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Common Causes of Motorcycle Crashes

Updated February 23, 2023 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Motorcycles offer very little protection when a collision occurs. When in a car, you’re protected with airbags, bumpers, and the metal body of the car. Obviously, those protections don’t exist with motorcycles—other than wearing a helmet, you’re on your own. From a legal and medical standpoint, there are some major differences between car and motorcycle accidents. Because of this, each type of case is unique. This is why you will want to hire an Indianapolis lawyer with specialized knowledge about motorcycle accident cases if you are injured in a crash. 

What Is the Primary Cause of Motorcycle Accidents?

There are many different factors that can lead to a motorcycle accident, but one of the main causes may often be the failure of other drivers to notice you on the road. Motorcycles are small, fast, and often move in ways that cars can’t. Drivers who are not experienced in sharing the road with motorcyclists may not be as vigilant when they get behind the wheel. Even attentive drivers may not notice a motorcycle due to glare, other vehicles, blind spots, or other road obstacles. 

Intersections are also very dangerous for motorcyclists because there are a lot of cars turning and rushing through traffic lights. Unfortunately, even the most skilled motorcyclists may be unable to avoid collisions with cars that do not see them. 

Common Motorcycle Accident Causes

Motorcycle accidents typically involve cars not yielding the right-of-way to motorcycles or drivers making left-hand turns without seeing the motorcyclist. Many motorcycle accidents occur simply because car drivers do not see motorcyclists. Below are some of the other possible causes of motorcycle accidents in Indiana.


The protection that a motorcycle offers is nothing compared to that of a passenger vehicle. For this reason, collisions with objects or other cars may result in more severe injuries for motorcyclists. Cars are heavier and come equipped with airbags. Motorcycles are light, fragile, and will usually toss the rider from the seat in the case of a collision.

Head-on collisions between motorcycles and cars are especially dangerous because of the difference in weight between the two. Motorcycles only weigh about one-fourth as much as cars do and have virtually no safety features. 

The lack of protection also makes motorcycle collisions with inanimate objects more dangerous. Motorcyclists are more likely to die when crashing into trees, buildings, and fences than drivers in cars. 

Poor Weather Conditions

Drivers in Indiana are subjected to extremely harsh road conditions throughout the different seasons. Small patches of ice, wet roads, and high wind can lead vehicles to lose control. 

If a driver does not see you on your motorcycle due to precipitation or fails to give you the proper amount of space given slippery conditions, they may crash into you. They have a duty to drive safely even in poor weather, and therefore should still be held responsible for your injuries in the event of a crash.

Road Obstacles

Some aspects of the road pose a much greater danger to motorcyclists than to car drivers. Uneven road surfaces, small potholes, railroad tracks, and loose gravel can cause serious problems for motorcyclists. Small irregularities in the road may lead to the biker losing control or crashing. 

If you lose control of a motorcycle due to issues with the road, you may be able to pursue damages from the party responsible for maintaining the road. 

Other crashed vehicles, roadkill, and loose debris are other examples of roadblocks that can lead to motorcycle accidents. 

Ignoring Traffic Conditions and Signs

Laws are a necessary part of maintaining driver safety in Indiana. Obeying traffic signals and road signs is imperative to keep motorcyclists safe. When a passenger car driver chooses to ignore the rules of the road, it can catch motorcyclists off guard and put both parties at risk. There may not be enough time for a motorcycle operator to react to the situation. 

Driver Behavior

There are certain situations a motorcyclist cannot control. Speeding, drunk, and distracted drivers pose a serious threat to motorcycle riders. If a driver engaged in reckless behavior that led to your injuries, you can recover damages with the guidance of a motorcycle accident attorney. 

One of the most important precautions a motorcycle rider can take is to wear a helmet. Data from the NHTSA in 2019 estimates that wearing a helmet decreases the likelihood of a motorcycle fatality by 37%. Not wearing protective gear can turn mild accidents into major injuries. 

Motorcycle Accidents at Night

The first and most obvious challenge of driving at night is limited visibility. When it’s dark outside it’s much harder for cars to accurately assess a situation on the road. Turns and road obstacles are also much more difficult to see. In combination with inclement weather, nighttime can leave drivers essentially blind to their surroundings. 

Regardless of these circumstances, a driver is still expected to maintain control of their vehicle. Even though there are fewer drivers at night, around 49% of motorcycle crashes in 2020 happened at night—a disproportionately high amount given drive times. 

