What you should do after a motorcycle accident will depend on the severity of the accident. You can’t do much of anything if you suffer catastrophic or severe injuries. Because motorcycles do not have the same protection that an enclosed vehicle gives you, the risk of severe injuries, catastrophic injuries, and even death is much higher.
If you are an avid rider, it is a good idea to leave instructions for a loved one if you end up in the hospital and cannot communicate.
Choose a Motorcycle Accident Attorney
You can do most of the research for an accident attorney before you even get into an accident. Review different attorneys and create a shortlist of three or four that you think you would like to represent you should you get into a motorcycle wreck. Leave the list with a loved one so that he or she can find it.
You can also contact the attorneys yourself and explain that you are a biker and would like to meet them so that your loved one does not have to choose when he or she is distracted with other things, such as visiting you in the hospital or making funeral arrangements should your accident prove fatal.
Create an Estate Plan
While most people do not like talking about end-of-life plans, especially younger individuals, it is a good idea to have an estate plan. It could be something as simple as a will and a medical power of attorney. You could also add a trust, depending on what you have for assets. A motorcycle wreck is a good reason to have an estate plan, but it’s not the only good reason. Anything could happen to you on any given day.
When your loved ones have an estate plan, especially a medical power of attorney and a living will, it makes it easier for your loved ones to manage your affairs and make decisions for you should you suffer severe or catastrophic injuries. That includes accepting a settlement or trial award on your behalf, should you not recover by the end of settlement negotiations or a trial.
At the Accident Scene
If you can move about without creating additional damage to yourself, you can:
- Check on others involved in the accident.
- Contact first responders. Let them know that you were involved in a motorcycle accident. If possible, let them know how many people suffered injuries. They might need more than one ambulance.
- Obtain the contact, registration, and insurance information of those involved in the accident. If the at-fault driver caused the accident because of road rage, it might be safer to keep your distance from that person. The driver could continue raging against you and cause more injuries. The police will collect the necessary information and put it in the police report.
- Obtain contact information from any witnesses. You can also ask witnesses what they saw. If witnesses are willing to speak with you, and you are able, you should take notes. You can use your cell phone to email yourself the notes.
- Take photos of the accident scene. Make sure you get photos from all angles. Include close-up photos and photos taken at a distance. Also, be sure to take photos of skid marks and damage to real and personal property, such as lawns, mailboxes, telephone poles, fences, and other property damaged in the wreck.
- Allow the emergency medical technicians to check you over.
- Once the police release you from the scene, go to the hospital and ask for a complete checkup. Let authorities know that you were in a motorcycle accident. You could have injuries that won’t manifest for hours or even a day or two. Even if you believe your injuries are minor, you should have a thorough checkup.
- Contact a motorcycle accident attorney. If you have already chosen a motorcycle accident attorney, call that attorney. If not, start researching motorcycle accident attorneys as soon as possible. The sooner you can speak with an attorney, the better. You are more apt to remember pertinent facts immediately after the accident. If you wait a few months, you might forget about something that could make or break your case.
- Contact the insurance company.
Contacting the Insurance Company
Which insurance company you contact depends on the type of insurance that you have and the extent of your injuries. If you have no-fault insurance, you will contact your own insurance company. If you have full tort insurance, you will contact the other driver’s insurance company if the other driver was at fault for the accident.
It is also a good idea to let your insurance company know that you were in a wreck, even if the at-fault driver’s insurance is responsible for damages.
When you do contact the insurance company, only give the representative your name, contact information, date and location of the accident, the other driver’s insurance and contact information, and your attorney’s contact information. Let your lawyer provide all other details, or even make the initial contact.
Because insurance companies are in business to make a profit, the representative will try to get you to discuss the accident. Refer him or her to your motorcycle accident lawyer. The insurance company will twist your words in an attempt to deny your claim. If the insurance company can’t find a reason to deny the claim, it will use what you say in an attempt to offer you a low-ball offer.
Attorneys with experience in motorcycle wrecks know the tricks that insurance companies try and are much less likely to fall for those tricks. Since you probably do not deal with the insurance company regularly other than to pay your premiums, you might not pick up on these tricks.
