• Ann Sheeley

Motorcycle Accidents - Who is Responsible When Road Conditions Cause a Crash?

Updated: Nov 9

Road construction is in full swing across every city and town in Rhode Island. The state plans to spend $1.6 billion on approximately 100 transportation projects this summer, which include resurfacing roads, widening lanes, repairing bridges, building new ramps and interchanges, etc. While most of the work is long over-due and entirely necessary to keep our roads safe, all this construction creates frustration for drivers and numerous hazards on our roadways, especially for motorcycles.


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists are “28 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and 4 times more likely to be injured.”[1] Many motorcycle accident victims fail to obtain the compensation they deserve because they do not know their rights and are unaware or unable to prove they were not at fault. Rhode Island Personal Injury Attorney Ann Sheeley has represented hundreds of motorcycle accident victims in her more than 25 years of experience. In this article, she discusses the most common road hazards for motorcycles and who could be held responsible if road conditions or construction are the cause of a motorcycle crash.

Wrongful Conviction

Top Road Hazards for Motorcyclists:

Certain road conditions that are minor annoyances to motorists, such as uneven road surfaces, can pose significant dangers to motorcyclists. It is important that bikers know what hazards to look out for and use extra caution when riding. Below are the top causes of defective roadways that can lead to a serious motorcycle accident

  • Pavement defects (potholes, grooved, uneven and poorly resurfaced pavement)

  • Improperly marked road construction zones

  • Poorly marked intersections and signage

  • Sand or loose gravel

  • Trash and debris in the road

  • Lack of dividers or guardrails

  • Poorly lit roads and intersections

  • Abrupt lane shifts and detours

  • Sudden movements by construction crews and operating equipment

Who’s Responsible for a Motorcycle Accident Caused by Poor Road Conditions?

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) “designs, constructs, and maintains the state's surface transportation system, which includes highways, bridges and other major roadways.”[2] Other roads are maintained by the city or town’s local governments, and then some are the responsibility of a private property owner. Depending on where an accident occurred and the circumstances that led to the accident, these parties could be held liable if negligence can be proven. In addition, construction companies and independent contractors hired to complete transportation projects have an obligation to maintain safe works zones and roadways. Therefore, in certain circumstances, it is possible that a private contractor or other agencies may be responsible, or jointly responsible, for any negligence.

To summarize, if someone is injured or killed in a motorcycle accident caused by unsafe or neglected road conditions, or because of hazards in an improperly managed work zone, the government entities and/or contractors involved may be at fault. However, these types of personal injury and wrongful death cases are particularly difficult to prove and require an experienced personal injury attorney, such as Sheeley Law, to conduct extensive research, review every aspect of the accident, and provide the accident victim with aggressive advocacy and representation.


Motorcycle accident cases have additional hurdles to overcome in order to get the injured rider the compensation they deserve. Because a motorcycle affords so little protection, when an accident occurs, the injuries tend to be very severe and the amount need for recovery much larger. Insurance companies are notorious for refusing to pay fair compensation, even when the liability of the responsible party is crystal clear. Your attorney needs to make sure that all injuries are properly assessed, and the full costs of not just past - but future - medical care is included in the compensation demand.


Too often, bikers are blamed for the accident. If a case has to go to trial, members of the jury may show bias as people tend to view motorcycles as dangerous and bikers as risk-takers. Faced with these challenges, a motorcycle accident victim needs strong and effective representation.


What To Do If You Are in a Motorcycle Accident

If you believe that unsafe or defective roads may have played a part in your motorcycle accident, you should take the following steps to help ensure the best possible outcome for your case:

  1. Get medical attention right away and follow your doctor’s advice with regard to treatment and care.

  2. File a police report and obtain a copy.

  3. If possible, take photographs of the accident scene, especially the defective road, lack of signage or unsafe conditions in the area.

  4. Obtain insurance, license and contact information for all parties involved, including possible witnesses.

  5. Contact a personal injury attorney that specializes in motorcycle accidents.

  6. Preserve all physical evidence, including your motorcycle. Do not repair your motorcycle until your attorney has hired a professional to thoroughly examined your bike for evidence and damages.


In Summary...

Have fun on your bike but ride with caution this summer. If you or a family member are injured in a motorcycle accident caused by neglected or defective roads, or an improperly managed road construction project, contact RI Personal Injury Attorney Ann Sheeley at 401-619-5555 or asheeley@sheeleylaw.com. She has a proven track record of helping injured motorcycle riders and the families of fatal accident victims obtain maximum compensation for their losses and suffering.



[1] https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/motorcycles

[2] https://www.dot.ri.gov/about/index.php