If you were injured in a motorcycle accident and remained conscious, it is likely that more sights and sounds than you could process filled those first chaotic moments at the scene. After leaving the scene and obtaining medical treatment, many claimants wonder: “What should I do now?” Our motorcycle accident lawyers have compiled a list of six things to check after someone else causes motorcycle crashes.
1. Your Insurance Policies
If you plan to seek compensation for your losses through your state's personal injury claims process, you might wonder why it matters whether you have insurance coverage. After all, shouldn't the person who caused the accident pay for your medical expenses?
While the answer to that question is a resounding yes, the problem is that the personal injury claims process can sometimes take more than a year. The medical expenses started accumulating on the scene and will continue until you fully recover from your injuries. If you suffer permanent injuries, your medical expenses can continue growing for the rest of your life.
Unfortunately, many physicians will not treat patients who cannot pay for their services. Injured motorcycle riders often use benefits from employer-sponsored health insurance, personal policies, or even government policies such as V.A. or Medicaid.
Although coverage is usually available through one of these policies, the health insurance group servicing the policy will want repayment for the services provided if there is a successful outcome to your motorcycle accident claim. These providers often accomplish this by placing a medical lien on the proceeds you receive from a settlement or court award.
2. How and When the Investigating Officer Will Release the Accident Report
After a traffic-related crash involving injuries, the police will investigate the scene to determine how the accident occurred and whether anyone broke the law. They will interview the parties involved and any witnesses on the scene, take down insurance, license, and registration information, and prepare an official report.
In most cases, police reports are not admissible in court as they are considered hearsay since the officer writing the report usually did not see the accident occur. However, they can prove your claim by providing information about citations issued to the at-fault driver, arrests, witnesses' names, and the liable party's insurance company.
3. The Condition of Your Motorcycle and Gear
After an accident, it is crucial to have your motorcycle examined for damage and repaired before attempting to ride it again.
Many different parts can break or malfunction as a result of a wreck, including:
- The tires and wheels
- Brakes and rotors
- The motorcycle’s controls, including the clutch, front brake lever, and lines
- Electronic system and lights
- Frame and fluids, including oil, brake fluid, and coolant
In addition to identifying the damage to your motorcycle, you should also evaluate the condition of your gear. Always replace your helmet after a crash in which you hit your head. The foam part of the helmet will only work once. Even if the helmet still looks in good shape, remember that it is difficult to see damage to the foam beneath the shell. Do not use the helmet if there are marks, cracks in the shell, or a noticeable foam crush. Inspect other gear you wore to determine if it is damaged and needs replacing.
4. What Is Your Emotional State?
Motorcycle accidents injure around 84,000 people each year, with many serious or even permanent injuries. This is not only often a source of financial distress for a rider and their family but also a significant source of emotional distress.
Some of the psychological impacts of a severe injury include:
- Inability to continue working due to the severity of the rider’s injuries
- Inability to participate in activities or events that the rider previously enjoyed, including the ability to ride a motorcycle
- Humiliation or loss of self-confidence as a result of scarring or disfigurement caused by the injury
- Loss of physical intimacy and companionship with the rider’s spouse or romantic partner
6. Information From the At-Fault Party’s Insurance Company
It is not unusual for the at-fault party’s insurance company to contact a person injured in a motorcycle accident very soon after the accident. While the representative who contacts you may act concerned about your well-being during the conversation, it is essential to remember a few things about insurance adjusters.
The first thing to remember is that the insurance company hires the adjuster to protect their bottom line by investigating claims. Their goal is to keep the payout as low as possible. They are not required to be fair or even tell the truth to achieve this goal. Often, insurance companies will devalue or even deny a claim by convincing the claimant of something.
They might say:
- There is no compensation available since the victim was not wearing a helmet. Depending on the helmet laws in the state where the accident occurred, riders can often legally ride without a helmet. Even in states with universal helmet laws or requiring helmets for certain riders, the lack of a helmet will not eliminate a negligent driver’s legal responsibility.
- The injured rider must accept the settlement offered because it is the maximum compensation for the claim. While policy limits can control how much compensation is available through the at-fault party’s liability policy, the insurance adjuster rarely offers the maximum amount available. If they know an injured rider does not have a lawyer, insurance companies often offer an amount far lower than the severity of the injury would warrant.
- The injured rider must authorize the release of their medical records to the insurance adjuster so they can evaluate the claim. While there is a limited amount of medical documentation the insurance adjuster needs to see, often they request the release of the claimant's entire medical history. The issue is no longer evaluating the treatment the claimant is receiving for their injury but rather an opportunity to look through the claimant's information for pre-existing conditions. If they find pre-existing conditions, they will use them to devalue the claim.
7. How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?
After a motorcycle accident, you may want to know how much it costs to hire a lawyer to help you with your claim. The answer is often surprising to those who need to file a claim but are afraid they can't afford the cost of a lawyer.
Because most personal injury attorneys use the contingent fee billing method, you will not have to pay for your lawyer’s services until there is a successful outcome to your claim. Additionally, because most personal injury lawyers also offer a free case evaluation, you can obtain answers to the questions you have about your case without paying or being obligated to obtain further services.
In a contingent fee arrangement, the lawyer agrees to accept a percentage of the proceeds from a negotiated settlement or award they worked to obtain on their client’s behalf. The contingent fee agreement, which clients accept after an initial case evaluation, defines the fee percentage.
After the case ends, the proceeds from the settlement or award are sent directly to the lawyer. The lawyer deducts the percentage owed to them and satisfies other debts, such as paying medical liens placed on the settlement. Then, the claimant receives the remainder of the funds.