Riding a motorcycle is obviously more dangerous than traveling in an automobile. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycles account for less than 5 percent of all registered vehicles yet every year motorcyclists account for approximately 15 percent of all traffic fatalities. On the basis of accident rates per vehicle mile traveled, NHTSA estimates motorcyclists are 30 times more likely than car passengers to die in a crash.
Say what you will about statistics, but it is hard to discount numbers like this. And virtually every year, there are more motorcycle fatalities than the prior year, both nationally and in Missouri and Kansas.
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. NHTSA chose May because the warmer spring weather brings out more riders. Among other things, the annual awareness program reminds motorists to “share the road” with motorcycles, to wear helmets, and to not drink and ride.
Motorcyclists have to be extra vigilant and ride as defensively as possible. Crashes between motor vehicles and motorcycles often occur because motorists don’t see motorcycles before hitting them. Without the protection of an automobile, it is easy to understand why the fatality rate is so high for motorcyclists.
I handled a very tragic case last year that epitomizes the unfortunate reality of motorcycle fatalities. I was hired by a woman who was devastated by the death of her husband of 32 years. Bill was 72 years old and had ridden motorcycles for most of his life and loved to ride whenever he could. He owned a large cruiser motorcycle.
On a warm August morning, Bill put on his riding gear, strapped on his helmet, and hopped on his motorcycle. He was heading from his home in Shawnee, Kansas to the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City Missouri. As he always did, Bill was riding cautiously that morning. His headlight was on and he was going at or below the speed limit. He was in the right lane of Shawnee Mission Parkway, and was about to cross over State Line Road.
Traveling next to Bill was a commercial welding truck, which was in the middle lane. As Bill continued straight into the intersection, the driver of the welding truck decided to make an illegal right turn from the middle lane. The front fender of the truck struck the back of the motorcycle, causing Bill to fly off the motorcycle. Bill landed on the roadway. He was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital and was pronounced dead that afternoon.
Bill’s death was tragic and heartbreaking for his family. Bill did everything right – followed the rules of the road, was wearing a helmet and was riding as defensively as he could. And in spite of all that, Bill died a tragic death as a result of that crash on his motorcycle.
Although no amount of money would come close to compensating Bill’s family for this loss, we were able to settle the case involving Bill’s death for the $3 million insurance policy limits maintained by the welding company. That helped Bill’s family begin to get some closure and allowed his widow to not have any financial concerns in her retirement years.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle crash, we have the knowledge and experience to help you.