How to Get the Most Compensation for Your Motorcycle Accident?
You have been riding a motorcycle for years. You are experienced. You know what you are doing.
The problem is that other drivers are clueless about sharing the road with a motorcyclist. They turn left at the intersection right into your path. They merge abruptly into your lane without signaling. They pull out in front of you like you and your motorcycle do not exist. Or a driver opens their car door directly in your path sending you head over tail. It seems like motorcyclists are just invisible to some drivers. And that invisibility can lead to an awfully bad situation for you.
In 2018, over eight million motorcycles were registered in the United States. During that same year almost three hundred million passenger vehicles were registered. Yet motorcyclists were 28 times more likely than people in cars or trucks to be killed in an accident. And with far less protection than a passenger vehicle provides, a motorcyclist is much more likely to sustain serious injuries in an accident.
If you have had a motorcycle accident, then you need to know that you have the right to pursue financial compensation. This financial compensation can include payments for loss of income, medical bills, pain, emotional suffering and much more. And let’s be real. If you are reading this article it is because you want to know how much money you might be entitled to from your accident.
Before we talk about how to choose the right lawyer for your case let’s go over what you should do the second you are able to after your motorcycle accident. This will help your lawyer prove your case later. With a solid legal case you have a better chance of winning and of getting the highest amount of money.
- Contact the Police and File A Police Report Immediately.
This is an absolute must. Telling your side of the story at the time the accident occurred (or shortly thereafter) is crucial. You will remember the situation and witnesses best when the accident is fresh in your mind. Get the witnesses names and contact information and make sure it is in the police report. It probably goes without saying but get the insurance papers and driver’s license of the offending driver. Take photos of them on your cell phone.
- Accept medical treatment even if you do not think you are hurt.
First, do not say you are not hurt! You do not know if you are hurt or not. You might feel simply fine because you are in shock. Many serious injuries only become apparent days, weeks or even months later. These are referred to as delayed injuries. At the time of the accident, you should absolutely have the EMT’s, the firefighters (if they came to the scene) or the doctors and staff at the emergency room examine you. Make sure they are writing down notes about your injuries. You will need this documentation later. You will need to prove your injury happened because of the motorcycle accident and not something else.
- Take photos of the accident scene.
Take photos of the damaged vehicles and the environment around the accident. Unfortunately, some judges and juries somehow seem to automatically think the motorcyclist is the one at fault in an accident. Take extensive photos, from every angle, of the location of the accident. Imagine you are trying to describe to a jury where the car was coming from and where you and your motorcycle were. Then take photos to show them the scene. Take photos of any injuries, both yours and the offending drivers. Take photos of the damage done to all vehicles, skid marks on the road, anything that shows the extent of the accident and how it occurred. Keep in mind that you need to prove that you are not the one at fault as much as you need to prove the other driver is at fault.
- Make and keep copies of documents, phone texts, medical records, bills, everything.
Make copies of every document right when it happens, or you receive it. Receive a relevant phone text? Take a screenshot of it immediately and save it. Scan every document and save it to a specific folder on your computer. If you cannot scan, take a photo of the document. If you cannot do that, take the document to somewhere like U.P.S. that can make a hard copy for you. Then, do not ever give your only copy of something away! Not even to your lawyer. Always keep a full set of copies for yourself. Now, why is this point being hit so hard? Because its evidence. And evidence is what is accepted in court to prove your case. You do not want a crucial piece of evidence to go missing.
- Do not talk to an insurance claims adjustor or to a defense lawyer from the opposing side.
You know that whole thing about, “…anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…” It is true even if you are not being arrested. So, keep your mouth shut. Tell them to call your lawyer. Then, not one word more.
- Do not sign anything without your lawyer’s approval.
Do not sign a waiver, release, settlement agreement or anything presented to you from the opposing side. Nothing. Unless your lawyer hands it to you and says its ok to sign – it is not ok to sign.
Now, back to finding an excellent lawyer. First – you need one. Here is the deal. You will not get the proper financial compensation if you try to do a settlement or lawsuit by yourself. The insurance company of the person who hurt you is not messing around. They do not want to pay you. They have teams of lawyers whose whole job is to make sure they do not pay you.
You need a highly skilled lawyer to represent you. You might be thinking, “No way, I’m not paying any lawyer thirty percent or more of my settlement.” Well, think of it this way. You could get five thousand dollars if you try to negotiate a settlement yourself. Or you could get a five hundred-thousand-dollar settlement if you work with a highly skilled lawyer. Sure, you must pay that lawyer a big percentage of that settlement, but which dollar amount sounds better to you in the end? That is an example, of course. But you get the point.
Now that you are sold on the need for a lawyer how do you find the right one? First, put aside what you might think about personal injury lawyers. Personal injury lawyers seem to have an undeserved reputation of being ambulance chasers that work out of the trunk of their car. Maybe a few of them do but that is not the norm and this article is about finding the real deal.
Let us run through some basics. You want a ferocious bulldog. You want someone who is not afraid to go in swinging. Someone who knows the ins and outs of the tricks that the insurance company is going to try and pull. You want someone who has a ton of experience in court and with a jury trial.
To that end you need to know what questions to ask when you are interviewing a lawyer. Remember, you are interviewing them. A personal injury lawyer needs to measure up to your standards. You are not begging them to take your case. You are their client. In other words, you are their customer.
QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE HIRING A MOTORCYCLE PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
Does the Lawyer Have Experience in Your Type of Motorcycle Accident Insurance Case?
There are different kinds of motorcycle accidents such as: motorcycle/truck, motorcycle/pedestrian, motorcycle/car, motorcycle/object and more. You want to make certain that the lawyer you are speaking to has experience in your specific type of motorcycle accident.
Does the Lawyer Have Trial Experience?
As mentioned earlier, insurance companies have squads of lawyers whose singular job is to make sure you lose at trial. You do not want a newbie lawyer representing you in front of a judge and jury. You also do not want a lawyer who has a lot of experience – but not in your type of case. Make certain to ask:
- How many cases has the lawyer had in your specific type of motorcycle accident? (Not just motorcycle accidents in general).
- How many cases has the lawyer tried in front of a jury?
- How many trials has the lawyer won?
How Long Does the Lawyer Think It Will Take to Resolve the Lawsuit?
The short answer should be it depends. It depends on the severity of your injuries and the complexity of the events, and whether your case is settled or goes to court. But here are some general guidelines. If your injuries aren’t too severe and liability against the opposing party is easily proven, then expect your case to be resolved in about five to eight months. If your case is more difficult and needs to go to trial the process could take several years. The process of ‘discovery’ alone could take up to six months. A highly skilled lawyer can best advise you on the length of time your specific case might take.
How Much Money Will I Get from My Motorcycle Accident?
Again, it depends on several variables. Were your injuries minor? Was your motorcycle still operable after the accident? Or are you suffering from lifelong disabilities and your motorcycle was destroyed? If you win your lawsuit, several things are factored in to making you financially whole, whether it is from a settlement or a trial award:
- Medical Bills: You should expect to be reimbursed for past, current, and future medical bills related to your motorcycle accident.
- Lost Wages: If you were unable to work due to your injuries from the motorcycle accident you should expect to be compensated for past, lost wages. Should you never be able to work again, or to work in your field again, you should expect to be compensated for future lost wages.
- Property Damage: You should expect to be paid for the cost of getting your motorcycle back to its condition prior to the accident.
- Pain and Suffering: This item will be a negotiation as it is difficult to put a specific cost on pain and suffering. Only you know for certain the pain, stress, and emotional trauma that you suffered from the motorcycle accident and the ensuing legal proceedings. Best advice – aim high. You will be negotiated down from where you start.
- Death: Should a loved one have been killed in a motorcycle accident surviving family members may also be able to receive funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses incurred by the deceased, loss of future income from the deceased and loss of companionship.
- Evidence: Earlier in this article it was stressed to do everything possible to prove your case. A strong case generally means a higher financial outcome. Photos paint specific pictures in people’s minds. It is one thing to say, “Blood was everywhere.” It is quite another to see it. Witness statements taken at the time of the accident go a long way. Police records showing the offending driver’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit tell a distinct story.
Important evidence can include:
- Medical records
- Video footage
- Expert Medical Testimony
- Police report
- Records of emails, phone calls, texts, etc.
You want the insurance attorneys for the opposing side to really squirm at the evidence you have. They do not want to go to trial. That costs their company money and time. They will offer a settlement. The better your case – the higher the settlement. But let us say they decide to risk a trial. This means that A). You are asking for more money in a settlement than they think you will get at trial or B). You will not settle, and this forces a trial. If they willingly accept, this may mean they think your case is weak and they will win.
Carefully, logically, and not emotionally, weigh just how strong of a case you think you have. Make sure you have a terrific motorcycle accident insurance lawyer – then really listen to his / her advice. The last thing you want is to go through the stress of a trial and lose.
How Much Is This Going to Cost Me?
Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. You will not have to pay anything unless you receive a favorable settlement for you. Discuss the contingency fee before hiring a lawyer. Lawyer fees can be anywhere from 25% to 75% of the final monetary award.
