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Motorcycle Accidents vs. Car Accidents — What’s the Difference?

An open road is a dangerous place. At any given moment, there are 218 million cars, large trucks, and motorcycles traveling on the road, according to IHS Automotive. These drivers commute to and from work, transport goods, and take vacations.

Unfortunately, all of these drivers on the road means a greater chance of getting into an accident. In one recent year, 6.4 million accidents occurred in the United States, resulting in injury, property damage, or death.

If you ride a motorcycle or drive a car, these accidents can completely up-end your life. While there are some similarities between car and motorcycle accidents, there are significant differences. Motorcyclists often suffer more severe injuries due to the lack of protection. They also face unfair biases when trying to collect compensation.

For these reasons, injured bikers need to contact a law firm that understands the differences between motorcycle and car accidents. They need a motorcycle accident lawyer with experience representing injured motorcyclists who know what they’re up against.

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Why Choose Us

At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our Arkansas motorcycle accident lawyers know that motorcyclists need a different level of legal representation. Our attorneys realize that every aspect of the legal process changes when a motorcyclist gets injured—investigating, gathering evidence, and negotiating a fair settlement become more complex.

With over 40 years of experience representing injured motorcyclists in Arkansas, you can rest easier knowing you have a team of professional litigators fighting for you and your family after a severe injury accident.

If you or someone you love suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident, you need a trusted personal injury law firm on your side from the beginning.

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How Are Motorcycle Accidents Different Than Car Accidents?

Injuries Sustained

One of the main ways motorcycle accidents differ from car accidents is in injury severity. Motorcyclists suffer serious and often fatal injuries in crashes due to the lack of protection.

Today’s cars contain various safety features designed to reduce the number of fatalities on the road. Newer cars have anti-lock brakes, extensive airbag systems, seatbelts, electronic stability control, tire pressure monitors, and collision warning systems. They have backup and side-view cameras; many even come with pedestrian detection systems.

On the other hand, motorcycles do not have many safety features. No seatbelts or airbags, or steel cage keeps you safe from harm. Instead, motorcyclists must rely on helmets and protective riding suits.

Because motorcycles offer very little protection in the event of an accident, riders are much more likely to suffer broken bones, road rash, and other serious injuries than people in cars. These more serious injuries can lead to higher medical bills and longer recovery times, which can significantly impact your case.

Collecting Compensation

Insurance companies also treat motorcycle accident claims differently than car accident claims. Many insurance adjusters have internal biases against motorcyclists. They may see them as reckless or daredevils and try to reduce their compensation by claiming that the biker contributed to the accident.

In addition, since motorcycle accident injuries are often more severe and life-threatening, many adjusters try to offer quick lowball settlements to injured bikers. They hope this lowball settlement will get accepted because they know the long-term issues the motorcyclist may face. They don’t want injured motorcyclists to realize how long their recovery might take.

For these reasons, negotiating a fair motorcycle claim can be complicated and requires an experienced law firm with the skills and resources necessary to tackle them.

How They Happen

Another difference between motorcycle and car accidents is how they happen. Car accidents are usually the result of one driver being distracted or failing to follow the rules of the road.

Many motorcycle accidents are caused by other drivers, not by motorcyclists themselves. This is because other drivers often fail to see motorcyclists on the road, which can cause drivers to pull out in front of them or rear-end them at traffic lights.

Damage to the Bike

One of the main ways motorcycle accidents differ from car accidents is in the damage done. Often, a motorcycle will be totaled in an accident, while a car will only sustain cosmetic damage. This is because motorcycles are much smaller and lighter than cars, so they don’t stand up as well to a collision.

This difference in damage can impact your case in two ways. First, it means that you may not be able to ride your bike again after the accident, which can significantly impact your life if you rely on your bike for transportation or pleasure. Second, it means that repairing or replacing your motorcycle is likely to be much more expensive than fixing a car would be.

