Here’s how to file a successful motorcycle accident claim. Get the injury compensation you deserve from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Motorcycle drivers are 28 times more likely to be fatally injured in a crash than occupants of a passenger vehicle.¹
More than 95,000 motorcycle crashes happen per year, running up costs over $16 billion for medical care, rehabilitation, lost wages, insurance claims, and legal costs.²
Motorcyclists are 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 from your motorcycle accident claim.
Managing Motorcycle Risk
Riding a motorcycle is unquestionably riskier than driving a car. Four-wheeled motor vehicles surround the driver with a metal framework designed to absorb impact. Motorcycle riders are exposed on all sides while traveling on a lighter, less stable vehicle.
Motorcycle riders are at higher risk for injury due to:
Driver skill and experience: New and inexperienced motorcycle riders are much more likely to be in an accident. Learning to balance and control a motorcycle at street speeds requires skill, training, and practice. Most states require motorcycle drivers to have training and a license before riding on public roads.
Biker actions: High-performance motorcycles are fast and fun. Just because you can zoom past a line of slow-moving traffic, or weave in and out around slower moving vehicles, doesn’t mean you should. Reckless behavior by motorcycle operators creates unsafe conditions for the motorcyclist and other drivers.
Road conditions: Motorcyclists are at much higher risk of accidents due to road conditions like potholes, loose gravel, ice, wet leaves, or other unexpected obstacles in the roadway.
Visibility: Because of their smaller size, motorcycles are difficult for car and truck drivers to see on the road, especially at intersections.
Reducing Motorcycle Injury Risk
The easiest way for motorcycle riders to cut their risk of death or permanent disability is to wear a proper helmet.
If you’ve suffered head or neck injuries while wearing a helmet, you’ll be able to use that fact to increase the value of your injury claim. You can bet that if you weren’t wearing a helmet, the adjuster will use that against you by arguing that you could have prevented the injuries.
Long-term studies have proven that wearing a safety helmet reduces the risk of head injuries by 70 percent, and risk of death by nearly 40 percent.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Only three states, Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire, have no helmet laws. Throughout the rest of the United States, motorcyclists are subject to either “universal” helmet laws requiring all motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear helmets, or to “partial” helmet laws that require underage motorcycle riders to wear a safety helmet.
Find your location on this Map of Helmet Laws by State.
Aside from a good quality safety helmet, wear protective clothing when you’re out on your motorcycle. Ideal clothing is designed for biker safety like leather jackets and chaps. Protect your arms and legs with long sleeves, long pants, and boots. Wear a jacket and gloves. Protect your eyes with goggles or sunglasses.
License and Training
Most states require a motorcycle license to operate your bike on public streets. Getting a motorcycle license requires the user to demonstrate basic motorcycle skills, but that’s not enough.
You may have enough skills to pass the license test, but professional training has been shown to reduce motorcycle accident risk significantly.
Look for local and online education with Motorcycle Safety Foundation training programs.
Maintain your motorcycle to keep it in safe operating condition. Make sure your bike’s turn signals and headlights work, and your tires are properly inflated.
Obey the Law
Use common sense and obey traffic laws just as you would while driving a car. That means driving your motorcycle safely and soberly, avoiding distractions, and keeping an eye on what’s going on around you.
Avoid driving your bike between lanes of stopped or slowing cars. “Splitting lanes” puts you in high-risk proximity to other cars with very little room to maneuver.
Common Motorcycle Injuries
Even minor motorcycle accidents can result in serious injuries to the rider. Accidents happen fast when you least expect it. From skidding on loose sand to head-on collisions, motorcyclists are frequently injured, sometimes fatally. Some of the most common injuries are:
- Road rash: Significant scrapes and abrasions on parts of the body that are dragged along the road surface. Typically to shoulders, arms, hips, and legs, the abraded areas may be embedded with gravel, dirt, and broken glass.
