Motorcycle riders and passengers who have been injured in accidents often have a complicated set of issues to deal with after the accident occurs. Not only do they face a higher risk of incapacitating injuries due to the lack of protective features afforded by motorcycles, but they also face the attitudes and judgments of others even those involved in the legal and insurance industries about their chosen mode of travel.
These attitudes and judgments often include the notion that all motorcyclists are unsafe or that the rider or passenger somehow deserved their injuries for choosing to ride a motorcycle.
These wrong assumptions can often lead a person injured in a motorcycle accident to feel as though they do not deserve compensation for injuries that were caused by someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. This is simply not true.
Read on for more information about how to choose the best motorcycle accident lawyer to assist you with your claim, the services you can expect if you hire one, and answers to the questions we often hear about the topic. For answers to the legal questions you have about your case, contact an experienced motorcycle accident legal team today.
The Type of Lawyer That Assists with Motorcycle Accident Claims
Motorcycles are considered less crashworthy than other vehicle types due to factors such as:
- Less stability than four-wheeled vehicles
- Less visibility to other roadway users
- More vulnerability to issues such as inclement weather or road conditions
None of these factors impact your ability to seek compensation for injuries caused by someone else. There are, however, several other factors that can impact your ability to seek compensation, as discussed below. You need a personal injury lawyer with motorcycle accident experience.
Not All Personal Injury Lawyers Handle Motorcycle Accident Cases
Now that you know the type of lawyer you should seek assistance from, you need to understand that not all personal injury lawyers will help you with your motorcycle accident claim. While all personal injury claims follow roughly the same claims process, motorcycle accident claims require an understanding of the needs of motorcycle crash victims and the compensation necessary to meet those needs. Also, motorcycle accident claims help cross barriers that the assumptions of motorcycles and motorcycle riders cause in that process.
The Process of Obtaining Compensation After a Motorcycle Accident
After you have been injured in a motorcycle accident that someone else caused:
- Your attorney will submit a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance provider that lists the details of the accident, provides documentation of the injuries you have sustained, and demands payment on the total value of the claim.
- Upon receiving the demand, the insurance adjuster can either: 1) Admit to the liability of their insured and submit the claim for processing; 2) Deny the liability of their insured and provide the claimant with notification of the reason for denial; or 3) Admit to some liability of their insured and offer a settlement to resolve the claim.
- If the insurer approves the payment, the case will be considered resolved. If the insurer denies the payment, you and your attorney will discuss your legal options, including filing a motorcycle accident lawsuit. If the insurer offers a settlement, your attorney will discuss the settlement’s provisions with you so that you can decide whether to accept the settlement or continue negotiations.
- At some point, before the statute of limitations expires for your claim, if settlement negotiations do not seem to be effective in producing a settlement, you will determine whether to file the claim in court. However, it should be noted that filing your claim in court does not end the opportunity for a settlement offer, but it often gives the insurer more incentive to make a better offer. Because if there is one thing insurance providers dislike more than paying the total value of an insurance claim, it is the expense and uncertainty of litigation.
- Bear in mind, settlement negotiations can continue even after your case has gone to court. Your legal team will begin preparing your court case even as they engage in settlement negotiations. Part of court preparation involves gathering and organizing the evidence and witness testimony needed to prove your claim.
How a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Assist You With Your Claim
An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can provide several services to help you as you seek compensation for your injuries.
Those services include:
- Determining liability and insurance resources. Insurance policies pay most motorcycle accident claims.
- Establishing a value to your claim based on the severity of your injuries, the expenses and impacts you have incurred as a result, and other factors.
- Gathering the evidence and witness testimony needed to prove your claim.
- Handling all communication with the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster, saving you from having to deal with the attitudes about your chosen method of travel, and protecting your claim from the common tactics that insurance adjusters use to reduce or eliminate claims.
- Guidance for you in all matters about your case. You always choose how your motorcycle accident claim proceeds. The challenge to your legal team is to represent your best interests by aggressively pursuing the goals you have for your claim and educating you on the decisions you need to make.