Motorcycle Accident Statistics

  • According to the Insurance Information Institute, 83,000 motorcyclists were injured, and 5,579 lost their lives in 2020 alone.
  • Motorcyclists are 6x more likely to suffer fatal injuries than car passengers.
  • There were over 8.3 registered motorcycles in the country.
  • Per vehicle miles traveled, motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to be killed in a traffic crash than passenger car occupants. They account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities.
  • Motorcyclists are more likely to get into a fatal accident on weekends and between 12 and 9 pm.
  • Surprisingly, most fatal motorcycle accidents occur between 6 and 9 pm.
  • Thirty-six percent of motorcycle riders who lost their lives in accidents in 2020 were riding without valid motorcycle licenses.
  • In 2020, motorcyclists who died in crashes had higher percentages of alcohol impairment than drivers of any other motor vehicle type (NHTSA).
  • In States without universal helmet laws, 57 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2020 were not wearing helmets.
  • In States with universal helmet laws, only 11 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2020 were not wearing helmets.

Car Accident Statistics

  • In 2020, 54,272 fatal car accidents occurred. Seventy-six percent of those accidents involved passenger cars.
  • According to the NHTSA, 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants died in accidents in 2020, a 6.5-percent increase from 2019.
  • An estimated 2,034,844 passenger vehicle occupants suffered injuries in those accidents.
  • Passenger vehicles account for 92 percent of all registered vehicles
  • In fatal car accidents in 2020, 57 percent of occupants killed were in passenger cars. Forty-three percent were in light trucks.
  • Occupants in passenger cars are 3.1x more likely to suffer a fatal injury in a head-on collision than those in light trucks.
  • An estimated 9.1 million vehicles got into police-reported accidents in 2020. Ninety-three percent of those were passenger cars.

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

LEFT TURN ACCIDENT WITH MOTORCYCLEUnlike car accidents, motorcycle accidents are often caused by other drivers failing to recognize the motorcyclist on the road. Some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents include:

  • Cars making left-hand turns – This is the number one cause of motorcycle accidents, and a shocking 42 percent of all motorcycle accidents involve a driver turning left into the path of an oncoming motorcyclist.
  • Alcohol use – In 2016, 25 percent of all motorcycle fatalities were caused by a drunk motorcyclist or drunk driver. An intoxicated driver may be less likely to recognize an oncoming motorcyclist or not even see a motorcyclist at an intersection. The results can be deadly.
  • Speeding – Approximately half of all motorcycle accidents involve excessive speed or alcohol use.
  • Collision with fixed objects – Motorcyclists are at an increased risk of suffering fatal injuries when they collide with a fixed object. Hitting a fixed object, such as a tree or light pole, accounts for 25 percent of all fatal motorcycle accidents. In comparison, hitting a fixed object in a car accounts for only 18 percent of all deadly crashes.

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Motorcycle Accident Safety Tips

Motorcyclists cannot avoid every accident, even when they follow all the rules of the road. However, there are some ways a motorcyclist can reduce the risk of getting into a serious accident.

Riding Defensively and Bike Safety

  • Keep your tires inflated properly
  • Perform regular maintenance on your motorcycle
  • Avoid riding in inclement weather
  • Always obey the speed limit
  • Never tailgate or ride in-between traffic
  • Never drive drunk
  • Never drive under the influence of drugs
  • Avoid riding when fatigued
  • Never ride in a vehicle’s blind spot
  • Use extra caution when riding through intersections
  • Ride defensively and be aware of other drivers at all times

Motorcycle Helmet and Clothes

One of the best ways to prevent injury is to wear a DOT-approved motorcycle helmet. In states without universal helmet laws, 57 percent of motorcyclists killed in accidents were not wearing a helmet at the time of a crash. In states with universal helmet laws, just 8 percent of motorcyclists killed were not wearing a helmet. The NHTSA estimates that 1,872 motorcyclists would still be alive in 2017 had they worn helmets.

In addition to wearing a DOT-approved helmet at all times, motorcycle clothes and safety gear can also help avoid serious injury.

  • Wear bright or reflective clothing at all times
  • Wear Kevlar or leather suit when riding to protect against road rash
  • Wear motorcycle boots or leather closed-toe shoes
  • Wear eye protection, such as goggles

Car and Motorcycle Accident Injuries

Motorcyclists suffer much more severe injuries than car drivers and occupants. The human body cannot withstand the brutal forces of a car accident or motorcycle crash. When a motorcyclist is involved in a car accident, they are often thrown from their bikes into other objects, vehicles, and oncoming traffic.

Statistics show that motorcyclists have a 98 percent chance of suffering an injury when they get into an accident. They’re also 26 times more likely to die in an accident than passenger vehicle occupants and are five times more likely to be hurt.

Some of the most common motorcycle accident injuries include