often fatal) traumatic brain injuries. California's mandatory helmet law requires riders to wear helmets approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation for every ride.
  • Lane splitting is legal. In 2017, California became the first state to legalize lane splitting. This is the practice of motorcyclists driving between two rows of stopped or slow-moving vehicles. The current safety standard requires operators to practice "safe and prudent" riding while lane splitting and prohibits splitting lanes if it requires crossing two solid yellow lines.

What to Expect After a Motorcycle Crash in LA County

Riders will often file insurance claims to seek payment for their medical bills, lost wages, and other crash costs. California is a "fault" state, so bikers can file insurance claims under the policy of the person who caused the accident.

However, if you suffered lifelong injuries or the person who hit you cannot be found, you may have to pursue a personal injury claim to receive compensation for your losses.

When you make your claim, you should know that:

  • You will have to prove who is liable. The most common cause of motorcycle accidents is driver negligence. This can include anything from distracted driving to drunk driving, as well as failing to follow traffic laws or even failing to yield the right-of-way. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, there could be multiple parties at fault for causing an accident—and it's essential to determine who is liable so that they can be held accountable for their actions.
  • The insurer will likely lowball you. It could take weeks or even months for motorcycle accident victims to realize the full extent of their injuries and the cost it will take to make them whole again. Unfortunately, insurers may push vulnerable victims to accept fast settlements, hoping they will sign away their rights to further compensation.
  • Your actions will be questioned. One of the many ways insurers try to reduce the amount of a claim is to play on "biker bias," insinuating that you played some part in causing the accident. An insurance company might accuse you of driving under the influence, failing to follow the rules of the road, or engaging in risky maneuvers.
Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law