Know what to do after a motorcycle accident to build a strong insurance claim. Learn what factors impact your injury compensation payout.
Motorcycle riders are 27 times more likely to be fatally injured in a crash than occupants of a passenger vehicle. More than 82,000 motorcycle crashes happen annually, and amost 5,000 motorcyclists are killed.
Motorcyclists are more vulnerable to injuries in an accident, and those injuries are likely to be serious.
If you’ve suffered injuries in a collision, you deserve the maximum available compensation for your motorcycle accident case.
What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident
Call 911 immediately after any accident involving another vehicle. Tell the dispatcher you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident. If you’re in no condition to make the call, ask someone at the scene to call for you.
1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Never refuse medical treatment at the scene. Motorcycle riders are particularly vulnerable to accident injuries. Shock and excitement can mask the symptoms of potentially life-threatening injuries. If the paramedics want to transport you to the hospital, let them take you.
If you are not taken immediately to the hospital, have a medical evaluation as soon as possible, preferably the same day. If your private doctor is not available, go to the nearest emergency department or urgent care center. Make sure you tell the medical provider that you were hit by a car while riding a motorcycle.
A delay in medical treatment can seriously undermine your insurance claim. The insurance company won’t hesitate to deny your claim by arguing that your injuries were not the result of the accident.
2. Gather Evidence at the Scene
If you are physically able, try to gather as much evidence from the accident scene as you can. To start, you’ll need important information from the driver of the vehicle that hit you:
- The at-fault driver’s name, address, and phone numbers
- The driver’s insurance information
- The driver’s vehicle information, including make, model, and year; license plate number; and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
Witnesses: Try to speak to anyone at the scene who may have seen the accident happen. Eyewitness testimony is a great way to establish fault. Get the name, phone number, and other contact information for any potential witnesses.
Photographs: If possible, use your cell phone camera or any other device to take pictures of the accident scene, the damage to your motorcycle, the damage to the other vehicle, the roadway, and pictures of any other condition that may have contributed to the accident.
Evidence can be very helpful to your claim, but don’t aggravate your injuries or delay medical attention. Making your injuries worse by trying to get evidence can do your claim more harm than good.
If you’re transported to the hospital, don’t worry about evidence. The investigating officer will collect most of the information. You will be able to get a copy of the official police report later on.
3. Notify the Insurance Companies
As soon as reasonably possible after the accident, notify the at-fault driver’s insurance company of your intent to file a claim for your property damage and personal injuries. Notify your insurance company, as well.
Don’t be surprised if the claims adjuster tries to rush you into a quick settlement. Adjusters are trained to close cases as fast as they can, for as little money as possible.
You don’t have to negotiate a settlement until you’ve recovered from your injuries and completed treatment. You are simply notifying the insurance company of the pending claim.
The claims adjuster will probably ask you to provide a recorded statement of what happened. You are under no obligation to give a statement to the at-fault driver’s insurer. Be careful, because anything you say can be used against you by the insurance adjuster. Never give the adjuster your statement if you are medicated, tired, confused, or upset.
How to Build a Strong Insurance Claim
When you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, the at-fault party’s insurance company won’t accept your claim unless you convince the adjuster that their insured caused the accident, and the accident caused your injuries.
The insurance adjuster will also look for indications that you did something wrong or contributed to the crash.
When a motorist is negligent and causes an accident, the law says the at-fault driver breached (violated) their duty of care. When negligence results in injuries to a motorcyclist, they have a legal right to seek compensation for their injuries and related costs.
A strong insurance claim will prove the at-fault driver failed to:
- Keep a proper lookout
- Comply with applicable traffic laws
- Use all reasonable means necessary to avoid an accident
Keep in mind that motorcyclists also have a duty of care to other people on the road.
Using Evidence to Support Your Claim
The police report, witness statements, and photographs taken at the scene are important evidence of the other driver’s liability for the crash.
- Police usually respond to injury accidents. Be sure to request a copy of the official police report. Insurance adjusters give a lot of weight to police reports. Your claim will get a significant boost if the investigating officer decides the other driver caused the accident, or the report shows the other driver was cited for traffic violations.
- Photographs taken at the accident scene can be very persuasive. Additional photographic evidence may be available from surveillance cameras close to the scene. Look for security cameras on businesses, schools, or city-owned property, and red-light cameras at the intersection. Speak with whoever owns the surveillance cameras to ask for footage. If they refuse, your attorney can always subpoena them if a lawsuit becomes necessary.
- Detailed notes. After the accident, write down your observations while the details are still fresh in your mind. Be sure to note admissions the motorist made like, “I’m sorry,” or “I didn’t see you.” Admissions from the other driver are valuable evidence that can be used in court to prove liability.
You’ll also use evidence to prove the extent of your injuries:
- Your helmet and clothes from the accident should be carefully put away as they were after the crash. Keep them in a labeled plastic bin. Your claim may settle out of court, but don’t underestimate the impact your dented helmet and torn, bloodstained jacket and jeans can have on a jury.