Additionally, some animals are more active at night. Nocturnal creatures may attempt to cross the road when they don’t sense a threat. Hitting a deer with a car can be catastrophic. Imagine running into a full-size buck on a motorcycle at full speed; you would be in as much danger as the animal. Even small animals pose a threat to motorcyclists in the event of a collision, so it is important to stay vigilant of animals of all sizes, especially when driving at night. Unless there is another car involved in the collision with the animal, you will likely not have a personal injury case.

Type of Engine and Motorcycle Model

The type of motorcycle an individual is riding can be a contributing risk factor. Some bikes are smaller and faster than others, some have better handling and traction, some are harder to see, and some are quieter. The characteristics of a motorcycle have a significant impact on the likelihood of an accident and how that accident plays out. 

If the specific features of your bike are inadequate for certain conditions, you may be able to take legal action against the bike manufacturer. 

Part Malfunction

There is always the chance that some part of the motorcycle will break or not work properly. If the brakes give out, a tire goes flat, or some other issue occurs, a motorcycle is more likely to crash than a car in the same situation. If the part that fails was defective—meaning it failed under conditions it was expected to endure—the company who built that part may be held partially responsible for your injury. 

Where Do Most Motorcycle Accidents Occur?

According to the Indiana Crash Facts of 2020 publication from the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, fatal motorcycle accidents are more likely to occur in non-urban areas in Indiana than in urban areas. Non-fatal injuries happen much more often in cities, likely because the rate of travel is slower despite the fact that there are many more vehicles around. 

Areas just outside of the city such as suburban, exurban, or rural areas encourage drivers to speed. Additionally, there is a higher likelihood of encountering obstacles like animals and other collisions. 

How Common Are Motorcycle Accidents?

Motorcyclists accounted for 18% of occupational fatalities in 2020, according to the National Safety Council. In fact, from 2004 to 2022, motorcycle fatalities have not dropped below 4,000 in the U.S.

Just a few years ago in 2020, multi-car collisions were responsible for around 60% of motorcyclist deaths.

In 2020, of the 2,112 motorcyclist deaths that did not involve a collision with another vehicle, 41 percent had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher.

Motorcycle Accident Consequences

In 2020, motorcyclists were roughly 28 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than passenger car drivers and occupants. This statistic was calculated using the total miles traveled which means that although there were more car crashes in general, the rate at which motorcyclists got into fatal accidents was much higher. 

The same statistics show that motorcyclists are only 4 times more likely to be injured than occupants of passenger vehicles. This once again points to the fact of motorcycles having less overall protection for their operators than cars. It’s important to differentiate between the causes of motorcycle accidents and the causes of motorcycle injuries. 

Accidents are caused by other vehicles, unforeseeable obstacles, and defective parts. The severity of injury is often linked to other aspects of the crash, such as the speed of the other driver or the environment in which the crash occurs.  A motorcycle rider must be more vigilant and more balanced than the driver of a passenger car.

Fault in a Motorcycle Accident

Sometimes a motorcycle crash happens because of rider error. Single-vehicle crashes into a tree or stationary object that was clearly visible with no type of bike malfunction do happen. Depending on the insurance of the rider, these types of crashes may be covered by a policy. When the cause of the accident is mainly another party, however, the victim may be entitled to recover damages. 

In multi-car collisions where the other driver was at fault and in some single-car collisions where the cause was negligence, those injured in motorcycle accidents can pursue civil charges against the responsible party. To receive benefits, a plaintiff must prove the following:

  • The actions (or lack thereof) of the defendant were negligent in some way.
  • The injured party would not have sustained an injury had it not been for the actions of the defendant.
  • The other driver was at least 51% responsible for the accident.
  • The injuries sustained by the injured party have resulted in some form of physical, emotional, or financial damage that must be repaid.

An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can help you negotiate a settlement or represent you in a court of law. Some insurance companies will use tactics to try and reduce the costs they owe. Our Indianapolis accident law firm will do what it takes to help you recover from your motorcycle crash.

Contact a Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today

While some collisions are unavoidable, most motorcycle accidents happen because somebody messes up. If a passenger car driver was not paying attention, was intoxicated, or didn’t follow the rules of the road, they can be held liable. Motorcycle accidents are typically more severe than car accidents and are more likely to result in fatalities. Wear a helmet and give yourself plenty of space when riding a motorbike to reduce the chances of catastrophic injury. 

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a motorcycle crash, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis motorcycle accident attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. Do not put your future into the hands of a lawyer or insurance agent who does not know what they are doing. The lawyers at WKW can help you get your life back on track. Call 317.218.9643 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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