Motorcycle Accident Attorneys in San Diego, CA
San Diego Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
Riding a motorcycle along the twisting hilltop roads in San Diego County offers a thrill like no other, but it can all stop in an instant when another driver cuts you off or makes a turn without seeing you. If you take a spill and are injured because of someone else’s negligence, the law says you may have the right to sue for damages. Call 858-459-9111 to talk to the San Diego motorcycle accident lawyers at Buche & Associates to learn what your options are, and to start getting your life back on track.
Everyone who rides on two wheels knows the feeling—when you’re cruising around a corner at a safe and responsible speed, only to see the truck or SUV in the next lane gradually slide over without seeing you. In an instant, your whole life can be changed for the worse. Something like this happens to nearly 5,000 motorcycle riders a year, and the rate has been increasing for many years. As a motorcyclist, you are almost 30 times more likely to be involved in a crash than the other drivers on the road, and most of the time it’s because the other driver wasn’t looking out for you.
When something like this happens to you, it doesn’t take long to realize how devastating a motorcycle crash can be. Apart from the risk to your life and the lives of others, even a minor set of injuries can mean time off from work and months of physical therapy to recover. There’s also usually a hefty financial cost to accidents like these, even if you are 100 percent not to blame for the crash. Just getting your bike towed home can be expensive. On top of that, there’s the repair or replacement cost for your motorcycle and the clothing and gear that was damaged in the incident. Taken together, these expenses alone can easily come to thousands of dollars. These amounts can go up drastically if you’ve suffered injuries serious enough to send you to the hospital, all because another driver was negligent.
If you have been injured or suffered damage to your property as a result of another driver’s negligence, the law gives you a limited amount of time to file your claim for compensation. Talking to an accident attorney who handles motorcycle cases right away is the best way to preserve your rights and make sure your case is handled the way the law says it needs to be. Our San Diego motorcycle accident attorneys have years of experience helping personal injury clients recover from accidents and injuries, and with helping them win the compensation to which the law says they’re entitled.
Motorcycles are Special
One of the reasons the rate of motorcycle accidents is so high is that riding on two wheels is fundamentally different from driving on four. As every rider knows, maneuvering a motorcycle is a lot more intuitive than turning a car’s steering wheel. The rider’s exposed position also creates a lot more contact with the environment, giving the rider an almost sixth sense for what’s going on around the bike and nearby on the road. This heightened awareness is also partly because riders know how vulnerable they are when traveling at freeway speeds surrounded by multi-ton vehicles with comparatively poor visibility. Riding a motorcycle is a very different experience from driving a car or truck.
The differences don’t stop there. Unfortunately, there’s a stereotype of motorcycle riders going around that they’re some kind of outlaws who ignore basic safety and ride in really aggressive and dangerous ways. While some do, motorcycle culture is a little bit to blame for this mostly false image, but it has stuck in the public imagination that bikers are unpredictable and possibly to blame for motorcycle accidents.
This wouldn’t matter to most motorcycle riders, except that judges, juries and insurance companies sometimes share these prejudices, and that can hurt a motorcyclist who goes to court for an accident caused by another driver’s mistake. When the negligent driver’s insurance company tries to lay some or all of the blame for an accident on you, using the stereotype of a reckless biker to do it, you need a tough advocate who can fight for your rights. Fortunately, the legal team at Buche & Associates, P.C. is familiar with this approach to shifting blame, and we can help you deal with it when it happens for a motorcycle accident.
A Matter of Liability – Who’s to Blame for Motorcycle Accidents in California?
The state of California, like all states, has its own peculiar laws for how motorcycle accident lawsuits can proceed. In particular, California allows a type of liability called comparative fault. Under this doctrine, which is fairly common in liability and injury law, responsibility for an accident is not always assigned to one or the other person. Instead, a percentage of blame can be laid at the feet of both, with the ultimate damage claim adjusted accordingly.
To understand comparative fault, imagine you were struck from the side when you and another driver both tried to merge into one lane. If the police report shows you had the right of way, but that you were somewhat negligent, the court may assign only 60 percent (for example) of the blame to the other driver. If your claim is for $10,000 in damages, the defendant may only have to pay $6,000, or 60 percent, of the total amount. This leaves you on the hook for the remaining $4,000, on the assumption that you were 40 percent responsible for the accident.
Obviously, a lot can go wrong with this calculus. Especially when dealing with motorcycle crashes, it can be difficult to establish exactly who did what, and what that means for comparative fault. A lot of important elements of a winning motorcycle injury case depend on getting your side of the story on the record as accurately as possible, so the court can have an easy time assigning fault to the responsible party and awarding you the entire amount you are owed. Having a dedicated accident lawyer committed to helping with your motorcycle accident helps ensure the blame goes where it belongs, with the negligent driver, rather than you.
