A motorcycle is considered a motor vehicle under Georgia law. That means that the basic rules for suing over a motorcycle accident and a car accident are technically the same. A motorcycle is a different kind of motor vehicle, so if you were injured in a motorcycle accident, there might be a few ways in which your accident was different from a typical car accident. Let’s take a closer look at motorcycle accident lawsuits in Georgia and what you should do if you or your loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident.
Proving liability in a motorcycle accident case is similar to doing so in an automobile accident case. You need to prove that the driver acted negligently and thereby caused the accident. That often involves establishing that the other driver failed to obey some rule of the road. For example, they drove too fast or failed to yield the right of way to you.
You also may have an argument that the motorcycle itself was defective in some way, giving you a products liability claim. You would then have to prove that the motorcycle had a manufacturing defect or a design defect, that it was defective when it left the manufacturer’s control, and that the defect caused the accident that injured you.
Suppose you were wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, and the helmet failed to fully protect you due to either a design or manufacturing defect. In that case, you may have a products liability lawsuit against the helmet manufacturer.
Suing About Roads
The nature of motorcycles – being lighter and balancing on two wheels – makes them more susceptible to road conditions. If a negligently maintained road caused your accident, then you may be able to hold the party responsible. Generally, maintaining the road is the government’s responsibility, but Georgia has immunity laws limiting the ability to sue the government.
In trying to bring a suit for negligent road maintenance, it matters what level of government maintains the road. If it’s a state-maintained road, then generally, the state is liable for ordinary negligence. But if the claim is either based on the design of the road or a decision that can be called discretionary (for example, whether to pave with asphalt or chip-and-seal), then the state is immune.
If you were injured on a city street or a state road that the city has agreed to maintain, then you can sue if you can prove that the city was negligent in maintaining the road and that it was aware of a defect in the road that caused your injury. That will take considerable investigation after the accident.
Before suing the state or a city or county, you must send a notice to the government that you plan to sue that explains the nature of your claim and how much you plan to claim as damages. If you plan on suing the state or a county, you must give notice within twelve months of the accident. But if you plan on suing a city, then the notice must be within six months.
If you don’t know the full extent of your injuries, then the notice should state how much you have lost up to that point and what you expect to claim based on a reasonable belief of what your injuries are and how much you expect to lose in medical expenses and lost wages.
Finally, if the road conditions that caused your accident were due to road construction, then you may be able to sue a private contractor who is responsible. Contractors are not immune from suit, even if they are working on government projects. You will need to prove that the contractor is responsible for the road condition that caused the accident.
Time To Sue
The Effect Of Your Negligence
If the defendant argues that you were negligent and that your carelessness contributed to the cause of the accident, that might affect your ability to recover damages. Your negligence could include any failure to follow traffic laws, including laws specific to operating a motorcycle. For example, Georgia law explicitly prohibits carrying anything that prevents you from keeping both hands on the handlebars and from having a passenger unless your motorcycle was expressly built for two riders.
The jury will hear the evidence and come up with a numerical allocation of the blame. They will decide that you were a certain percentage responsible for the accident and the defendant was a certain percentage responsible, or, if you have sued multiple defendants, apportion a share of the blame to each defendant.
If the percentage share of your blame is less than fifty percent, then you can recover damages, but the amount you receive will be reduced in proportion to your share of the blame. But if the jury says you were 35% responsible for the accident, you will only receive 65% of the damage award. If the jury finds that you were more than 50% responsible, then you are barred from recovering anything.
Wearing Or Not Wearing A Helmet
The general rule in American law is that if you were in an accident and did not use a safety device like a seatbelt or helmet, your ability to recover damages isn’t harmed. The theory is that safety devices do not help prevent accidents. They only serve to lessen injuries if an accident occurs. Georgia has a mandatory helmet law, but nothing in that law changes the usual rule about safety devices.
That is true of the helmet itself, but it might not be true about eye protection. Georgia’s helmet law also requires you to use eye protection if your motorcycle does not have a windshield. If you did not have a windshield and did not wear eye protection, then a defendant may be able to argue that the lack of eye protection contributed to the accident. In that case, the jury would decide if your lack of eye protection contributed to the accident, which would affect your recovery as outlined above.
If you sustained a motorcycle injury, get medical attention first, and then get in touch with an experienced Georgia motorcycle accident lawyer so that you know your next steps from a legal standpoint. Dozier Law is dedicated to helping injured motorcyclists in personal injury lawsuits. We can thoroughly review your options and help ensure that you are fully compensated by all of those who caused your injuries. Call (888) 239-2129 or contact us online to consult with an experienced Dozier Law attorney today.