- Compassion for you, for your injuries, and for your right to seek compensation.
5 Traits to Consider When Choosing the Best Motorcycle Accident Lawyer for Your Case
So, what should you look for in a motorcycle accident lawyer? Should you look for a lawyer who rides motorcycles themselves and has faced the hazards you have faced first-hand, such as distracted drivers, impaired drivers, fast-moving cars and trucks, and drivers who will turn or open a door in your path? Perhaps your lawyer does not need to have motorcycle experience. However, what is necessary is an enthusiasm for helping you with your case and the presence of these five important traits.
1. Experience With This Type of Case
As previously mentioned, a good motorcycle accident lawyer does not have to be a motorcyclist. However, find an attorney who has experience with motorcycle accident cases and knows about the extra legwork that these cases require.
The reason these cases require experience include:
- The insurance requirements for motorcycles are often different from those for other vehicle types. While you generally file a motorcycle accident claim against the liability insurance policy of another roadway user, having the assistance of your own uninsured motorist, personal injury protection, or similar policy provides additional legal options that you can leverage.
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), roughly 80 percent of all crashes involving motorcycles result in injury to the motorcyclist. The most significant risk of an injury accident is the driver of another motor vehicle on the roadway. This makes for many injured motorcyclists and many at-fault drivers. Despite this, many people wrongly believe that motorcyclists are all about speed and unsafe behavior. Motorcycle clients often face discrimination in the claims process resulting from this misconception.
- Motorcycle accidents carry an extremely high risk of catastrophic injuries. Catastrophic injuries are likely to produce permanent disabilities that can impact a person’s ability to earn an income or live independently. Some common types of catastrophic injuries are traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries. Both injury types involve the organs that make up the body’s central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord), and neither of these organs heals from serious damage. Catastrophic injuries require an increased level of compensation over other claims simply due to the permanence of the injury and its impact on earning capacity.
2. A Place of Compassion, Not Judgment
If you speak with a motorcycle accident attorney who immediately feels the need to lecture you about the unsafe nature of motorcycles, they are not the proper legal professional for the job. The trust you place in your attorney to act in your best interests is of significant importance to their ability to help you obtain compensation.
If you feel like your attorney is judging you for your motorcycle injury more than they are committed to helping you obtain compensation for injuries caused by the carelessness or recklessness of someone else, you won’t trust them.
3. Familiarity with Local Motorcycle Laws
Whatever state you are in, you can believe that the lawmakers of that state have put forth laws regarding the safe operation of motorcycles. These laws can be completely different than the laws in other states. The most obvious example of this is as it pertains to helmets. Some states require all riders to wear motorcycle helmets, while others have requirements for adult riders and riders under a certain age, such as 17, 18, or 21. Whether you wore a helmet when the crash occurred can have a major impact on the amount of compensation you can recover if you are in a state where you legally needed to wear one.
4. Strong Communication Skills
Your attorney is tasked with communicating with everyone involved in the case, including you, the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster, witnesses, and even the judge or the court. These skills are exhibited in the contingent-fee agreement you enter into with your motorcycle accident lawyer and how much guidance they provide to you in your case. They are also required for settlement negotiations and for arguing your claim in court. If you have difficulty even getting a lawyer to have a conversation with you during a free case evaluation, or if they are “talking over your head” and you do not understand the points they are making, these are potential red flags that the attorney’s communication skills are less than what your case requires.
5. The Willingness to Explore All Legal Options With You
Because the decisions in your case are yours to make, but the lawyer’s experience with motorcycle accident claims is one of the most important factors, you need a legal team who is going to take time to explore all of your legal options and to offer you an extensive understanding as to how these legal options work, how you can be compensated through them, and the steps to obtain that compensation.
For example, an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer will also help you make a claim against an insurance policy you carry to help ensure that there is enough compensation to cover your expenses. They will also pick through the details of your case with a fine-toothed comb in search of additional sources of liability that also have insurance resources available to compensate you.
