Motorcyclists are more exposed to dangerous situations than drivers, as they are in a two-wheeled light vehicle without any seat belts and no cabin. A small bump in the road or a rear collision from another vehicle can eject the rider from their seat and throw them onto the asphalt road, causing injuries and, in worse cases, death. To reduce the risk of motorcycle accidents, motorcyclists can practice defensive driving, which allows the rider to anticipate and evade dangerous situations. However, there are some risks on the road that even defensive driving can not help avoid, such as drunk drivers.
Although alcohol-impaired driving deaths have fallen, they still contribute to many traffic-related injuries and fatalities in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 28 people in the country die daily in drunk driving accidents. That’s one person every 58 minutes!
Although the number of deaths from DUI-related motor vehicle accidents has significantly dropped since 1982, 10,142 people still lost their lives in 2019, deaths that were all preventable. Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities across the nation have remained somewhat constant over the past few years, but the situation is quite different in California.
According to SafeTREC, there were 829 DUI fatalities in California in 2012, which further increased to 911 in 2015, a 27.7% jump. By 2016, there were 1,059 people killed in alcohol-impaired driving across California. The statistics suggest a rising trend in alcohol-impaired fatalities in the state, a grave concern for all drivers, motorcyclists, and even pedestrians.
In 2017, a survey sponsored by the Office of Traffic Safety found that 22.9% of the respondents agreed that the second most frequented safety problem in California was drunk driving. The same survey was then conducted a year earlier, when only 17.3% of the people thought that drunk driving was a huge safety problem, suggesting a growing concern about drunk driving by Californian residents.
Alcohol reduces brain function, affects reasoning, and slows down muscle coordination. These three abilities are important for operating a vehicle safely. Since alcohol absorbs into the bloodstream, law enforcement authorities can determine its concentration by measuring the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood. This is commonly referred to as the BAC, or Blood Alcohol Concentration.
Studies suggest that the risk of accidents increases exponentially at a BAC of 0.08. Due to this risk, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08, except in Utah, where you’re not allowed to drive with a BAC of 0.05.
Although these BACs are a standard of measurement, even a small amount of alcohol can impair one’s ability to drive. In 2019, 1,775 people died in alcohol-related accidents where the drivers had a BAC of less than 0.08.
Here are the effects of BAC on a driver at different levels:
Let’s look at real-life examples in California of how BAC affects driving ability.
On November 28, 2021, a 48-year-old man in a Jeep SUV rear-ended a motorcyclist near Ortega Park, causing the motorcyclist to eject from the vehicle and onto the road. Witnesses reported that the impact from the rear collision launched the motorcyclist 85 feet across the road and further rolled down half a block before crashing into another vehicle. The jeep that crashed into the motorcycle went on to collide with a pickup truck and came to a standstill.
Immediately after witnessing the gruesome accident, bystanders called for emergency services to come to the motorcyclist’s aid. The first person to arrive at the scene of the accident was a Santa Barbara motorcycle officer who tried to provide first aid to the motorcyclist until the ambulance arrived, but by then, it was too late, and the motorcyclist died on the road.
This negligent driver was immediately arrested upon suspicion of DUI and booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail.
On October 4, 2021, at around 11:40 PM, local authorities received a call reporting a serious accident near the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. The police arrived at an accident scene with a seriously injured motorcyclist lying on the road and the SUV driver in his vehicle. This motorcyclist was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital to treat his wounds. However, he did not make it and succumbed to the injuries.
The police, after questioning the driver, felt suspicious and decided to carry out a DUI test using a sobriety test, which the driver failed. Upon failing the test, the police took the driver into custody and charged him with a DUI and vehicular manslaughter.
On November 10, 2021, an accident occurred on Southbound Highway 41 when an SUV collided with a motorcyclist near the onramp to the highway. This accident resulted in serious injuries to the 60-year-old motorcycle rider, who was immediately ejected from their motorbike onto the road. The negligent driver escaped the accident scene, which immediately turned this case from an accident to a hit-and-run.
As the police arrived at the scene of the accident, they transported the injured to a nearby hospital, where medical staff tended to his wounds. Local authorities hurriedly carried on with their investigation and soon arrested the driver responsible for the accident. The mid-20s driver was immediately taken into custody for DUI and hit-and-run charges.
If you received injuries in a motorcycle accident caused by a drunk driver, you may be eligible for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the financial losses as a result of the accident, such as loss of income, medical bills, and property damage, while non-economic damages are non-financial losses, including emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and loss of quality of life.
In the event that the negligent driver receives a DUI conviction, you may also be awarded punitive damages as a means to punish the driver’s behavior and set an example for others. Those who lose their loved ones to a DUI accident can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent driver to recover damages for medical bills prior to the funeral, funeral costs, lost income, mental anguish, and more.
The stigma that motorcyclists drive fast and recklessly has created this bias against all motorcyclists in the United States. Even if the driver is at fault, it is the motorcyclists who are immediately blamed for the accident. If you have the right legal representation, you can prove the fault of the DUI driver and recover financial compensation for your damage. However, the outcome of the case will depend on what you do following the accident.
