Motorcycle accidents can be caused by:
- defective bike parts,
- negligent drivers, or
- dangerous road conditions.
When a person is injured in a motorcycle accident, and that accidents is another person's fault, he or she can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover money damages.
Severe Motorcycle Injuries
Because a motorcycle rider is left relatively unprotected, he or she can suffer extremely serious injuries, such as:
- back or spinal cord injuries;
- traumatic brain injury;
- broken or fractured bones;
- road rash; and
Filing a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit
To file a personal injury claim as the result of a motorcycle accident, a person who has been injured should contact an experienced motorcycle injury attorney to file a complaint.
A complaint is:
- a legal document
- that sets forth the basic details and allegations
- of the alleged personal injury case.
The case will then proceed with the defendant's answer, and the attorneys will conduct "discovery" to learn more about the facts of the case.
Below, our Colorado personal injury attorneys address frequently asked questions about motorcycle accidents in personal injury lawsuits and the injuries you may have suffered.
- 1. When am I allowed to file a lawsuit after a Colorado motorcycle accident?
- 2. What kinds of damages can I win in a personal injury lawsuit?
- 3. What are the typical causes of motorcycle accidents?
- 4. What should I do after I am injured?
- 4.1 Should I gather information after an accident?
- 4.2 Should I call the police?
- 4.3 Be Careful About What You Say
- 5. Who is to blame if poor road conditions caused my injuries?
- 6. Can I file a lawsuit if my spouse was killed in a motorcycle accident?
- 7. What if I was partially at fault for my injuries?
When another person is responsible for your injuries in a motorcycle accident, they should be held liable for the costs of those injuries. Other responsible parties could include:
- other drivers;
- another motorcyclist;
- a pedestrian;
- the government; or
- the manufacturer of the bike or one of its parts.
Most personal injury claims for motorcycle accidents are based on negligence. To prove negligence occurred, a person who is injured (the plaintiff) must prove:
- that the person being sued (the defendant) owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- that the defendant breached that duty of care;
- that the defendant's breach was the cause of the injury; and
- that the plaintiff sustained monetary damages from his or her injuries.1
If the plaintiff can show that the defendant was negligent in causing the construction accident, the defendant will be responsible for the plaintiff's damages.
Negligence per se in Colorado occurs when a person violates a:
- safety law;
- regulation; or
in the state and is presumed to have been negligent.
To prove his or her case, the plaintiff (the injured party) must prove that:
- the defendant violated a statute, law, or regulation;
- the statute in question was created to prevent the same type of injury suffered by the plaintiff;
- the victim is part of the "class" of people who were meant to be protected by the law; and
- the defendant's violation of the law was the cause of the victim's injuries.
Example: Sally runs a red light on her way to work, and runs into Harold who is riding his motorcycle to Denver. Sally broke a traffic law by running the red light, and caused severe injury to Harold. Negligence per se will apply to deem her to have breached the duty of care.
An injured person could recover both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include:
These damages are more easily identifiable through documentary evidence and usually have a defined value.
Non-economic damages are those which are not typical "out-of-pocket" expenses. These losses are more subjective and include:
- pain and suffering;3
- emotional distress;
- emotional distress;
- loss of enjoyment of life; and
- loss of consortium.
There an almost limitless number of ways that a motorcycle accident can occur, but some are more common than others.
- inattentive drivers;
- being rear-ended due to tailgating;
- drivers on the phone or texting;
- collision with a stationary object or parked vehicle;
- vehicles merging into a lane;
- loose gravel on a roadway;
- malfunctioning bike parts; and
- hazardous weather conditions.
The first step after a motorcycle accident is to seek medical attention. Even if you don't know whether you were injured, an evaluation by your doctor will ensure your health. Your well-being is the most important thing.
Injuries that result from motor vehicle accidents can be tricky, waiting days, months, or even years before showing up. Consult with a medical professional to make sure you are unharmed after a collision.
Once your health is assured, you should gather as much information as possible to help prove your damages. This includes getting information at the scene of the accident, as well as future information about your possible claim.
Information you should get at the scene includes:
- name and contact information of other drivers and passengers involved in the collision;
- vehicle license plate numbers;
- driver insurance information;
- year, make, model, and color of all vehicles; and
- witness contact information.
The police are often a first call after a motor vehicle collision. Officers are able to secure the scene, take notes, and make reports. They can be very helpful down the road in your personal injury lawsuit.
