What To Expect During Colorado Motorcycle Season
Call (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with an experienced Colorado motorcycle accident lawyer.
As the pandemic subsides and the warmer months progress, the open road looks increasingly attractive. Few may appreciate the allure of the open road more than an avid motorcyclist. Of course, as travelers return to roads, the risk of accidents increases and safe driving practices remain as important as ever.
Fun aside, the truth remains that motorcycle accidents can be particularly devastating. Because motorcycles are much smaller than the average vehicle, they are at a disadvantage when impacted; and because motorcycle drivers and passengers are much more exposed, even comparatively low impacts can be fatal.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a motorcycle accident in Colorado, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free case evaluation with an experienced personal injury lawyer near you. Our clients pay nothing unless we win their case.
Motorcycle Accident statistics
In part because of the inherent risks of driving motorcycles, motorcyclists are overrepresented in auto-accident fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 84,000 motorcyclists were injured in an accident in 2019; in the same year, 5,014 motorcyclists were killed in accidents, representing 14% of traffic fatalities even though motorcycles made up only 3% of all registered vehicles in the United States. In other words, the fatality rate per registered vehicle for motorcyclists (58.33) was 6 times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants (9.42).
Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of these accidents were alcohol-related. The NHTSA reported that motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes in 2019 had higher percentages of alcohol impairment than drivers of any other motor vehicle type (29% for motorcycles, 20% for passenger cars, 19% for light trucks, and 2% for large trucks).
Counterintuitively, the number of auto accidents increased in 2020 despite a 13% drop in miles driven resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the National Safety Council, an estimated total of 42,060 deaths occurred in 2020 as a result of motor-vehicle accidents, an 11.9% increase from the previous year. In total, these accidents cost an estimated $474.4 billion in deaths, injuries, and property damage.
This increase in auto accidents despite the reduction in total miles driven seems to suggest that drivers were more reckless in 2020 than in the previous year. These numbers underscore the importance of safe-driving practices as the nation returns to normalcy and we return to the roads. In particular, motorcyclists should take extra care as new patterns emerge.
Read More: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Traffic Safety Facts – Motorcycles
Colorado Motorcycle Laws
Motorcycle riders in Colorado must follow the traffic laws and rules of the road that drivers of automobiles and trucks must obey. When it comes to passing or overtaking a vehicle, motorbike riders are not allowed to pass in the same lane; it is illegal in Colorado. They are also not allowed to share or split lanes with cars, but they can share a lane or “co-ride” with one other motorcycle. In addition to helmets, motorcyclists in Colorado must wear something which provides protection for their eyes.
The Importance of Wearing a Helmet
The laws governing helmet-use while on a motorcycle vary from state to state. In some states, helmets are universally required; Colorado is not among these states. Colorado motorcycle helmet laws require only that each person on the motorcycle under eighteen wear a protective helmet, one that is designed and manufactured specifically for use by motorcycle operators.
State law notwithstanding, the importance of wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle is difficult to overstate. Predictably, the fatality rate in motorcycle accidents is strongly correlated with whether motorcycle operators and passengers were wearing helmets. The NHTSA reports that in states without universal helmet laws, 57% of motorcyclists killed in 2019 were not wearing helmets; by contrast, in states that require motorcyclists to wear helmets, the number was only 9%.
Because of the exposure operators and passengers face while on motorcycles as opposed to when they are drivers or passengers in enclosed vehicles, a helmet is an important safeguard. It is the only thing protecting them from the high risk of fatality associated with head injuries. Further, not all helmets are created equally and should therefore be selected carefully.
Look for helmets bearing a “DOT” symbol on its back, where the helmet sits on the nape of the neck; this DOT marker indicates that the helmet manufacturer has complied with mandatory NHTSA safety standards. The NHTSA regularly conducts tests on these helmets, and any models that do not comply must be removed from stores. Before purchasing a helmet, you can check whether it has been flagged for noncompliance at this database.
Read More: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Motorcycle Helmet Use in 2019
Securing Compensation and Understanding Comparative Negligence
Securing compensation for auto-accidents from an at-fault driver generally involves an assessment of their negligence. This cause of action is based on the idea that individuals owe each other a general duty to exercise “reasonable care” in their actions to ensure that we do not cause each other harm; for example, we each have a duty to exercise caution when driving on a highway. Showing negligence requires proving:
1. the existence of a legal duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff,
2. that the defendant breached that duty,
3. that the plaintiff suffered an injury, and
4. that the plaintiff’s injury was caused by the defendant’s breach.
