Even if a rider was partly at fault, they may still recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit
Motorcycle accidents are typically more serious than typical car crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that motorcyclists are killed 28 times more often than car passengers per vehicle mile traveled. In 2016 alone, nearly 5,300 riders were killed in fatal accidents. Victims’ families may find some comfort by filing a wrongful death lawsuit and recovering damages connected to the loss of a loved one. Anyone lucky enough to survive a motorcycle accident may pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
Georgia motorcycle laws
Each state is responsible for creating motorcycle safety laws, and Georgia is no different. See Georgia statutes §40-6-310 through §40-6-315 for a full list of the rules, but here are some important guidelines to remember:
- Two riders may share a lane, but lane sharing with other vehicles is not permitted.
- Lane splitting is not allowed.
- Headlights and taillights must be on at all times.
- Helmets are required.
- Speakers are only permitted for communication purposes.
- Motorcycles must have attached windshields; If there is no windshield, the motorcyclists must be wearing protective eye gear.
- Handlebars must be attached but no higher than 15 inches tall.
- Footrests are required if passengers are carried on the motorcycle.
The above are just a sample of the laws, and motorcycle riders should consult the official Georgia statutes to avoid criminal penalties and earn the most in accident recovery, if a crash should occur.
Causes of motorcycle accidents in Georgia
Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents are often the fault of the rider. Common accident causes for motorcycles include:
- Head-on collisions
- Collisions with non-moving objects
- Illegal lane splitting or sharing
- Collisions with a motor vehicle when the rider is making a left turn
- Riding in poor weather conditions
- Riding in hazardous road conditions
- Defective motorcycle equipment
- Driving while distracted
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Though many of the accidents above place blame on the motorcyclist, they may still be able to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
Georgia is a modified comparative fault state. Thus, as long as the rider was less than 50% at fault for their accident, they may still receive compensation such as pain and suffering damages.
Motorcycle insurance requirements in Georgia
All motorcyclists are required to have motorcycle insurance in Georgia. The insurance requirements are the same for all motor vehicles in Georgia. Thus, a motorcycle owner must have the following insurance coverage:
- $25,000 bodily injury liability for one person;
- $50,000 bodily injury liability for all involved in the accident; and
- $25,000 property damage liability
This mandatory minimum insurance is your protection, should you be at fault in an accident. Other insurance options motorcyclist might consider include:
- Collision coverage — This coverage is for your motorcycle and reimburses you for the cost of the repairs, minus the deductible.
- Comprehensive coverage— This insurance is not for accidents. Nevertheless, this coverage protects you should your motorcycle be vandalized, stolen, or damaged in a non-highway accident.
- Uninsured coverage — Arguably the most important additional insurance, this coverage provides compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and damages connected to emotional harm if the other driver has no insurance or you are involved in a hit and run.
- Underinsured coverage — This insurance coverage provides an additional safety net for motorcyclists. Motorcycle accidents often have more serious injuries than car accidents due to the lack of protection the motorcycle gives its rider. Accordingly, the coverage that the other driver has may not be enough to compensate you for all of the physical and emotional harm you suffered. Thus, an underinsured coverage option provides an extra layer of financial protection for you to cover the extra costs.
All too often, Georgia drivers lack the appropriate insurance coverage. In many cases, the driver is without the finances to pay for insurance. If this is the case, the driver may also be indigent or incapable of paying damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Thus, uninsured/underinsured coverage may be the only way to recover compensation for motorcycle or auto accidents.
Understanding damages in motorcycle accidents
A lawsuit for a motorcycle accident may not be the best option for all accident survivors or victims’ families. Too often, however, a case isn’t pursued because the plaintiff doesn’t realize how much is at stake. The damages awarded can be quite high for motorcycle accidents.
Georgia awards both special and general damages in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Special damages refer to compensation that corresponds to a specific dollar amount. General damages, however, reflect a loss that doesn’t have a clear dollar value.
Here is a detailed breakdown of the two categories:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
- Property damage
- Estimated future medical expenses
- Out of pocket costs
Non-economic (general) damages
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium (the loss of a relationship with a partner)
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Because Georgia doesn’t place a cap on damages in personal injury cases, many accidents may offer a large payout to accident survivors and their families. Nevertheless, a rider’s degree of fault may reduce the total compensation they receive. For example, if a jury panel calculates a motorcyclists’ damages to be $100,000 but they were 40% at fault, the plaintiff may only be eligible to receive $60,000.
A Georgia attorney with experience in motorcycle accidents can help you calculate how much you could receive in your case. If you want to try to do some calculations on your own, however, Enjuris offers a damages and expenses worksheet to help you identify all the current and potential costs of your accident.