In 2009, the Road Safety Authority produced figures as part of its “National Motorcycle Action Plan” which revealed that Ireland has the second worst record of fatalities and serious injury amongst motorcyclists throughout the 27 member states of the European Union. The statistics were based on the number of fatalities and serious injuries per 10,000 registered motorbike users. These are even more alarming when it is seen that the number of registered motorbike users rose from approximately 24,000 in 1998 to almost 38,000 at the time this report was produced. In response to these statistics, the RSA´s “National Motorcycle Action Plan” proposed 78 areas where safety could be improved to reduce both the number of accidents on Ireland´s roads, and the severity of the injury should an accident still occur.
The plan also revealed the four most common reasons for a motorbike accident in Ireland, with over three quarters of all motorbike accidents being due to a collision with another vehicle. Astonishingly, until the law was changed in 2006, one-in-five collisions resulting in fatality or serious injury were with unaccompanied learner car drivers. The high incidence of accidents happening around rush-hour periods were of no surprise considering the increased volume of road traffic at these times. However, the average age of motorcyclists injured in accidents was just over 35 years – suggesting that these are not irresponsible youths who are being injured, but experienced road users. The other three main contributors to motorbike accidents in Ireland were highway defects, mechanical failure and inclement weather.
What You Should Do if you are Involved in a Motorbike Accident
If you are involved in a motorbike accident in Ireland, your first concern should be for your health and that of any pillion passenger you may have with you. Even though registered motorbike users account for only 2% of all road users, they comprise 10% of all fatalities and serious injuries on the road. The likelihood is that you would have come into contact with a hard surface on or after impact, such as the body of a vehicle, a safety barrier or the road surface itself. In the event of a severe injury, an ambulance should be called as well as the Gardaí, and you will be taken to hospital to receive treatment for your injuries. Even when you believe that your injuries are only minor, it is recommended that you go to the accident and emergency department of the nearest hospital to have superficial wounds attended to and a have precautionary examination for any internal injuries.
Even motorcyclists who wear helmets are likely to sustain what are known as “non-penetrative” injuries to the front of the head during a motorbike accident in Ireland. The front of the head shields the area of the brain that controls speech, and you should always consult a doctor about an MRI scan if you begin to develop headaches or find that you are slurring your speech after being involved in a motorbike accident. Other typical injuries which may not be immediately apparent are similar to whiplash, where the head has been involved in a sudden forward and backward movement, damaging the spinal cord and causing the soft tissues and muscles around the neck to contract – effectively obstructing the flow of blood to the brain.
As you can see, the potential for severe injury is significant when you have been involved in a motorbike accident in Ireland- and no amount of compensation can ever bring back a loved one who has been killed in a fatal motorbike accident or replace a vital organ which has permanently been damaged. When you have been injured in a motorbike accident in Ireland for which you were not entirely to blame, you should seek legal advice about making a claim against the negligent party responsible for your injuries.
Claiming Compensation after a Motorbike Accident
Although claims for motorbike accidents in Ireland are treated in law exactly the same way as any other road traffic accident claims, a negative public perception of motorcyclists means there has been a historical bias against motorcyclists when it comes to claiming motorbike accident compensation. Overcoming this bias is of paramount importance when claiming compensation after a motorbike accident, and is just one of the many reasons why it can be in your best interests to seek professional legal advice before applying for an assessment of your claim to the Injuries Board Ireland.
An initial consultation with a solicitor will involve explaining how your accident happened, what injuries you sustained and how they were treated. If the Gardai attended the scene, your solicitor will wish to know which Garda station they were from in order to obtain a copy of the relevant entry in their Road Traffic Accident Report Book. He or she will also wish to know if you had the chance to exchange insurance details with the negligent party or took contact details from any bystanders who would be willing to act as witnesses to the incident.
In the event of your injuries being sustained due to a faulty road surface or defect in the motorbike, your accident may have happened while you were in complete isolation. Even so, it may still be possible to claim motorbile accident compensation for your injuries from the local council or garage who last serviced your motorbike if it can be proven that their lack of care led directly to your accident. An issue such as a neglected road surface, where a lack of drainage can cause “ponding” or freezing over during cold weather, can mean the local council are liable for your injuries. Similarly, if your bike has recently been dismantled for replacement brake pads and incorrectly reassembled, the garage responsible for a faulty repair may be liable.
In addition to claiming for your physical and psychological injuries, you may also be entitled to “special damages” in respect of any additional expenses you have incurred due to your accident (for example; if you have had to make alternative transport arrangements whilst your motorbike is off the road). You will also be able to claim for a loss of earnings because your injuries have meant that you are unable to work and for any medical expenses you have incurred.
The Claims Process after a Motorbike Accident
The first part of the claims process is to complete an application form to the Injuries Board Ireland. The form itself is not particularly complex, but it is necessary to be completely comprehensive in your application and is easy to omit key pieces of information about your motorbike accident which may affect the Injuries Board assessment of your claim. At a time when you may be still suffering from your injuries and maybe even still traumatised by your accident, it is far better to have a legal representative, familiar with the requirements of the Injuries Board Ireland application form, assist you with the completion of the form.
Once your application form is submitted, the defendant (negligent party) has the opportunity to deny liability for your injuries – in which case the Injuries Board Ireland will issue you with an “Authorisation” to pursue your claim through the court. The Injuries Board Ireland will also decline to process your application form if there is any element of contributory negligence on your behalf, or if your injuries were sustained in a multi-vehicle accident in which blame could be apportioned to a number of defendants. Again, you will be issued with an authorisation to take your case to court.
A further potential obstacle may be that the Injuries Board Ireland assessment of your claim is unacceptable to either yourself or the defendant´s insurance company. The Injuries Board Ireland will not arbitrate in disputes such as these, and a settlement will have to be reached by negotiation or by litigation. In the meantime, you may be approached by the negligent party´s insurance company with an offer of early settlement. Inasmuch as the prospect of an immediate boost to your finances may be tempting, it is always beneficial to seek a legal opinion of the proposed settlement to ensure the offer represents an appropriate amount.
Motorbike Accident Compensation: Summary
It is hoped that the 78 proposals in the RSA´s “National Motorcycle Action Plan” considerably reduce the number of motorbike accidents in Ireland and also that the road using public give motorcyclists more respect. Even still, accidents will continue to happen, and as the procedures for claiming motorbike accident compensation can be difficult, it is recommended that you always seek professional legal advice.