The problem with motorcycle accidents is that most people do not really understand the difference between motorcycle accidents and auto accidents. This is because very few people are familiar with motorcycles, and they are even less familiar with motorcycle accidents. It is difficult overcoming all the stereotypes, because the stereotype for motorcyclists is that riders are crazy, they drive too fast, they weave in and out of traffic, they are hard to see, and so forth.
The first step in overcoming anti-rider prejudice in a motorcycle accident case is separating the particular accident from the stereotypes. In a particular accident, the motorcyclist might not be speeding, or even if they were speeding, speeding might be minimal, or the speed might have nothing to do with causing the accident. It is important to point out that the motorcyclist in the case under consideration was going in a straight line when someone cut them off while making a left-hand turn. There must be emphasis on the differences between what actually happened, and what the stereotypes suggest happened. Dealing with the stereotypes for motorcyclists would be the first step to presenting the case successfully.
The second set of problems involves the fact that motorcycles are operated very differently than cars, because they work very differently than cars. A motorcycle steers by doing a counter steering motion that makes the motorcycle lean, and as the motorcycle leans, the contact patch on the front tire becomes smaller because the motorcycle would use the side of the tire which would have a smaller diameter than the center. Juries are fascinated to learn these details and they like being taught how motorcycles work.
The mechanics of making a motorcycle turn are very different than simply turning the wheel of a car and having it steer for the driver. This is an important difference, because when trying to reconstruct a motorcycle accident more time must be anticipated for the motorcycle to lean and then turn than it takes for a car to simply change steering direction. Because this takes longer for the motorcycle, the rider may not be able to accomplish a swerve in the time available when the motorcycle is cut off by a left hand turn driver.
Another difference involves the way that ABS brakes work on a car compared to how ABS brakes work on a motorcycle. Many motorcycles do not have ABS brakes, but even if the motorcycle has them, ABS does not work properly with a motorcycle that is swerving (with a few very recent exceptions). If someone driving a car is cut off, they may simply be able to turn the wheel. If they had ABS brakes, they would be able to swerve and brake at the same time. Motorcycles have only recently started getting ABS systems that would allow them to brake when they were in a turn, and the number of these bikes on the road is still very low. This is a huge difference because an overwhelming number of motorcycles cannot stop and swerve at the same time. Any car with ABS brakes does this easily.
A motorcyclist faced with an obstacle in front of them takes longer to react because they have a much more complex decision to make. They would need to figure out the trajectory of the other vehicle before they choose the best way to avoid the collision. This is more of an issue for a motorcyclist because the consequences of a collision are so much greater. The rider must make a decision regarding whether to attempt to swerve first or brake first.
A rider of one of the few motorcycles that can do both at once, still takes time to decide how much front brake and how much rear brake would be applied. Even with linked brakes, most riders have trained themselves to handle balancing the front and rear brake themselves. While each of these things takes only a fraction of a second, those fractions of a second add up, and a motorcycle accident would need to be understood with this in mind.
Of course, this is not true. Injuries in motorcycle accidents tend to be far more severe. They also tend to involve different areas of the body that injuries sustained in car accidents.
Non riders generally do not understand the way motorcyclists get injured in a motorcycle accident. Unlike drivers of cars, motorcyclists are typically being thrown from the motorcycle. They may hit the car, the pavement, or the motorcycle may tumble and hit them. As a result, the types of injuries in motorcycle accidents tend to be different than those sustained in a car accident.
The injuries sustained are not always being in line with people’s expectations, particularly in a relatively low speed motorcycle accident. The driver of a car would probably not be injured at all in a low speed collision, whereas a motorcyclist might end up with lifetime injuries. Motorcycle riders tend to have a higher percentage of injuries to the lower limbs. Head injuries are more common, even with the use of helmets.
Very few lawyers, accident reconstructionists and traffic investigators really understand motorcycle accidents, and few have handled enough motorcycle accidents to really be on top of all these differences.
A traffic ticket could make the case worse because the insurance claims person would know that the person violated a traffic law, at least in the opinion of the investigating officer.