As we stated at the start: motorcycle accidents can be complicated. Let an experienced motorcycle accident attorney help you determine the services they can provide to take some of the difficulty and frustration out of the process of seeking compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing the Best Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
The most common type of injury for a motorcyclist to suffer in an accident is lower extremity injuries, such as broken hips, legs, ankles, feet, or damage to the supporting tissue in these areas. The most serious type of injury that motorcyclists suffer in an accident involves traumatic brain injuries that can result in disabilities such as memory loss, inability to speak or to understand spoken communication, difficulty controlling one’s emotions or impulses, loss of vision, or the inability to move in a coordinated manner.
Regardless of the type of motorcycle accident injury you have suffered, if someone else’s carelessness or recklessness caused those injuries, you may be entitled to compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury. Unfortunately, society’s attitudes about motorcycles and motorcyclists can be a source of extreme frustration as you seek compensation.
Instead of frustration here are answers to some questions we hear most frequently about choosing the best motorcycle accident lawyer near you.
#1. Why does it matter if my lawyer does not support motorcyclists?
You want your legal team to be passionate about your case. You want them to believe in your right to compensation as much as you do. An experienced personal injury lawyer who does not support motorcycles or motorcyclists can likely walk you through the process of your claim, they may lack the passionate commitment to obtaining compensation if they feel you do not deserve it. That lack of passion makes it challenging to convince others (the insurance adjuster, the court, etc.) to empathize with your plight as well.
#2. Should I hire a lawyer to assist me with my claim if the statute of limitations will soon expire?
You should hire a lawyer to assist you with your claim as soon as possible after you are injured. Waiting until the statute of limitations is about to expire can result in your legal team not having enough time to investigate your claim, determine liability, and establish a value before filing the claim in court. If you fail to file your claim in court before the statute of limitations has expired, you lose the right to use the court system to seek compensation for your injury.
#3. My spouse died in a motorcycle accident. Can a motorcycle accident lawyer help me?
Through a wrongful death claim, your attorney may initially demand the value of your claim from the at-fault insurance provider, enter settlement negotiations on your behalf, or can file a lawsuit so that the courts can decide your compensation.
Family members of the deceased can benefit from a claim, though in some states, a personal representative of the estate (such as a named administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate) must file the claim on behalf of the family members.
The type of compensation received through a wrongful death claim generally involves any expenses paid by the family members or the estate such as expenses related to the medical treatment of the deceased’s final injuries or the cost of funeral services and burial or cremation as well as the loss of support and services provided by the deceased. Family members can also seek non-economic damages (compensation for the impacts of the injury), such as loss of love, guidance, moral support, and parental nurturing.
#4. If I was not wearing a helmet during my accident, do I lose my right to seek compensation?
You would not lose your right to compensation if someone else’s carelessness or recklessness caused your accident. However, depending on the state you live in, and the helmet laws of that state, the lack of a helmet can affect the compensation you recover.
Some riders in some states and all riders in others must wear helmets. In those states, the insurance company may refuse to cover any injuries if you didn’t wear a helmet. In many cases, the court agrees with the determination that the insurance company is not responsible for compensating injuries that occurred while the claimant violated the law.
#5. I used my employer-provided health insurance to cover my accident expenses. Can I still file a motorcycle accident claim?
Yes. In fact, you could even recover medical expenses, though your health insurance provider can seek repayment of the costs it paid out on your claim if you obtain a settlement or award.
#6. How can a lawyer help counter the negative assumptions people make about motorcycles?
The best motorcycle accident lawyer for your case is the one who will consistently and aggressively counter any attempts to reduce your claim or to minimize the severity of your injuries. This includes reminding insurance adjusters or even the court, if necessary, that you were legally operating a vehicle that is allowed to be operated on the roadway; that your injuries resulted from the negligence of the at-fault party, and because of that you should receive the maximum amount of compensation available through the at-fault party’s applicable insurance policy.
#7. How serious do my injuries need to be for me to hire an attorney?
