Motorcyclists are much more vulnerable in car accidents than motor vehicle drivers. Even with a helmet and the appropriate gear, motorcyclists can easily sustain catastrophic and life-threatening injuries in an accident, the most common of which include: concussions, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic tattooing.
In many of these cases, the drivers of the motor vehicles walk away from a motorcycle accident unscathed. When someone’s negligence causes a harmful motorcycle accident, the victim may be able to sue the responsible party for his or her medical bills, pain and suffering, and more. If you’re reading this because you’ve recently been involved in a motorcycle accident, call (406) 839-9091 today to speak with one of our experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at Heenan & Cook, PLLC We will be able to help you identify damages and facilitate the process for you while you focus on your recovery.
Quickly Access Motorcycle Accident Information
- What are common causes of motorcycle accidents in Billings?
- Is lane splitting legal in Montana?
- What happens when road hazards are the cause of motorcycle accidents in Montana?
- What should you do immediately after a motorcycle accident?
- How to prove a party was at-fault
- How does an experienced motorcycle accident attorney investigate an accident?
- What type of compensation can you seek in a motorcycle accident?
Motorcycle accidents can result from a multitude of factors. One of the most common causes of fatal motorcycle incidents are negligent drivers. Negligent drivers are those that do not take proper precautions to maintain safe driving conditions on their end. This means taking part in distracted driving practices (texting, eating, watching a show on their phone), driving under the influence, and failing to adhere to proper driving practices. Failing to check your blind spots and/or mirrors while conducting maneuvers like changing lanes and merging often causes dangerous collisions that injure drivers.
Collisions are also caused by unsafe driving conditions. Certain road hazards pose greater risks to motorcyclists than they do to drivers, especially when these hazards are unmarked. Issues like loose gravel, unmarked potholes, dysfunctional traffic lights, and signs with poor visibility all contribute to dangerous riding conditions for motorcyclists.
Dangerous Combination: Motorcyclists and Negligent Drivers
The small size and shape of motorcycles make them much less visible than standard vehicles. If a driver fails to pay proper attention to the road while making turns, merging lanes, or pulling out onto the road, he or she can easily strike an unsuspecting motorcyclist. Drivers who are eating, drinking, smoking, texting, talking, or playing with the radio are much more likely not to see a motorcycle on the road. Distracted, careless, and negligent drivers cause thousands of bike crashes every year.
If a negligent driver causes a motorcycle crash, the victim may be able to prove his or her case with help from experienced motorcycle accident lawyers. The team at Heenan & Cook, PLLC, can investigate the causes of the crash, speak to witnesses, and hire experts to testify on the victim’s behalf. We can gain access to the driver’s phone records to help prove he or she was texting, talking, or using social media at the time of the crash. We can use highway video footage, police reports, photos of the scene, and other important pieces of evidence as applicable.
In 2017, the state of Montana introduced a bill that would allow motorcyclists to engage in lane splitting, the act of riding in between lanes and cars on roadways. However, this bill did not come to pass. Lane splitting is still illegal in the state of Montana as of 2018.
Many motorcycle accidents are single-vehicle crashes in which the motorcyclist loses control of their bike. Despite there being no other driver involved, these types of crashes are not always the sole fault of the motorcyclist. Many road hazards can pose threats to motorcyclists, including loose gravel, potholes, malfunctioning stoplights, and stop signs hidden by overgrown shrubbery.
In some cases, a negligent municipality may be liable for these motorcycle accidents. The accident victim would need to prove the entity in charge of maintaining the roadway knew or reasonably should have known about the hazardous condition and did nothing to prevent injury.
In Montana, we follow modified comparative negligence laws when it comes to assigning fault for motor vehicle accidents. Modified comparative negligence means that as long as you are deemed less than 50 percent at fault, you can still be awarded for damages. So, motorcyclists in single-vehicle crashes can obtain compensation even if they were partially responsible. For example, if you were speeding but a patch of loose gravel left over from roadway construction made you lose traction and crash, the courts may still award you partial compensation.
After an accident, it is essential to make sure that emergency services are rendered if either party sustained severe injury. Even in cases where neither party needs to visit the ER, you should still call the police. Your police report can be an important while building your case.
After calling the police, exchange information with the other party. This means asking for their insurance information, their contact information, and taking down their car’s license plate and vehicle identification number.
Once you’ve accomplished the previous two tasks, gather evidence. Look for eye witnesses, take pictures of the damage, and even write down an account of what happened. All of this information can be used when communicating with a lawyer and/or claims adjustors while negotiating your settlement.
Proving that a party is at-fault in a Billings motorcycle accident involves proving the third-party’s negligence. This means that the plaintiff must provide evidence that supports the following criteria:
- The defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff. In this case, that means to provide safe driving conditions for not just the motorcyclist, but all drivers on the road.
- The defendant directly breached this duty to the plaintiff by taking part in some form of negligence. This could be executing unsafe driving practices or failing to provide safe road conditions.
- The defendant’s actions directly caused the incident that resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, a distracted driver (negligence) might swerve into a motorcyclist (incident), causing them to fall off their bike (injuries).
Building your case involves investigating the accident and obtaining any relevant pieces of documentation, information, or witness testimony that backs your claim that the accident was negligence-based. This can often be achieved by utilizing a skilled attorney.
Motorcycle investigations fall under vehicular-related accidents, meaning your experienced lawyer will provide the following services as necessary to build your case:
- Requesting and review police reports to identify witnesses
- Contacting and interviewing witnesses
- Pulling traffic tapes
- Pulling driver call records for confirmation of potential distracted driving
- Requesting 911 call records to establish a timeline of the accident
- Contacting expert witnesses to gain relevant information about your injuries or other technical aspects of the case
- Reviewing your evidence (pictures of the scene, your own account)
- Visiting the accident scene
The investigation process typically reveals each party’s general percentage of fault in causing the accident, which is extremely helpful when determining how much you should accept in terms of settlement offers.
After a motorcycle accident, you can claim the following damages:
- Immediate medical bills
- Recurring medical bills (medication, physical therapy, replaceable medical equipment)
- Lost wages for time spent recovering
- Diminished ability to earn wages, if the accident resulted in disability
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium (or a loved one) in wrongful death scenarios
You can claim compensation for the full range of damages associated with the accident, including both physical and emotional damage.
Defective Motorcycle Parts Causing Accidents
Another potential cause of a motorcycle accident are defective parts. Vehicle manufacturers and distributors are often defendants in bike accident cases for producing defective or inherently dangerous motorcycle parts. During a product liability case, the plaintiff does not have to show proof of the manufacturer’s negligence. The plaintiff must only prove a part was defective, and this defect caused the accident.
Whether your motorcycle accident case takes the form of a product liability lawsuit or a suit against a negligent motor vehicle driver, the motorcycle accident attorneys at Heenan & Cook, PLLC, are here to offer professional legal counsel. We have helped residents of Billings, Montana protect their rights after harmful motor vehicle accidents for more than 40 years. To find out what we may be able to do for you, contact us online or call (406) 651-8888.