Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Serving Louisiana
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Around 114,000 motorcycles are registered in Louisiana. While most of Louisiana’s 4.6 million residents understand the basics of automobile accident claims, factors that affect motorcycle accident victims and their legal rights are rarely discussed.
This can lead to situations in which motorcycle crash victims or their family members are uncertain about how to proceed to ensure they receive a fair settlement. When an accident occurs, motorcycle accident victims suffer serious injuries and even death at a much higher rate than other motor vehicle operators, and it is so important to move quickly and protect your interests.
If you or a loved one has been injured, don’t leave it to the insurance companies to decide what is best for your family. Below is an outline of essential information for Louisiana motorcycle accident victims. Call today to speak with a member of our legal team who will help you understand the specifics of your case and ensure you make the best decisions for your future.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents are complex events that last just a split-second but can have life-altering consequences. They can involve human, environmental and vehicle factors. It is important to speak with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney who can help you understand the details of who is at fault in your case and how.
At Fault Driver
Despite the stigma of motorcycle operators as reckless thrill-seekers, the majority of motorcycle accidents are actually caused by other motorists, in particular negligent drivers. Careless acts by other motor vehicle operators that put motorcyclists at risk include:
- Failing to yield
- Failing to give proper following distance
- Swerving in front of a motorcycle
- Distracted driving
- Impaired driving
- Failing to check blind spots
- Unsafe lane changes
- Sudden stops
Poor Road Conditions
Dangerous road conditions are a significant cause of motorcycle accidents. Bikers depend on solid, high friction, well-maintained road surfaces to maintain control.
Government agencies are responsible for maintaining public roads and highways. Because federal, state, and local agencies can be involved in road maintenance, it can be challenging to sort out who should be held responsible if you are injured in a motorcycle accident caused by poor road conditions.
Problems with road design, construction, and maintenance can lead to motorcycle accidents, including:
- Inadequate lighting for roads or intersections
- Sand, loose gravel, or debris on the roadway
- Lack of needed dividers or guardrails
- Pavement defects (uneven pavement, potholes, resurfaced or grooved pavement)
- Lane shifts or turn lanes without proper signs or markings
- Poorly designed intersections
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is legally required and has a duty to build and maintain public roadways that are reasonably safe. This duty of care includes the shoulder of the road, ditches, guardrails, and more. The duty exists even when vehicle operators may be driving too fast or be distracted. When the DOTD fails in its duty of care, victims can sue the DOTD.
In order for the DOTD to be held liable, the victim of a Louisiana motorcycle crash must prove four things:
- The DOTD had custody of (responsibility for) the highway, guardrail, ditch, or road shoulder that caused the injuries.
- It created an unreasonable risk of harm.
- The DOTD had knowledge of the condition or defect and failed to correct it within a reasonable time.
- The defect contributed of the victim’s injuries
Alcohol, Fatigue or Lack of Training or Experience
Nearly half of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve alcohol. A motorcycle requires skill and coordination to operate. Riding while under the influence of alcohol significantly decreases a biker’s ability to operate it safely. Fatigue is also a leading cause of motorcycle crashes, so take frequent breaks on long rides–and when in doubt, rest.
Motorcycle crashes are often related to lack of experience or failure to take necessary precautions. Defensive driving is a must for bikers, including being more alert at intersections, where most motorcycle-vehicle collisions occur.
Around one-third of motorcycle accident victims killed in crashes are not licensed or are improperly licensed. Not holding a motorcycle endorsement means a biker may not have experience, knowledge or skills to safely operate a motorcycle.
Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Motorcycle accidents tend to be more serious than other motor vehicle accidents. Injured motorcyclists face severe injuries that can lead to lasting pain, disfigurement, or lost income and quality of life over many years or a lifetime. More than 80 percent of all reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death for the motorcyclist.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a serious accident, you owe it to yourself to speak with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer who can help ensure you receive maximum compensation for your injuries.
