Motorcycle accidents and compensation in Northern Ireland
Motorcycle accidents can be very serious as the motorcyclist is in a more vulnerable position that a motorist. Motorcycles make up 1% of all vehicles on the road in the UK yet account for 20% of all road deaths. The Department of Transport figures for the year ending June,2022 show what there were 346 motorcycle fatalities and 17171 motorcycle injuries in Great Britain.
Why are motorcyclists more vulnerable in road traffic accidents?
Motorcyclists are more vulnerable in road traffic accidents compared to occupants of enclosed vehicles for several reasons:
- Lack of Protection: Motorcycles offer minimal protection to riders in the event of a collision. Unlike cars, which have a frame and safety features like airbags and seat belts, motorcyclists are exposed to direct impact with other vehicles, objects, and the road itself.
- Size and Visibility: Motorcycles are smaller and narrower than cars and trucks, making them less visible to other drivers, especially in blind spots. This increases the likelihood of other vehicles not noticing motorcycles and leading to collisions.
- Balance and Stability: Motorcycles require more balance and control than four-wheeled vehicles. Even a minor disturbance or obstacle on the road can cause a loss of balance and result in a fall or crash.
- Less Crash Protection: Motorcyclists lack the structural protection that vehicles provide. Collisions can result in direct contact between the rider's body and other vehicles, the road surface, or roadside objects.
- High Impact Forces: Due to the lack of external protection, motorcyclists experience higher impact forces in a collision. Even at lower speeds, the force of impact can lead to serious injuries or fatalities.
- Ejection Risk: In a collision, motorcyclists can be ejected from their bikes and thrown onto the road or into other obstacles, increasing the risk of severe injuries.
- Road Hazards: Road hazards that might be minor inconveniences for cars, like potholes, debris, oil spills, and uneven surfaces, can be much more dangerous for motorcycles, leading to loss of control and accidents.
- Vulnerable Body Parts: Motorcyclists' arms, legs, and head are more exposed and vulnerable to injuries during a crash. Extremities are at risk of being struck or crushed by other vehicles or objects.
- Limited Crumple Zones: Modern cars are designed with crumple zones that absorb and distribute the impact of a collision, reducing the force experienced by occupants. Motorcycles lack such safety features.
- Riding Dynamics: The dynamics of riding a motorcycle, such as leaning into turns and maintaining balance, require skill and attention. Inexperienced riders might struggle to navigate unexpected situations, increasing the risk of accidents.
- Weather Exposure: Motorcyclists are fully exposed to the elements, including rain, wind, cold, and sun. These conditions can affect their comfort and concentration, leading to accidents.
- Less Conspicuousness: Motorcycles are often less conspicuous than larger vehicles, especially during heavy traffic or when surrounded by larger vehicles. This can make it harder for other drivers to see them.
Due to these vulnerabilities, motorcyclists need to take extra precautions to stay safe on the road. This includes wearing appropriate protective gear (such as helmets, gloves, jackets, and boots), receiving proper training, practicing defensive riding techniques, and staying alert to their surroundings. Of course, drivers of other vehicles should be aware of motorcyclists and share the road responsibly.
What are the main causes of motorcycle accidents?
These are some of the main causes:
- Inattentive Driving: Drivers can become distracted while operating vehicles, leading to accidents. This could involve activities such as texting, talking on the phone, eating, or even daydreaming.
- Speeding: Excessive speed reduces a driver's ability to react to unexpected situations and increases the severity of accidents. Speeding also reduces the effectiveness of protective gear and increases stopping distances.
- Lane Splitting: In areas where it is legal, lane splitting (riding between lanes of slower-moving or stopped traffic) can lead to accidents if not done cautiously. Drivers may not expect a motorcycle to pass them in congested traffic, leading to collisions.
- Impaired Riding: Riding under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or certain medications impairs a driver's judgment, coordination, and reaction times, significantly increasing the risk of accidents.
- Rider Inexperience: Inexperienced riders might lack the skills to handle difficult situations, such as sudden braking, cornering, or evasive manoeuvres. Novice riders are more prone to misjudging road conditions and other vehicles' actions.
- Unsafe Lane Changes: Drivers can cause accidents when changing lanes without proper signalling or checking for blind spots.
- Weather Conditions: Rain, snow, ice, and other adverse weather conditions reduce traction and visibility, making roads more dangerous for drivers.
