From Colorado lawyer Amy Gaiennie, with The Gaiennie Law Office
Two fatalities on the same day in Aurora, Colorado involving motorcycle and automobile collisions reinforced the need for both motorcyclists and automobile drivers to be more aware of their surroundings. One accident involved a motorcycle that pulled into traffic in front of an oncoming vehicle. The other involved a motorcycle that attempted to cross in front of a vehicle making a turn at an intersection. Both incidents resulted in the deaths of the motorcyclists but allow for an opportunity to examine the importance of driver awareness and safety.
According to statistics, 16 percent of vehicle-related deaths were motorcyclists. Drivers and motorcyclists have to be more aware of each other on the road, and motorcyclists cannot take risks because of their inherent size disadvantage when it comes to vehicles.
Bikes are simply more difficult to see because they are smaller, so drivers in vehicles must take the time to look carefully to ensure that they are not overlooking a motorcyclist. Motorcyclists must always consider the fact that they can be overlooked and give deference to vehicles in the interests of personal safety. The responsibility to act reasonably falls to both parties.
When it comes to injuries resulting from motorcycle accidents, the issue of helmet usage can arise. Helmets are not required for individuals on motorcycles in Colorado, and while it is always good practice, the failure to use a helmet cannot be used by a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit to show that the motorcyclist bears some responsibility for the severity of their injuries. This goes to the concept of comparative negligence, which is the idea that a plaintiff’s recovery can be reduced if it can be shown that the plaintiff’s acts contributed to his or her injury.
Colorado is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that if a defendant can show that a plaintiff’s own acts were responsible for 50 percent or more of his or her injuries, the plaintiff is entitled to no recovery. Fortunately for motorcyclists, the failure to use a helmet cannot be used, as courts have held that a person should not be required to anticipate the negligence of another individual and always wear a helmet where the law does not require it. Other acts by a motorcyclist, however, such as weaving in and out of traffic or attempting to squeeze through narrow spaces, though not illegal, may lead to a reduction in his or her recovery.
Ultimately, no one wants to have to recover for pain and suffering from another driver, and that means that motorcyclists and drivers alike must be more aware of one another. Some points to remember:
- “Look twice, save a life” – make sure you have checked your mirrors and blind spots twice to avoid missing a motorcycle.
- Leave plenty of room between you and any motorcycle. Motorcycles can stop more quickly than a vehicle, meaning more space is necessary to be able to stop.
- Motorcyclists should always wear proper attire, such as a helmet, jackets with padding or hard plates, and high visibility garments.
Colorado Personal Injury Attorney Amy Gaiennie is the Managing Member of The Gaiennie Law Office. Previously, she has worked for two of the largest personal injury firms in Colorado where she received many awards for her settlements. She can be found on Avvo and BBB.