Traumatic brain injury
Few bikers die on our roadways than ever before thanks to widespread use of helmets and safety advances. But even with a DOT-approved helmet, a motorcyclist who survives a crash faces a high risk of traumatic brain injury from the force of impact with another vehicle, the road or other object. Riders who have suffered a traumatic brain injury can have lasting impairments, including their ability to speak or carry out functions vital to daily life and work. These injuries can result in extensive rehabilitation and major long-term medical costs.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Head injuries and neck injuries make up nearly one quarter of all motorcycle accident injuries. In serious motorcycle crashes, spinal cord injuries can cause the most serious, lasting damage. While helmets now provide protection from traumatic brain injury, they provide little in the way of spinal cord protection and may actually transfer the impact of a crash toward the spine. Spinal cord injuries can result in chronic pain, temporary or permanent loss of movement, and in the most serious cases, paraplegia or quadriplegia. Spinal cord injuries almost always involve significant damages to the injured party, including long-term healthcare costs and lost wages.
These are painful scrapes, abrasions and more serious injuries can resemble serious burns. They are caused when a biker slides along the road surface. Our skin acts as our primary protective layer, so infection can be a serious risk with road rash injuries. Scaring and permanent nerve damage as well as damage to underlie connective tissue are common. Severe road rash can require skin grafting, physical therapy and other long-term medical care.
Lower Limb Injuries
Bikers are more likely to injure their legs and feet than any other part of their bodies. A study of more than a million motorcycle injuries found that nearly 30 percent were to the lower limbs.
When you are on a motorcycle, your legs are very close to the ground. In a motorcycle crash, lower libs are often the first thing to make contact with pavement. If a motorcycle rolls, it can crush a rider’s leg or foot, and result in fractures and broken bones. Lower limb ligament and tendon injuries are also common for motorcyclists who experience a crash.
Injuries to the ribs, sternum or clavicles are very common in motorcycle crashes. Injuries to this area can be life-threatening as the rib cage protects vital organs, especially our lungs. Chest trauma can result in a collapsed or punctured lung and internal bleeding. This type of injury can result in long recovery times and costly medical treatment, and can even lead to secondary injuries from infection.
Louisiana Law and Motorcycles
Knowing and always following motorcycle safety laws protect you on the road. They also are also important to understand after a motorcycle accident as other parties’ and their legal teams may attempt to shift some part of the blame onto the motorcycle operator, claiming he or she failed to follow necessary safety laws.
In Louisiana, rather than getting a separate motorcycle license, bikers get a motorcycle endorsement on their existing driver’s license. You must pass a motorcycle knowledge and an on-cycle skills test before receiving your motorcycle endorsement.
For the knowledge test, you answer a series of questions about what to do in certain situations on the road–for example, what to do as you approach an uneven or wet road surface.
During the on-cycle skills test, you demonstrate basic vehicle-control and crash-avoidance skills. You need to demonstrate the ability to safely:
- Stop quickly
- Adjust your speed to different traffic patterns
You can skip the on-cycle skills test by providing proof of completing a 15.5-hour motorcycle safety course from the Louisiana Department of Public Motorcycle Safety, Awareness, and Operator Training Program.
Like other motor vehicles in the state, motorcycles are required to be inspected at least once per year. The inspection covers brakes, handlebars, lights, reflectors, mirrors, and other essential equipment. You must have a motorcycle endorsement at the time of your inspection.
Motorcycle Helmet & Eye Protection Requirements
Anyone who operates or rides on a motorcycle in the state of Louisiana is required to wear a DOT-approved helmet manufactured for motorcycle riders. Helmets must be secured by a chin strap when a motorcycle is in operation.
Unless you have a windshield with adequate eye protection, you must wear approved goggles, safety glasses or a helmet face shield. You can not wear tinted protective lenses at night.
It is illegal to ride a motorcycle while carrying anything that prevents you from keeping both hands on the handlebars. Louisiana law also prohibits motorcycles with handlebars that cause your hands to rest above shoulder height when you are seated on the bike.