- Road Hazards: Potholes, debris, gravel, oil spills, and uneven road surfaces can lead to loss of control and accidents for motorcyclists, who are more vulnerable to such hazards than enclosed vehicles.
- Left-Turn Accidents: A significant number of accidents occur when a vehicle making a left turn fails to yield to an oncoming motorcycle or misjudges its speed, leading to a collision.
- Vehicle Blind Spots: Motorcycles can easily end up in the blind spots of larger vehicles, making them less visible to drivers and increasing the risk of collisions.
- Drowsy Driving: Fatigue can impair a driver's ability to focus, react, and make quick decisions, leading to accidents.
- Mechanical Failures: Motorcycle accidents can also result from mechanical failures such as brake malfunctions, tire blowouts, or other issues.
- Aggressive Driving: Aggressive behaviours such as tailgating, road rage, and aggressive lane changes can put motorcyclists at risk due to their smaller size and increased vulnerability.
- Lack of Protective Gear: Failure to wear appropriate protective gear, such as helmets, gloves, and riding jackets, can increase the severity of injuries in case of an accident.
- Visibility Issues: Motorcycles are often less visible than larger vehicles, especially at night or in low-light conditions. This can lead to other drivers failing to see motorcycles and causing accidents.
To reduce the risk of motorcycle accidents, it's important for riders to undergo proper training, follow traffic rules, wear appropriate safety gear, and remain alert and cautious while riding. Likewise, drivers of other vehicles should be attentive and share the road responsibly with motorcyclists.
Give some different examples involving accidents and motorcyclists and who is likely to bear responsibility.
Determining responsibility in motorcycle accidents involving motorists can be complex and often depends on the specific circumstances of each case.
Liability can be shared, and the legal outcome may vary based on factors such as local traffic laws and available evidence. Here are some scenarios and potential assignments of responsibility:
- Rear-End Collision:
- Scenario: A motorcyclist is stopped at a red light, and a car behind fails to stop in time, hitting the motorcycle from the rear.
- Responsibility: The motorist is usually responsible for maintaining a safe following distance and stopping in time to avoid collisions.
- Left-Turn Collision:
- Scenario: A car makes a left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle, causing a collision.
- Responsibility: The motorist is typically responsible for yielding to oncoming traffic, including motorcycles, before making a left turn.
- Lane Change Collision:
- Scenario: A motorist changes lanes without signalling or checking their blind spot, colliding with a motorcycle in the adjacent lane.
- Responsibility: The motorist is usually responsible for ensuring a safe lane change and checking blind spots before manoeuvring.
- Opening Car Door Collision:
- Scenario: A parked car's driver or passenger opens their door without checking, causing a motorcycle to collide with the door.
- Responsibility: The driver or passenger opening the door is typically responsible for ensuring it's safe to do so before opening it.
- Failure to Yield at Intersections:
- Scenario: A motorist fails to yield the right-of-way at an intersection, colliding with a motorcycle that had the right-of-way.
- Responsibility: The motorist is usually responsible for yielding the right-of-way and avoiding collisions.
- Distracted Driving Collision:
- Scenario: A motorist is texting while driving and inadvertently collides with a motorcycle in front of them.
- Responsibility: The motorist is responsible for maintaining full attention while driving and avoiding distractions.
- Drunk Driving Collision:
- Scenario: A motorist under the influence of alcohol or drugs collides with a motorcycle.
- Responsibility: The intoxicated motorist is responsible for impaired driving and the resulting collision.
- Unsafe Merge Collision:
- Scenario: A motorist attempts to merge onto a highway without properly gauging the speed of an approaching motorcycle, causing a collision.
- Responsibility: The motorist is usually responsible for merging safely and yielding to traffic.
- Failure to Stop at Stop Sign or Red Light:
- Scenario: A motorist runs a stop sign or red light, colliding with a motorcycle that had the right-of-way.
- Responsibility: The motorist is responsible for obeying traffic signals and yielding the right-of-way.
- Aggressive Driving Collision:
- Scenario: A motorist engages in aggressive behaviours like tailgating or aggressive lane changes, leading to a collision with a motorcycle.
- Responsibility: The aggressive motorist is responsible for driving safely and responsibly.
Remember, assigning responsibility can be legally complex and may vary based on jurisdiction and the specifics of each case.
Is it legal to lane split (ride between lanes of slower-moving or stopped traffic)?
In Northern Ireland, it is legal to lane split provided it is done with all due care and attention and consideration for all other road users.
