Sudden Stop Motorcycle Accidents

January 2, 2024
By Michael Padway

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Whenever a vehicle comes to a sudden stop, it puts those trailing behind at risk of an accident. Even if you manage to avoid crashing into the car in front of you, the one behind you may not be as quick on the brakes. 

This could result in a rear-end collision, a close-call sideswipe, a multi-car pileup, or even you being sandwiched in between hunks of twisted metal. This is why sudden stop incidents can be one of the most dangerous among all types of motorcycle accidents.

Why Sudden Stops are more Dangerous for Motorcycles than Cars

  • Bikes require a longer braking distance than four-wheeled vehicles.
  • They lack the safety devices of passenger cars like front impact airbags, crumple zones, and a reinforced compartment.
  • Occupants of enclosed vehicles are protected by seat restraints that arrest their forward momentum. In contrast, riders can be catapulted over the bike, fall over, slide, or get run over by other vehicles.
  • The typical sedan weighs over 4x as much as the average motorcycle. A bike impacted from the rear will result in more serious injuries and greater damage than a similar rear impact between two cars.

The Different Types of Sudden Stop Scenarios

  1. The vehicle in front suddenly stops and you have no time to react, sending you crashing into its rear.
  2. You manage to avoid hitting the one in front, only to be hit in your rear.
  3. You hit the front vehicle. The one behind you has no time to stop as well, and you end up being crushed between the two vehicles.
  4. The trailing vehicle sideswipes you or sends you spinning in the opposite lane, at the mercy of oncoming traffic.
  5. A multi-vehicle pileup results, especially in high-speed thoroughfares like freeways.

Possible Injuries from a Sudden Stop Accident

When impacting the vehicle in front:

  • Eye damage, broken nose, broken facial structure, or disfigurement
  • Head injury ranging from concussion to brain trauma
  • Broken neck, spinal cord injury
  • Broken bones, fractures, limb damage
  • Internal organ damage
  • Cuts, lacerations, burns, or gaping wounds

When impacted by the vehicle from the rear:

  • Optic nerve damage (which can result in temporary, chronic or permanent loss of vision)
  • Head injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Spinal cord injury that can result in partial or full-body paralysis
  • Broken limbs, amputation
  • Internal organ damage or internal hemorrhage
  • Road rash

The dangers of a sudden stop collision doesn’t end with the initial impact. Much like an open door accident, riders can suffer additional injuries if there’s a chain reaction, such as cartwheeling into the opposite lane, sliding into a fixed object, or being run over by other vehicles.

Who is Liable in a Sudden Stop Accident?

Since there are a variety of reasons why vehicles might come to a sudden stop, presumption of liability rests on a number of factors. These include:

Negligence – Whether the driver of either vehicle was distracted or inattentive to the road.

Mechanical defect or failure – This can be trouble with the engine, brakes, lights or other parts of the vehicle. Note that a mechanical failure due to improper maintenance may still be considered negligence.

Impairment – If one driver was not fit to be driving at the time of the accident.

Contributory negligence or shared fault – When both motorists are found to be at fault. For instance, one driver may be distracted on the phone, while the other may be drunk.

Other factors that may be considered are the initial reasons for the stop, the speed, impact angle and driving record of both parties.

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How to Avoid Motorcycle Accidents Caused by Sudden Stops

  1. Maintain safe distance
    • Bikes need a longer stopping distance than cars since there’s less surface area in contact with the road.
    • Know your bike’s braking distance, and allow enough space from the vehicle in front.
  2. Stay within the speed limit
    • The faster you go, the less reaction time you have in case of a sudden stop situation.
    • Follow the posted speed limit and allow for at least 2-3 seconds of reaction time.
  3. Always be aware of your surroundings
    • Watch for danger signs ahead such as intermittent braking, screeching, or swerving vehicles that indicate a sudden bottleneck.
    • Don’t rely on brake lights alone —  observe other cues that the vehicle in front may be slowing down. 
    • Keep your eyes on the road and not on your phone, camera or speedometer.
  4. Have a contingency plan
    • Make it a habit to map out a safe spot to veer into in case there’s a sudden stop in front.
    • Practice emergency braking in a safe and controlled spot, so you know how to react when needed.
    • Bikes equipped with ABS are less likely to suffer from wheel lock and skidding during an emergency stop. However, ABS remains an optional feature in the US, while it’s required for bikes 125cc and up in the EU. 

A sudden stop accident can be a complex incident involving multiple vehicles. If you get involved in an accident caused by a sudden stop, consult with a lawyer that specializes in motorcycle accidents, whether you hit a vehicle or got hit by one. A motorcycle accident attorney can help you claim compensation from the negligent party, pinpoint or mitigate liabilities, and deal with the insurance claim. 

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Michael Padway

Michael Padway uses his expertise in personal injury and motorcycle accidents to represent a broad spectrum of clients dealing with life-changing and permanent injuries for the first time. His offices are located at 235 Montgomery St., Ste 668, San Francisco, CA 94104 and at 3140 Chapman St. Oakland, CA 94601. For more information, please call (800) 928-1511.

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