A motorcycle accident is a traumatic experience that extends well beyond the scene of the accident. You may face physical injuries from the accident and deal with other financial and psychological burdens that place a heavy toll on your life. Navigating the process of obtaining medical care, monetary compensation, and the legal nature of an accident is a daunting task alone. In this article, you’ll learn how to navigate the process of a motorcycle accident, starting from the first seconds after the accident to understanding pre-settlement funding options and the eventual closure of your claim.
At the Scene of the Accident
- Find Safety – After an accident, your first task is to find safety near the site of the accident. Note that you cannot leave the area (doing so is usually a criminal offense), but you should move as far from the automobiles and damaged structures as possible in case of a gas leak or fire.
- Assess Injuries – Motorcycle accidents tend to have more injuries than general car accidents because motorcyclists have no protection between themselves, the road, and other vehicles. As a result, motorcycle accidents are 27 times more deadly than automobile accidents, and their survivable injuries are more extensive. Common motorcycle accident injuries include:
- Road Rash – This is a condition of shredded or removed skin common in cycling accidents.
- Bruising – Impact on the road or vehicles will sometimes result in severe bruising of the body.
- Broken Bones – Individuals thrown from a motorcycle usually walk away with a few broken bones.
- Loss of Limb – Crushed body parts or dismemberment frequently result in loss of limb post-accident.
- Internal Bleeding – Even individuals who look mostly okay after an accident may have hidden internal bleeding in the brain, lungs, kidneys, etc., requiring immediate medical care.
- Contact 911 – The moment you are safe and have taken a moment to identify your injuries, contact 911. An ambulance and police will arrive at the scene. Do not forgo calling 911 – you’ll want the call and police report for evidence during your claims process.
- Admitting Fault – Do not at any point admit fault when speaking with police or EMTs. You do not know the full extent or circumstances of the accident, but the defense can use your words against you in the claim and punitive process.
- Stay On Scene – As previously mentioned, leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal charge in most states. Stay on the scene, and wait for the authorities to arrive with further directions.
- Stay Calm – You must stay as calm as possible post-accident. Remaining calm will help the EMTs work with you on your injuries, and the police get better information from you. In addition, defense attorneys, police, and your lawyer will pay very close attention to your actions at the scene, and a calm demeanor protects you from rash actions and words.
- Gather Information – If you can, gather information from willing witnesses, take photographic evidence, and write down the location, date, time, and other pertinent details you remember of the accident for future use in the process. Pertinent Information includes:
- Driver Information – You and any other drivers involved need to supply their insurance information.
- Vehicle Descriptions and License Plate Numbers.
- Witnesses Contact Information – not all witnesses will give it to you, but they should give it to the police.
- Cross Street Names.
- Map of location and Vehicles.
Get Medical Care
- Go To The Hospital – You need to see a doctor, even if you don’t take the ambulance and a family member drives you instead. Yes, medical bills are expensive, and the ER is even more so. However, you should always see a doctor after a motor vehicle accident, as it is the best-documented proof of your injuries and mental state caused by the accident.
- Get All Recommended Imaging – Don’t say no to recommended x-rays or imaging. These are hard evidence of injuries sustained from the accident.
- Get Written Documentation – Ask for written and signed documentation from doctors of any theories, statements, or orders the doctor gives for use as evidence during the claim process.
- Treatments to Expect
- Surgery – You may require surgery to repair internal bleeding, damaged limbs, or other injuries immediately after the accident.
- Physical Therapy – Recovery from muscular or skeletal injuries often requires months of physical therapy.
- Chiropractic – You may require adjustment and maintenance from a chiropractor for skeletal injuries and pain post-accident.
- Therapy – You may require treatment from a psychiatrist or therapist for PTSD or trauma-related mental dysfunction like nightmares or sleeplessness.
- Medical Prescriptions – You may require painkillers, anti-depressants, or other prescription medication for your post-accident recovery.
- Paying for Medical Care – Recovering from a motorcycle accident is not cheap. Medical care can rack up thousands of dollars of debt for just the ER visit, not to mention any maintenance treatment you will need for a full recovery.
The good news is, the at-fault (or defendant’s) party’s insurance should cover your bills, and in some cases, even your auto or medical insurance. But they usually don’t pay upfront and may try to pay less than the bill total. All the same, don’t put it off waiting for the other insurance to cough up the funds.
If medical costs are adding up at a rate you can’t handle, it may be time to look into pre-settlement funding, which is sometimes known as a settlement advance loan in some states depending on the nature of the agreement. Private institutions issue these fundings, sometimes in the form of loans, depending on your state of residence, to victims of motor vehicle accidents who have filed a lawsuit and need help making ends meet until the lawsuit finds in their favor or settles. You can usually use this money to help pay for medical bills, a new vehicle, or even your mortgage if you’ve lost your job due to the accident.
- Contact Insurance ASAP – Ideally, you should contact your auto insurance company to file a claim the same day as your accident and as close to the time of the accident as possible. However, individuals with severe injuries may not get to it for a few days after the accident, which is fine. Just contact them with the details as soon as you can do so with a clear mind.
- Do Not Give Estimates of Injury or Damage – ever admit fault to your insurance. It is the job of the police to determine that. Additionally, do not give estimates of any vehicular or physical damage to your insurance. Your bills may add up over time or might be more extensive than you initially thought, and if you gave your insurance a lower estimate, they often cling to it to save money until a lawyer steps in on your behalf.
- Filing A Claim – Chances are, after your first contact with your auto insurance, the insurance has filed a claim regarding the accident. First, however, you need to verify that a claim is open and begin providing documentation to your insurance regarding the accident.
How your claim carries out depends on the type of “Fault” state that you live in, either a No-Fault or an At-Fault state.
- No-Fault vs. At-Fault States – Most states are “At-Fault,” meaning that you are required to file a claim with your auto insurance after an accident, but only the insurance of the “at-fault” party will pay for the damages you experience from the accident. An at-fault system is based on tort liability, and a court may determine your owed compensation through the civil court process of your state. Usually, at-fault states result in more litigation and paperwork than a no-fault state.
Conversely, a no-fault state requires each individual’s insurance to cover injuries and damages under your policy. However, you can usually sue the at-fault party if non-economic expenses, like post-traumatic stress, occur due to the accident. Usually, you have to work with your insurance more and go through their recommended providers for care in a no-fault state.
- A Note on Personal Injury Protection – No-fault insurance states generally have Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This protection covers the healthcare costs of a motorcycle accident for you and your passengers and does not require healthcare insurance. However, PIP generally has a per-person maximum coverage that, when met, requires health insurance to cover any remaining costs.
Contact An Attorney
- Why You Need An Attorney – After a motorcycle accident, it’s essential to contact your attorney, and if you do not have one, find a reputable lawyer to represent you during the vehicle claim. Why?
- Expertise – Your lawyer will have a comprehensive understanding of the entire claims, payment, and trial aspects of your accident and can handle most of the paperwork and negotiations for you.
- Determination of Fault – You are not the best judge of who is at fault from an accident. If the other party is at fault, they will reduce their responsibility for your injuries and recovery. Your lawyer will help maintain and enforce the determination of fault.
- Navigate Insurance – Insurance companies are complicated and tricky. More importantly, they are in the business of making money. As such, they don’t make it easy for you to understand their processes, but your lawyer will know how to handle them.
- Defend Against Other Attorneys – The insurance company, and in some cases, the other driver may have an attorney defending their interests. It’s best not to try and take on a lawyer without one of your own.
- Guide You Through Medical and Emotional Compensation – Most people know they are entitled to some compensation after an accident, but they don’t know what all they are entitled to, but a lawyer will.
- Paying for An Attorney – Attorneys are worth the investment, but most people can’t afford to pay for a retainer outright. Sometimes your liability insurance covers legal fees, but not always. Instead, most lawyers will work on a percentage outcome basis. They only get paid if you win your case and take a percentage of your winnings as agreed on in your contract.
Negotiations With At-Fault Insurance
- Third-party Claim – Generally, the fastest way to settle a motorcycle accident claim and receive your compensation is by working with the at-fault insurance as a third-party claimant. During a third-party claim, you, the claimant, will file paperwork and comply with the defendant’s insurance’s request for evidence, treatment notes, etc., to receive payment. But it isn’t as cut and dry as it seems.
- Coverage – Your injuries and non-economic damages receive coverage thanks to the at-fault party’s liability insurance. Most states require all drivers to have liability insurance to drive legally. There are two main types of liability insurance:
- Bodily – Coverage for medical expenses as a result of the accident.
- Property – Coverage for damaged property such as vehicles, phones, etc., lost during the crash.
- Understanding Minimum and Maximum Coverage Amounts – If you were to look at your auto insurance policy, you would see three numbers detailing your liability coverage. For example: $50,000/100,000/30,000. Each number represents a different maximum coverage amount your policy covers.
The first, $50,000, details the maximum amount of money your policy pays for a single person’s bodily injuries from an accident. The second, $100,000, describes the maximum amount your insurance will pay for any number of individuals involved in an accident.
The final number, $30,000, details the maximum property damage your insurance will cover.
Most states put into law the minimum amount of money an auto policy must cover for liability. Still, your insurance company usually offers plans that cover more in case of an accident. Plans with more coverage aim to prevent a client from being sued for more funds in cases where medical bills and damages supersede the state-determined minimum coverage.
- The Aim (and Flaw) of Negotiations With Insurance – As previously mentioned, insurance companies are in the business of making money. As such, negotiating with the at-fault party often means facing their contesting of the liability of the accident, trying to reduce their client’s guilt, and downplay your injuries and damages with the goal of and saving money.
Filing A Lawsuit
Sometimes people try to negotiate for a fair deal with the at-fault insurance before filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party. It is during a lawsuit that the at-fault party officially becomes a defendant. Other times, you decide to file a lawsuit right away, or your lawyer recommends ending negotiations in favor of a lawsuit. Either way, the process of a lawsuit begins with a legal filing with your local civil court, and this initiates what can be a long process for you to receive your compensation from the accident.
