Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle Accident Injury Claims and Settlements

Motorcycle riders encounter distinct hazards on the road, and pursuing an injury claim following a motorcycle accident presents its own set of unique challenges.

If you sustain injuries in a motorcycle accident, whether you were the rider or a passenger, you might be pondering your legal alternatives if it seems that someone else is responsible.

Should you initiate a motorcycle accident insurance claim or opt for a lawsuit? Is it plausible to anticipate a settlement for your injuries, and if so, what might be the potential amount? While we’ll address these inquiries and more in this article, here’s what you should bear in mind initially:
In the year 2020 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 82,528 motorcyclists suffered injuries in traffic accidents, and tragically, over 5,500 motorcyclists lost their lives.
Determining who bears responsibility for a motorcycle accident can be complex: the driver of another vehicle, the motorcycle rider, or a combination of both?
While it’s impossible to foresee the precise outcome of a specific motorcycle accident injury claim, several factors frequently play a pivotal role.

Why Is Motorcycle Riding So Risky?

Motorcycles distinguish themselves by their smaller size, lighter weight, two-wheel configuration, and the absence of an enclosed structure for the rider. These attributes, among others, contribute significantly to the fact that motorcyclists are 29 times more susceptible to fatal outcomes in traffic accidents when contrasted with individuals driving or occupying passenger vehicles (as reported by the NHTSA).

Certain risks specific to motorcycle riding encompass:

  • Reduced visibility to cars, particularly at intersections
  • Exposure to road hazards such as debris, uneven road surfaces, small objects, or wet pavement
  • Lack of protection between rider and road
  • Absence of seatbelts, and typically no airbags
  • Lesser stability with two wheels compared to four, especially in relation to the possibility of a front wheel “wobble” occurring during high-speed operation
  • Motorcycle riding necessitates greater skill and training relative to driving a car.

What You Must Prove to Get a Motorcycle Accident Settlement

In the majority of motorcycle accident scenarios, liability is determined by the legal principle of “negligence” within the realm of personal injury law. Negligence arises when an individual conducts themselves carelessly or thoughtlessly, leading to harm inflicted upon another person.

Within the context of driving, a driver is obligated to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to other motorists, passengers, pedestrians—essentially, anyone encountered on the road. If a driver fails to exercise such care and causes injury to someone, the driver is likely to be held liable for those injuries and any other damages stemming from the accident. (Find fundamental information about negligence in traffic accident cases.)

In many instances of motorcycle accidents, it’s often the driver of another car or truck who is deemed negligent. A driver can be considered negligent if they:

  • Engage in actions they shouldn’t have (like speeding through an intersection after the traffic light turns red)
  • Neglect to perform actions they should have (such as utilizing turn signals and checking mirrors and blind spots before executing a turn).

Of course, a motorcycle rider can also be found negligent—for instance, by traveling at an unsafe speed, disregarding stop signs, or engaging in lane-splitting, among other possibilities.

Proving Negligence After a Motorcycle Accident

Ultimately, establishing fault in a motorcycle accident hinges on demonstrating negligence. This is an essential requirement whenever you seek to hold another party accountable for your injuries, property damage, and other losses stemming from the crash, whether through:

  • A third-party insurance claim lodged with the insurance of the responsible driver, or
  • A personal injury lawsuit directed against the driver deemed at fault.

In order to prove negligence (and in turn, fault for the motorcycle accident), the injured person must show that:

The legal framework mandates that the other driver exercise a reasonable level of care. This is a fundamental assumption in both car and motorcycle accident cases. Motorists are obligated to demonstrate proper caution while driving or riding.

However, if the other driver’s behavior fell short of the required level of care under the given circumstances (with the law using the actions of a “reasonable person” as a benchmark), and this conduct led to the claimant’s injuries, then the following conditions must be satisfied:

  • The claimant sustained injuries or incurred losses. Without tangible evidence of “damages” (recompensable losses in legal terminology), even if the other driver displayed careless behavior, the motorcyclist cannot recover anything. Further elaboration on damages will be covered in the subsequent section.

There are a number of ways to gather evidence of the other driver's negligence and strengthen your case, including:

To build a solid case, consider taking the following actions:

  • Obtain a copy of any police report created following the accident (if law enforcement was present at the scene).
  • Capture photographs of the accident scene, vehicle positions, injuries, property damage, and any relevant details.
  • Gather statements from witnesses who witnessed the accident.
  • Retain copies of all bills and records connected to the accident.

Types of Damages In a Motorcycle Accident Claim

As previously discussed, within legal terminology, “damages” encompass the full scope of losses stemming from an accident.

Therefore, apart from establishing the negligence of the other driver following a motorcycle accident, if you are an injured rider or passenger, you must provide evidence (and document) the various ways in which you were affected. This encompasses:

  • The expenses linked to all medical treatment necessitated by the accident
  • Time away from work, income losses, and other financial detriments
  • The mental and physical anguish resulting from the accident, your medical care, and your recovery.

Monetary losses that can be substantiated by bills, receipts, and other records are classified as “economic damages.”

In conjunction with related damage categories like “loss of enjoyment,” pain and suffering constitutes a primary component of what is referred to as “non-economic damages” within an injury case.

Calculating Future Lost Earning Capacity

Although demonstrating lost wages and other income-related losses incurred due to a motorcycle accident often presents minimal difficulty, proving how the accident will impact the injured individual’s future earning potential can be significantly more challenging.