- Medical records and bills are essential for establishing the value of your claim. Request copies of all medical records for your emergency care, surgeries, hospitalization, and ongoing care. You’ll need the test reports and bills for lab work, and imaging studies like X-rays and CT scans. Keep receipts for out-of-pocket expenses for medications and assistive devices.
- Lost wages are an important part of your compensation claim. Ask your employer for a written statement of lost wages, vacation time or sick leave you had to use, and missed opportunities for overtime or bonuses. If you used FMLA, include copies of the paperwork in your accident file.
Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
There is no one-size-fits-all average motorcycle accident settlement. The amount you can expect for your injuries will depend on the scope and severity of your injuries, allocation of fault, and the available insurance coverage.
Settlements for Minor Injuries
If you recovered from relatively mild injuries and only missed a few weeks of work, you might decide to settle your claim without a personal injury attorney.
Calculate a fair settlement amount by totaling your economic damages (meaning medical bills, out-of-pocket-costs, and lost wages) then adding one or two times the total of your hard costs to account for your pain and suffering.
Let’s say you were rear-ended by a slow-moving car while waiting at a red light. The crash knocked you over, and you suffered a broken wrist trying to break your fall. Your medical expenses and lost wages totaled $1,000. A reasonable injury settlement demand would be $3,000.
Severe Injury Claims Are Complicated
If you or a loved one were severely injured, you have too much to lose by handling a motorcycle accident claim on your own. Serious injuries and wrongful death claims are complex, high-dollar cases.
Don’t listen to the adjuster who says you don’t need an attorney. Insurance companies are notorious for offering lower settlements to motorcycle and car accident claimants who aren’t represented.
A motorcycle accident attorney can help locate and pursue all available sources of liability insurance coverage. For example, if you were severely injured by a teen driver, there may be coverage available from both parents’ policies if the parents are divorced and share custody.
If you’ve exhausted the at-fault driver’s personal auto policy limits, your attorney can help you file a claim for underinsured motorist coverage under your own insurance policy. If you were the victim of a hit-and-run accident, your attorney will file an uninsured motorist claim on your behalf.
Many motorcycle accident cases end up in court because the insurance company isn’t willing to pay fair compensation for serious injuries.
Case Example: Jury Awards $21.5 Million to Injured Motorcyclist
Matthew Rada was lawfully riding his motorcycle on a California freeway when he was struck by a Kia Optima when the driver improperly changed lanes without signaling.
The impact flung Rada from his motorcycle into another moving vehicle, resulting in multiple severe injuries. Despite several surgeries, Rada suffered permanent physical impairments.
When settlement negotiations failed, attorneys for Rada filed suit against the at-fault driver who was driving a company vehicle, and the at-fault driver’s employer, a local car dealership. The lawsuit alleged the dealership contributed to the accident by negligently hiring, training, and retaining an employee who was “unfit and incompetent” for his job.
The jury found in favor of Matthew Rada, awarding $21.5 million for his injuries.
Shared Fault Will Reduce Compensation
If the adjuster argues that you had a part in causing the accident, don’t give up your claim. Most states have modified comparative negligence laws. In most cases, you aren’t barred from compensation unless you are more to blame than the other party.
Talk to an attorney. Most attorneys offer a free consultation to motorcycle accident victims. Under most comparative fault rules, you can pursue a claim for compensation from the other driver, even if you are partially to blame for the accident. Under the rule, your compensation will be reduced to account for your share of the blame for the crash.
Common Reasons for Allegations of Shared Fault:
- Failure to wear a motorcycle helmet (see state helmet laws)
- Breaking traffic laws
- Lack of working lights and signals on the motorcycle
Example: Motorcyclist’s Shared Fault Reduces Total Injury Compensation
Victor was driving his SUV in the left lane on the interstate. It was rush hour, and traffic was backing up. Dillon was driving his motorcycle in the same direction as traffic slowed.
Rather than stop and start with the rest of the traffic, Dillon decided to get ahead, so he steered his motorcycle between the two rows of cars. He had passed several cars and was to the right of Victor’s car, in the blind spot.
Victor saw an opening in the faster-moving right lane and abruptly changed lanes, striking Dillon and his motorcycle. Dillon filed an injury claim with Victor’s auto insurance company.
Victor’s insurance company denied Dillon’s claim, arguing that Dillon caused the accident by splitting lanes and driving aggressively.
Dillon and his motorcycle accident lawyer filed a lawsuit against Victor, demanding $100,000 for Dillon’s damages. In court, Victor was found to be 60% at fault for neglecting to keep a proper lookout and for failing to use his turn signal.
Dillon won his lawsuit but was found to be 40% liable for the accident because he was not properly in the lane and had been weaving in and out of slower traffic.
Dillon was awarded $60,000, representing a 40% reduction to his $100,000 demand.
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Motorcycle Accident Claim Questions & Answers
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