- Burns: Second and third-degree burns from contact with hot motorcycle engine parts.
- Soft tissue: Can include sprains, strains and whiplash-type injuries to muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- Fractures: Bones break from impact with a moving vehicle or a thrown rider slamming onto the roadway or other hard objects.
- Internal Injuries: Typically involve punctured lungs (secondary to broken ribs), ruptured spleen, bruised kidneys, and more.
- Head Trauma: A common cause of death, most common with riders who aren’t wearing a helmet, head trauma can include a fractured skull, concussions, and severe brain injuries.
- Neck and Spine injuries: Include cracked vertebra, herniated disks, permanent paralysis, and death.
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.
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.
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, home and work 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.
Photograph accident debris around the scene including broken parts of your motorcycle, paint chips on the ground, and broken glass. If the accident damaged a guardrail or other structure, note it and photograph it.
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 much of the information you’ll need. You will be able to get a copy of the official police report later on.
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.
Once you’ve contacted the insurance company, a claim number will be assigned to the case. Keep track of that claim number. You will reference it on all future correspondence with the insurance company. If you have a property damage and personal injury claim, they may be assigned to different claims adjusters and given separate claim numbers.
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.
Watch What You Say
The claims adjuster will probably ask you to provide a recorded statement of what happened. You are under no obligation to provide a recorded statement. Be careful, because anything you say can be used against you by the insurance adjuster. Never give the adjuster your recorded statement if you are medicated, tired, confused, or upset.
If you’re uncomfortable with questions from the claims adjuster, talk to a personal injury attorney about your accident claim. When counsel represents you, you won’t have to deal directly with anyone from the insurance company. Your attorney will handle all correspondence and communications on your behalf.
How to Build a Strong Insurance Claim
When you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company won’t automatically write you a fat check. You won’t see a dime unless you convince the insurance company their insured caused the accident, and the accident caused your injuries.
It helps to understand some terms used by insurance adjusters and lawyers:
Liability means fault or responsibility. The at-fault driver is usually liable for the damages suffered by the motorcycle rider.
Negligence happens when a vehicle driver fails to act responsibly or does something no reasonable driver would do.
Damages for motorcycle accidents can include property damages to the bike and your clothes, and personal injury damages like medical and therapy costs, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Direct and Proximate Cause is an action that leads to damages which wouldn’t have otherwise happened.
Duty of Care means the obligation to be careful and avoid causing harm to others.
When a motorist is negligent and causes an accident, the law says the at-fault driver breached (violated) his 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. The insurance adjuster will look for indications that you did something wrong or contributed to the crash.
If the adjuster argues that you had a part in causing the accident, don’t give up your claim. Most states have comparative fault rules, also called comparative negligence laws.
Talk to an attorney. Under 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.
Example: Shared Fault for Motorcycle Accident
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 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 attorney filed a lawsuit against Victor, demanding $100,000 for his 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.
Using Evidence to Support Your Claim
The police report, witness statements, and photographs taken at the scene will be tremendously 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 scene can be very persuasive. Additional photographic evidence may be available from surveillance cameras close to the accident 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. Get records and bills for physical therapy you needed. 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.
When You Need an Attorney
If you recovered from your motorcycle accident injuries and only missed a few weeks of work, you should be able to handle your claim without an attorney.
Your accident compensation demand can be calculated by adding up your medical and therapy bills, your out-of-pocket-expenses, your lost wages, and a reasonable amount for pain and suffering.
We’ve made it easier for you with a sample Motorcycle Accident Demand Letter.
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 claims.
Don’t listen to the adjuster who says you don’t need an attorney. Insurance companies are notorious for offering lower settlements to claimants who aren’t represented. They’re only interested in the company’s bottom line. They don’t care that a motorcycle accident shattered your life.
Don’t wait. It costs nothing to find out what a skilled personal injury attorney can do for you.
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Motorcycle Accident Claim Questions & Answers
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