If you own a motorcycle, you probably know the stereotypes you are up against when dealing with an accident claim. Insurance companies do not make filing a motorcycle accident claim easy. In fact, they will do everything possible to minimize your payout or even deny your claim.
That’s why you need an experienced attorney that handles motorcycle accident claims from Holliday Karatinos Law Firm on your side. Our legal team is here to answer your questions and educate you on what to expect when starting a motorcycle accident lawsuit. We have prepared this useful guide to help you get started, and we encourage you to schedule a free consultation with our team to discuss the specifics of your case.
What Do You Have to Prove in a Motorcycle Accident Claim?
A person who brings a motorcycle accident claim must first prove that the other driver was responsible, or liable, for the accident. This means proving that the other driver was negligent.
The victim must also prove that he or she suffered bodily injuries and other damages as a result of the accident.
What Is Negligence?
Negligence is defined as the failure to exercise due care that a reasonably prudent person would use in similar circumstances. There are many types of negligent driving behaviors that can cause an accident with a motorcycle. Some of these include:
- Failing to obey a traffic signal
- Failing to stop at a stop sign
- Failing to yield when making a left turn
- Making an improper lane change
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Texting while driving
If you can establish negligence, then you can demand damages for any losses caused by the accident. Damages that can be claimed include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.
How Do I Get Started with My Claim?
The first thing you should do is contact an attorney to make sure you understand your legal rights. An attorney will meet with you for a free initial consultation to discuss the details of the accident. Doing this right away ensures that the details are recorded when they are freshest in your mind.
Your attorney will also be able to collect all of the personal information that is required to pursue a motorcycle accident claim. This would include:
- A copy of your driver’s license and vehicle registration
- Your Social Security number
- Your motorcycle insurance information
- Information about other family members / drivers in your household
- Your employment information
- Your health insurance information
- Details about any prior accidents in which you were involved
- Details about any prior lawsuits you filed for personal injuries
- The name and address of your primary care physician
- The name and address of your treating doctors
Your lawyer will also have you sign a retainer agreement. In Florida, most attorneys work on a contingency basis. That means that you don’t owe your lawyer any money unless he or she obtains a settlement or verdict on your behalf.
Once your lawyer has the basic information from you, he or she can immediately begin an investigation into the accident on your behalf the sooner you can speak to an attorney, the better.
What Evidence Will Be Needed?
Evidence will be needed to prove that the other driver’s negligence caused the accident.
The first thing your attorney may do after your initial meeting is obtain a copy of the police report. The police report is helpful because it usually includes information regarding how the accident occurred, as well as factors that may have played a part in causing the accident, such as weather and traffic conditions.
The police report is also important because it will identify anyone who witnessed the accident. Your attorney can then speak to the witnesses to determine whether they will be favorable to your case.
In some instances, the witness may be asked to give sworn testimony in the form of an affidavit or a deposition. By doing so, your attorney is preserving evidence in preparation for trial and ensuring that the witness does not change his or her version of what occurred later on in the case.
Photographs are also an essential tool in proving negligence. Your attorney can speak to the police and other witnesses to determine whether they took pictures of the accident scene. Pictures that show the vehicles at the accident scene can be especially helpful in proving who was at fault for the crash.
Other evidence that is needed for your motorcycle accident claim is proof of damages.
In terms of the injuries a motorcyclist suffered in an accident, this proof will come through the use of medical records and narrative reports prepared by medical experts.
If a motorcyclist is pursuing a claim for lost wages, evidence that can be offered includes copies of paystubs and tax returns.
Your lawyer will also work with you to help put a dollar value on the less tangible, non-economic damages you have experienced, such as pain and suffering.
Will an Insurance Company Settle If I Was Partially at Fault?
Yes. In Florida, an insurance company may pay to settle your claim even if you were partially at fault for the accident. However, the amount you recover will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
For example, in an intersection case where the other driver and the motorcyclist both insist that they had the green light, and there is no other evidence showing who had the right of way at the time of the accident, the insurance company may offer to settle the case for 50 percent of its full value.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Claim?
It varies. Once you have completed treatment for your injuries, and all of the proof of damages has been collected, your attorney will prepare a demand letter to the insurance company.
The insurance adjuster is obligated to review the demand, along with the evidence submitted, and issue a response.
If the insurance company decides to accept fault for the accident on behalf of its insured driver, an initial offer will be made. Your attorney can advise you if the offer is fair. It is your decision whether to accept the offer or not.
If the case cannot be settled, your attorney will file a lawsuit on your behalf in court. After the lawsuit is filed, there will be a discovery period. During discovery, you may have to answer written questions called interrogatories and sit for a deposition. In some cases, the defendant will request that you submit to a medical examination with a doctor of their choice.
Another settlement offer may be made at the end of the discovery period. If the case does not settle after the end of the discovery period, the court will assign your case a trial date.
Most cases settle before the trial date arrives. However, a small percentage of motorcycle accident cases will proceed to trial.
What Factors Help You Decide Whether to Settle a Claim?
If a settlement offer has been made on your case, your attorney will help you decide whether to accept the settlement.
Some factors that will help you decide whether to settle a claim include:
- The amount of the offer
- The amount of insurance proceeds available
- The evidence that will be admissible at trial
- Your tolerance for risk
- Whether your attorney thinks you can prevail at trial
What to Expect If Your Case Goes to Trial
Once a decision has been made to reject a settlement offer, your case will proceed to trial.
Once the case is assigned to a judge, the lawyers will proceed with picking a jury. Each side will attempt to choose jurors who they believe will be favorable to their client.
Once a jury is sworn, the attorneys will present evidence. You may have to testify and answer questions on cross-examination. Your attorney may also call witnesses to the accident at trial.
Both sides will also present expert medical testimony to issue an opinion as to the nature and extent of the injuries you suffered in the accident.
In the end, it is up to the jury to decide who was at fault for the accident and the amount of damages that should be awarded for your injuries.
No one can predict what a jury will decide, which is why most cases settle before trial.
If you were involved in an accident while riding a motorcycle, the personal injury attorneys at Holliday Karatinos Law Firm can help. With over 50 years of combined legal experience, our lawyers have the skills and the resources to take on deep-pocketed insurance companies.
Call us or contact us online now to schedule your free initial consultation.