- Complaint and Detailing of Damages – When filing a lawsuit, usually, the complaint (also known as the petition) is the first step of the process. The complaint is a detailed compilation of the accident details, damages and must contain the legal precedent for the lawsuit (explains the fault of the accident.) Your lawyer drafts the complaint about you and may include some of the following expenses:
- Economic Damages – Generally includes medical expenses, loss of property and future lost income (known as diminished earning capacity.)
- Calculating Economic Damages – You’ll calculate economic damages using existing, known costs like medical bills and by calculating future medical expenses based on surgeries, assisted living needs, ongoing therapy, or medications.
Additionally, you will want to include any anticipated loss of income from diminished earning capacity. This amount calculates based on:
- Your Age – Younger claimants have a higher diminished earning capacity.
- Any Loss of Limbs or Functional Capacity – For example, individuals in physical jobs like welding who lose a limb would see a higher rate of diminished earning capacity included in their complaint.
- Your Work Industry – Were you in a thriving, growing industry? Your diminished earning capacity may be higher, then.
- Career Potential – Did you lose a promotion as a result of the accident? Were you in a field with ample opportunity to move up? If yes, your diminished earning capacity will go up.
- Non-economic Damages – Generally includes pain and suffering.
- Calculating Non-economic Damages – Calculations require the same proof for economic, such as medical bills, photographs, friends and family testimonials, and other details that build a picture of the ongoing and future pain and suffering the accident has created. This picture looks at the severity, longevity, and permanency of your pain and suffering to help calculate compensation amounts.
- Punitive Damages – Generally covers excess damages from reckless or illegal behavior by the at-fault party. The court usually determines these damages as a punishment for the poor behavior of the at-fault party.
- Calculation of Expenses
- Attorney – Your lawyer will help calculate your current and future expenses for the complaint.
- Expert Witnesses – Surgeons, therapists, pain doctors, and other expert witnesses will help determine your calculation of damages.
- Insurance Multiplier – The at-fault insurance company may utilize an insurance multiplier to determine the amount they are willing to pay for an accident using provable damages (including actual damages, like loss of income and medical bills.) This multiplier utilizes four base values to calculate the provable damages of your case:
- Base Values range between low to premium, using the numbers 2,3, 3.5, and 4.
- After establishing your provable damages, you multiply each amount by the four base multipliers to assess a range of values for the case.
- These assessed amounts vary based on additional circumstances, like pain and suffering, but insurance companies offer the lower end of the range while attorneys request the higher end.
- Submission of Discovery – After filing the lawsuit and complaint, your lawyer or the defendant’s attorney will initiate a demand for discovery documents that will serve as evidence and proof for both sides to build their arguments for settlement and trial.
- Types of Discovery
- Interrogatories – A series of questions, generally answered in document form, establishes basic information regarding the case.
- Request for Admission – This request saves time in a court case by having parties admit to undisputed facts, generally in the realm of fault. Instead of arguing who caused the accident, the at-fault party admits to it, and the lawyers instead focus on debating the extent of damages.
- Production of Documents – Discovery requests for documents simply request the procurement and sharing of documents pertinent to the case, like medical exams, bills, and pay stubs, to prove or debate damages.
- Inspection of Land – Most attorneys seek to investigate the location and land of an accident to verify and prove their client’s case.
- Medical Exams – HIPPA law protects mental and physical exams from prying eyes, but an attorney may request access to these documents in certain instances. Access may be limited or include redacted records to protect your privacy.
- Deposition – Depositions are formal interviews or questionings done under oath. They are not as formal as trial questioning. Usually, deposition occurs at the end of the discovery phase to confirm, question, and expand on documents and opinions given in interrogatories or based on received evidence.
After discovery closes, most attorneys try to settle motor vehicle accidents out of court to save time and money. You may settle in one of these methods:
- Arbitration – An arbiter (or a council of several arbiters) resolves disputes after hearing the facts of the case. The arbitration is consensual between both parties, and the decision is final.
- Court Mandated Conference – To avoid a full trial, the court may order a mandated conference between parties to attempt a resolution.
- Formal Mediation – Formal mediation is consensual, with a neutral mediator attempting to bring both parties to an agreement outside of court.
- Informal Communication – After deposition, attorneys may attempt to offer settlements via written or verbal communication outside of court or other dispute processes.
- Trial – The longest and most stressful resolution, trial requires both parties to present their case before a judge and jury, hoping to win the case.
After disputes and negotiations close, you’ll return to life as normally as possible. You may have ongoing medical needs or may require therapy to overcome fears of riding motorcycles, or you may find yourself feeling freed from a laborious process.
The Road Ahead
After a motorcycle accident, you’ll find yourself at the beginning of a long road to recovery. But the good news is, you don’t have to go it alone. As you navigate the many steps of recovery and compensation, know that while the process of filing claims, going through deposition, and negotiations may take time, they are worth it. And eventually, you will recover from the accident and turn to look forward to the road ahead of you.