A seasoned personal injury attorney will engage an economic expert to effectively present the notion of lost future earning capacity to an insurance adjuster or, if required, to a jury in a court proceeding. This is due to the involvement of the concept known as “present value.”

Imagine that before the motorcycle accident, your annual income was $90,000, but following the accident, you could only engage in part-time work with an annual income of $70,000. In such a scenario, your lost earning capacity amounts to $20,000 annually for the duration of your “work life expectancy.”

“Work life expectancy” is a statistical measure derived from federal government statistics, estimating how many more years an individual is reasonably anticipated to work based on factors like age, gender, and other attributes. While this calculation may be relatively straightforward, determining the present value of $20,000 per year projected into the future is a much more intricate task. This is why personal injury lawyers typically enlist the expertise of economists to formulate dependable figures.

Settlement Value vs. Trial Value

When assessing the value of a motorcycle injury claim, it’s important to understand that there are essentially two types of valuations: settlement value and trial value. The settlement value of a case represents the amount you realistically anticipate settling for. This value will be lower than the trial value because settling a case is aimed at avoiding the risk of losing in court and receiving no compensation.

Let’s use an example to illustrate the relationship between settlement value and trial value. Assume that, based on the liability and damages aspects of your motorcycle accident case, both you and your attorney believe that:

  • If you were to proceed to trial and emerge victorious, the jury would award you $200,000, but
  • Your chances of winning at trial are only 20%.

One strategy in this scenario could involve settling your case for a sum slightly less than $40,000 (which is 20% of the projected trial value). Essentially, a case’s settlement value is generally slightly below the trial value multiplied by the estimated probability of winning the trial.

The crucial consideration here is whether any offered settlement genuinely covers all the losses stemming from the accident and, to the best extent possible, achieves compensation that adequately addresses the aftermath of the crash. For additional insights into factors to contemplate before agreeing to settle a vehicle accident claim and signing a release, delve further into relevant information.

What If the Motorcycle Rider Is Partially At Fault for the Accident?

There are situations where a car driver’s negligence or recklessness leads to injury to a motorcyclist, yet the motorcyclist might have engaged in actions that contributed to the collision. In such cases, the car driver could potentially raise the motorcyclist’s actions before the accident as a defense—either partially or entirely—to counter their own liability for the accident.

In certain states, if this defense is substantiated, it might diminish the amount the motorcyclist can recover through legal proceedings. In other states, the motorcyclist’s conduct might prevent them from obtaining any financial recovery from the defendant.

Insurance adjusters approach settlement discussions while considering potential court outcomes. Therefore, the rules regarding shared fault in your state can significantly influence the worth of your claim. For deeper insights into contributory and comparative negligence in traffic accident cases, explore further resources.

Is There an Average Motorcycle Accident Settlement?

This is a frequently asked question by individuals seeking information about various types of injury claims. However, even if such data were readily accessible and trustworthy, it wouldn’t offer significant insights to an individual claimant attempting to anticipate the resolution of their unique case.

Rather than fixating on broad statistics, it’s more beneficial to concentrate on the factors that frequently play a significant role in determining the potential settlement value of a motorcycle accident injury claim. These factors encompass:

  • The extent of your injuries and their severity
  • The availability of adequate insurance coverage to facilitate a fair settlement
  • The clarity surrounding fault attribution (i.e., determining who is responsible for causing the accident)

Example 1:

Imagine you were riding your motorcycle towards an intersection at the designated speed, keeping your headlamp illuminated. Suddenly, a car executed a left turn directly in your path:

  • The car driver didn’t activate their left-turn signal and later claimed not to have seen you.
  • As a result of the collision, you sustained a concussion, a fractured leg, and three cracked ribs. The expenses associated with your accident-related medical treatment totaled over $25,000.
  • The evident negligence of the driver who struck you and the substantial nature of your injuries are clear.
  • The responsible driver possesses bodily injury liability car insurance coverage amounting to $150,000.
  • Your claim is likely to encompass a period of temporary disability, a protracted recovery, and considerable pain and discomfort.
  • Your life is anticipated to be significantly impacted in various aspects.

Taking all these aspects into account, and considering the expenses of your medical care and other quantifiable losses, the potential value of your settlement could reasonably surpass or even reach $100,000.

Example 2:

  • You were in a motorcycle accident with severe injuries and long-term disability, incurring nearly $30,000 in medical expenses.
  • The involved car driver holds $150,000 in injury liability coverage, but their negligence is minimal or absent.
  • The accident might be attributed entirely to your actions due to lane-splitting at a speed exceeding the posted limit by twenty miles per hour.
  • Despite the gravity of your injuries, any prospective settlement is anticipated to be nominal.
  • If the driver’s lack of negligence is established, their insurance company has no obligation to provide compensation.
  • Despite substantial injuries and ample insurance coverage, it’s unlikely that you would secure more than a few thousand dollars in settlement. This assumes you can demonstrate some degree of fault on the driver’s part.

Getting Legal Help After a Motorcycle Accident

If you’ve sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident, taking on the responsibility of dealing with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, not to mention their legal representatives, is a task you shouldn’t attempt alone. Engaging the services of a skilled legal professional can significantly impact the outcome.

An adept injury lawyer will:

  • Possess comprehensive knowledge of the intricate aspects of the motorcycle accident injury claim procedure.
  • Be well-versed in constructing a compelling case to establish fault for the accident and delineate the nature and extent of your injuries and other losses.
  • Advocate for the most favorable outcome, even if it necessitates pursuing litigation.
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