It should come as no surprise that motorcycle riders and passengers face a higher risk of death than drivers of cars and trucks. Without a shell around them, motorcycle riders have practically nothing to protect their bodies from direct impacts with cars, roads, or utility poles.
For this reason, the statistics of motorcycle Accident injury statistics far exceed the fatality stats of operators of enclosed motor vehicles in Massachusetts. If you ride a motorcycle in the Bay State, it is vital to learn more about these statistics and what they mean for you.
What Is the Fatality Rate of Motorcycle Accidents in Massachusetts?
The fatality rate of motorcycle accidents in Massachusetts mirrors the rest of the country. As in every other state, motorcycle riders experience death in accidents far more than other types of motorists.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), well over 5,000 people lose their lives in motorcycle accidents each year.
Common Causes of Fatal Motorcycle Accidents in Massachusetts
Motorcycle accidents have many causes. And negligence underlies most of them. Negligence on the roadway occurs when a motorist fails to operate their vehicle in a reasonably safe manner. This failure then causes an accident with property damage and/or injuries.
Some of the common negligent highway actions that tend to lead to motorcycle accidents with fatalities include:
Driving While Under the Influence
Intoxicated drivers may be under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medication, or some other substance. When driving with these substances in their system, drivers have less control over their vehicles.
This means that they can react more slowly to dangerous situations. They also drive erratically and swerve in between lanes, which threatens motorcyclists.
Following a Motorcycle Too Closely
Drivers who follow motorcyclists too closely risk causing a motorcycle accident fatality. What they may not realize is that motorcycles can stop in far less time than a car or truck. In some cases, a car or truck rides right behind a motorcycle in a fit of road rage. Sadly, the risk of death skyrockets when this occurs.
Failure to Yield
Cars failing to yield to motorcycles cause a great number of motorcycle accidents in Massachusetts and across the country. It typically occurs when the car or truck driver is attempting a left-hand turn.
Instead of yielding to an oncoming motorcyclist, the driver executes the left turn. Then, the driver either T-bones the motorcyclist or is T-boned by the motorcyclist. This scenario can cause severe injuries.
Failure to yield to a motorcycle at a controlled stop is also a cause of motorcycle accidents.
Reckless driving consists of various diving behaviors that demonstrate a significant lack of regard for the safety of others. It includes acts such as:
- Excessive speeding, beyond more than a few miles over the speed limit
- Cutting off motorcyclists
- Weaving in between lanes
- Drag racing
- Running a red light or a stop sign
- Passing a stopped school bus with its lights on
Reckless driving cases can quickly lead to criminal liability and collateral penalties. For example, there may be higher insurance premiums and license consequences.
Driving a Car or Truck While Drowsy
Drowsy drivers are incapable of operating their vehicles in a safe fashion. As they struggle to remain awake, they create an extremely high risk of death for even the safest motorcyclist. And with their senses dulled by lack of sleep, they often fail to perceive a transiting motorcyclist before it’s too late.
Hazards on the Road
When it comes to hazards on the road, four wheels are definitely better than two. Four wheels give cars and trucks double the dimension of stability that motorcyclists have.
So hazards such as potholes and debris have a high potential of destabilizing motorcycles. This is because when one wheel is compromised on a motorcycle, the other will likely be, too.
Another common road hazard for motorcyclists is dead leaves. Dead leaves may find their way onto the highway or road thanks to mother nature or a negligent property owner. When a motorcyclist hits these leaves, the result is uniformly some sort of slipping or sliding. A crash usually follows.
Sometimes, it’s not a rider or driver who causes a motorcycle accident, but instead, a party who is not even at the crash scene: the motorcycle maker.
If a motorcycle or motorcycle part is defective or dangerous enough to cause death, the motorcycle maker, retailer, and distributor can potentially be on the hook for wrongful death damages.
Motorcycle Rider Errors
Not all motorcycle accidents are caused by someone other than the motorcycle rider. Motorcycle rider error is responsible for some of the crashes that occur. In many cases, the motorcycle rider and another party share the blame for an accident.
Common examples of motorcycle rider errors include:
- Taking a corner too quickly can cause the rider to lose traction or control
- Crashing into fixed objects, which typically include objects found on or near roadways, such as utility poles, traffic signs, buildings, and fences
- Riding a motorcycle without enough experience or training
If motorcycle rider is partially responsible for their accident in Massachusetts, they can still pursue damages when they are less than 51% responsible for the accident.
Motorcycle Safety Equipment Laws in MA
Motorcycle safety equipment helps save lives, but not all states have the same level of safety requirements for motorcycles. The Bay State has one of the strictest approaches to motorcycle safety. This is most notably reflected in its equipment laws.
Many states allow motorcycle riders over 18 to ride without a helmet. Massachusetts, however, does not. Motorcycle operators and their passengers must wear helmets approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT) with a valid DOT sticker on them at all times.
The strictness is warranted due to the fact that riders with helmets have a 73% lower rate of death in motorcycle accidents in the state than unhelmeted riders. Helmets are also up to 67% effective in reducing the incidence of severe head injuries caused by motorcycle accidents. Understanding the motorcycle helmet law can help you in many ways.
