Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation (PennDOT) estimates almost 2,800 motorcycles were in accidents on Pennsylvania roads in one recent year, representing a decrease from each of the previous five years. Even with Pennsylvania motorcycle accidents on the wane, however, they still happen far too often.
The steps you take after a motorcycle accident can affect the outcome of an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver and other parties who may have legal liability to you. This guide offers you information about the best choices you can make in the minutes, weeks, and months after a motorcycle accident. We understand that physical limitations from your injury might not allow you to take some of these steps, so consider whether family members or close friends might also help you with them.
Following these tips can help to protect your health and safety and may increase your chances of receiving the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries. To learn more, contact an experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney.
Get Checked out by a Doctor ASAP
A severe traffic collision typically draws the attention of other motorists or pedestrians, especially in areas congested with traffic, so it is more than likely that if you cannot call 911 after a motorcycle accident, someone else will. This means emergency response teams including ambulance, local police, fire department, and the Pennsylvania State Police might come to the scene of the accident.
Of course, if you are unconscious or have sustained debilitating injuries, then in all likelihood you will be immediately transported to the nearest hospital for emergency care. Yet, even if you are lucky enough to walk away from a motorcycle accident, you should still seek immediate medical care.
Just because you feel okay after an accident does not mean you have escaped injury. Some of the most catastrophic injuries a person can sustain in a violent collision like a motorcycle crash—traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, or internal bleeding, for example—may not show symptoms right away. Likewise, a rush of adrenaline following an accident may well mask any pain you would otherwise feel.
Refusing on-scene medical treatment after a motorcycle accident, and failing to follow-up right away with a doctor, can represent a fateful (and even fatal) decision that impairs your wellbeing and your legal rights to seek compensation from whomever caused your crash. Doctors can screen you for serious injuries that you may not realize you have sustained, which can help to prevent some of the more devastating health consequences you might otherwise face. Failing to take steps that allow these tests to happen quite literally amounts to gambling with your life.
Visiting a doctor right away also generates important medical records that tie any injuries you have directly to the motorcycle accident. These records could prove crucial in making a legal claim for damages against the parties who caused your motorcycle accident. Conversely, an absence of medical records can give insurance companies and defense lawyers a reason to refuse to pay you the compensation you deserve for your injuries. So, not only does skipping medical treatment put your physical wellbeing at risk, it also potentially leads to financial devastation.
Gather Contact Information at the Scene
Local police and/or state troopers will almost always gather relevant information for their traffic crash report when they come to the scene of any motorcycle accident. Yet, law enforcement officers are human. They can make mistakes or overlook important details. As a result, their reports may not reflect a thorough or completely accurate record of what happened.
For that reason, it can help to protect your rights to gather as much information at the accident as you can, on your own, if you can do so safely and without getting in the way of first responders. After a motorcycle accident, gather information from drivers and vehicle occupants involved in the accident, as well as from any eyewitnesses. Record their names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, insurance policy information, vehicle identification number(s), makes and models of any vehicles, and license plate numbers.
Be careful not to go beyond collecting this basic information, however. Do not discuss specifics of the accident that get into placing blame on one person or another. Those kinds of conversations could potentially cause you problems later on by allowing insurance company representatives and defense lawyers to twist anything you say to their advantage, which could impact the value of your claim or lawsuit.
Take Photos or Videos With Your Cell Phone
Not long after a motorcycle accident occurs, road crews will usually come to clear the scene of the crash. Obviously, they have every right and need to do so; but in the process of cleaning up, valuable evidence can get lost. Before clean-up crews arrive, capture the scene with your cell phone camera (again, assuming you can do so safely and without getting in the way of official responders).
If you take video, move slowly and methodically so that, if necessary, you can later take a screen-grab that is not blurry. If you take pictures, shoot as many of them as you can from every angle and perspective you can think of—close up, far away, etc.—and of as many elements of the accident scene as possible (including the vehicles involved, the road surface, street signs, roadside features, etc.).
There is no such thing as too many pictures of an accident scene. They can provide valuable evidence for your motorcycle accident lawyer to use in establishing who was at fault and why you deserve compensation.
File an Insurance Claim With Your Motorcycle Insurance Carrier, if Necessary
No matter who might have caused your motorcycle accident, you will probably need to file a claim with your own motorcycle insurance company, or at least put your insurer on notice of the accident. That is because most insurance policies require that you report an accident when your coverage might apply, even if you didn’t cause the accident (check your policy to be sure). Failure to comply with the terms of your own insurance can affect your legal rights to receive insurance benefits, and may also impair your legal rights against other parties.