While some people prefer to settle on their own, we do not recommend proceeding without legal representation. In most cases, those who try to settle without the aid of an attorney leave money on the table. The insurance company will not tell you if you are entitled to extra compensation for certain injuries, but an attorney can evaluate all of your circumstances and determine the true value of your claim.
After the Accident
If you are in the hospital and can communicate, do not wait to contact your motorcycle accident attorney. The sooner you make contact, the sooner he or she can start working on your case. You’re better off letting them contact the insurance companies for you.
We can arrange for a phone and/or video consult, and we can even visit you in the hospital. If you have severe injuries, by the time you get out of the hospital, you may not have time to file an insurance claim. While the statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim or wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania is generally two years, insurance companies may only provide you with a few weeks during which to file a claim.
Make sure you keep all doctor’s appointments after the accident. The documentation from these appointments could help you obtain fair and reasonable compensation, especially if your injuries lead to long-term or permanent disabilities.
If you need therapy, including physical therapy, cognitive therapy, occupational therapy, or psychological therapy, be sure you also keep all of those appointments. If you do have to miss an appointment, document the reason why you missed it.
The defendant could use missed appointments against you by stating that you didn't need the therapy. If the jury believes the defendant, you won’t receive compensation for future therapy appointments.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Because you don’t have the same protection as you do in an enclosed vehicle, you have a much higher risk of suffering severe or catastrophic injuries or death.
Some of the injuries that you could suffer in a motorcycle accident include:
- Bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, and scratches.
- Road rash.
- Burns from chemicals or fire.
- Compound fractures.
- Internal injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Secondary injuries, mainly infection, from slow-healing open wounds, whether the wounds were from the accident or because of surgery to repair injuries you suffered in the motorcycle accident.
- Simple fractures.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and penetrating brain injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
Any of these injuries, especially open wounds, could take longer for you to recover from if you have certain underlying conditions, such as diabetes, an immunodeficiency, or are taking certain medications that lower your white cell counts.
Injuries you suffer in a wreck could also exacerbate underlying conditions. Because you would not have suffered from these extra injuries but for the defendant’s actions or inactions, the defendant is liable for secondary and exacerbated conditions in addition to the injuries you incurred in the wreck if the defendant is at fault for the accident.
Recovering Damages After a Motorcycle Accident
If you have full tort insurance on your motorcycle, you can recover two types of compensatory damages and punitive damages. If you have limited tort (no-fault) insurance, you can usually recover past medical expenses, past lost wages, replacement of destroyed personal property, and funeral expenses.
The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make you whole again. Economic damages have a monetary value while non-economic damages do not. The court orders punitive damages if you can prove the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional. You do not receive punitive damages to make you whole. Rather, the defendant pays those damages to you as a punishment in the hopes that he or she will not repeat the actions or inactions that caused your injuries and losses in the future.
Sometimes called special damages, economic damages include:
- Past medical expenses for those incurred in the accident and before a settlement or a jury trial.
- Future medical expenses for those incurred in the accident and after a settlement or a jury trial. Future medical expenses also include expenses for physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, and other psychological therapies.
- Past lost wages for those lost from the time of the accident until the settlement or trial award.
- Future lost wages for those lost because of the accident after a settlement or trial award. Future lost wages could include partial future lost wages if you cannot hold a job that paid the same as you made before the accident. You would receive the difference in the salary or hourly rate.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property, including your motorcycle.
- Funeral and burial/or cremation expenses if you lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident.
Sometimes called general damages, non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress if you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident.
- Emotional distress if you lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to take medication or use medical aids, such as a wheelchair, for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer participate in family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do chores you normally do, including house cleaning, grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, and home maintenance and repair.
- Amputation, regardless if you lost a limb in the accident or your doctor had to amputate later because of secondary injuries.
- Extra compensation for excessive scarring and disfigurement.
Courts normally award non-economic damages if doctors believe that your injuries will lead to long-term or permanent disabilities or if you lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident. While the Social Security Administration considers long-term or permanent disabilities those that doctors expect to last at least 12 months or result in your death, the insurance companies might have a different definition of a long-term or permanent disability.
Contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney for a free case evaluation if you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident.