Birmingham Motorcycle Accident Attorneys
Understanding Alabama motorcycle laws can help you protect your rights as a motorcyclist on the roadway. If you or a loved one have suffered an injury as a result of being involved in a motorcycle accident, contact our experienced Birmingham motorcycle accident lawyers for a free initial legal consultation.
When a motorcyclist is in a crash, the injuries are generally more severe than those that happen in a regular passenger vehicle car crash. Due to the exposure of the motorcyclist’s body to the road, stationary objects, and other vehicles, a crash can easily result in serious road rash, broken bones, brain damage, and death. Our team of injury attorneys will fight for monetary and emotional compensation while your family focuses on healing from these extreme and serious injuries.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Speeding and negligent driving are common causes of motorcycle accidents. Often, a driver of a passenger vehicle fails to check twice for motorcycles before pulling out, resulting in a large number of collisions. Drivers may collide with motorcyclists they don’t see at intersections, or merge into a lane on top of a motorcycle. Between driver negligence and the small size of motorcycles, they are always at risk of collision.
When a driver is texting, eating, emailing, talking on the phone, or otherwise distracted, it’s easy to miss a motorcycle. These accidents are almost always more catastrophic to the motorcyclist than the negligent driver. Motorcyclists are especially at risk at night, when visibility is limited and the number of DUI drivers increases. Other causes include badly maintained roadways and improper roadway signage.
Typical Motorcycle Accident Injuries
In more than a decade of representing motorcycle accidents throughout Birmingham, our firm has seen a wide range of motorcycle crash injuries. The majority of accidents involve and result in brain injuries, burn injuries, bone fractures, neck injuries, back injuries, spinal cord injuries, abrasions, cuts, and more. Often, legs and feet suffer injuries in a crash, followed by the trunk area of the body, including the hips and pelvis.
Even with a helmet, head injuries can be severe. When the skull strikes an object, such as the road or another vehicle, the brain can hit the sides of the skull and cause swelling. Concussion and other brain injury can result in brain damage, often moderate to severe. Brain injury can range from slight confusion to coma or death.
What Alabama Law Says About Motorcycles
In Alabama, the use of a safety helmet is mandatory for motorcyclists on the road. The helmets must meet certain specifications, laid out in Alabama Code Section 32-12-41. The law does not require motorcyclists to undergo periodic safety inspections, use turn signals, wear eye protection, or use a headlight during daytime. The defendant would not be able to use any of these inactions against a cyclist in court to prove fault in an accident.
Although the law makes wearing a safety helmet mandatory, the lack of wearing a helmet is not automatically grounds for a negligent driver to use against a motorcyclist. While the defendant may use it to show that injuries wouldn’t have been as severe with a helmet, it does not negate the fact that the cyclist still would have sustained injury. If the victim wasn’t wearing a helmet during your accident, a skilled Birmingham motorcycle accident attorney may be necessary prove the victim’s injuries would have been serious regardless.
Weaving through stopped traffic is not allowed, nor is lane splitting. Two riders can ride side by side in one lane, but they cannot ride next to a passenger vehicle in one lane. The law also prohibits riding in the emergency lane to avoid traffic. Motorcyclists must obey speed limits, road signs, stoplights, and traffic patterns.
How to Get an Alabama Motorcycle Driver’s License
Motorcyclists have to acquire special licenses to legally operate their vehicles. Alabama has specific laws in place that determine how to get a motorcycle driver’s license, or a Class M license. These laws serve to prepare motorcyclists for the open road. The law includes a new piece of legislation the state passed in 2015. Motorcycle operators must now take a rider safety course or a written test to obtain the endorsement the state requires for a license. Before the law passed, Alabama was the only state that did not require endorsements for Class M licensure. Here’s how to get this type of license in Alabama:
- You must be at least 16 years old.
- You must have a motorcycle (M) endorsement.
- The endorsement requires either a knowledge exam or motorcycle safety course.
- Study the Alabama Motorcycle Operator Manual to take the exam.
- Make an appointment with your local Alabama Department of Public Safety office.
- Bring your birth certificate, Social Security card, and a form of secondary identification.
- Applicants who are 15 years old need proof of school enrollment or graduation.
- At the DPS office, be prepared to take the written exam or present proof of a completed safety course.
- You must pass the written exam to qualify, if you take the exam route. You’ll have three chances to do so.
- Pay the $5 testing fee (if applicable) plus the licensing fee of $36.25.
Children as young as 14 may legally operate “motor-driven cycles” in Alabama, as long as they obtain the proper license. A motor-driven cycle is any motor scooter or motorcycle with an engine size of 150 CC or less, produces no more than five HP, and weighs less than 200 pounds. Riders 14 and 15 years old have “B” restrictions on their licenses. This means they may only operate motor-driven cycles. At the age of 16, the individual is eligible for an unrestricted Class M motorcycle license.
Unlicensed Motorcyclist Dangers
Operating a motorcycle without a valid license often means the rider is unable to safely control the vehicle. In 2015, 1,196 motorcyclists who died in fatal accidents around the U.S. did not possess valid licenses. Motorcycle operators in fatal crashes are the most likely to have invalid licenses out of all accident-related deaths. They often do not obey roadway rules or safe operating practices, like their licensed counterparts. Riding without a valid license can lead to fines and a citation. If the unlicensed motorcyclist causes or contributes to an accident, he or she could face liability for damages.
Alabama Motorcycle Accident Statistics
At The Mitchell Law Firm, LLC. we don’t like reducing motorcycle accident injuries and deaths to numbers. We work with people, and we take a very personal approach to our legal services. However, we understand the importance of tracking crash data for the future of motorcycle safety in Alabama. We hope taking a look at the facts will persuade motorists to operate their vehicles more safely in the future. Here are the most recent numbers in Alabama:
- In 2015,67 motorcyclists died in Alabama accidents. The majority of these motorcyclists (57) were wearing helmets at the time of the crash. Nine were not wearing helmets, and one was unknown.
- In 2014,1,650 crashes involved motorcycles in AL. This was an increase from 1,583 in 2013. The accidents in 2014 led to 1,251 injuries and 64 deaths. Injuries range from road rash to concussions.
- Those most at risk of causing motorcycle crashes in AL are 20- to 24-year-olds. This age group caused 185 accidents in 2014, resulting in 147 injuries and seven fatalities. Younger motorcyclists are more likely to engage in unsafe operating behaviors.
- According to a University of Alabama study, traffic accident deaths in Alabama increased almost a quarter (24.6%) from 2015 to 2016, although the number of traffic collisions increased only slightly (2.1%).
- The most common causes of fatalities in AL in 2016 were increased speeds, lack of safety belts, distracted drivers, and pedestrians at fault. Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol also contributed.
If motorcyclists and other roadway users paid more attention to the road, obeyed Alabama’s traffic laws, and didn’t engage in reckless behaviors, hundreds of motorcyclists might still be with us today. As a personal injury law firm in Birmingham, it’s our mission to help reduce the number of motorcycle accidents. We do this by helping injured clients or the families of the deceased take stands against negligent parties. We shed light on driver errors, unsafe roadway conditions, and defective vehicle parts that contribute to unnecessary motorcyclist accidents through aggressive litigation.
Protect Yourself as a Rider
When you get behind the handlebars of a motorcycle, there are things you can do to decrease your risk of getting into an accident. While it may not be possible to prevent every collision, defensive driving can significantly boost your safety. Using the proper personal safety gear can limit the severity of injuries in the event of a crash. Obeying Alabama’s traffic laws can be one of the best ways to avoid a motorcycle accident. The same goes for other motorists. Here are a few tips for protecting yourself as a rider:
- Wear a helmet. Motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 1,772 lives in 2015. If every motorcycle rider and passenger had worn a helmet, 740 more people may have survived. A helmet does not guarantee your safety, but it goes a long way toward improving it. They reduce the risk of head injury by 69% and risk of death by 37%. If those numbers don’t convince you, the law should – Alabama requires the use of a helmet for all motorcyclists and their passengers. Helmets must meet strict safety specifications.
- Use other forms of personal protection. Plenty of gear and accessories exist to protect motorcyclists from harm in a crash. Protective eyewear, gloves, body armor, jackets, and boots can all reduce the severity of injuries. Wearing the right gear while operating a motorcycle can prevent you from injuries such as road rash and traumatic tattooing, as well as broken limbs and eye injuries from flying debris.
- Practice defensive riding. Be on the lookout for drivers who aren’t paying attention or who don’t see you. Pay special attention when vehicles are making left turns, when riding in blind spots, where hazardous road conditions exist, in bad weather, and around large vehicles. Always assume the other driver won’t see you. Defensive riding can help you prevent collisions and stay unharmed.
- Always obey the law. We can’t stress the importance of following Alabama’s traffic laws enough. They are in place to protect you, the vehicle operator. Obey speed limits, traffic signals, stop signs, following/passing laws, and all other regulations to minimize your chances of a collision. Abiding by the law makes your maneuvers more predictable to other road users, increasing your safety. It can also help reduce your own liability in the event of a crash.
Protecting yourself as a rider comes down to self-preservation. The roads are dangerous for motorcyclists – more so than for other motorists. Stay out of harm’s way by doing everything in your power to increase your safety. If the worst does happen, protect your rights by speaking to our Birmingham attorneys. We can tell you exactly what to do after a harmful motorcycle collision. Call (866) 948-6275 or contact us online today for a free consultation.
Your Motorcycle Accident Attorneys in Birmingham, AL
For experienced help with your motorcycle accident case, call The Mitchell Law Firm, LLC, at (205) 942-0249. We’ll help you file a claim against a negligent driver or against a city for poorly maintaining a roadway. Contact us today to discuss your case. We offer a free consultation.