Motorcycle Accidents: What You Need to Know if You’re Hit
As exhilarating as it can be, driving a motorcycle can be dangerous. While other drivers have the benefit of being surrounded by the steel frame of a car, seatbelts, and air bags, motorcycles leave the rider exposed with little more than a helmet for protection in case of an accident.
By 2013, motorcycles accounted for 2% of all Canadian road vehicles. Motorcycle riders, however, are at least 15 times more likely to be in an accident, and motorcycle accidents account for at least 10% of fatalities on the road – and 75% of motorcycle fatalities involve riders 40 years of age or older.
A motorcycle rider has to be ever-vigilant. One of the most common causes of accidents tends to be inattentive drivers, who don’t see the motorcycle beside them as they make a turn or change lanes. Likewise, motorcyclists can be injured or killed when a driver doesn’t notice them directly in front of their car. But accidents involving a third party only account for some of the perils facing motorcycles on the road. In fatal accidents, a full 48.9% were caused by the motorcycle rider driving too fast and losing control of their vehicle. Injuries from wiping out can be minor – one of the most common is road rash, a type of friction burn that occurs when bare skin scrapes along the road – although broken bones are also common. In cases of more severe personal injury, recovery can take weeks or even months.
Motorcycle laws focus on safety. All motorcycle drivers are required to wear a helmet in the province of Ontario, and these helmets must meet Ontario’s safety standards. They are also required to go through a graduated licensing program involving written tests on the rules of the road and road tests. Penalties for infractions by new motorcycle drivers are severe – the first offense causes a 30 day suspension of one’s license, the second results in a 90 day suspension, and after the third the driver loses their license and must restart the process from the beginning.
There are also laws governing how a motorcycle can be built and operated. For example, the handlebars cannot be any higher than 380mm (or 14.96″) from the driver’s seat while the rider is sitting on it. Likewise, the handlebars must be in good condition at all times, and must not be loose or damaged. If a motorcycle fails either of these safety tests, its driver can be charged with driving an unsafe vehicle, which carries a fine of $400-$20,000 upon conviction.
If you have suffered a personal injury in a motorcycle accident, it is important to know what your insurance is required to cover, and how it is assessed. In the province of Ontario, any motorcycle insurance policy is required to cover:
- A minimum of $200,000 third-party liability, usually increased to $1,000,000. This covers any injuries, deaths, or property damage you may have caused in an accident. This coverage includes defending you against lawsuits brought after an accident.
- Direct compensation: Property damage. This covers at least some of the costs of repair and replacement of your motorcycle in cases where the other driver is at least partially at fault.
- Uninsured Automobile up to $25,000. This covers cases where you are injured or killed in a collision where the other driver is uninsured, cannot be identified, or both.
- Accident benefits. This is a broad category of coverage relating to recovering from injuries after an accident, including income replacement, medical expenses, and rehabilitation expenses.
The most important question after an accident is whether the injury is catastrophic or non-catastrophic – this determines the level of compensation you will receive from your insurance company, with catastrophic injuries receiving the most coverage. Catastrophic injuries tend to be very serious, and include head trauma, paralysis, amputation, and blindness.
A motorcycle accident can change your life in a heartbeat, leaving you with weeks of recovery and rehabilitation – and even the best safety measures cannot protect you against a distracted driver. Knowing what your rights are after an accident can be vital to a successful recovery with minimal stress.
Author Robert B. Marks is a writer, editor, and researcher in Kingston, Ontario, who spent several years working as a writer and editor for the Queen’s University Faculty of Law.