Passengers are only allowed on motorcycles specially made for more than one person. Children can not ride on a motorcycle if they would otherwise be required to use a child safety seat. Children five years or older can only ride on a motorcycle if they are able to be properly seated and are wearing a safety helmet.
Traffic Lane Use
Motorcyclists cannot pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle they are passing. They must operate in a proper lane and never drive between lanes of traffic or between rows of vehicles. No more than two bikes can ride side-by-side in a single lane.
In order to register a motorcycle in Louisiana, you must show proof of insurance coverage in the following amounts:
for one individual injured in an accident
for all persons injured in an accident
for property damage
Other Motor Vehicle Operators’ Responsibility to Bikers
All drivers in Louisiana have a duty to operate, control and use their vehicles reasonably, and to maintain a proper lookout for hazards. Drivers must adapt to the circumstances of the roadway and avoid causing harm to others. This includes providing additional space between their vehicle and motorcycles, providing a safe following distance, checking blind spots and signaling before changing lanes, and exercising caution when crossing oncoming traffic when making a left turn.
Personal Injury Law and Motorcycle Accidents
It is important to understand key elements of Louisiana personal injury law that can affect your case results if you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle crash.
Requirement to Report Vehicle Accidents
By law, drivers in Louisiana must report any vehicle accident immediately, if the accident results in injury to or death of any person, or results in property damage over $500. This typically means calling 911 immediately. A law enforcement officer then investigates and generates an accident report that is publicly available at the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
Louisiana motorcycle accident judgements are subject to a “comparative negligence” law. This means that a court can find you, the victim, partially at fault for your motorcycle accident. You can still recover damages for your case. But the court will reduce your award by the percentage that it decides you were at fault. So, if you would have received a $100,000 award and you are found to be 20% at fault, your award would be reduced by 20% to $80,000. An insurance company will use the same formula to determine what it will offer as a settlement. “Comparative negligence” is almost always a judgement based on your ability to negotiate with insurers or persuade a judge or jury. A skilled motorcycle accident attorney with knowledge of past awards and how “fault” is determined under Louisiana law will be invaluable in this process.
Statute of Limitations
You have one year from the date of your accident to file a claim in Louisiana, including any claim for injury or vehicle damage. This is a shorter deadline than most states, and if you miss it you likely lose your ability to negotiate a fair settlement. So speak with an attorney experienced in Louisiana motorcycle accident claims and personal injury law right away. This way, you and your legal team can build the strongest case possible for the compensation you deserve.
Motorcycle accidents involving poorly maintained roads, defective motorcycle parts or equipment, distracted drivers, disregard for traffic laws, or drunk driving are examples of causes of wrongful death. Wrongful death cases allow surviving family members to recover damages on behalf of the deceased motorcycle accident victim.
Louisiana law requires the person/s or parties responsible for causing the death to compensate the deceased’s family for damages endured and future losses.
Under Louisiana law, certain family members may also seek damages through a “survivor action” for all medical costs and other damages, as well as the pain and suffering that their loved one endured prior to his or her death.
Louisiana law allows the following family members to bring a wrongful death or survival claim. This includes immediate family members through adoption.
- The victim’s spouse and children
- The victim’s parents, if the victim left no surviving spouse or child
- The victim’s brothers and sisters, if the victim left no surviving spouse, child, or parent
- The victim’s grandparents, if the victim left no surviving spouse, child, parent, or sibling
If a parent abandoned the deceased during childhood, that parent can not bring a wrongful death case on behalf of that child.
In the case of negligence, the victim’s family or estate need to show that:
- The party at fault had a duty to exercise “reasonable care.”
- The party failed in its duty.
- That failure caused the death of the victim.
- The family and the victim suffered damages as a result of the death.
Damages can be economic or non-economic and can include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages and benefits
- Loss of support
- Loss of services
- Loss of society
- Loss of love and affections
- Mental anguish and emotional suffering
If a wrongful death is proven to have been caused by egregious, malicious, willful, wanton or reckless action or gross negligence, a Louisiana civil court may also award punitive damages, in addition to economic and non-economic damages. Damages for a wrongful death caused by a drunk driver or hit-and-run may also include “exemplary damages” under Louisiana law.
