Drunk Drivers Pose a Deadly Hazard to Motorcyclists

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
November 27, 2019

Few activities compare to the freedom you feel after hopping on the back of a motorcycle. Over the last decade, motorcycles have grown in popularity with more bikes on the road than ever before. But while going for a motorcycle ride can be a lot of fun, it can also result in severe injuries or even death. A major contributing factor in many of these accidents is drunk drivers. Drunk drivers pose a severe threat to motorcyclists, who are already at an increased risk of harm than those in cars.

According to Forbes, fatal accidents on motorcycles occur 28 times more often than in cars. In 2019, more than one in ten traffic fatalities were motorcycle drivers or passengers. Common motorcycle injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Broken bones
  • Facial fractures
  • Disfigurement
  • Limb amputation
  • Burns
  • Severe skin abrasions (“road rash”)


Rear view of motorcyclist in traffic


Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

There are a variety of causes, that contribute to other drivers harming motorcyclists:

  • Cars and trucks turning left
  • Blind spots
  • Rear-ending a motorcycle
  • Opening car doors
  • Distracted driving
  • Drunk driving

The Dangerous Consequences of Drunk Driving

The deadly danger that drunk drivers pose to motorcyclists is widespread. It can be seen in numerous instances.

One such instance involved a pickup truck driver who killed seven motorcyclists and was charged with seven counts of negligent homicide. The driver, who was arrested at his home, denied that he was drunk. However, prosecutors stated that he refused to submit to a DUI blood test after the fatal crash occurred.

Just one month before the crash police responded to reports of the same driver revving his engine and jumping up and down outside of his pickup truck in a Walmart parking lot. He was arrested after failing a sobriety test.

In another instance, a woman was charged with DUI for causing a crash that left a motorcyclist with serious injuries. According to a GoFundMe page purportedly associated with the motorcyclist, the rider was hit head-on and suffered a broken pelvis and road rash as a result.

How Many People Are Killed By Drunk Drivers?

Someone in the U.S. dies every 51 minutes in a drunk driving crash. That equates to 28 people who suffer an alcohol related driving death every single day. In fact, one in six people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash during their lifetime.

In 2019, about 5.5% of all crashes in Virginia were alcohol-related. To put the pervasive nature of this into perspective, almost one-third of all crash fatalities involves alcohol.

Men are more likely to be convicted of a DUI than women. In 2019, out of 18,648 DUI convictions in Virginia, men accounted for 62.8%. Out of these 7,048 alcohol-related crashes, 264 people died while 4,402 were injured.

Unfortunately, without the same steel frame as passenger vehicles, motorcyclists are extremely vulnerable to being injured or killed in alcohol-related crashes.

Twenty-six to thirty-year-olds are the most likely age group to die in an alcohol-related crash. However, 21-25 year-olds are by far the most likely age group to be injured in one. Overall, 21-25 year-olds are the age group most at risk in an alcohol related accident. They are also the most likely age group to drive drunk.

Reducing Motorcycle Injuries and Fatalities

While nothing can completely eliminate the risk of motorcycle crashes, there are some things that you can do to reduce the risk of injury. One such thing is to always wear personal protection. Proper riding gear includes eye protection, leather jackets and pants, durable gloves, proper footwear, and of course a helmet.

Helmets are the most important safety gear that a motorcyclist can wear. They are 29% effective at preventing death and approximately 67% effective at preventing a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a concussion. In fact, a rider who doesn’t wear a helmet is 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury. That’s why Virginia requires all motorcyclists and their passengers to wear a helmet that meets the standards of one of the following:

  • The Snell Memorial Foundation;
  • The American National Standards Institute, Inc.; or
  • The Federal Department of Transportation.

If another driver is exhibiting signs that they are intoxicated, it’s imperative to maintain your distance from them. Common signs of drunk driving include:

  • Drifting in and out of lanes
  • Speeding
  • Stopping suddenly
  • Driving erratically

Unfortunately, even with the proper protective gear and defensive driving, motorcycle crashes still commonly result in injury or death. 

Motorcycle driving fast through a tunnel next to a car

 How Can I Be Compensated?

If you have suffered an injury or if a loved one has died in a motorcycle accident as a result of another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation, known as “damages.” These damages help to cover:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium (relationships)
  • Funeral costs

You may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant, if your injury was intentionally or egregiously caused. For instance, if a driver has an extremely high blood alcohol level of two times the legal limit, their actions may be considered egregious and punitive damages may be awarded. The worth of your motorcycle accident claim is dependent on various factors.

While you may be entitled to recover damages from the party responsible for the accident, this is only if he or she was 100% to blame. In Virginia a court may find that if a civil plaintiff is partially responsible – even the smallest bit – for the accident he or she will be entitled to nothing.

When to File a Lawsuit

Under state law a person has two years from the date of their injuries to file a personal injury lawsuit. This is called a statute of limitations. If that person waits until after this period of time, he or she will be barred from recovering anything – even if the other party was 100% to blame for his or her damages.

The only exception to this is when the victim is a minor at the time of his or her damages. The statute of limitations can then be delayed so as not to begin until the minor turns 18.

Should a motorcyclist be killed in an accident, the statute of limitations begins on the date of the individual’s death but is still two years for a wrongful death claim.

Since you only have two years to bring a personal injury lawsuit, it’s in your best interest to contact a qualified Virginia personal injury attorney right away. The sooner you hire an attorney, the more time he or she will have to collect the evidence necessary to build your case.

There is no doubt that bringing a claim for your personal injuries can be complicated, as there are many hurdles to overcome. Fortunately, consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney can make a major impact in the outcome of your case.

Virginia Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer

Smith Law Center, in Hampton, VA, is currently the largest personal injury firm on the peninsula and one of the largest in the state. Founded more than seven decades ago by Joseph Smith, the firm still maintains the same philosophy of helping those who are injured. Today Smith’s sons, Stephen and Howard, operate the firm.

Attorneys and brothers, Stephen and Howard Smith continue to guide the firm under the same principles, goals, and purpose it’s followed since its inception: to provide quality legal representation to victims of negligence.

Mr. Stephen Smith has over 40 years of legal experience. He has litigated catastrophic injury cases throughout the U.S. and the world. In fact, he has also won the largest mild traumatic brain injury verdict in the world and his groundbreaking work in the field of TBI has garnered him international recognition.

With five decades of experience under his belt, attorney Howard Smith has also consistently obtained numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts across the country. He focuses on cases involving wrongful death, medical malpractice, auto accidents, trucking crashes, and brain injuries.

At Smith Law Center, we know all too well the devastation that motorcycle accidents can have on the injured and their loved ones. We have the necessary experience to help you obtain the compensation that you deserve to help you move forward with your life.  

If you have suffered a traumatic brain injury or have lost a loved one in a motorcycle crash, a negligent or a drunk driver may be to blame. Talk to our experienced trial lawyers about suing the at-fault driver for your injuries. Contact us at (757) 244-7000. Getting started is your first step toward obtaining justice for your losses.

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