Imagine pulling up to a stop light on your bike, waiting for the light to turn green, then hearing the screech of tires as the driver behind you locks up their brakes too late to stop. If you've been involved in a rear-end collision motorcycle accident, you know the terror that instant can bring and the pain and suffering you'll experience after the fact.
Rear-end collision motorcycle accidents are not only common, but they're also particularly dangerous for motorcyclists in California. Read on to learn the risks and what you can do during recovery if you've been injured in a rear-end motorcycle accident.
It's no secret that riding a motorcycle can be dangerous. Bikers are more likely than their automobile operating counterparts to be in accidents and they're also much more likely to suffer injuries (including serious or even fatal ones). But, one type of motorcycle accident poses a particularly large threat to motorcycle enthusiasts: the rear-end collision motorcycle accident.
Indeed, an older National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA) traffic study found that a full 25% of all accidents involving motorcycles and automobiles were rear-end collisions. That equates to roughly 2,000 accidents every year in California alone. More recent studies have shown that figure declining slightly over time but these types of crashes still represent a significant portion of the total number of two-vehicle collisions involving motorcycles.
Compare that to head-on collisions and left-hand turn collisions (which currently represents 73% of all two-vehicle collisions involving motorcycles and 40% of all motorcycle accidents, respectively) and you can begin to see just how much of an impact these types of crashes have on individual motorcyclists and the community as a whole.
How many lives could be saved if drivers simply obeyed traffic laws and watched out for motorcyclists in front of them? How much pain and anguish could be avoided for those victims who survive those collisions?
Unlike other more common types of motorcycle crashes, rear-end collision motorcycle accidents can be exceptionally injurious and fatal for bikers. How are these accidents different?
When a rider cannot see the accident coming, they can do nothing to stop it. That means they can't react to perform potentially life-saving maneuvers like splitting the lane, turning off the road, or even breaking to slow their momentum.
Additionally, rear-end collisions often result in the rider being thrown backward off the bike and into the path of the oncoming vehicle that struck them. That secondary impact can cause serious bodily harm including major crush injuries and Traumatic Brain Injury from the motorcycle accident that can be life-altering if not immediately lethal.
When distracted or impaired drivers strike motorcyclists from behind, they often do so “at speed.” That means the motorcyclist directly absorbs a significant amount of the force created by the car's full forward momentum.
In other types of accidents, that force is often implied at angles creating "glancing blows." This greater impact not only leads to more severe primary injuries (like broken bones and internal injuries) but also turns the motorcyclist into a projectile. Bikers are often tossed many feet through the air only to stop when they hit other automobiles, roadside obstructions, or jagged pavement.
Rear-end collision motorcycle accidents are always the automobile driver's fault. Even if a motorcyclist stops quickly, the following driver must allow adequate space to slow or stop in time to avoid crashing. When you're operating a multi-ton machine, how do you not see or respond to a motorcyclist in front of you?
These types of motorcycle accidents most often occur at intersections when bikers are slowing or stopping for a red light or stop signal. Drivers either don't pay enough attention to the bike, "don't see" the motorcyclist, or don't react in time to stop.
However, occasionally rear-end collision motorcycle accidents do occur on the open road. A motorist might try to overtake motorcyclists, misjudge distances between the vehicles, or speed excessively resulting in a crash.
The most common reasons for drivers to crash into motorcycles traveling ahead of them include:
Texting, eating, talking on the phone, and other in-car distraction that takes a driver's attention away from the road for a second can lead to fatal rear-end collision motorcycle accidents. At 55 miles per hour, taking your eyes off the road for just over three seconds is the equivalent of traveling the length of a football field blindfolded.
And when distraction isn't the issue, debilitation can be. Drivers who use alcohol or other intoxicants are willingly slowing their own reaction time to deadly lows. Scientific experiments have found alcohol can decrease a person's reaction time by 30%. In addition, it can completely eliminate your ability to make a rational decision (such as whether to apply the break or steer clear of an impending collision).
Consumption of these mind-altering chemicals is considered a willing act which means if a driver is under the influence of these chemicals and causes a crash, they did so understanding their actions could have such dire consequences.
Despite the differences in the mechanics of a rear-end collision motorcycle accident, the types of injuries victims of these traffic crimes often suffer are nearly identical to those seen by EMTs and ER crews when responding to head-on or left-turn motorcycle accidents. These common types of injuries include:
California traffic laws clearly make rear-end collision motorcycle accidents the fault of the driver who strikes the motorcyclists. It's illegal to follow too closely and failing to give yourself enough time (and distance) to react is just foolish.
Additional laws on the books prevent:
Essentially, by getting behind the wheel a driver acknowledges that they have an implied responsibility to watch out for the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorists (including motorcyclists) who share the road with them. When they willingly or unknowingly break that contract, they are often breaking the law.
Drivers who cause these rear-end collision motorcycle accidents are potentially subject to criminal prosecution.
Also, they can be held financially liable through the motorcycle accident settlement process for any injuries or property loss their poor decisions and reckless behavior has caused.
This is why one of the first things you should do after a motorcycle accident, other than making sure your injuries are treated, is to look into your options for compensation.
Indeed, motorcyclists injured in rear-end collision motorcycle accidents can often file insurance claims or motorcycle accident lawsuits to seek compensation for:
And while proving liability in rear-end collision motorcycle accidents can often be much easier than doing so in another type of motorcycle crash, that doesn't mean getting just compensation will be.
In fact, aggressive insurance adjusters and lawyers for at-fault parties often try to shift the blame in these types of accidents to the victims. They often paint pictures of motorcyclists as reckless drivers who must have done something to at least contribute to the crash.
If that's happening to you, it may be time to seek out the best motorcycle accident attorney for your case. Your advocate should be able to put together an air-tight case and present that case in such a way as to win over judges and juries while showing insurance companies they mean business.