Criminal Cases & Motorcycle Accidents
Some motorcycle accident cases may involve an ongoing or prosecuted criminal case. For example, if a drunk driver kills a motorcycle operator, the state may prosecute that person on criminal charges, and the victim or the victim’s family may also file a personal injury case or wrongful death suit against that person. A criminal case does not prevent a personal injury or wrongful death claim, but it is important to understand the differences between the two cases and how each can influence the other.
Other Louisiana Laws
Defective product or service “duty of care” laws could play a potential role in your case, as could criminal law if a party is prosecuted for a crime related to the accident, such as driving under the influence or hit-and-run. A motorcycle accident attorney with experience winning for victims in Louisiana cases can help you better understand how these laws can affect the outcome of your case.
Compensation to Motorcycle Accident Victims
Compensation typically falls within the following categories. Additionally, there can be pain and suffering and other categories of awards for victims or family members under Louisiana law.
Compensation for Medical Care
You may require medical care following a motorcycle-related accident. Even if you do not believe you have suffered any injuries, you should be evaluated by medical professionals anyway. In the days and weeks following your accident, keep detailed notes of the medical care you receive, your medical expenses, and any new symptoms, pain or physical limitations you experience. If the other party was negligent in causing your injuries, you are entitled to be compensated for your medical bills and any percentage of temporary or permanent disability the accident caused you.
Compensation for Physical Therapy Care
Similar to medical care, you may require physical therapy following a motorcycle accident, depending on the specific type and severity of your injuries. These bills, if medically necessary, will also be included in your claim of compensation.
Compensation for Property Damage
When you are involved in any type of vehicular accident, the probability of you experiencing some type of property damage is extremely high. Typically, this claim will initially be processed through your insurance. If your claim is denied for some reason, you may still be able to recover compensation by including these costs in your personal injury claim.
Compensation for Lost Wages
After an accident, it is not uncommon to need time off from work due to your injuries or medical appointments. This may cause you to lose vacation time, sick days, and even wages. If your reason for being off work is due to medical reasons caused by your accident, you can include these losses in your claim against the negligent party. When another driver hits and injures you, it is not your fault, and you should not have to pay the price for your injuries by losing wages that you and your family need.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are motorcycle accident claims different from car accident claims?
Factors influencing a motorcycle claim are similar to those relevant to a car accident. Motorcyclists, however, are more often wrapped in the stigma of driving too fast and disobeying common traffic laws. They are often perceived to be reckless in general. Therefore, it is important to gather as much information as possible about the accident to help prove that the negligent party who caused the accident was at fault.
In a personal injury case, it is your burden, as the plaintiff, to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the other party’s negligence caused your injuries. To meet your burden, you will need evidence, typically in the form of a police report, photos of the scene, witness statements, medical records, and medical expert opinions.
If you are able to prove that another vehicle was at fault, you may be entitled to compensation, including compensation for medical bills, disability, lost wages, and property damage.
Another element is the lengths that insurance companies will go to put some of the blame on the biker. Unlike most auto accidents, those involving motorcyclists often result in severe injuries. Motorcycle accident lawsuits more often result in larger settlements for medical treatment and to compensate for lost work and quality of life. Because of this, insurance companies will make every effort to put some of the blame onto the biker and limit the amount of a settlement.
Do not leave investigating the case to adjusters or insurance company lawyers, who — let’s face it — are protecting their bosses’ bottom line. Don’t take the first settlement offer made. Speak to a skilled Louisiana personal injury attorney before you sign any agreement.
Who is at fault in most motorcycle accidents?
Liability in a motorcycle accident can be clear-cut, such as when a driver fails to yield and hits a biker who has the right of way and is operating their cycle in a safe manner — a very common scenario. There may be other parties at fault, however, such as motorcycle manufacturers or those responsible for road maintenance. Insurers will also often work to place some of the liability on the biker. It is in your best interest to consult a personal injury lawyer to conduct a thorough investigation.
How long does a motorcycle accident case take?
The majority of personal injury cases in Louisiana are settled out of court. Settlements can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. In cases of serious injury, the process can take time as you recover and lasting injuries become apparent. A skilled personal injury attorney will help at every step so that:
- You meet key filing deadlines;
- Your medical and other expenses are taken care of in the short-term;
- You receive the maximum settlement for your injuries; and
- You are prepared for court if necessary.
If a case goes to civil court, there will be added time as the court establishes evidence and witnesses give testimony. Once a settlement is reached, a release from liability is signed and the insurance company pays the settlement, usually within six to eight weeks.
What are factors that may affect the outcome of a motorcycle accident case?
Factors that affect the amount of a settlement include:
- The severity of your injuries
- Whether injuries cause permanent disfigurement or scarring
- Loss of quality of life or independence
- The cost and length of treatment for injuries
- Lost income as a result of injuries
- Pain and suffering
Factors that will support your personal injury claim include:
- Evidence of physical injury, damaged property, and lost work (photographs, medical records, correspondences — save everything.)
- Strong witness testimony
- Admissions of liability from the other party
- Seeking medical attention immediately after the injury
- Carefully following your treatment plan
- Meeting filing deadlines and procedural requirements (Hiring a skilled attorney will be essential for this.)
Your legal team will help you put together the best possible case and defend you against arguments that could limit your claim (such as that you share fault for the accident or that a pre-existing condition contributed to your injuries). Call us today for a free consultation.
Why do I need a motorcycle accident attorney?
Extensive legal and technical knowledge is needed to bring a successful motorcycle-related accident claim in Louisiana. Don’t try to navigate the process alone. Speak with a personal injury lawyer, who is experienced in handling motorcycle-related accidents to represent you. Handling these cases requires both in-depth experience with Louisiana personal injury law and an ability to effectively and accurately research and articulate the information surrounding the accident in order to prove the fault of the other driver.
How do I find the right lawyer?
Motorcycle accident cases are very different than automobile accident cases, and the lawyer you hire should understand that. Research the lawyer’s previous cases and if he or she has been involved in motorcycle accident related cases; it will help with the potential success of your case.
When choosing a lawyer, there are a few qualities you should look for to ensure you get the best service for your specific situation:
The Right Expertise
If you need legal representation for an injury case, it is best to look for a law firm that specializes in accident/injury such as AKD. Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys will ensure your case is handled with expert care.
The Ability to Explain
If you are constantly confused by what your lawyer is saying, this isn’t your fault, it’s theirs. Lawyers need to be able to communicate in a way that is understandable to a non-lawyer, so you know exactly what will be involved in your claim. After all, you are the client and you deserve to understand your legal rights, the legal details of your motorcycle accident, and how they affect your case and potential compensation.
Make sure to ask about an attorney’s fee structure. At AKD, we operate on a contingency fee structure, so your choice to work with us is risk-free and you can have confidence knowing that we are also personally invested in the outcome of your case.
A Good Reputation
Ask your lawyer for references and/or a client list you can contact for reviews. Great law practices builds a client base through client referrals as a result of successful outcomes. Ask your prospective lawyer for information about their success rate and average settlement or verdict.
Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Louisiana
At AKD, our experienced and knowledgeable team of personal injury lawyers, Roderick Alvendia, J. Bart Kelly III., and Jeanne Demarest, have helped countless clients recover the compensation they are entitled to after a personal injury due to a motorcycle-related accident.
We work on a contingency fee basis, which means that we are only paid if you receive a favorable judgment or settlement. If you do not win your case, you will not be charged for our legal services. Contact us today at 504-618-1632 to set up a free consultation and review of your claim. We will dedicate our years of experience and knowledge to forming a case strategy that will be most advantageous to you.
Call Today for Your Free Case Evaluation
If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another driver, the time to act is now. Your injuries, pain and suffering cannot wait.