There’s no standard payout for a motorcycle accident, as each case involves unique facts and circumstances. Essentially, the compensation will vary depending on the extent of injuries and the at-fault parties’ coverage amount, among other factors.
While any road accident can result in severe injuries, motorcycle riders and passengers face a higher risk of injury than car occupants. Lack of protection increases these individuals’ risk of sustaining severe bodily harm, regardless of the accident severity. For this reason, their payouts tend to be much higher than car occupants.
Sometimes, the payout might fail to coincide with the severity of the injuries. For example, if the at-fault party has limited coverage, you might have to settle for the maximum cover amount, even if your damages exceed that amount.
What Factors Affect Payout?
As mentioned above, many different factors can affect the payout. These factors are unique to every claim. However, the most basic ones include:
Your compensation will depend on your ability to prove the liability of the at-fault party. In any case, the accident could result from the negligence of another motorist, the motorcycle rider, both, or none.
Motorist liability - In a situation where another motorist bears liability for the accident, e.g., if the car hit you from behind while you had stopped at a traffic light, proving liability might appear pretty straightforward. Nonetheless, you would still need to provide evidence to prove your claim.
Despite the growing appreciation of biking, stereotypes against motorcyclists still exist. Usually, some people perceive motorcyclists as reckless risk-takers. Some people even believe riders don't qualify to receive full compensation like other motorists. Riding on this prejudice, some insurers may offer low settlements even where it’s clear the accident was not the rider’s fault.
Generally, proving liability in a motorcycle accident is an uphill task that you wouldn’t want to explore without a motorcycle accident lawyer. Despite incriminating evidence, an at-fault party’s insurer may sometimes pin the blame on you in a bid to split the fault and pay less.
Product liability - Sometimes, the other motorist might not bear responsibility for the accident. In this case, that party’s insurer would not be liable for your damages. For instance, assume that your bike’s brakes failed, causing you to run a red light. If a passing car knocked you down, the driver wasn’t at fault and thus the driver’s insurer owes you nothing.
However, you can still recover damages from the at-fault parties. For example, if you had just purchased the motorcycle or had had the brakes replaced by a mechanic, you might experience a case of a product defect. In this case, you can demonstrate the manufacturer’s/car repair shop’s liability for the faulty brakes and get compensation from the at-fault party’s insurer.
In addition to proving liability, you must have suffered damages to receive compensation. In case the accident was a minor one, and you didn’t suffer damages (personal injury and property damage), you technically have no claim to pursue. However, if you sustained injuries in the accident, the compensation that you can pursue will vary depending on the extent of the injuries and costs that you’ve incurred as a result.
In addition to general traffic laws that apply to all road users, specific laws govern motorcycle accidents. Motorcyclists ought to abide by these regulations to guarantee their safety.
For instance, all riders should acquire a biking license even if they already have an ordinary driver’s license. They should also wear safety equipment whenever riding, such as a helmet.
Violating these safety laws can affect the validity of the claim significantly. Even if you bear none of the fault for the accident, the other party’s insurer could capitalize on your non-compliance to reduce your compensation.
#4. Settlement vs. Judgment
Unless the at-fault party’s insurer believes that you have slim chances of proving liability, it will always opt to settle the claim out-of-court. Reports indicate that most claims (about 95 percent) settle before trial.
Generally, receiving compensation through out-of-court settlement guarantees a payout, unlike the court process where you can never guarantee a win. For this reason, settlement amounts are usually multiple times lower than what you would get in a judgment.
Despite the increased costs from the court process, such as higher attorney commission, court fees, etc., the final payout tends to exceed what you would secure from a settlement. In addition to general and non-economic damages, the judge could award punitive damages if the defendant demonstrated gross negligence.
What’s the Average Payout?
For most motorcycle accident claims, the payout covers the medical expenses and lost wages and attempts to compensate for an individual’s intangible pain and suffering. Nonetheless, as earlier mentioned, if the at-fault party has limited coverage, the amount might not come close to what you would get from a fully covered party.
Though the settlements may vary based on this and other unique factors, the damages covered are the same in most cases.
These may include:
- Medical expenses - If you sustain injuries from the accident, the compensation should cater to your treatment costs. These may include expenses for emergency room visits, doctor checkups, medication, therapy, hospitalization, to and from hospital travel, nursing care, etc.
- Lost wages - If you had a job before the accident, you could claim any wages you have lost during your hospitalization and recovery.
- Pain and suffering - You may also claim non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. This award seeks to compensate you for your emotional and mental distress. Usually, the amount awarded varies depending on the extent of your injuries: the more severe the injuries, the higher the reward in most cases.
- Wrongful death - If you lost a family member in a motorcycle accident, you could seek compensation for wrongful death from the at-fault party. In most cases, the payout includes the deceased’s medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, and support for dependents.
- Punitive damages - Courts decide whether to award punitive damages. If evidence indicates the at-fault party engaged in grossly negligent conduct, the court might impose a disciplinary penalty, usually added to your payout.
How Do Courts Calculate the Payout?
