Motorcycles have recorded one of the highest number of fatal injuries over time. There are higher chances of suffering catastrophic injuries in a motorcycle accident than other types of traffic accidents. If you have suffered catastrophic injuries in a motorcycle accident, another at-fault party caused, you deserve compensation. Contact the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney for comprehensive legal services that suit your needs.
Definition and Examples of Catastrophic Injuries
Catastrophic injuries are defined as severe injuries that permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work. These types of injuries usually leave a person suffering from permanent disabilities for the rest of their life. They also have severe and long term effects on the victim.
These kinds of injuries are considered catastrophic due to the enormous impact they have on the lives of the victim and their loved ones. That's why victims require considerable compensation for the substantial expenses and losses arising from them. This often includes medical and rehabilitative care, assistive devices for mobility, income replacement, among other aspects.
Types of Catastrophic Injuries Sustained in a Motorcycle Accident
Anyone involved in a motorcycle accident can suffer from catastrophic injuries. These injuries differ according to the point of impact between the motorcyclists and the object responsible for the accident. Let's have a closer look at the common type of catastrophic injuries.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are damages to any part of the spinal cord or its nerve endings. These injuries cause loss of limbs' control, depending on its location and its severity. Spinal cord injuries are complete if all the sensory and motor functions are lost below the spinal cord injury. If the motor or sensory function below the affected area is affected, the injury is incomplete.
Paralysis of the spinal cord can also be referred to as tetraplegia if the arms, legs, pelvic organs, and trunk are affected by the injury. If the trunk, pelvic organ, and legs are affected, the paralysis becomes paraplegia.
Spinal cord injuries can also result in several signs and symptoms such as:
- Loss or altered sensation
- Loss of movement
- Difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretion from your lungs
- Change in sexual functions, fertility, and sexual sensitivity
- Exaggerated reflex activities
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Pain or an intense stinging sensation
Spinal cord injuries can cause extensive monetary losses while mitigating their effects. There are also chances of suffering long-term monetary damages if the victim suffers from long-term consequences such as loss of movement, sexual function, and altered sensation.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury usually results from a violent jolt or blow to the head. Mild traumatic brain injury may affect your brain cells, while traumatic and severe brain injuries can cause torn tissues, bleeding, and bruising.
There is a wide range of physical and psychological effects resulting from TBI. Some of these signs and symptoms may appear immediately after the motorcycle accident, while others appear days or weeks later. Some of the physical symptoms include:
- Convulsion or seizure
- Persistent headache that can worsen with time
- Loss of coordination
- Dilation of one or both pupils
- Inability to awaken from sleep
Some of the mental or cognitive symptoms include:
- Coma and other disorders of consciousness
- Slurred speech
- Combativeness, agitation, or other unusual behavior
- Profound confusion
Loss of Limb
The loss of a limb or a digit in an accident is referred to as traumatic amputation. Amputation is considered a catastrophic injury since it creates a lifelong disability. Usually, people who suffer amputation due to traffic accidents have to use a prosthesis to regain their lost limbs' regular use. The prosthesis can be expensive and can heavily affect the victim and his or her loved ones financially.
Although some of the individuals who experience the loss of a limb can attain a high degree of functionality from their prosthesis, there are still chances of experiencing pain and suffering from this kind of injury.
Coma after a Motorcycle Accident
Coma is not a typical motorcycle accident, but it can be life-threatening once a person suffers from it. It is a deep unconsciousness that results from head trauma or induced in the hospital. Once a person is in a coma, they cannot engage in conscious thinking and are not aware of their immediate surroundings.
The prognosis after the affected person awakens, varies. A person might return to regular or experience life-altering changes in their mentation, requiring occupational and physical therapy for the rest of their life.
Mildly affected people might require assistance to do the most straightforward task and experience emotional problems. This makes the road to healing from a coma long and can cause astronomical expenses, mainly if the victim stays in the Intensive Care Unit for long.
Disfigurement Caused by Severe Burns and Road Rash
Motorcyclists are susceptible to road rash and burns due to the minimal protection from vehicles and the road. Road rash usually occurs when the motorcyclists are ejected from the bike and dragged on the tarmac, scraping off a layer of his or her skin. This can lead to disfigurement on the affected part of the body.
Disfigurement in a motorcycle accident can also be caused by mechanical fire or spilled gas. A motorcycle accident can cause a gas tank leakage that can interact with a spark or other motorcycle component, leading to a fire. The burns sustained from this kind of situation are severe and can cause disfigurement.
There are high costs of treating burns and road rash, especially when victims intend to regain their former look through a skin grafting process.
Reasons Why Motorcycle Accidents Are Catastrophic
Motorcycle accidents can be severe and can result in the type of injuries discussed above. This means that there are specific reasons why motorcycle accidents are more dangerous for victims than other traffic accidents. These reasons are as discussed below.
