Boasting 3 of the top 5 sunniest cities in the country (Yuma, Phoenix, and Tucson), Arizona is the perfect state to trade in your car for a motorcycle.
Unfortunately, motorcycle riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle and as a result motorcycle accidents are typically more serious than car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that motorcyclist deaths occur 28 times more often than deaths in other vehicles.
If you’re involved in a motorcycle accident—as the motorcyclists or as a motor vehicle driver—it’s important to understand the laws governing motorcycles, the damages that might be available, and how a motorcycle accident may differ from the typical car accident in Arizona.
In 2017, there were 207,610 registered motorcycles in Arizona—an increase of more than 27,000 from 2013. Clearly, riding motorcycles is becoming more popular in the state.
Unfortunately, motorcycle fatalities have also gone up. In 2013, there were 128 fatalities, and in 2017 there were 161 fatalities.
The following is a breakdown of motorcycle crashes by geographic location in 2017:
|Arizona Motorcycle Accidents Statistics
(by type of geographic area)
|Property Damage Only||477||382||95|
Clearly, most motorcycle crashes happen in urban settings such as a city or town.
There’s a well-documented stigma against motorcyclists in the United States. When there’s a motorcycle accident, many people (including insurance companies) assume it was the fault of the motorcyclist. In reality, the majority of motorcycle accidents in Arizona don’t involve any improper actions taken by the motorcyclists.
Some common causes of motorcycle accidents that aren’t the fault of the motorcyclist include:
Nevertheless, there are times when a motorcyclist causes the accident. The chart below shows the various operation violations that led to motorcycle accidents in 2017:
|Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Arizona (2017)|
|Type of Violation Behavior||Total||In Fatal Crashes||In Injury Crashes||In Property-Damage-Only Crashes|
|No Improper Action||1,434||47||1,156||231|
|Speed too Fast for Conditions||699||31||577||91|
|Exceeded Lawful Speed||47||10||35||2|
|Failed to Yield Right-Of-Way||76||4||58||14|
|Followed Too Closely||77||2||53||22|
|Ran Stop Sign||15||0||13||2|
|Disregarded Traffic Signal||26||2||17||7|
|Made Improper Turn||18||0||14||4|
|Drove in Opposing Lane||27||3||17||7|
|Drove Left of Center Line||1||1||0||0|
|Passed in No-Passing Zone||6||1||3||2|
|Unsafe Lane Change||62||4||40||18|
|Failed to Keep in Proper Lane||78||12||60||6|
Motorcyclists, like any other driver, must follow all the Arizona traffic laws. In addition, Arizona has some motorcycle-specific laws that can be found in Title 28 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.
When it comes to laws of the road, motorcyclists and motor vehicle drivers should keep the following in mind:
In addition, there are a number of laws all Arizona motorcyclists must consider before they put the key in the ignition:
Just like motor vehicle drivers, a motorcyclist in Arizona is required to maintain liability insurance. The required minimum amounts of liability coverage in Arizona are:
Failing to maintain the required liability insurance can lead to finds and the suspension of your motorcycle registration and/or driver’s license. Reinstating these privileges can be expensive and time consuming.
After an accident, the insurance companies and personal injury lawyers will attempt to determine who was at fault for the accident.
In motorcycle accident cases, determining who’s at fault generally involves determining who was careless or “negligent.”
Examples of actions that might result in a motorcyclist or motor vehicle driver being found negligent include:
Sometimes, both the motorcyclist and the motor vehicle driver are careless. So what happens then?
Arizona follows the pure comparative fault theory. Under this theory, the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover is reduced by a percentage that reflects the plaintiff’s degree of fault – no matter what that percentage may be.
Samantha is riding her motorcycle with a broken brake light. Jill is following Samantha too closely in her car. Samantha slams on her breaks to avoid a pothole and Jill rear-ends her. Samantha sues Jill and the trial court determines that Jill was 70% at fault for the accident, while Samantha was 30% at fault. In this scenario, Samantha would only be able to recover 70% of her damages due to Arizona’s pure comparative fault laws.
All too often, an injured person chooses not to pursue a personal injury claim because they’re unaware of the damages that are available. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the damages available in a motorcycle accident.
Arizona awards both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to those losses that you can put a price tag on. Non-economic damages refer to losses that don’t have a clear dollar value.
Here is a breakdown of the two categories:
|Types of Damages in Arizona Motorcycle Accident Cases|
|Economic Damages||Non-economic Damages|
|Property damage||Pain and suffering|
|Medical expenses||Emotional distress|
|Estimated future medical expenses||Loss of consortium|
|Lost income||Loss of enjoyment of life|
|Other out of pocket costs (e.g., travel costs)||Other non-monetary losses (e.g., loss of reputation)|
In addition, Arizona awards punitive damages in rare cases. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and are awarded when a defendant’s behavior was willful or particularly outrageous.
While some states enforce damage caps, Arizona doesn’t cap personal injury damages in most cases. As a result, a plaintiff can recover their damages no matter how large.
Both motorcyclists and motor vehicle drivers can agree that accidents involving motorcycles are particularly dangerous, and best avoided.
The best decision a motorcyclist can make is to wear a helmet. When a helmet is used, only 4.67% of motorcycle accidents in Arizona are fatal. When a helmet isn’t used, that number jumps to 9.81%. Similarly, 1.11% of passengers are killed in motorcycle accidents when they’re wearing a helmet. When passengers aren’t wearing a helmet, 16.36% are killed.
Other tips for staying safe and avoiding motorcycle accidents include: