Legal Rights of Injured Motorcyclists: Compensation and Claims Process

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Legal Rights of Injured Motorcyclists Compensation and Claims Process

When you suffer injuries in a motorcycle accident, you have certain legal rights to pursue compensation from the responsible party and their insurance company. Understanding the legal rights of injured motorcyclists, compensation they can receive, and how the claims process works, can help you or your injured loved one seek fair financial recovery.

Understanding a Motorcycle Accident Victim’s Legal Rights

If you were in a motorcycle accident due to someone else’s negligence, you could seek financial compensation through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.

Filing an Insurance Claim After a Motorcycle Accident

If you or the at-fault party have insurance coverage, you have a legal right to file a claim for expenses related to the accident. Some insurance companies balk at paying out claims. Since their business model is centered around profits, most insurance companies make money by paying out as little as possible in settlements.

Insurance claim options depend on the type of coverage you and the other party carry, as well as the state where the accident occurred. For example, in Michigan, drivers should have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which covers injuries and lost income up to a certain threshold. You would seek damages through the driver’s coverage, and you can pursue additional damages not covered by the policy if your injuries meet the threshold outlined by the state.

Uninsured/ underinsured motorcycle insurance for your vehicle may cover costs if the other party’s coverage is insufficient. In addition, you may seek coverage through the at-fault party’s personal liability and property damage (PLPD) auto insurance. Every state’s requirements are different, so review your state’s insurance requirements for motorcycle accident coverage before proceeding with your claim.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit Following Motorcycle Crash

Depending on the severity of your injuries and the insurance company’s response, you may also file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. A personal injury lawsuit allows you to recover compensation for the actual damages you suffered.

To file a motorcycle accident lawsuit, you must be able to prove the other party was negligent. You may use photos, videos, witness statements, medical records, and accident reconstruction to support your claim. Any valid motorcycle injury claim must establish the following elements of negligence:

  • The at-fault party had a duty of care to avoid causing injuries. For example, a passenger car driver has a duty to operate their vehicle safely and avoid hurting others.
  • The responsible party failed in their duty of care. For instance, the car driver was distracted by texting on their cellphone, which placed others in danger.
  • The at-fault party’s breach of the duty of care directly or indirectly caused your motorcycle accident.
  • You suffered injuries or losses because of the accident caused by the responsible party’s breach.

Proving negligence can be complicated, especially in situations that involve multiple at-fault parties. A skilled motorcycle accident lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options following a crash.

Compensation You Can Seek Following a Motorcycle Accident Injury

A motorcycle accident can cause significant long-term hardship for a motorcyclist and their loved ones. If you suffered injuries in a motorcycle crash caused by someone else’s negligence, you have a legal right to file a claim for compensatory damages. Each state differs in the types of damages you can claim for a motorcycle accident.

Economic Damages

Economic damages for a motorcycle accident are those damages that can be calculated based on actual losses. Examples of economic damages include:

  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Long-term medical care
  • Surgical procedures and inpatient care
  • Lost current and future income
  • Reduced income potential

More serious injuries typically result in higher settlements, as the injured person must pay for more medical care and income loss. Motorcycle accident victims who experience long-term impairment or disability could also recover associated costs such as handicap accommodations and domestic assistance.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages let motorcycle crash victims recover financial compensation for the intangible losses they suffered. Types of non-economic damages you could seek after a motorcycle accident include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of quality of life

The value of non-economic damages is not arbitrary, but it can vary widely depending on how severely the accident affected your quality of life. Since some states establish caps on economic or non-economic damages, you benefit from speaking with a personal injury attorney familiar with motorcycle accident laws in your state.

Punitive Damages

Some states allow victims to recover punitive damages. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are not considered compensatory. That is, they are not meant to help you recover from losses. Instead, the judge or jury assesses punitive damages to punish the at-fault party for particularly egregious actions. The goal is to discourage the responsible party from repeating the actions that led to the motorcycle accident.

Punitive damages are extremely rare and can only be awarded by the court through a personal injury claim. Some states do not award punitive damages for motorcycle accidents. Check with your state and local laws to learn how punitive damages are handled.

Comparative Fault and Damage Awards

Certain states have established comparative fault laws that affect personal injury verdicts for motorcycle accident cases. In some states, the amount of damages you can receive is adjusted based on the percentage of fault you share for the accident. In others, you cannot recover damages if the court determines you are more than 50 or 51% at fault for the motorcycle accident.

For example, Michigan falls in this category—those who are over 50% responsible for their own accident may not get the full amount of economic damage or any non-economic damages. Still others allow both parties to seek compensation for their losses regardless of the percentage of fault.

Comparative negligence laws can significantly affect your ability to collect full compensation for your losses. Speak with a motorcycle accident lawyer to learn how such laws affect claims in your state.

How the Motorcycle Accident Claims Process Works

The legal process details for a motorcycle accident claim can differ between states. However, most follow the same general steps:

Determine Who is At Fault

The first step of any motorcycle accident claim is establishing who is responsible for the accident. Sometimes, the at-fault party is simple to discover. For example, another driver turned left in front of an oncoming motorcycle. When the at-fault party is unclear or there are multiple parties involved, establishing responsibility can be much more complicated.

Parties that may be at-fault in a motorcycle accident include:

  • Car or truck operator who engaged in negligent behavior
  • A driver’s employer, such as a delivery company or trucking company
  • Company or entity responsible for vehicle repairs and maintenance
  • Utility, construction company, landscaper, or government entity responsible for unsafe road conditions

Once you establish who is responsible, you can use this information to pursue the at-fault party and file a claim with their insurer.

Gather Evidence to Prove Liability

The claim process relies on evidence to prove fault and establish your damages. You can support your insurance claim or court case with the following evidence:

  • Medical records and bills
  • Financial statements and pay stubs
  • Photos and videos of the accident
  • Witness statements
  • Expert testimony
  • Police reports
  • Damage estimates

Submit an Insurance Claim

Following a motorcycle accident due to another’s negligence, you may be able to file a claim with the other party’s auto insurance, an at-fault company’s liability insurance, your own coverage, or other program or plan that applies to you or your state.

To file a claim, you must typically submit an insurance claim form along with any evidence or documentation. Insurance companies may look for ways to reduce your settlement by denying their client’s liability or shifting blame. A skilled motorcycle accident attorney can help you negotiate with insurance adjusters and avoid common pitfalls.

File a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party and their insurance company lets them know you are serious about recovering damages for your motorcycle accident injuries. To file a lawsuit, you must submit an official legal complaint to the appropriate court and serve the complaint along with a summons to everyone named in the suit. Different states have different requirements, so speak with an attorney in your area for more details.

Once you file the lawsuit, all parties will submit evidence to the court. The judge or jury for the case will review the information provided and determine who was at fault and how much they should pay in damages. Many personal injury lawsuits settle out of court, and you can still achieve a settlement while the case is ongoing.

A Motorcycle Accident Attorney Can Help You Navigate the Claims Process

The legal rights, compensation, and claims process for injured motorcyclists vary depending on the state where the accident occurred and the circumstances surrounding the accident. Call the motorcycle accident attorney at Christensen Law to learn which legal rights and remedies are available to you, and how best to proceed with your claim.