What if the party that caused the accident is uninsured or they drive away before I can get their details?
If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or untraced driver in Northern Ireland, you can make a claim for compensation from the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB). The MIB will investigate the claim and if it is satisfied that the accident was caused by an uninsured or untraced driver, it will pay compensation to the victim in accordance with the relevant legal provisions.
In 2021, the MIB in the UK handled 26000 personal injury claims, a 25% increase on the previous year.
It is important to note that the MIB is not an insurance company and does not provide motor insurance policies. Its main role is to compensate victims of road traffic accidents that are caused by uninsured or untraced drivers.
There are reporting conditions in claims against the MIB and you should legal advice immediately if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or untraced driver.
How long do I have to make a claim for personal injury?
Normally you have three years from the date of your injury. However:
- If your child sustains injury, a claim can be made any time before the child reaches the age of 18. Once your child reaches the age of 18, they have a further three years to make a claim themselves until they reach the age of 21.
- If the person who sustains the injury does not have mental capacity then there are no time limits.
My partner was fatally injured in a road traffic accident. Who can bring a claim for damages in such circumstances?
You can – subject to the provisions in the Fatal Accidents Northern Ireland Order 1977. Under the Fatal Accidents (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, the following people are entitled to bring a claim for compensation:
- The spouse or former spouse of the deceased.
- The civil partner or former civil partner of the deceased.
- A person who was living with the deceased as husband or wife for at least two years before the date of death.
- A parent of the deceased.
- A child of the deceased.
- Any person who was treated by the deceased as a child of his or her family.
- A person who is the personal representative of the deceased's estate.
What is the time limit for a claim under the Fatal Accidents Act?
Under the Fatal Accidents (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, a claim for compensation must be brought within three years of the date of the deceased's death. This period can be extended:
- If you were a child under 18 at the time of the accident, in which case you must claim before your 21st birthday.
- You lacked the mental capacity to claim in which case there are no time limits.
What should I do if I have an accident?
- Stop. A driver is legally required to stop and remain at the scene of an accident for a reasonable time. It is an offence not to do so.
- If possible, get the other driver’s details. A driver is legally obliged to give you their name and address, the name and address of the owner of the vehicle if different than the driver, the registration number and particulars of insurance.
- Call the PSNI if your injuries are in any way significant or you are having difficulty with the driver.
- Take photos of the accident scene and if possible, the vehicles involved.
- Take the contact details of any witnesses. Establish if there is dash or head cam footage or other photos.
- If you have sustained injury, seek medical help and treatment.
- If the PSNI did not attend the scene of the accident, report the accident as soon as possible to your nearest PSNI station. Remember to get the name and contact details of the officer to whom you reported the accident and the ID log details for it.
How is my compensation assessed?
We divide compensation into a number of headings:
- Compensation for pain, suffering and the effect the injury has had on your life (what lawyers call “general damages”). The exact amount depends on the severity and extent of the injury and its impact. This will include physical and emotional loss, suffering and pain and compensation for loss of enjoyment of life.
- Any loss of earnings, past and into the future, including all job related benefits and pension loss (what lawyers call “special damages”). If your injuries have reduced your ability to work you will be entitled to the difference between what you would have earned but for the accident and what you can now earn.
- If someone has had to stop or reduce their work because it was necessary to look after you then the claim will include their loss of earnings, past and into the future, including all job related benefits and pension loss.
- Cost of all medical expenses, past and future. This will include hospital bills and medication costs.
- Replacement or repair costs of a new motorcycle.
- Replacement of all clothing and protective gear including helmet.
- Cost of all therapy and rehabilitative treatment (including occupational therapy), past and future.
- Cost of any nursing and domestic assistance, past and future.
- Cost of any adaptions to property or the cost of new housing.
- Cost of any adaptions to a vehicle or the cost of a vehicle or travel or other costs.
Why should you instruct the Kearney Law Group?
We, at the Kearney Law Group, are ready to assist you and have the knowledge and expertise you need to make a successful claim for compensation. We have an expert team ready to deal with your claim for personal injury, loss and damage arising from your motorcycle accident. We will ensure you recover compensation for your injuries and loss, swiftly and professionally.
We only do personal injury law and are experts at it.
For further assistance please ring us at 02890 912 938 or email us on [email protected] or fill in our contact form
The content of this blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice. No solicitor/client relationship or duty of care or liability of any nature shall exist or arise between the Kearney Law Group and you and we refer you to our disclaimer on our website.