The Bay State requires that the height of a motorcycle’s handlebars must not rise above the height of the shoulders of the operator.
Eyes are vulnerable at the high speeds at which motorcycles operate. High speeds also hamper a rider’s vision. However, eye protection such as goggles, riding glasses, or a face shield takes care of both of those problems.
They are also mandatory. If you prefer not to have anything on your face, you can skip the glasses or goggles as long as your motorcycle has a shield or a screen.
Mirrors are like extra sets of eyes and allow motorcycle riders and other motorists to safely navigate the road. Motorcycle riders must have a minimum of one mirror that reflects the rear and left side of the highway.
Some motorcycles are so loud as to be a nuisance. As a result, the Massachusetts legislature enacted a noise ordinance law aimed directly at motorcyclists. It states that motorcyclists in a speed zone of 45 mph or less must not produce more than 82 decibels of sound and not more than 86 decibels in speed zones over 45 mph.
Motorcycle passengers can be of any age. But there are safety requirements in place, such as a helmet requirement and the rule that there must be a seat and footrests for the passenger.
Lane Splitting and Lane Rules
Lane splitting is a controversial practice in the state because so many motorcyclists believe it to be legal. But on the contrary, lane splitting is specifically prohibited in the Baked Bean State.
Lane splitting occurs when a biker transits between two lanes of traffic proceeding in the same direction. It is dangerous because car and truck drivers typically do not expect a motorcycle to ride up to or pass beside them. So, they may open a door or make a turn directly into the lane splitter’s path.
Bikers must also ride no more than two abreast while on a divided road. Additionally, a motorcycle rider cannot pass another vehicle while within the same lane unless that other vehicle is a motorcycle.
General Motorcycle Safety
The laws of the state only cover some of the safety measures that motorcyclists should be observing. There are many other ways you can protect yourself as a motorcyclist in the Bay State.
Motorcycle riders should only operate motorcycles that they are comfortable doing so safely. If the motorcycle is too big, too powerful, or too foreign, a rider is more likely to cause a crash. Some of the motorcycle traits you should consider when you purchase one include:
- The type and power of the bike
- The motorcycle’s design and feel
- The height of the seat
- Wind protection measures
- Storage features
- Braking system
You’ll also want to consider the sound of the bike and the level of noise it produces.
Helmets do indeed mitigate motorcycle rider injuries, but a helmet cannot protect the rest of your body. Yet many motorcyclists fail to appreciate the danger they face by riding without any protective gear besides a helmet.
In addition to helmets, motorcycle riders should also make use of:
- Non-jean, durable clothing, like normal jeans, offers no protection from road skids
- Close-toed boots
- Durable, reinforced clothing, such as jackets and gloves
- Bright gear to increase your visibility
- Protective eyewear beyond regular glasses
You may also want to consider wearing earplugs if you are a passenger. However, motorcycle operators who wear earplugs may not be able to sufficiently hear their surroundings to drive safely.
Rules of Safety
As a motorcyclist, you will increase your safety record if you always adhere to certain general rules. Although there may be times when it seems safe to abandon some of these rules, adhering to them at all times prevents you from being injured by a surprise.
Some of the general rules of motorcycle safety include:
- Only transport passengers if you have the confidence and experience
- Do not ride in bad weather if possible
- Use your headlights at all times, even during the day
- Always monitor your speed and avoid going over the speed limit
- Refrain from too much weaving in and out of lanes
- Avoid driving while drunk or intoxicated
- Stay alert for common road hazards, such as potholes, leaves, gravel, and puddles
And always avoid hitting the road on a motorcycle if your motorcycle is not in a safe riding condition.
Motorcycle Safety Courses and Training
Another way to help avoid motorcycle accidents in Massachusetts and increase your safety profile as a motorcycle rider is by taking a safety course or two. You might also attend training in basic, intermediate, and advanced motorcycle riding.
Some helpful options include:
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation
This nationwide group exists to advance bike safety and offers courses, events, literature, and more to achieve this end.
Massachusetts Rider Education Program (MERP)
The Massachusetts Rider Education Program (MERP) functions in conjunction with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). It offers four levels of courses for motorcycle riders, which are:
- Basic Rider Course 1
- Basic Rider Course 2
- S/TEP Basic Course
- S/TEP Advanced Course
If a rider takes and passes all four courses, the RMV will waive the rider’s motorcycle road test.
Motorcycle safety courses can help even the most adept riders. Refresher and continuing education courses keep motorcyclists on their toes and always appreciative of the importance of safety on the road.
Steps to Take if You Are in a Motorcycle Accident
If you are in a motorcycle accident, you should do everything in your power to remain calm. It may be difficult not to panic, but panicking will make things worse. By following a few steps, you can help prevent the situation from worsening and can potentially save a life.
Call First Responders
Call first responders as soon as possible, especially if there is an injury or a fatality. Quick medical attention can prevent injured parties from dying. Additionally, most states have reporting requirements for crashes.