Did you suffer missed time from work? Did your injury require medical treatment that resulted in expenses or impacts to your day-to-day life? If so, then it is serious enough to speak with an attorney about your legal options.
#8. The at-fault party’s insurance provider already offered a settlement. Do I need to speak with an attorney?
Speak with an attorney for many reasons, including:
- Insurance companies are not in business to promptly and fairly pay those injured by the negligence of their insured. They are in the business to make money. If they have offered a settlement without you even filing a claim, it suggests that they not only know their insured was liable, but that if your case goes to court they will be on the hook for more than what they are offering you. Getting you to accept an early offer that is likely far lower than what you would be awarded in court is a win for them.
- If you have not yet spoken with an attorney after your accident has occurred and before you have had a chance to realize the expenses and impacts of your injury, there is no way of knowing if the settlement that is being offered is enough to cover the expenses you face. Settlements are final, so if you have failed to calculate the full costs of your expenses and impacts and later discover that the settlement was not enough, you will not be permitted to go back to the insurance company and ask for more money.
- Insurance adjusters often engage in some questionable tactics when attempting to reduce or eliminate a motorcycle accident claim. These tactics include convincing you that you were at fault for the accident or convincing you that they can somehow show the court that you were. They can also try to convince you that there is no compensation for your claim, or even convince you to make a recorded statement or to authorize the release of your medical records so they can use the information against you.
Because of these reasons and many more, your attorney will handle all communications with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. Instead of accepting or rejecting an offered settlement claim, tell the provider that you need to talk it over with your attorney and do exactly that.
#9. How do I know I can trust the attorney I hired to represent my motorcycle accident claim adequately?
Use due diligence when hiring your attorney. Ask your attorney pointed questions about their experience, not only as a lawyer but as a lawyer representing motorcycle accident cases. Read over the lawyer’s website and note case results for motorcycle accident claims. Read reviews from other clients. Ask for references to speak with clients who have worked with the attorney before.
#10. How can an attorney help me with my claim?
The right motorcycle accident legal team knows the laws and courts in your area. While your legal team has access to the resources and the firm’s network, they work on your case locally and can meet with you face-to-face when necessary.
#11. I cannot afford to hire a motorcycle accident lawyer. Can I file my claim by myself?
The first part of this question, regarding being unable to afford an attorney: We understand that many, many people hesitate to hire a motorcycle accident attorney because they think they can’t afford one. Having an attorney is crucial to your ability to obtain compensation for your injuries. Are you required to have one? No. However, not getting one because you cannot afford one does not make sense, as motorcycle accident lawyers bill their clients differently than other attorneys do.
Most motorcycle accident lawyers use a contingent fee billing method. This means that you don’t pay for your attorney’s services unless they bring you a positive outcome. If your legal team fails to assist you in obtaining compensation for the injuries you incurred in a motorcycle accident, then you owe them nothing in attorney’s fees. However, if your attorney can help you garner compensation through a negotiated settlement or a court award, they will receive a percentage of your award.
The percentage that the attorney will take as payment for their services will be clearly explained to you and included in the contingent-fee agreement that you enter into with the legal team when you hire them.
The benefits of a contingent-fee billing method include:
- You do not have to worry about affording an attorney or waiting until you come up with the money for a retainer.
- You do not have to worry that if you get behind on your attorney’s hourly bills for service, work will stop on your case.
- Your legal team does not have to wait to begin the important work on your case until you can afford them or catch up on your bills.
- Your motorcycle accident attorney works to resolve your claim because they will not get paid unless you do.
As for the second part of the question, regarding filing a claim by yourself: The legal realm is a complicated place to be. Attorneys spend years obtaining the education and experience needed to represent their clients’ best interests as they seek compensation for their injuries. A person who has not had the benefits of that education and experience likely would not know how to file a motorcycle claim in court, properly value their case, or negotiate with an insurance adjuster to obtain the maximum amount of compensation available. You don’t need to. That is why you hire a motorcycle accident attorney.
To learn more about your rights after your motorcycle accident, talk with a legal team near you today.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.