Motorcycle accidents are very different from most auto accidents, primarily because motorcycles lack important safety features that protect vehicle occupants in a motor vehicle collision. As a result, motorcycle accident victims are five times more likely to suffer injuries than occupants of other vehicles. Even more sobering is that motorcyclists are 26 times more likely to die in an accident than occupants in automobiles.
If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident recently, you probably have a lot of questions, such as:
- What should I do first?
- How will I pay my accident-related medical bills?
- Do I need to take time off from work to recuperate?
- Can I sue the other driver?
- What if the other party doesn’t have adequate insurance?
It’s natural to ask these questions. That’s why you need to know the steps you should take in the days following your accident. Hopefully, this guide will provide you with some clarity on the questions you’re sure to have.
Take Care of Your Health
Above all else, the first thing you should do is address your health. If you are injured, seek immediate medical attention.
Many riders experience injuries to their chest and abdomen. These types of injuries can result in organ damage, internal bleeding, or other serious conditions due to the blunt-force impact to the midsection during the accident.
Unfortunately, few motorcyclists walk away from an accident injury-free. Some of the most severe injuries are not discovered until much later after an accident. The lesson here is to seek professional medical care whether or not you believe you are injured.
Obtain a Police Report
It’s always a good idea to get a copy of the traffic accident report (including any pictures or videos officers took) from your local police department. Some local police departments and state troopers’ offices even allow you to purchase the report online. Typically, you can pick up a copy of the police report for $10 to $20 (depending on the number of pictures).
Note that sometimes it can take law enforcement weeks (or longer if a criminal investigation is involved) to complete the report. Contact the applicable police department in your area to find out what requirements are necessary for you to obtain a copy of the report.
Your motorcycle accident lawyer can take care of this for you.
Notify Your Insurance Company
As soon as you are able, contact your insurance company to report the incident. Give the insurer all pertinent information you may have gathered at the scene, including the names of all parties and witnesses. You’ll also want to provide the make, model, and year of each vehicle in the accident.
Generally, your own insurance company requires you to report any accident, whether or not you are at fault. It’s important to do so as you may have coverages that you will want to use in case the other driver’s insurance company fails to provide adequate compensation. Review your policy terms to learn your insurer’s requirements.
Do Not Admit Fault
After an accident, and in the days that follow, you will talk to a lot of people. In many instances, you’ll speak to law enforcement and insurance company representatives. Do not admit fault for the accident at any time or say anything like “I’m sorry” or “I feel bad,” as doing so could harm your claim in the future.
It’s important to note that the insurance company is not on your side, especially the responsible driver’s insurer. You must report the accident to your own insurance, but if you decide to speak to the other driver’s carrier don’t offer additional information as anything you say can be used against you later. Even saying “I’m good” after being asked “How are you today?” could potentially hurt your case. Just notify the other carrier that the incident occurred and advise you or your attorney will contact them at a later time to discuss resolution. Do not give a recorded statement or sign any documents before speaking with an attorney.
Remember, insurance companies are primarily concerned with your health or paying you fairly. Their goal is to resolve a case for the least amount of money possible. To that end, their representatives know the right questions to ask to get you to say something that they can use to reject or reduce the value of your injury claim. Fortunately, when you retain an attorney to represent you, he or she will handle all communication with the insurance company, allowing you to focus on your recovery.
Seek the Assistance of a Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Just as it is in your best interest to have a doctor oversee your physical recovery, it is in your best legal and financial interests to get help from a motorcycle accident attorney.
Some of the circumstances under which you should absolutely retain a lawyer include:
- You have serious physical injuries.
- You face significant medical expenses.
- You have no experience resolving injury claims with insurance companies.
- Other parties are wrongfully accusing you of being at fault.
- The insurance company denies your claim
Almost all accident attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t paid unless they win a settlement or verdict in your favor. With that in mind, you can speak with an attorney for free to discuss the viability of your case and help you determine your next moves.
Maximize Your Insurance Claim
Insurance companies don’t stay in business by paying maximum compensation for every case that lands on their desk. On the contrary, insurers want to avoid large payouts from a settlement or jury award.
That’s why they commonly extend an early settlement offer to accident injury victims. As you might imagine, these initial offers are usually very low, but they are enticing to a victim who could be under financial strain from the accident.
If you have a lawyer helping you with your case, he or she can almost always negotiate a higher settlement amount for you. Even if your injuries seem minor, you want to make sure you are not under-compensated for an accident that is not your fault.
Here are a few reasons why you should seek full compensation for all damages:
- Many injuries, and their resulting medical costs, will impact you for a long time but the case will resolve before those problems arise.
- You only get one opportunity to recover on your case, so you must claim all the compensation you will ever get in a single case.
Your lawyer will ensure that you are thorough in assessing damages and seeking the compensation required to address your losses to make you financially whole.
The Bottom Line
No one ever plans to be in a motorcycle wreck, so when it happens, it’s natural to be confused about the next steps to take. First and foremost, you must take care of your health, so get medical attention from your doctor and make sure you complete your follow-ups and prescribed rehabilitation.
Get a copy of the police report for your records and report the accident to your insurance company. Save all your bills, receipts and evidence. You’ll need them if you want to seek financial compensation for damages.
Lastly, get legal help from a skilled motorcycle accident attorney to protect your rights and obtain the settlement you deserve to recover financially.