In Massachusetts, the law requires that parties to a crash file a Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report for accidents that result in injury, death, or more than $1,000 in property damage. When the police arrive, you can report the crash to the responding officer.
If possible, try to take as many photos as you need to paint a complete picture of the accident scene. Take video footage as well.
However, if you are injured, or if someone you know has been catastrophically injured or has died, it will be difficult to get yourself to snap photos. In no case should you risk your own safety or well-being to gather evidence.
Hold On to Relevant Documents
After a bike accident, you will have to gather and will eventually receive a variety of documents and paperwork related to the accident, such as:
- Your medical bills, such as receipts for copayments and payment of deductibles
- Your medical records and a medical report of the accident
- A copy of the accident report
- Your insurance policy documents
- Receipts for compensable expenses related to the accident
- Funeral and burial service receipts
You will also want to locate paystubs or copies of some of your bank account monthly statements that contain employer-paid direct deposits. Remember that these documents and other paperwork will be essential for your claim.
Reach Out to an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
After the accident, you will want to reach out to an experienced Massachusetts motorcycle accident lawyer. A seasoned motorcycle accident attorney will guide your claim toward the most profitable end and make sure that all of your losses are taken into account.
Without an attorney on your side, you stand to lose significant compensation.
Contact Your Insurance Provider
Most insurance companies require accident victims or their families to inform the company of the crash within a certain period of time after the accident.
In Massachusetts, motorcyclists are excluded from the personal injury protection (PIP) no-fault insurance system and must seek compensation from the other driver’s auto insurance company. But you would not want to contact the company before hiring a lawyer.
If you have MedPay, which pays up to $10,000 of your medical bills regardless of fault, you should eventually contact your MedPay insurance provider. Keep in mind, though, that the insurance adjuster handling your case is not a friend of yours, no matter how nice they seem.
They are an agent of the insurance company that is potentially on the hook for damages. As such, there is an incentive for the adjuster to get you to settle for less.
Damages for Motorcycle Accident Injury and Fatalities
Since motorcyclists and their passengers are excluded from the no-fault insurance scheme in Massachusetts, their compensation instead comes from the other driver’s insurance auto insurance coverage.
When your attorney is preparing your claim, they will list all compensable losses, which will include economic and non-economic losses. If a fatality has occurred, the executor or representative of the decedent’s estate may file a wrongful death claim for appropriate damages.
Common economic losses in motorcycle accident cases that you can seek compensation for include:
- Treatment and care at doctor’s offices, hospitals, and rehab centers
- Income lost because of injuries or death from the accident
- Medical travel expenses and expenses related to house and car adaptations
- Funeral and burial expenses in wrongful death cases
To help ensure that you get fully compensated for your economic losses, you will need to have originals or copies of your receipts and account balances with transactions related to these losses.
Regarding non-economic losses, they compensate for intangible harm that is not directly tied to money but affects the lives of victims and their families just as much as economic harm — and sometimes even more.
Non-economic losses include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
If the driver who caused the motorcycle accident acted in wanton disregard for the safety of others, the victims may also seek punitive damages. Punitive damages send a message to the defendant that their actions merit punishment beyond a civil suit.
These damages are also meant to deter future similar conduct. However, they are rare in motorcycle accident cases.
Common Catastrophic Motorcycle Accident Injury
The potential for catastrophic injuries in motorcycle cases is abnormally high, hence the many safety measures they must take. Sadly, many of the catastrophic injuries that motorcyclists suffer result in fatalities either shortly after the accident or somewhere down the line.
For those injury victims who pass away after a long period in the hospital or in palliative or hospice care, the physical and emotional pain can be unbearable. And their families must also endure great suffering as they watch their loved ones in pain.
Fortunately, not all catastrophic motorcycle accident injury result in death. However, they do cause great pain and require difficult rehabilitation and adaptation for the victim and their family members.
Severe Injuries and Their Consequences
Common catastrophic motorcycle injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and injuries to the skull
- Facial injuries, such as mouth, eye, jaw, and skin injuries
- Injuries to the neck, such as whiplash injuries, burns, and piercing trauma
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Bone breaks and fractures
- Road rash
- Internal organ damage
- Damage to internal tissue such as ligaments, tendons, and nerves
A severe injury can lead to death at any point after the motorcycle accident. Extensive medical care and treatment are necessary to save the lives of those motorcycle accident victims who have a chance to live.
However, medical care for motorcycle accident victims is expensive, even with insurance. Deductibles, co-pays, and transportation costs can add up to a fortune over time. Motorcycle accident victims with catastrophic injuries also experience an array of emotional and psychological trauma from motorcycle accidents in the Bay State.
Even when their bodies allow them to walk again, psychological and emotional injuries can prevent a motorcycle rider from riding a bike in the future or engaging in the activities they once used to love.
Have Questions? Contact The Joel Bieber Firm
Riding a motorcycle in Massachusetts can be an exciting pastime, but it can also come with significant risks. To learn more about motorcycle accident injury, fatalities, and compensation in the Bay State, contact The Joel Bieber Firm to speak with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer today.