Motorcycle Accident Motorcycle Accidents: Road Hazards, Liability & Injuries

  1. Road hazards are a common cause of motorcycle accidents. Liability for a motorcycle accident will depend upon the circumstances and type of hazard and determine whether you or a third party may be ultimately responsible for damages caused by the accident.

    Common Hazards Motorcyclists Encounter on the Road

    Motorcycle riders face far more road hazards than automobile drivers. Many people mistakenly presume that the driving experience of a car is roughly the same with a motorcycle. Some hazards facing motorcyclists are not instantly recognizable, such as seemingly harmless leaves on the road. It is important to be able to identify the hazards and dangers specific to motorcycle riders. The following is a list of common motorcycle dangers and hazards:


    Presents difficult maneuvering and motorcycle navigation, especially making turns.
    Gravel roads will usually have more sharp turns than paved roads. Most motorcycle accidents on gravel roads occur due to speeding where the operator misjudges the ability to make turns and loses control of the motorcycle.

    Rough Roads

    Roads may be rough and uneven due to passage of time and weather conditions, such as the effects of the winter season, resurfacing of the road or construction work. A motorcycle rider needs to be extra cautious as they cannot anticipate larger cracks, holes or bumps that may suddenly appear in the road and are capable of causing a motorcycle accident.


    In more rural areas, animals may enter the road and not leave, even when seeing an approaching motor vehicle. Even a small animal on the road could cause a motorcycle operator to swerve to avoid contact, resulting in an accident. Chances of a fatality are even greater where a large animal is involved, such as a deer, where the impact on the motorcycle rider would be significant.

    Expansion Joints

    An expansion joint joins two sections of road or a section of road to a bridge. They are used to allow the road to contract and expand without cracks. These sections of road will be uneven and contain some small gaps, increasing the chance that a motorcycle operator may encounter an uneven ride present difficulty in maintaining adequate control.

    Open Bridge Joints

    Different sections of bridges are held together by open bridge joints, which are similar to expansion joints. For the same reasons, they present a motorcycle operator with a challenge to maintain control.

    Edge Breaks

    This refers to a separation or break in the flow of traffic, which may naturally occur or be the result of direction by a highway patrol officer. A motor vehicle operator will need sufficient time to brake before reaching an edge break, which is more challenging for a motorcycle operator who may be traveling at a high rate of speed.

    Rain, Ice, Snow and Wet Surfaces

    When the road is wet, the road surface can become slick and cause problems for motorcyclists. A motorcycle is lighter than a car and the tires of a motorcycle are more prone to losing friction and firm contact with the road. Some of the surfaces that become more dangerous when wet are:
    • Light rail and trolley tracks
    • Crosswalk lines, painted surfaces on the road
    • Leaves
    • Oil, anti-freeze and other automotive fluids

    Bodies of Water

    A motorcycle driven through water, even small puddles, can result in hydroplaning. The motorcycle operator will experience a loss of steering and braking control as a result of the motorcycle’s tires failing to make solid contact with the road. The tires of the motorcycle will temporarily slide across the top of the water.

    Railroad Tracks

    The elevation of railroad tracks above the road surface creates an obvious hazard for a motorcycle and adequate care must be used in slowing down to cross over the tracks.

    Objects or Debris in the Road

    Branches, leaves, rocks and fallen objects from a truck or mountain create a greater risk of injury for a motorcycle operator than one driving a car. Rocks and other projectiles that may be propelled backwards from vehicles in front of the motorcycle operator could strike the rider and cause a crash and injury.

    Liability for Motorcycle Road Hazards

    In making a determination as to who is ultimately responsible for a motorcycle accident, the behavior of the motorcycle operator, other drivers and the conditions of the road will be examined. In most instances, negligence law governs liability and award of damages. The conduct of any driver on the road must meet the standard of care for a reasonable person driving in a similar situation. Using proper motorcycle safety practices will limit the liability imputed to a motorcyclist after an accident.

    It is possible that the owner or party responsible for maintaining a road in reasonably good repair may also be liable for a motorcycle accident. A municipality may have been prior warned that a road hazard exists but did nothing about it, such as either fixing the road or making sure that motorists were warned of the hazardous condition. Should an auto or motorcycle accident occur as a result, the injured party could sue and seek an award of damages against the government, municipality or responsible party. In most instances, it is usually advisable to speak to a motorcycle accident lawyer to understand and preserve your rights and protect yourself against liability.
    Accident & Injury Law:
    Motorcycle Accident

    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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