In notifying your insurance company of the accident, however, be sure to stick to the facts only. Do not get into a discussion with your insurer (or any insurer) about who was at fault. Likewise, do not make offhand comments about your physical or emotional condition, as these can end up in an insurance adjuster’s file and be misinterpreted as damaging statements that could limit your rights to receive compensation.
Obtain a Copy of the Accident Report
Sometime soon after your motorcycle accident, obtain an official copy of the crash report filed with the Pennsylvania State Police. It typically takes about 15 days after your accident for the report to become available from the PSP. You can order a copy of your crash report online for $22.00. If you prefer to order a copy of your crash report by mail, you must fill out a request form and mail a certified check or money order for $22.00 made out to “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” to the following address:
Attention: Crash Reports Unit
1800 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, PA 17110
A report request requires you to provide personal contact information and the reason for the request. Once your request is processed, the Crash Reports Unit will send a copy to address you specify. (Of course, your motorcycle accident lawyer can obtain this report on your behalf.)
Keep All Proof of Economic Loss
Severe motorcycle accidents can inflict extraordinary financial costs. Not only will you typically have medical expenses to contend with, it is also common to miss work for some amount of time while you recover. Ensuring you get the maximum compensation for a motorcycle accident claim or lawsuit requires proving all of your financial losses to insurance companies and/or a court. If you cannot provide credible documentation, you may not claim the losses or receive compensation for them.
Some examples of economic loss that you need bills and receipts for include:
- Bills for medical costs such as ambulance service, emergency room visits, doctor visits, X-rays, hospitalization, surgery, and medication
- Gas receipts and mileage for trips to and from the hospital and doctor visits for treatment or aftercare
- Bills for specialists such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists
- Receipts for services need to replace household tasks you did before your motorcycle accident, such as cleaning services, lawn care service, childcare, and other domestic help
- Bills for long-term health care when a motorcycle accident injury requires ongoing care and treatment outside of the home
- Payroll information that shows lost income and benefits, including any paid time off you used as a result of the accident and injuries
Keep anything and everything you think might be related or relevant to your accident and injuries until your attorney advises you on which items might support your personal injury claim.
Keep a Daily Recovery Journal
Compensation you might recover from a motorcycle accident include damages for so-called “non-economic” costs too: the trauma and difficulty of an accident that does not come with a price tag attached. Keeping a daily journal is one efficient way to record these non-economic costs. Record entries describing the location and extent of your pain, any emotional struggles, depression, or anxiety you might be feeling, and write down anything else that you think might be relevant.
Motorcycle accidents can result in neck, back, and head injuries that sometimes have delayed symptoms. Keeping a daily journal, if you are physically able, also allows you to provide your doctor(s) with valuable information that might help in your diagnosis and treatment. If you have sustained visible injuries such as road rash, you can also take daily or weekly photos to document the pace and extent of your recovery.
Only Discuss Your Claim with Your Lawyer
After a motorcycle accident, assume that your insurance company and the insurance companies of any other party involved will thoroughly investigate the accident to determine liability and place value on your potential claims. If you take legal action against the at-fault driver(s), the defense attorney may also hire an investigator to dig into your claims.
Investigators and insurance representatives have one mission in mind: to limit the financial exposure of the party they represent. They do not have your best interests at heart. They will record everything you say and interpret anything you say to their advantage. Investigators and adjusters might also speak to your friends and family to elicit statements that might impact the value of your claim. Don’t put your loved ones in the situation where their words might hurt your claim. Instead, keep all discussions of your motorcycle accident between you and your lawyer. Your attorney can tell you when it is safe to discuss your case with loved ones.
Don’t Post on Social Media
Investigators and insurance adjusters also typically take a close look at any social media accounts you have, searching for evidence to show that your injuries might not be as bad as you claim, or that you are healing faster than reported. You do not have to close down your social media accounts, but it is in your best interest to refrain from making any personal posts, especially photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
After a motorcycle accident, it is almost always in your best interest to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer. A qualified attorney can investigate your accident, gather relevant evidence to support your case, and give you the best chances of receiving compensation for your injuries. Additionally, an attorney can handle all communications with insurance companies, which can help to protect you from saying something that might impair the value of your claim.
Experienced lawyers are also skilled negotiators who can often get you a better settlement offer from an insurance company than you could ever hope to achieve on your own.