Ohio Motorcycle Accident Law: Know your Rights

Doug Mann

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Table of Contents
  1. Medical Issues in Motorcycle Accidents
  2. Legal Issues in Ohio Motorcycle Accident Claims
  3. Contact an Ohio Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Motorcycles are popular in Ohio. In 2013, Ohio ranked fourth in the nation for motorcycle registrations. That put it behind only California, Texas, and Florida, states with significantly higher populations. Unfortunately, being home to so many motorcycle enthusiasts means that Ohio is also the site of thousands of motorcycle accidents each year.

Motorcycle accidents often result in serious injuries for the motorcyclist. These injuries can lead to lengthy hospital stays and ongoing complications that follow the driver for years. Fortunately, Ohio law provides a remedy for motorcyclists injured by the negligence or other wrongdoing of another person. This post outlines the kinds of injuries a motorcycle accident can cause and an injured motorcyclist’s legal options following an accident.

Medical Issues in Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcyclists are not as protected during a crash as occupants in a car or truck. There is no metal frame around them to dissipate the impact or keep them from being thrown to the ground. Because of how exposed those riding a motorcycle are, it should come as no surprise that the injuries they sustain in an accident can affect virtually every part of their body.

In a 2010 study of nonfatal motorcycle injuries between 2001 and 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 30% of motorcycle accident injuries were to the rider’s lower extremities — his or her feet and legs — while 22% were caused to the rider’s head and neck, 20% to his or her upper trunk (i.e., chest), and 18% to upper extremities (hands and arms).

2006 study published by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM) looked at the injuries of hospitalized motorcyclists in Maryland. Like the CDC, the AAAM found that the most common injuries were to the lower extremities. However, it found upper-extremity injuries to be second-most common, followed by head, neck, and chest injuries.

The injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident can be serious regardless of what part of the body they affect. Head injuries are often fatal, but even those that aren’t can cause dangerous brain trauma. Injuries to extremities — like hands, arms, feet, or legs — can result in long-term disability that makes it difficult or impossible to work.

Being involved in a motorcycle accident doesn’t only cause physical injuries. It can also harm the rider psychologically. Many people who are involved in traffic accidents develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress, which can negatively affect quality of life in many ways and for many years.

In Ohio, a motorcycle accident could give rise to a few different types of claims. Most common is a negligence claim against another driver. To succeed on a negligence claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the other driver caused the accident negligently — such as by talking on a cellphone while driving or not checking his or her mirrors before changing lanes or turning.

Another type of claim that may result from a motorcycle accident is a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the motorcycle or safety equipment. If a defect in the design or manufacture of a motorcycle or helmet causes an accident or increases the driver’s injuries after the accident, then the law entitles the driver to compensation from the manufacturer.

Finally, an accident caused by poor road maintenance may give rise to a claim against the government. Although the government is immune from suit in many cases, a local government’s failure to maintain the roads in good repair is one of the circumstances in which it is subject to liability.

What is the statute of limitations for a motorcycle accident?

Statutes of limitations are laws that limit how long a person has to file a lawsuit. If the person fails to file before the deadline established by the applicable statute of limitations, then his or her case will be barred, meaning the courts will refuse to hear it. The statute of limitations for a motorcycle accident claim depends on what kind of claim is involved.

For a claim alleging negligence by another driver, the standard personal injury statute of limitations will apply. This means that a plaintiff generally has only two years after the date of the accident to file suit.

For a product liability claim, the same statute of limitations applies, but with some additional rules. Ohio law imposes a 10-year statute of repose measured from the date the manufacturer first sold the product. So, for example, if a motorcycle was 20 years old when it was involved in an accident, the motorcyclist won’t be able to sue the manufacturer.

Finally, lawsuits against the government for failing to keep the roads in good repair are subject to a separate two-year statute of limitations.

What damages are available?

Damages are what the court awards a successful plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit. They generally fall into one of two categories: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are amounts meant to make the plaintiff whole, to compensate him or her for the physical, mental, and financial injuries caused by the defendant’s wrongful conduct.

Compensatory damages are further categorized into economic or non-economic damages. Economic damages are damages for injuries that can be easily quantified. In a motorcycle accident claim, these will include things like property damage, medical expenses, and lost wages. In Ohio, such damages are unlimited — a plaintiff can recover what he or she can prove.

Noneconomic damages are meant to compensate for those aspects of the plaintiff’s injuries that can’t be easily quantified. These include things like pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and disfigurement. In general, Ohio limits such damages to the greater of $250,000 or three times the economic damages, but limited to $350,000 for each plaintiff and $500,000 for each occurrence.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are not meant to compensate the plaintiff. They are meant to punish defendants whose behavior demonstrated “malice or aggravated or egregious fraud.” In a motorcycle accident claim, punitive damages might be available if, for example, another driver swerved in front of the motorcyclist in a fit of road rage. However, even when available, these damages are also limited — generally, to two times the amount of compensatory damages.

Contact an Ohio Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Motorcycle accidents can cause serious and ongoing physical and psychological harm. But Ohio law entitles those injured in such accidents by the wrongful act of another to seek compensation in court. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident in Ohio, contact the experienced attorneys of Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz today. We offer a free case review to help you understand your legal rights and decide how best to protect them.

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