The investigating officer is in a better position than others to assess how the accident happened. They have been at the scene. They have had a chance to see the vehicles, if the vehicles had not been moved, and they have seen the damage to the vehicles. They have the first opportunity to speak to the individuals who saw the accident and who were involved in it, and they are able to do that before people have a lot of time to rethink their answers and come up with a version of the accident that favors their position.
However, the officer’s opinion usually is not allowed to come into evidence at the time of trial. The mere fact that a ticket was issued also does not normally come into evidence. Because these things do not come into evidence, the jury never gets that information. The exception to this would be if the traffic officer is also qualified as an expert in accident reconstruction. This rarely happens.
I have handled many cases where the police officer did not get the facts of the accident right because they did not understand the mechanics of the motorcycle accident or anything about the correct way to reconstruct the motorcycle accident. There is also a fair amount of prejudice against motorcycles and motorcycle riders, and this can lead an officer to make wrong assumptions.
This is true for many attorneys. Many attorneys do not like motorcycle cases because they have the same prejudices as a lot of non-riders. A lot of attorneys advertise themselves as experts in motorcycle cases but they do not know have a solid background in these cases. Some so-called “motorcycle attorneys” have never owned a motorcycle. Some have never even ridden a motorcycle.
On the other hand, there are a small number of attorneys who are actually avid motorcycle riders themselves. Some of these attorneys have gained a lot of expertise over the years by handling many motorcycle accidents. I personally enjoy these cases because I have been riding for decades and I enjoy being around other riders. I like examining the motorcycle and learning the details of the accident.
People are sometimes concerned they will need to pay a lot of money to their attorney. The answer is no, they do not. Attorneys who handle any kind of personal injury work charge more or less the same way. The attorney takes a percentage of the recovery. The fees usually charged at 33 1/3% if the case settles early on, and 40% if the case doesn’t settle until later in the lawsuit. The client does not put out any money, but pays the fees and costs from any settlement or judgment.
The attorney advances the cost of the litigation which includes investigator fees, jury fees, court reporter fees, filing fees, the costs of having exhibits made, costs for getting medical records copied, costs for getting medical reports, and so on and so forth. The attorney gets paid back out of the recovery at the conclusion of the case.
The percentage of fees varies only slightly between attorneys. The difference is usually only in details such as the point in the case where the fee goes up to 40 percent. It is not necessarily more expensive to hire an attorney to handle a motorcycle accident than it is for any other kind of personal injury case.
The most important thing is always to take care of medical needs. Legal needs must come second.
It does not make sense to put yourself at medical risk in order to get a legal matter started.
That said, the sooner the attorney was able to start investigating the case, the better it is. Witnesses can quickly become unavailable, or they might forget the details of what they saw. The insurance company might talk to witnesses. Insurance company investigators might be able to influence what the witnesses have to say. The physical evidence begins to degrade very quickly at an accident scene, particularly in a motorcycle case.
Skid marks are made of rubber dust. Traffic can quickly remove a skid marks that are important when reconstructing the accident. There are usually little bits of plastic and sometimes metal or other parts of the motorcycle spread around the accident scene and there might even be parts of the car spread around the accident scene.
Plastic bits in particular tend to get moved very quickly by traffic. The sooner that someone gets to the accident scene and looks at those things, the better it would be and that would simply not happen unless the person had an attorney working for them and the attorney sent out an investigator.
Insurance carriers are quite agile in getting their investigators out and requesting statements from the injured rider or a passenger or a witness. It can become a horserace to see who gets to the witnesses first. It can be a huge mistake to make a statement to an adjuster without first talking to a lawyer because it is very easy to get someone to inadvertently say something that can hurt the case.
This would be a good thin. If you don’t have a lot of pain, you should be happy about it. Lawsuits are difficult and time-consuming, and they should not be taken lightly.