There is Less Protection for the Motorcyclists
There are chances that the motorcyclist will come off worse in terms of injuries than other road users in a collision between a motorcycle and a vehicle. Vehicle passengers are usually protected by the frame of the car, shielding them from all hazards. Apart from that, most cars have safety features like seat belts and airbags that reduce the passengers' level of harm. Unfortunately, motorcycles lack these features, putting the rider at more risk.
You probably think that wearing a helmet would avoid the possibility of experiencing brain injury or, worse, traumatic brain injury. Well, helmets are convenient safety features in a motorcycle that protect your head from making contact with another vehicle, the ground, or any other point of impact. Therefore, it does not stop your brain from moving inside your skull, causing traumatic brain damage if the brain hemorrhages or makes significant contact with the head.
Motorcycles have Less Braking Power
Most motorcycle accidents occur due to problematic brakes. However, even with efficient brakes, riders can spin out of control once they make an emergency stop. This situation can have the rider thrown away from the motorcycle or cause severe burns due to contact with the ground.
There are High Chances of Ejection from a Motorcycle Accident
The chances of being ejected from a motorcycle once it is involved in a severe accident are high. Once motorcyclists are ejected from a motorcycle, they usually contact the ground and probably cause a brain injury, spinal cord injury, or broken bones.
Motorcyclists Have Less Control over their Motorcycles
Motorcycles have a more sensitive steering system than a vehicle. Therefore, there are high chances that a bike would lose control, especially when it is at high speed. Their sensitive steering system also requires a lot of attention while riding, making it easier to cause an accident if one is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Long-Term Costs Related to Catastrophic Injuries
In the beginning, a motorcycle accident victim usually faces medical expenses, such as:
- Lengthy hospitalization
- Emergency medical care
- Initial rehabilitation and therapy
- Special equipment and supplies needed at home
However, if the victim had suffered catastrophic injuries, there are long-term expenses that would follow. These expenses include:
- More treatment procedures that would last for years
- Ongoing costs for medical supplies and equipment
- Ongoing therapy and rehabilitation
- Home modifications to accommodate a disability
- Transportation costs, like purchase and maintenance of a lift and wheelchair van
- Medical care for secondary complications and conditions
- Custodial care
- Home health care
- Long-term care in a nursing home
- Help with household needs and other services that you cannot perform
- Ongoing counseling
All the above-mentioned long-term care expect to be catered for by the at-fault party. However, you must prove that these expenses would apply based on the nature of the injuries sustained. They can only be compensated if the victim or a victim's loved one proves that they are damages incurred from the accident.
Potential Damages Sustained from Catastrophic Injuries
The term "damages" is used to define the monetary compensation for loss or injuries caused by another person's wrongful act. Damages can either be economic or non-economic. Economic damages are those with a definite dollar value and are easy to calculate, while non-economic damages include those without a specific dollar value and are difficult to calculate.
In a catastrophic motorcycle accident, victims can recover several damages depending on several factors. These includes:
- Nature and circumstances of the accident
- The job of the victim
- Unique skills of the individual
- Activities of interest
- Role in the family
- Education level
- Family dynamics
Based on these factors, a motorcycle accident victim can recover several damages. Let's have a closer look at them.
Medical bills make up the largest expenses in a motorcycle accident. These costs are expected to be much greater if there are catastrophic injuries involved. Medical expenses in a motorcycle accident can include:
- Doctors visit
- Surgery costs
- Hospital bills and test
- Ongoing treatment
- Costs of prescribed medication
Besides these expenses, the catastrophic injuries sustained from the motorcycle accident can lead to future medical expenses. These expenses include all long-term costs explained above. Calculating future medical expenses can be complicated. That's why you should have an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to direct how these expenses will be calculated. Involve a healthcare economist to determine these expenses accurately.
Lost wages refer to income missed from having to take time to recover from the injuries sustained in an accident. In most cases, this is a simple addition of the work hours missed multiplied by the total of your hourly rate payment. However, this might be slightly different when catastrophic injuries are involved since the victim might end up missing work for a lifetime or experience a reduced working capability.
Estimating the future lost wages can be complicated since you have to calculate the chances of an increase in revenue, potential promotions, and lucrative compensation packages. You should also include loss of pension or retirement fund, Social Security retirement benefits, and annual wage adjustments.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering are the most common types of non-economic damages suffered in a catastrophic motorcycle accident. Like medical expenses and lost wages, there is a likelihood of future consequences associated with pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering can either be physical pain and suffering and mental pain and suffering.
Physical pain and suffering is the actual physical pain caused by the catastrophic injury sustained by a victim. This means that it not only includes the pain and discomfort endured by the victim to date and the detrimental effect that you will likely suffer in the future.
Mental pain and suffering are a by-product of the bodily injuries sustained in an accident. It usually includes things like emotional distress, anxiety, shock, anger, fear, and loss of enjoyment. This pain and suffering are any negative emotions that a victim suffers due to the endurance of pain and trauma caused by the motorcycle accident. More severe pain and suffering can cause Post Traumatic Pain Disorder (PTSD).
