More than 84,000 motorcyclists are injured yearly in the U.S. due to traffic-related accidents. Many of these accidents involve another vehicle, such as a passenger car, which raises an important question: If a car hits you while you ride a motorcycle, who is responsible for paying your medical bills?
Usually, if another person negligently or intentionally caused the crash, they will be on the hook to pay for expenses. Most people make these payments through an auto liability insurance policy. However, the situation becomes more complex if more than one person contributed to the accident or if a person does not have sufficient auto insurance coverage. Talk to a motorcycle accident lawyer to find out who owes you money if another person injured you while you rode your motorcycle.
How Car Drivers Injure Motorcyclists
Passenger car drivers commit risky driving behaviors that can cause an accident with a motorcyclist. Some of those behaviors include:
The three categories of driving distractions that can result in accidents are:
- Manual distractions: These distractions cause drivers to take their hands off the wheel. Examples include eating, drinking, or adjusting vehicle controls.
- Visual distractions: Distractions like billboards, people, or screens draw the driver’s eyes from the road.
- Cognitive distractions: Anything that takes a driver’s mind off driving, such as arguing on the phone, listening to music, or daydreaming, falls into this category.
With the steep rise in cell phone use, many states have enacted laws against texting while driving—and for a good reason. Those who text and drive engage in all three types of distractions at once.
Drivers who exceed the posted speed limit or drive faster than weather or traffic conditions allow also commonly cause motorcycle accidents. Speeding reduces the time a driver has to see a motorcyclist and brake. It also prevents motorcyclists from being able to judge a safe gap in traffic when attempting to complete a turn at a light, endangering them when drivers speed into the lane.
Alcohol impairment is a significant cause of all traffic-related accidents, including motorcycle accidents. A drunk driver is less likely to see a motorcyclist and more likely to run red lights, have difficulty maintaining lane position, or be able to brake in time.
After causing an accident, car drivers commonly say, “I didn’t even see the motorcycle.” Due to a phenomenon called inattentional blindness, this is sometimes true. When processing information in chaotic scenes, like a busy road, the brain focuses on the biggest hazards in a situation—like semi-trucks—rather than noticing smaller details, like a motorcycle approaching.
Seeking Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
If a negligent driver caused your motorcycle accident, you could seek compensation for losses through a personal injury claim. The claims process generally begins when the claimant hires a lawyer to assist them with their claim. While hiring a lawyer is not required, having the expertise and guidance of a lawyer can help protect your rights and improve your outcome.
Once your lawyer has identified the liable parties and has had the opportunity to estimate your claim’s value, they will generally send a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance provider. This demand requests payment for your losses, provides details of the accident, and documents your expenses.
When the insurance company receives the demand package, they assign an insurance adjuster to the claim. The adjuster is someone who works for the insurance company to determine how much compensation they should provide for a claim.
The adjuster will evaluate the claim, interview involved parties, and decide whether to accept or deny the claim. They will then notify the lawyer of their decision. If the adjuster offers a low settlement, then the lawyer can negotiate.
However, if the adjuster refuses to make a fair settlement offer, you can file a motorcycle accident claim in court. However, settlement negotiations do not stop when you file a lawsuit. The at-fault party's insurance company can make a settlement offer at any time before a judge or jury decides on the matter, even after the trial has already begun.
Proving the Elements of Negligence in a Motorcycle Accident
To receive payment from another party for your losses, you must be able to prove that they were liable for your injuries.
To prove liability in a motorcycle accident case caused by negligence, you need to show:
- Duty: The at-fault driver owed a duty to operate their car safely to avoid injuring others.
- Breach: The at-fault driver acted in a way that violated their duty of care.
- Causation and Damages: The at-fault driver’s breach caused a motorcycle accident in which you suffered losses.
Motorcycle accident victims can seek economic and non-economic damages through a personal injury claim.
Examples of losses commonly sought in motorcycle accident claims include:
- All medical expenses, including the cost of past and future treatment for the injury and associated complications
- Lost wages due to being too injured to work and lost future earning capacity if the injuries result in disabilities that permanently impair the rider’s ability to earn an income
- Property damage stemming from the accident, such as the cost of repairing and replacing a motorcycle and gear
- Physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life
If You Didn’t Wear a Helmet, Can You Still Seek Compensation?
Yes. If another person carelessly or recklessly injured you while you rode a motorcycle, you could seek compensation whether you were wearing a helmet or not. However, depending on the helmet laws in the state where your accident occurred, not wearing a helmet may reduce the amount of compensation you are eligible to receive.
For example, Pennsylvania and Florida require motorcyclists under 21 to wear helmets when riding. If an accident injures an unhelmeted motorcyclist over 21, their claim will not be affected by the lack of a helmet as the law does not require them to wear one. However, if they are under 21, the at-fault party’s insurance provider will likely not be fully responsible for compensating for injuries resulting from the failure to wear a helmet due to the law requiring a helmet.
How a Lawyer Can Help You With Your Motorcycle Accident Claim
A personal injury lawyer with experience in motorcycle accident claims can provide several services to assist their clients, such as:
- A free case evaluation: Most people do not know what the personal injury process involves or if they even have a valid claim after an accident. A free case evaluation allows prospective clients to speak with a lawyer about their case, ask legal questions, and learn more about how a law firm assists clients in this type of claim. This time is obligation-free, meaning you are not required to hire a lawyer who evaluates your case.
- Claim investigation: A lawyer can investigate your claim to determine all sources of liability and their associated insurance resources. In some situations, more than one person may be at fault for an accident. For example, if a defective car part causes an accident, the manufacturer or seller may also be liable for the accident.
- Claim valuation: A lawyer will estimate your claim’s value based on factors such as the insurance coverage available, the severity of your injuries, and how those injuries affect your future earning capacity. Before valuing a claim, personal injury lawyers often wait until their client reaches maximum medical improvement. Waiting for this point gives the lawyer and their client a clear picture of the type of compensation needed to cover future medical expenses.
- Case management: Each state has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims, which is the maximum amount of time that can pass before you must file a claim in court. Failing to file the claim before the statute of limitations can result in the court system rejecting your claim. Since they can no longer file a lawsuit, most claimants who have let their claim expire will not receive further settlement consideration from the at-fault party's insurer either.
- Communication with Insurers: Lawyers manage communication with the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster to make the initial demand, negotiate a settlement, and avoid pitfalls. Insurance adjusters often use tactics to convince unsuspecting victims to accept liability for their injuries or to agree to a settlement far below the claim’s value. Having a lawyer manage communications prevents this from happening.
- Guidance: Lawyers advise clients about the negotiation process, their claim’s value, and what constitutes fair compensation for their injuries. Doing so helps clients make informed decisions about their cases. Most motorcycle accident claims are resolved before trial by settlement.
- Litigation: If the at-fault party’s insurer fails to offer fair compensation, lawyers take the case to court to prove the claim to a judge or jury.
- Award Assistance: After a settlement or jury verdict, lawyers collect the proceeds for their clients. Motorcycle accident attorneys generally provide their services through a contingent fee billing method. This method allows the claimant to withhold payment for their lawyer's services until they obtain a positive outcome to their claim. Then, the lawyer receives the proceeds and deducts a percentage for their services before releasing the remaining funds to the claimant.
Motorcycle accidents caused by reckless or negligent car drivers can be dangerous and generate mountains of medical bills. If someone injured you while you rode your motorcycle, contact a motorcycle accident lawyer for a free case evaluation.