When it comes to motorcycle accidents, there are unfortunately a few biases against motorcyclist when it comes to insurance matters. Motorcyclists are often assumed to be ‘rough’ and ‘risk-taking’, which leads quite often to a bias in assuming the motorcyclist is at fault.
However, according to official statistics, more often than not the motorcyclist is not at fault at all. It is more common for other motorists to cause accidents for motorcyclists; especially passenger vehicles are often to blame. Furthermore, there can be a lot of factors that cause at least partial blame to lay elsewhere, such as for example defective pavement and unnecessary view obstruction.
Motorcycle Insurance Companies
Motorcycle insurance companies often try to pay out as little as possible. Most insurance companies try to do that unfortunately, but especially motorcycle insurance companies are known to downplay issues and to unfairly blame the motorcyclist. A motorcycle accident attorney can help discover the true liability, and show who really is to blame.
This goes for both your own insurance and the other sides insurance in case they are to blame. An attorney can help you navigate the legal matters quickly and efficiently.
Most motorcycle accident lawyers offer no win no fee schemes, allowing for a riskless second opinion. The best attorneys will do their own research such as tracking down witnesses and performing an additional bike inspection.
Area Specific Traffic Laws
Did you know that in most places lane splitting is illegal, but it is legal in California? Especially if you had a motorcycle accident in another state, a good motorcycle attorney can really help out. And even if you are in your own state, there may be specific laws in specific situations which are in your favor.
Remember, in most cases it is not the motorcyclist fault. Motorcyclists are very vulnerable on the road, and because of that suffer many more injuries thanother motorists. However, they are often not to blame for that.
Injuries and Damages – step 1: Liability
While your motorcycle insurance may or may not pay out some money in order to pay for your motorcycle repair, medical bills are often not entirely paid for. One step further, when it comes to compensation for example loss of an arm, or in a less extreme example, limited mobility for a couple of months, the insurance will likely try to not pay anything at all.
In the US when the other party was at least partially to blame, it is possible to sue using civil law. One of the most important factors is that in order to win a case, it must be more likely than not that the other party messed up somehow. This is called “preponderance of the evidence” in the law. Once that is true, you can be entitled compensation even if you yourself messed up massively as well. This means that even if it was 90% your own fault that you crashed, as long as the other party messed as well, you may be entitled to compensation.
In for example California, you could be entitled to 10% of the damages from the other party.
Determining who is liable to what extend is very complicated, as usually multiple things go wrong at the same time when an accident happens. Determining liability is one of the main responsibilities of the court. A good lawyer can be worth their weight in gold at this stage.
For example, let’s say you were riding your motorcycle, and because of a mistake 100% your own, you take a corner badly, and swerve into the other lane. You end up crashing against a vehicle coming from the other side.
Most people would assume you would be 100% at fault here. But that is not necessarily true. For example, what if it turns out the car driver had been speeding? Or drinking? What if his brakes were not maintained well at the time of the accident? What if he was wearing way too dark sunglasses?
Factors like this can make a seemingly simple case complicated, and because of that, often experts are required to reconstruct what happened.
Injuries and Damages – step 2: Amount
You can sue for any damage to your motorcycle, obviously. But a way higher amount of money is awarded in damages because of injuries. If you are injured you may be entitled to money for the following 4 types of damages:
- Medical Expenses
- Lost wages
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- Compensation for loss of enjoyment in life
Medical expenses include all related medical expenses, both before and after the case. Whether it is ambulance rides or wheelchair rental, basically everything medical you would not have needed if the accident never happened.
Lost wages is not only the wages for the time you spend in the hospital, but potentially also includes missed bonuses and missed promotions. In some cases you may no longer be capable of doing your existing job. If you need to get a lower paid job, you may be entitled to the difference.
Compensation for Pain and Suffering
Both emotional and physical pain are included in this category. Some injuries can be very painful, and in some cases the pain can even last for multiple years. This is also a factor that is considered when awarding damages. Aside from physical pain is it also possible to sue for emotional pain, for example PTSD. This does almost always require the testimony of a psychiatrist.
Compensation for Loss of Enjoyment in Life
This is the most person dependent factor. For example, if a very good hobbyist pianist is injured in a way that no longer allows him to play piano, while he has been playing for decades, this would qualify as loss of enjoyment in life.
All the factors mentioned above will impact the amount you may be entitled to.
Motorcycle Accident Attorney Costs and Fees
Lawyers and attorneys are quite expensive, and motorcycle accident cases tend to be complex. Also if your attorney wants to get a few expert witnesses to testify for your case then that alone can cost multiple thousands already.
At the same time, the damages awarded can be extremely high as well. This is why most lawyers opt for a contingency fee system, usually ranging from 20 to 50% of what the case ends up giving you (either settlement or court decision).
Something that unfortunately happens frequently these days is the lawyer demanding payment from the gross amount, and at the same time making you pay out of your share for example the expert witnesses and other court costs. I would advise always agreeing on a share of net payout, after all costs have been deducted, and never the gross payout.
It is also possible to hire a motorcycle accident lawyer on an hourly rate or flat fee rate. However be careful, if a lawyer that normally works on a contingency fee suddenly pushes for an hourly rate, the lawyer may think the case is unwinnable.
Selecting the Best Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Finding the best attorney for your specific case can be difficult, but is always worth the effort. Which attorney is best for you depends mostly on your personal fit with the attorney and the attorneys experience with similar cases. Especially for personal injury cases it is very important to find an attorney who can clearly communicate how you were affected to the jury and insurance adjuster. A good personal fit will help here immensely.
The second factor is the attorneys (recent) experience with similar cases. If you have been in a motorcycle accident, and a potential attorney has only dealt with car accidents before, it will be quite a gamble. However, if you find a lawyer that has dealt with multiple cases almost exactly the same as yours, then he or she will most likely know all the ins and outs, being capable of helping you better.
It is always a good idea to talk with multiple attorneys before selecting one. Just do keep in mind that the closer to the accident happening you select a lawyer, the better your chances of success are. The longer you wait, the more evidence may be lost (due for example to you healing).