Ask an Attorney: Road hazards for motorcyclists to watch out for
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Question:I am an experienced rider. A few months ago, I was riding my motorcycle home from work, and as I crossed over into the left turn lane, my front tire hit an unmarked rut in the road. I was thrown from the bike and wound up in the hospital with several broken ribs and other injuries. My medical bills are skyrocketing, but my insurance company says I’m not covered. Is there anything I can do?
Answer: You’re not the first rider who has gone down because of hazardous road conditions. As a rider myself, I feel your pain. Even when we do everything right, the roads can seem stacked against us. Unfortunately, without reviewing the accident site myself and learning more details about your case, I cannot give you a definitive answer.
However, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation, the government has a duty to maintain roads and keep them safe. When there’s an issue with pavement (grating, rutting, large potholes, etc.), it must be marked clearly. If it isn’t, then whoever is responsible for maintaining that section of road may be liable for your injuries.
It is possible to sue a city (or paving company) on behalf of an injured biker, and the entity could be held responsible for your injuries, loss of function, and/or other damages, similar to how a vehicle driver would be responsible if he or she hit you while you were riding. In addition, depending on the type of insurance you have, you actually may be covered, despite what representatives are telling you now.
Many people consider March 1 to be the unofficial kick-off of riding season in Las Vegas. As riders start heading out in force, it’s important they ride safely and pay close attention to road conditions, pedestrians and other vehicles. Riders should be particularly cautious during the start of riding season, as drivers might not be as used to seeing multiple motorcycles on the road as during late spring and summer. Here are some hazards to watch for, particularly when you’re on two wheels:
At dusk and in poorly lit areas, it can be difficult to see hazardous road conditions until it’s too late. A helpful indicator of potential bumps in the road is the vehicle in front of you. Pay attention to when the driver brakes and if the vehicle moves around on the road. Bouncing taillights can mean there are rough roads ahead.
Look out for drivers who are talking on cellphone, texting, eating or fiddling a with a GPS. These all are distractions that can cause drivers to behave erratically. So don’t just watch the car; watch the driver, too.
Roads often can be littered with debris. Wind, rain, flooding and construction all can add grit and grime to our streets and those hazards rarely are marked.
Watch for lighter, darker or otherwise discolored spots on the pavement, and look for reflections of light to identify slick spots. This won’t guarantee you’ll be able to see all debris, but it’s a good start. If you’re riding through unavoidable debris, such as sand or gravel on the road, remember to limit braking and acceleration when possible.
One of the leading causes of motorcycle injuries and fatalities are cars turning left in front of approaching bikes. Unlike an approaching car, a motorcycle has only one headlight that’s smaller than a car’s headlight. This makes it difficult for the driver to judge the distance of the motorcycle and the speed at which it’s approaching.
If you’re coming up on a vehicle that is signaling a left turn, be extra cautious as you approach. A good tip is to not watch the car but its wheels to see if the driver is coming off of the brake to make a turn.
Winter is mating season for many animals in the valley, so rabbits, coyotes, ducks, quail and other wild animals will be giving birth as the weather gets warmer. An influx of critters increases the possibility that one or more will dart across the road.
Keep an eye on the side of the road and slow down when there are creatures nearby that could run in front of you. Be especially cautious when riding on back roads.
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