However, some states have adopted an added layer of complexity through the doctrine of comparative negligence. Colorado is such a state, and comparative negligence is exactly what is sounds like. It means that the level of compensation a victim may receive goes up or down according to their own degree of fault in the accident.
Fortunately, Colorado has abandoned an older rule which stated that, if the victim contributed in any degree to the accident—no matter how minimally—they recovered nothing. According to the more lenient new rule, a victim may recover compensation so long as they were not responsible for 50% or more for the accident relative to the other driver. That is, if you are shown to be 20% at fault, your compensation is reduced by 20%, and if you are shown to be 50% at fault, your compensation is reduced accordingly by 50% to zero. Further, if you are shown to be more than 50% at fault, the defending party may actually have a viable case against you.
Steps to take if you have Been Involved in a motorcycle accident
Motorcycle accidents, like any auto accident, can be traumatizing and disorienting. Take the following steps if you are involved in one:
1. Protect Yourself
Motorcycle accidents often result in very severe injuries and even fatal injuries. If your injuries are severe and you cannot move, call the police and wait for help to arrive; if you are able, move to a safe location off the road—either move your motorcycle if it is safe to do so or move yourself if it is not. Ultimately, the following steps may not be possible in the most life-threatening scenarios; however, a friend or loved one acting on your behalf may be able to take action.
2. File a Crash Report and Obtain a Copy
You will need evidence to make your case and, where needed, to disprove your comparative negligence. The crash report filed with the police will serve as the first official record documenting the accident and as an important source of evidence. Even if police are not immediately called to the scene, the police report remains important.
The report should be filed early on; this helps ensure that nothing from the immediate scene of the accident is forgotten or overlooked. You may request a copy of the report as soon as possible or inquire how one can be obtained; this gives you an opportunity to evaluate its accuracy.
3. Gather and Protect Evidence
The scene of the accident is often the best source of evidence regarding the nature of the crash, so take steps to document the scene if possible. In addition to the official crash report and your own notes, footage (videos, photographs, and audio) from the scene can be an excellent source of evidence. Some common kinds of information that are sometimes only provable from the immediate scene of the accident include, but are not limited to:
- road conditions (e.g., wet or icy roads),
- weather conditions (e.g., dense fog or high winds), and
- driver impairment (e.g., intoxication, exhaustion, or road rage).
Because operating motorcycles is often more precarious based on these conditions, this kind of evidence can shed light on how much care was reasonable given the circumstances.
4. Seek Medical Treatment
The importance of seeking treatment is twofold. Firstly, it is an important step in your physical recovery. Secondly, medical evaluation, treatment, and documentation represents a third source of evidence for your case. Ensuring that your injuries are fully documented by medical professionals will in turn help ensure that the full scope of your injuries are accounted for in your compensation.
It is important to identify your injuries early on. We often immediately envision catastrophic injuries and death when we think of auto-accidents, especially those involving motorcycles, but it is important to treat all injuries—both large and small. Comparatively modest injuries may be more difficult to identify and sometimes only become apparent after the adrenaline from the scene of the accident has subsided, but this does not mean that they do not impact your well-being and the posture of your case.
5. Hire an Attorney
Oftentimes, accident victims speak with insurance before speaking with an attorney. They do not realize that insurance companies—even your own—are not neutral third parties and not always your closest ally. Speaking with a Colorado motorcycle accident lawyer can ensure that you are informed of your rights and that you are not being taken advantage of.
Remember, any communication you have with an insurance company can be leveraged against you in negotiation. Before speaking to an attorney, do not at any point sign a form or waiver provided by an insurance company or admit fault.
Read More: How to Negotiate with an Insurance Company
Get Help from Our Colorado motorcycle accident attorneys.
The charismatic image of a motorcycle riding on the open road, Rocky Mountains passing in the distance, is undeniable and famous the world over. Notwithstanding, few may better appreciate the importance of road safety than the experienced motorcyclist.
At Zinda Law Group, we also care about road safety, and we believe that no victim of a motorcycle accident should have to confront their case alone or worry about their ability to afford excellent legal representation. We pride ourselves in providing that representation, and our clients pay nothing unless we win their case. That is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle crash or accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with an experienced personal injury attorney near you. You pay nothing unless we win your case.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.