Loss of Consortium
When a loss of consortium damage is considered, most people think of the decreased or limited sexual activity between spouses. However, this kind of damage covers much more than this. Loss of consortium involves compensation for damages for an injury's effects on previously existing spousal functions. These include:
- Services like taking care of children
Loss of consortium is different from other damages since it is claimed by the affected spouse rather than the victim.
Punitive damages are damages awarded to punish particular conduct of such a degree that merits punishment rather than solely recovering the damages caused by the motorcycle accident. A good example would occur when the at-fault party was driving under the influence hence the catastrophic accident.
Punitive damages are usually higher than other types of damages. They can go up to five times the total compensation, depending on the extent of injuries incurred by the victim and recklessness of the at-fault party. A plaintiff must prove that the at-fault party conduct was grossly negligent to be awarded this damage.
Wrongful Death-Related to Catastrophic Injuries Sustained in a Motorcycle Accident
Not all motorcycle accident victims who sustain catastrophic injuries recover. Some of them succumb to these injuries, leading to a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of case is different since it is filed by the victim's next of kin. In California, individuals who can be compensated in a wrongful death case include siblings, wives, children, parents, and husbands.
The plaintiff in a motorcycle wrongful death claim can obtain compensation for:
- Medical expenses that accumulated before the death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of benefit
- Loss of support
- Loss of future income that the victim could have earned
- Non-monetary damages like loss of companionship and affection
- Other monetary losses suffered due to the victim's wrongful death
How Victims Are Compensated in Motorcycle Accidents in California
After recovering from your injuries, you should seek compensation for the motorcycle accident's catastrophic injuries. This process can be complicated since there are several aspects that you need to prove. You have to prove that another party was negligent hence the accident and the injuries sustained. Below is a detailed view of how victims are compensated for motorcycle accidents in California.
Proving That the Other Party was Negligent
Motorcycle accidents occur due to negligence by one party. In this context, negligence refers to disregarding motorcyclists' safety based on particular behaviors or actions. Examples of negligence on the road that might cause a motorcycle accident include:
- Driving under the influence
- Failing to yield
- Running a red light
- Driving too fast
- Following too closely
- Driving while distracted
- Failing to look when making a left-hand turn
The government or a particular company can also be negligent if poor road conditions caused your accident.
Establishing that the Other Party's Negligence Led to Your Injuries
Once you are involved in a fatal motorcycle accident, you need to gather information as soon as possible to begin building your case. Contacting a lawyer is one of the best ways to prove that another party was liable for your injuries. Other ways that you can start compiling information that will help you associate the person's negligence, and your injuries include:
- Calling the police and report the accident right away
- Taking note of names and contact of any witnesses at the accident scene
- Exchanging contact information and insurance information with other motorists involved in an accident
- Take note and keeping a diary documenting what happened and how you are feeling after the accident
- See a doctor as soon as possible after the crash and duly follow all the treatment instructions
Partial Negligence in California
Sometimes motorcycle accident victims play a part in causing the accident that they were involved in. This makes them partially negligent for their injuries. In California, this situation can be accommodated through the pure comparative fault or comparative negligence law.
Under the pure comparative fault law, a court can award damages to victims even if they play a part in causing their injuries. This rule means that a party can still recover damages even if they are 99% responsible for the crash.
Under this law, the party's compensation is reduced according to the percentage of fault. For instance, if you are found to be 10% responsible due to your speeding, while the defendant is 90% liable for texting and driving, you will be awarded 90% of the total compensation amount while the drivers receive 10%.
Establishing that You Suffered Damages Due to the Catastrophic Injuries Sustained
You cannot have your damages compensated if you cannot prove that you incurred them due to the injuries sustained in the motorcycle accident. The kind of evidence you need to present is different based on the damage you suffered. However, here are the common ways that you can use to establish that you suffered damages from the catastrophic injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident:
- Provide medical bills and receipts incurred after your treatment
- Provide psychiatric records, expert testimonies, medical records, and medical prognosis to prove your pain and suffering
- Provide your W-2 forms, Wage Verification, and Pay Stubs to prove your lost wages
- Provide tax returns, banking records, and checks to prove your lost income if you are self-employed
- Provide evidence proving that you were dependent on the accident victim to prove your loss of consortium
- Provide a statement from an expert witness to prove that you suffered several damages
- Provide a testimony from your employee proving that you missed work or experienced a reduced working capacity due to the injuries sustained in the accident
Find a Catastrophic Motorcycle Accident Attorney Near Me
You should contact the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney if you or a loved one suffers catastrophic injuries in a motorcycle accident. Our legal team is dedicated to protecting motorcycle accident victims' rights in Los Angeles. We employ aggressive litigation combined with our attorneys’ vast experience to achieve favorable results. Call us today at 424-237-3600 and let us discuss how we can quickly act to protect your rights.