The damages fall under two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic, also known as general or special damages, include monetary expenses, such as medical costs, lost wages, or property damages. On the other hand, non-economic damages include more intangible claims, such as pain and suffering.
Essentially, your lawyer will compute your damages as follows:
#1. Computing Medical Expenses
Calculating medical expenses usually proves fairly straightforward. Simply, you add up the hospital bills, prescription costs, therapy fees, and any other medical-related expenses you may have incurred.
On the same note, you should estimate any future medical costs that you will likely incur. For instance, if you have a severe knee injury and the doctor’s report indicates that you require a replacement in the future, you should include the anticipated cost of treatment in your claim.
#2. Computing Property Damages
If your motorcycle sustained damage, you likely qualify to pursue compensation for that. Usually, this will cover the quote for repairs or a full replacement, depending on the state of your motorcycle following the accident.
#3. Computing Lost Wages
Calculating lost wages involves a two-step process. The first step involves computing the lost wages since the accident occurred. Here, you simply add the wages plus benefits you have missed for being out of work.
Step two is relatively complicated, as it involves computing your lost earning capacity. Essentially, if the injuries interfere with your ability to do the household duties that you used to do before, you could account for this as lost earning capacity.
For instance, assuming you sustained severe hand injuries and had a sedentary job primarily working on a computer. If you can no longer use the hand and must move to another job as a result that pays lower than your former job, you should pursue compensation for your lost earning capacity.
Unlike lost wages, calculating lost earning capacity requires employing financial formulas to reflect the time value of money. For this reason, your lawyer might need to work with a financial expert to get accurate computations.
#4. Computing Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is another non-exact computation that requires an expert’s input. Since the expert requires details of your treatment and recovery to make the computations, journaling provides crucial insights. For instance, you can use this journal by Enjuris to document your pain so that the expert can easily attach a dollar to it.
How To Maximize Your Motorcycle Accident Payout
As we have explained, several different factors can affect the payout you receive from a motorcycle accident claim. However, you can still maximize your settlement. Some of the interventions that can make a huge difference include:
#1. Filing the Claim Promptly
Motorcycle accidents do have a statute of limitations. Filing the claim early allows you ample time to negotiate the settlements, in time to file a lawsuit should you fail to reach an agreement.
If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement amount, your lawyer can take the case to trial. Even though the probability of winning the case on trial is always uncertain, if you have essential evidence, you stand to secure a higher payout in court than you would through settlement.
#2. Gathering Evidence
Evidence constitutes an essential resource in proving liability. You should preserve all photos from the accident scene and witness statements. If you can’t collect much evidence on the spot, especially if you sustained severe injuries, you shouldn’t despair. However, you may need to work with a lawyer to gather essential evidence.
Usually, it’s always advisable to call a lawyer immediately after an accident. Among other things, the lawyer will move swiftly to help in evidence preservation. For instance, your lawyer will likely know if the area has any CCTV cameras and request accident footage before it becomes unavailable.
A lawyer also provides handy tips on preserving medical evidence. In addition, your lawyer might investigate the at-fault party’s driving history, request the police report, and interview eyewitnesses.
In a nutshell, compiling all the bits of essential evidence together goes a long way in maximizing the payout. This is because it provides tangible proof to back up your claims and counter any allegations that the defendant may raise.
#3. Getting Thorough Medical Evaluation
Before sending the demand, you should go through a comprehensive checkup to rule any underlying problems. For instance, if you endured a back injury, it might take time to manifest. You could have also sustained trauma to your head or chest, which might incubate, only ballooning into a life-threatening condition later.
Essentially, if you experience even slight pain on any part of the body, don’t ignore it or shrug it off as an accident impact. Instead, have your physician examine you.
A comprehensive checkup allows the doctor to put you on early treatment, which averts condition deterioration. You also acquire a detailed doctor’s report, which is crucial evidence, and gather more documentation to prove the current and future costs.
#4. Hiring An Experienced Lawyer
Perhaps, the most vital step in maximizing your payout is retaining the services of an experienced lawyer. Note that hiring a lawyer does not necessarily guarantee compensation. However, securing legal representation, especially by one experienced in settling motorcycle accident claims, can mean the difference between a low settlement and fair compensation.
Generally, insurance adjusters and their lawyers are out to boost company profitability by lowering payouts as much as possible. Settling without a lawyer, therefore, places you at a significant disadvantage.
One hurdle you might face on your own is proving liability. Even after agreeing to settle, the insurer might offer you a low settlement to set you off and compel you to lower your demand. Essentially, in addition to computing your damages, a lawyer should counter any low-ball offer and negotiate for a settlement that covers the full cost of your injuries.
You have likely encountered payout estimates from different sources. As much as actual settlements generate the figures, no two claims are the same. Moreover, the unique circumstances of your case might bring an outcome that you didn't expect. As such, no one can provide you with an average settlement amount or promise you a certain amount of compensation. The best you can make out of your situation is to consult an experienced attorney right away for legal counsel and possible representation.