You should most definitely call the police if:
- other drivers are not cooperative in giving information;
- another person becomes aggressive towards you; or
- anyone attempts to leave the scene of the accident.
After an accident, it is very common to say that you are sorry. However, you should be careful not to admit fault.
At times, these "admissions" can be used against you later, even when the other driver was actually the cause of the accident. Do not admit fault, even if you think it could have been your fault. There may be other factors you are not aware of, such as:
- the other driver was drunk;
- the other driver was texting or watching Netflix on his or her phone; or
- the other driver was negligent in driving his or her vehicle.
Motorcycles tend to be rather sensitive to road conditions.4 When conditions of a road are poor, a rider can lose control and crash.
Common road conditions that lead to crashes include:
- metal plate coverings;
- water leaks;
- broken light posts;
- damaged road signs;
- lifted asphalt; or
- spilled slippery substances.
Depending on the situation, the owner of the property may have a duty to repair road conditions that caused the crash.
Property owners have certain duties of care they owe to all Colorado residents.
Colorado premises liability laws set forth certain duties on property owners depending on the legal status of the victim. Generally, property owners have to exercise reasonable care and:
- inspect the property;
- maintain the property;
- repair potentially dangerous conditions; and
- give proper warning of any dangerous conditions on the premises.5
When the injury is caused by a dangerous condition on the road, the property owner can be held liable for the damages that result in many cases.
5.2 What if the government owns the road on which I was injured?
If the city, state, or other government agency owns the roadway which caused your injury, the victim will have to prove that it was responsible for injuries.
The rider may need to prove:
- the governmental agency owned the property;
- the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the accident;
- there was a foreseeable risk of injury;
- the governmental agency had prior notice of the dangerous condition for enough time to do something about it (and did nothing);
- the victim was harmed; and
- the dangerous condition was a substantial factor in causing the harm.6
If your spouse or another close family member was killed in a motorcycle accident, you may be able to file a Colorado wrongful death claim.
Colorado's wrongful death laws:
- let families recover damages
- after a loved one has died
- as the result of another person's negligence. 7
This type of case results from an unnecessary death caused by the negligence or other wrongful act of another person.
Damages available in a wrongful death claim include:
- burial expenses;
- funeral expenses;
- lost income the spouse would have earned;
- compensation for loss of companionship and support.
When an injured person is partially at fault for his or her injuries, Colorado's modified comparative negligence laws apply.
Modified comparative negligence in Colorado is a:
- system of figuring out
- each parties' degree of fault
- and the amount of damages the plaintiff may receive.8
The money damages awarded by the jury will be adjusted based on the plaintiff's degree of fault in causing his or her own injuries.
- If the plaintiff is 50% or more responsible for his or her own injuries:
- the plaintiff is not allowed to recover anything in damages.
- If the plaintiff is 49% or less at fault for his or her injuries, the plaintiff can still recover:
- but the damage award will be adjusted down by the percentage the jury decides.
Colorado does not require the use of a helmet while riding. However, the jury could consider the fact that a person was not wearing a helmet when determining how much fault should be attributed as to the damages.
Example: From the example above, Sally was the sole cause of the accident because she ran a red light. Harold did not cause the accident. However, he was not wearing a helmet, and suffered a severe skull fracture. Sally called an expert at trial who testified that if Harold had been wearing a helmet, his damages would be substantially less. The jury awarded less money to Harold because he was not wearing a helmet.
Call us for help...
For questions about motorcycle accident lawsuits in Colorado or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado motorcycle accident attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us.
We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.
- Lopez v. Trujillo, 399 P.3d 750 (Ct. App. Div. 1 2016). (To prove a prima facie negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove: (1) the defendant owed a legal duty of care; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) the plaintiff was injured; and (4) the defendant's breach caused that injury. citing Vigil v. Franklin, 103 P.3d 322, 325 (Colo.2004). Of these elements, duty is the threshold element.)
- 17 COPRAC 5.13 (Payment of Medical Bills).
- COPRAC 38:8 (Pain and Suffering--when compensable).
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Motorcycle Safety.
- CRS 13-21-115(1). (Actions against landowners).
- 5A COPRAC 1:18 (Governmental Immunity Act).
- CRS 13-21-202 (Action notwithstanding death).
- CRS 13-21-111 (Negligence cases--comparative negligence as measure of damages).