The typical fee a lawyer will charge is 33% of the total money awarded to you. For instance, if you win $100,000 the attorney will be paid $33,000. Lawyers can charge a higher or lower percentage so make sure to negotiate this and that it is outlined clearly in the contract with your lawyer.
What Are the Hidden Fees?
- Sliding Fee Scale: Ask your lawyer what the fees will be if your case goes to trial. Some lawyers charge on a ‘sliding-fee scale’. That means that the 33% you thought you would pay can slide upwards very quickly. Do not choose a lawyer who has a sliding-fee scale.
- Case Costs: Case costs are paid in addition to the 33% the lawyer receives from the monetary award. Case costs include expert witness fees, court filing fees, investigation fees and more. Ask your lawyer to outline these fees in advance. It will save you money to pay your case costs ‘off the top’. This means that the case costs come out of the settlement before your lawyer’s 33% fee. Therefore, you pay your lawyer only 33% of the lesser amount (after case costs). Paying case costs ‘off the top’ should be in your contract with your lawyer.
What A Lawyer Should Tell You NOT to Do
Any good lawyer should advise you not to do anything that will jeopardize your case. Remember you are under investigation.
- Do not write anything on social media about your accident.
If people offer sympathy to you just say thank you. Do not write anything about how it happened, how you feel, nothing. What you write might be used against you by the opposing party.
- Think twice before putting photos on social media.
Was your leg injured in the accident? Do not post a photo of you walking your dog. That is an example, but you get it. Do not give the opposing party any ammunition.
- Do not do something that your doctor told you not to do.
If you have a back injury do not try to be a hero and carry bags of groceries into the house. It is possible an insurance investigator is keeping an eye on you. If photos show up of you doing something you claim you cannot do, or the doctor advised you not to do, you are blowing your case.
- Do not Miss Doctor’s Appointments
If you miss doctor’s appointments this can be construed that you are not really injured, ill or in pain. The lawyer for the opposing party will happily pounce on this fact and use this to weaken your case.
What A Lawyer Should Advise You to Do
- Do Exactly What Your Doctor Advises
If your doctor has recommended physical therapy, you must go to every session. If your doctor has prescribed you medication take it as it is prescribed. If the medication or physical therapy affects you adversely talk to your doctor immediately. If you do not follow your doctor’s advice the lawyer for the opposing party will use this against you. Do not weaken your own case.
- Keep careful and detailed records.
It has already been discussed how important it is to keep copies of all medical bills and reports, police reports, emails, texts and more. Now, let us talk about keeping notes based on conversations. If you had a phone call with your doctor, lawyer or other person related to your accident, immediately write down what was discussed. Make sure to record the date and time of the call. It is best to buy a notebook specifically and only for this purpose. This can be used as evidence during court as it is considered contemporaneous note taking. Meaning, you wrote it down at the time it happened.
Everything you just read should help you get the highest possible financial outcome if you win your case. And the most important thing you can do to win your case is to have the best attorney representing you. To locate that attorney, you can do several things:
- Ask friends for a recommendation. Word of mouth is usually the best advertising for a lawyer. Just be certain they are recommending a lawyer familiar with your type of case.
- Check your State Bar Association directory. Every lawyer licensed in your state will be listed in this directory. Then, check a particular lawyer’s Bar Profile for their specific information.
- Check on Super Lawyers website at superlawyers.com. The website can either help you find a lawyer with expertise in the area you need, or if you put in a lawyer’s name it can give you information on that attorney.
- Check an attorney’s own website.
- com or similar sites are helpful, but they can be unreliable in the case of lawyers. Many people only bother to rate a lawyer when they are unhappy with the outcome of their case — not when they are satisfied with the outcome.
- Google or other search engines. You might as well see if your potential attorney has just been lauded as Lawyer of the Year or been arrested for a D.U.I.
Now, there is a confession to be made. This article was written by AZ Legal Injury Attorneys. You might ask, “Why would you give me all of the tools to find some other lawyer? Why wouldn’t you just pitch yourselves to be my lawyer?” There is a simple answer. We are confident that once you look around, you will know that AZ Legal Injury Attorneys has the experience, the toughness and the skill set to represent you with the excellence you deserve. Our firm regularly receives verdicts that are larger than our legal opponents’ insurance policies were written for.
Whether you choose AZ Legal Injury Attorneys or another law firm, please keep in mind everything that was outlined in this article as you move forward. We wish you the best possible outcome for your case. Sincerely, AZ Legal Injury Attorneys.
If this article was helpful, please like and share it on social media. Different states have different laws regarding motorcycle accident insurance cases.