It is difficult to find an attorney to handle a case if the injuries are minor. However, it is not uncommon for injuries to seem relatively minor earlier on in the case, but then later turn out to be a long-term problem that may require surgery. Knee injuries often get worse. The same is true of spinal injuries. You may not need to call an attorney immediately if there are only minor injuries. On the other hand, be very careful to not settle unless you are certain your injuries will not have serious long-term effects.
Motorcycle cases can be very difficult to win, but they are certainly worth pursuing. Unfortunately injuries from a motorcycle accident are usually serious. It would be a shame if someone with a serious injury just gave up on pursing a motorcycle accident without at least discussing it with an attorney to see whether or not the case was as difficult as they thought it would be.
There are statutes of limitations and someone who waits too long to get started might be barred from ever bringing an action. Attorneys typically do not charge for an initial consultation, so there is really no reason not to get a good professional legal opinion from an attorney who understands these cases.
The truth is that the insurance company will always try to blame the injured rider no matter what. They will look at every aspect: what the rider did before the accident, what they did after the accident to treat their injuries, what kind of gear they were wearing, whether there was anything about the motorcycle that could be blamed for the accident, and so on. Every single one of these issues has to be looked at, and it needs to be met head-on with evidence.
Your attorney must work to prove that each and every one of the insurance company’s defenses is just their attempt to get out of paying the claim.
Insurance companies are there to make money. It has been a long while since insurance companies felt they were in the business of risk management. Insurance companies universally work very hard to minimize the amount of the claim they pay out so that they have more money to, which is how they make money. While insurance claims people might seem very friendly on the phone, their friendliness is not the same as a willingness to make a fair, fast or reasonable settlement.
A realistic expectation of an insurance company is they will take every bit of information given to them and use it to get into the your private records to look for any tiny thing to use to in fighting the claim. It is a big mistake to freely give information to an insurance company. You need an attorney to protect yourself.
There is a system of comparative negligence in most states, and your negligence will reduce your recovery, it may not prevent you from having any recovery at all. In other words, in most states, you get a percentage recovery based on the relative percentage of fault.
For example, in California, a person who was 30 percent at fault receives 70 percent of the value of their case. The value is reduced by 30 percent. In practice, when it comes to extreme cases where one side was 90 percent at fault and the other was 10 percent at fault, then juries tend to ignore the small numbers and find completely for one side. Where the numbers are closer to 50-50, they tend to apply the percentage rule more accurately.
It does seem to take a long time to resolve a motorcycle accident case, which is why it is very important for an attorney to keep on top of the file, and to move the case quickly. It is important to file the suit early, serve the suits when it is filed and so fort.
By the time the case is ready to settle, it can be helpful to have a trial date coming up. Many times cases settle “on the courthouse steps”, or at the last minute. Before the case settles, however, the injured rider should be “Permanent and stationery,” and have reached “Maximal medical improvement”. This makes it more comfortable to enter into a permanent settlement of the case that cannot be undone later.
It is difficult to settle a case until the client reaches maximum medical improvement because the biggest factor or at least a huge factor in evaluating the case is knowing the long-term permanent effects of the injury and how those injuries affect the ability to function on a daily basis in the future.
It is amazing how little thought drivers of automobiles give to the possibility there might be a motorcycle in the vicinity. Even though motorcycles have fulltime headlights on, the driver of a car frequently does not look in the rearview mirror. They don’t look, so they don’t see the headlight of the motorcycle. Then they make a lane change and knock the motorcycle down. These accidents are unnecessary and avoidable.
Other times, the driver of the car makes a left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle. This is hard to understand, but these drivers often say they didn’t see the motorcycle. More than half of the time when a motorcycle is in an accident involving another vehicle, it is the fault of the other vehicle.
There is a very broad range of people who choose to ride motorcycles, which is evident from the very different types of motorcycles that riders choose to ride. The stereotype that motorcyclists are all crazy risk-takers is very wrong. Many non-riders are surprised when they find out who rides motorcycles. The perception that motorcyclists are risk-takers really comes from a lack of knowledge. In an individual case, it is easy to see that this perception is wrong.