What Counts as Negligence?
At the heart of the court’s assignment of fault is the concept of negligence. This is close to the center of any motorcycle accident case, and it’s important to get the facts out to expose other drivers’ negligence in a way that helps you make the best case you can. Sometimes negligence is directly traceable, as when a driver is doing (or not doing) something they shouldn’t (or should). Examples of negligent behavior that commonly lead to a motorcycle accident include:
- DUI/DWI – Driving under the influence, or driving while intoxicated, is a leading cause of motorcycle accidents. Drunk drivers are extremely likely to drive carelessly and not see motorcycle riders in their mirrors or blind spots. They also often behave erratically on the road, which makes it difficult and dangerous to ride a motorcycle near them as they jerk in and out of lanes.
- Exhausted driving – Sleep deprivation can be as dangerous as intoxication for a driver, since it causes many of the same behaviors on the road. Drowsy drivers may drift off to sleep for brief moments on the road, which is when they drift into adjacent lanes and strike motorcycles riding by. Sleepy drivers are also often less attentive to signals and have a hard time anticipating your moves as a rider in front of or near them.
- Distractions – Far too many drivers spend their trips checking email and social media on their phones, calling, texting or otherwise paying attention to their electronics instead of the vulnerable motorcyclist in the next lane. These drivers are especially prone to rear-ending a stopped bike at a red light, and to sudden stops that can send a motorcycle behind them vaulting into their backside.
While these are clear cases of negligent driving – sometimes rising to the level of a criminal offense – it isn’t always easy to prove negligence in court. You need a capable, experienced attorney who knows motorcycle law and who can make the case for negligence on your behalf.
Having a hard-working lawyer on your side is especially helpful when you are trying to assign negligence vicariously, or by one degree of separation from an accident. Sometimes, a third party is partly responsible for a motorcycle accident you were involved in. When that’s the case, you might be able to recover some of the cost of your accident from them. For example, if your accident was caused by a driver suddenly darting into your lane and hitting you on your bike, but the reason they did it was to avoid an unmarked hazard on the road, the damage and injuries you’ve suffered might partly be the fault of the city or highway authority for creating the hazard and leaving it unmarked. In that case, you might be able to recover from the city for having a hand in your accident. In any event, the complexity of vicarious liability cases makes it all the more essential for you to have a lawyer on your side who knows the law.
What’s the Damage?
Money the court awards you in a judgment, or the cash amount the other driver’s insurance company offers to settle your case, are called damages. There are basically two types of damages you can ask for, compensatory and punitive.
Compensatory damages are meant to directly compensate you for the real cost of your motorcycle accident. Think of the money you had to spend getting your bike towed off the road, repaired and/or replaced. On top of that, you might have had to rent a replacement vehicle for a while after the crash, take time off work and pay medical bills for your injury. Those are all costs you can prove that you paid as a result of your accident, and it’s a relatively straightforward process to ask the court to order the other party to pay you for them. There are other, less-tangible damages you might have the right to collect on, however. Pain and suffering is a real, if hard to assess, form of damage you can be paid for. Setting a price tag on the less-tangible forms of loss takes a good lawyer who knows what you can ask for and what you’re likely to get.
Punitive damages are different from compensation. As the name implies, punitive damages are meant as punishment for gross negligence or malice. The idea is to assign a cash penalty steep enough to “punish and discourage,” in the language of the law, the behavior at issue. Imagine you were riding your motorcycle on a relatively straight road when a driver swerved in front of you and caused you to take a spill. When questioned, the other driver admitted she was angry at you for cutting her off a way back, so she did it on purpose. Apart from any potential criminal penalties for that behavior, the other driver might have to pay extra in your lawsuit as a way of discouraging road rage in the future. It is especially difficult sometimes to establish exactly what a fair punitive damage award should be, so it’s especially important to have a motorcycle accident attorney in your corner who knows what the case law is and how much to seek.
Get a San Diego Motorcycle Accident Lawyer on Your Side
If you have been injured as a result of another person’s carelessness or bad behavior on the road, you need an experienced and tough motorcycle accident attorney on your side as soon as possible. From the early case evaluation to the final judgment, our team of expert motorcycle accident lawyers can advise you about your case, help you gather evidence and file the necessary paperwork, and advocate for you to get the compensation you need to recover from your accident. Call the San Diego motorcycle accident attorneys of Buche & Associates today at 858-459-9111 for a no-obligation case evaluation, and let us know how we can help you put your life back together after your motorcycle accident in San Diego.
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