In the event of an accident, the damaged vehicles on the road pose a threat to other drivers. Those distracted may collide with the already damaged vehicles, resulting in a multi-vehicle collision. If you’re able to move, it is important that you prioritize your safety and that of others around you by moving your motorcycle to the side of the road. Once done, call emergency services to report the accident and request their assistance.
The bias against motorcyclists can easily tilt the case in favor of the negligent driver if there is insufficient evidence. Gather as much evidence as possible at this time by taking pictures of the accident scene, including motorcycle tire marks on the road, the spot where the accident debris landed, the skid marks of the other vehicles involved, and any property damage.
You can also take videos of any roadside warnings or traffic signals nearby and the road conditions. All this evidence can provide information on how the accident occurred and hold the negligent party responsible for their actions. Ask for witness contact information if they are around, as it can further strengthen your case.
If you were riding on a motorcycle and the other driver was in their car, it is most likely that they did not receive any significant injuries from the accident. Head over to them if they are still at the scene of the accident and note down their personal details (name, address, contact details), insurance information, and vehicle details. You will need this when filling out the claims form.
When an officer arrives at the accident scene, inform them of all the facts about the crash. You do not need to let them know your opinion or any additional information besides the fact that it is their job to deduce what happened. An officer will write a police report by conversing with both sides, looking at the available evidence, and providing their opinion on the accident. The police report is an important document that you would need to submit when filing for motorcycle accident claims.
If you’ve received injuries, you must head to the hospital immediately for medical treatment. However, at times, some injuries are not apparent following an accident, and it can take injuries a few hours or days to surface. Internal injuries don’t leave any physical signs on the skin, which can make it difficult to determine whether you have internal injuries until the pain kicks in.
A quick medical examination can help identify any broken bones or other types of internal injuries from the accident. Make sure to keep all medical records and documentation, including doctor’s notes, prescriptions, medical bills, and other relevant information. You would need to provide these to the insurance company to prove that the accident resulted in injuries and financial harm.
When you’re in an accident with a negligent driver, you need to file a claim with their insurance company. However, before you let their insurer know about the accident, contact your insurance company and report the accident so that they are aware of the situation.
When you report the accident to the negligent party’s insurance company, they forward the concern to the claims department, where you are then assigned an insurance adjuster. They will contact you to “know” about the events of the accident, but they’re really there to find some dirt to pin the fault on the motorcycle riders. Insurance companies benefit from refusing or reducing claims, so it is best to only talk to them about the facts of the case and refrain from speaking too much.
The California statute of limitations allows injured victims two years following the date of the accident to file claims and seek financial compensation from the negligent party. Although two years may seem like a long time, it is important to start the legal process immediately.
Insurance companies will deploy tactics to waste time. They may require additional information that may not have anything to do with the case or find errors in your claim forms. Many victims feel tired of the constant back and forth that some even decide to stop pursuing claims.
Experienced personal injury attorneys have the right knowledge and skills to tackle insurance companies, negotiate a fair settlement, and recover compensation for your loss.
When pursuing claims, you are essentially asking for money from a 3rd party insurance company for the damage their policyholder did to you. Without legal help, you might find yourself losing the battle against these insurance companies, as they’re used to deploying dirty tactics to force the claimant into accepting a lowball offer.
Many choose to accept the offer hoping to move on, but little do they realize that the settlement amount is not enough to cover their damages, further affecting their financial position. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney can help negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf while you focus on your mental and physical recovery.
Every DUI motorcycle accident case is unique, and the seriousness of the case depends on what happened and how it happened. Having an experienced DUI motorcycle attorney on your side gives you peace of mind during stressful times as they have the knowledge and skills to document, investigate, and litigate your case.
Without proper legal representation, insurance companies can pin the fault of motorcycle accident cases on the motorcycle accident victims rather than the negligent driver. You need an attorney to help gather the evidence and present a solid argument against the negligent driver, holding them responsible for your losses.
A major part of a claim is determining the value of damages incurred due to the accident. It is easy to calculate the economic damage by holding onto receipts and adding the amounts up, but when it comes to non-economic losses, it is challenging to put a value on these types of damages. A skilled lawyer will be able to use prior case verdicts and the opinions of experts to put a monetary value on non-economic damages.
Serious injuries from a drunk driving accident, like traumatic brain injuries or spinal injuries, can completely derail your life. It not only affects the financial situation but also the mental well-being of the victim and their family. You may find yourself in a deep, dark tunnel with no hope of recovering from the accident, but Ehline Law and our skilled DUI motorcycle accident lawyers are highly committed to protecting your rights and recovering the damages.
Ehline Law has more than three decades of collective experience handling motorcycle accident claims and recovering compensation for injured victims. We have provided legal help to more than 3,000 injured victims, helping them obtain over $150 million in compensation for their losses.
If you or your loved ones have received injuries from a motorcycle accident due to a drunk driver, contact us at (213) 596-9642 for a free consultation with our experienced motorcycle accident lawyer today. We will help you file a motorcycle accident claim, negotiate with the insurance company, and fight for a fair settlement.
Our lawyers have had superior results over the years and are not afraid to take a case to trial if they feel that their client deserves more than what the insurers are willing to pay. In these hard times, Ehline Law and our attorneys will stand with you throughout the entire duration of the case. Contact us now for more information on how we can help.
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.