How Motorcycle Accidents Are Different Than Car Accidents

How Motorcycle Accidents Are Different Than Car AccidentsAcross the United States, there are approximately 282 million vehicles registered, including motorcycles, passenger cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles. Though they are not all on the road simultaneously, it is understandable that collisions do happen. In 2021, there were 4,285 traffic fatalities in California alone, 565 of which involved motorcycles. 

If you or someone you love travels California’s roadways by car, motorcycle, or both, you may be wondering about motorcycle accident vs car accident differences. Accidents of any kind have the potential to turn your life upside down, and while there are similarities when comparing motorcycle and case accidents, there are also significant differences. 

Motorcycle Accident vs. Car Accident Differences

While motorcycle and car accidents share a lot of commonalities, there are some important distinctions that may not be so obvious.

Injury Severity

Due to the lack of structural protection around the driver, motorcyclists often suffer serious and sometimes fatal injuries in crash accidents. While cars have several safety features to reduce injuries, such as anti-lock brakes, seatbelts, airbags, and even collision warning systems, the safety features on motorcycles are generally not as advanced. A motorcycle rider relies heavily on protective equipment like helmets, jackets, boots, and other items that can be worn for safety. Serious injuries can lead to higher medical bills, longer recovery times, and permanent disabilities. 

Unfair Biases

Motorcyclists often face unfair biases when trying to collect compensation for their accidents. Insurance adjusters may view riders as reckless and look for ways to assert that the biker caused or contributed to the accident. These biases are often based on the insurance adjuster’s opinion of motorcycle riders, influenced by television and media stereotypes. This is one of the more subjective motorcycle accident vs car accident differences, but it is important to look out for. 

Fair Compensation

Though victims of both motorcycle and car accidents could face unfair settlement offers, insurance companies will often try to diminish the long-term recovery associated with injuries. Any accident can result in severe injuries, but rarely are motorcycle accidents minor. For this reason, insurance companies may be more likely to offer quick settlements, hoping the victim accepts before the true extent of their motorcycle accident injuries is known. 

Accident Fault

Every accident is unique, so this will not always be the case, but in many circumstances, car accidents result from one driver being distracted or failing to follow traffic laws. In motorcycle accidents, the fault often lies with a driver failing to see a motorcyclist on the road, causing them to have a rear-end collision, merge unexpectedly into the bike, or pull out in front of them. In all accidents, it is important to gather evidence, such as the police report, photos, and witness statements, to prove how the accident occurred so that the responsible party is held liable. 

Vehicle Damage

When considering motorcycle vs car crash distinctions, the impact on the motorcycle or car is also relevant. Many cars are repairable after an accident. Sometimes the damage is only cosmetic, and in other cases, a good mechanic can get the vehicle up and running with repairs. On the other hand, motorcycles are often completely totaled in an accident because they are much smaller than most cars. 

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents vs Car Accidents

There are a lot of ways that car and motorcycle accidents can occur, but they are very different types of transportation, so there are some general consistencies for each type of accident. Here are a few examples of the most common motorcycle accident vs. car accident differences, according to recent statistics. 

Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

In 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) produced a report with the most recent statistics for motorcycle accidents in the U.S. There are many ways motorcycle accidents can occur. 

  • Left-hand turns. In 2021, NHTSA reported that in 43% of all fatal crashes involving another vehicle and a motorcycle, the other vehicle was turning left at the time of the crash.
  • Head-on collisions. Just over half of the 6,082 motorcycles involved in fatal accidents were collisions with moving vehicles. In two-vehicle crashes, 75% of the motorcycles were struck in the front. (Only 8% of motorcycles were rear-ended.). 
  • Road Hazards. Potholes, loose gravel, debris, fallen trees, and other road hazards can damage a car but can be deadly for a motorcyclist. 
  • Lane-splitting. California is currently the only state that allows lane-splitting. This is the practice of driving between traffic lanes when cars have slowed or stopped. It is outlawed in other states because it is a dangerous driving maneuver. 
  • Alcohol impairment. In 2021, 28% of motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes were alcohol-impaired. Of the 5,932 motorcycle fatalities that year, 1,624 motorcycle drivers were intoxicated. 

As you can see, some of these causes are due to unsafe behavior of the motorcycle rider. What is not captured by statistics is the number of accidents that occur because the driver of a car or truck does not look for motorcycles or misjudges the speed of a motorcycle. Motorcycles are much more difficult to see than other vehicles, but drivers have a duty to be aware of them. 

Causes of Car Accidents

According to the NHTSA 2021 crash data report for all vehicles, passenger car occupants comprised 32% of accident victims that year. Motorcycles made up 14%. Most car accidents happen because of driver error, which could be on the part of either or both drivers involved. 

  • Speeding. In 2021, speeding was a contributing factor in 29% of all traffic fatalities.
  • Aggressive driving. Data collected by AAA roadside assistance company found that nearly 80% of American drivers demonstrate aggressive behaviors when behind the wheel. This includes behaviors like unsafe lane changes, tailgating, running red lights, and rude gestures to other drivers.
  • Fatigued driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 25 adult drivers report falling asleep while driving in the previous 30 days, and many more admit to driving when they were sleep-deprived. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an estimated 6,400 people die annually in crashes involving drowsy driving. 
  • Distracted driving. In 2019, there were a reported 3,142 people killed in the U.S. due to distracted driving. Much of the problem is attributed to cell phone use while driving. 

There are countless reasons car accidents occur. Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol is also a serious problem for cars as well as left-hand turns. 

Contact Us

Attorney Michael Henderson has been handling cases on behalf of California car and motorcycle accident victims for over 25 years and understands the importance of receiving the compensation you deserve. Our experienced team of legal professionals and our personal injury attorney at Henderson Law is here to help you understand your legal rights and take the next step toward legal recovery. Contact us today to schedule your free case consultation.