Motorcycle Accident Basics

Motorcycle Laws

Motorcycle Accidents

For many people, motorcycles offer the freedom of the open road, an escape, and a exhilarating way to get from place to place. Unfortunately, riding a motorcycle also exposes people to a substantial risk of serious injuries in an accident. Motorcyclists should familiarize themselves with the relevant laws in their jurisdiction in order to ensure that they are in compliance with all safety regulations and know how to protect their rights after an accident.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Helmet laws for motorcyclists vary by state. Some states do not have any laws regarding helmet use, and others mandate the use of helmets for both riders and passengers. Still other states require riders to wear a helmet if they are not yet 18 or 21 years of age or if they have not been a licensed motorcyclist for very long. Some states do not require helmet use if they can prove they have private medical insurance.

Claims for Motorcycle Accident Injuries Without the Use of a Helmet

Not only is helmet use a legal requirement in many states, but it can also reduce an individual’s liability for their injuries. Being injured in a motorcycle accident without the use of a helmet can reduce the amount of compensation injured motorcyclists are entitled to receive. Their right to damages can be offset by:

  • Their state’s motorcycle helmet laws
  • The type of injury suffered
  • If they had any part in causing the accident

No matter what the rider’s state’s helmet laws require, if someone sustained a head or neck injury but was wearing a helmet, they are less likely to be deemed at fault for their injuries. However, if they suffered these types of injuries and were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, their compensation will likely be less as they could have prevented or mitigated their damages with the use of a helmet. The legal element of contributory negligence will apply in these cases, which can reduce compensation.

If helmet use is required in the motorcyclist’s state and they were injured while not wearing one, their injury claim can be even more problematic. The insurance company will argue that not only were they breaking the law, but they also put themselves at an increased risk for significant injury by not wearing a helmet. Depending on the specific details of the accident, they could be denied any compensation for head or neck injuries. That said, they might be able to obtain compensation for other injuries besides those of their head and neck.

Lane Splitting or Sharing

Lane splitting or sharing occurs when motorcyclists ride in between lanes of stopped traffic. Some states allow this practice, and some do not. Aside from the legality of lane splitting, this practice is extremely hazardous for motorcyclists, especially at higher speeds.

Depending on the jurisdiction, obtaining a settlement or court award for injuries if the rider was lane-splitting at the time of the accident can be extremely difficult. The insurance company will assert that the individual’s injuries arose from their own negligence by lane splitting. Hiring a skilled motorcycle accident lawyer can help increase the chances that accident victims will receive fair compensation for their injuries. 

Motorcycle Insurance Coverage

All motorcyclists must have a valid driver’s license and insurance coverage from an auto insurance carrier that is licensed in their state. Mandatory insurance coverage types and amounts will vary by jurisdiction. Riding without the minimum legal amount of coverage can cause many problems if riders are stopped by law enforcement or in an accident. Even if an individual obeys their state’s insurance coverage laws, the minimum legal amount of coverage may not completely protect them in the event of an accident.

Minimum Coverage for a Motorcycle

In some states, the minimum insurance coverage for a motorcycle may cost more than the minimum car or truck insurance. Due to the risks of owning and driving a motorcycle, insurance companies can justify charging motorcyclists higher premiums.  Before purchasing an insurance policy, motorcyclists should be well-informed of the minimum requirements and contemplate their potential financial obligations in an accident.

Additional Motorcycle Coverage

If a motorcycle accident victim incurs expenses in excess of the other driver's insurance policy, it can cause serious financial issues. As a result, it is highly advisable that motorcyclists purchase additional coverage that will protect them in the event of a serious accident.

For most motorcycle owners in any state, additional coverage will be necessary to ensure they are financially protected if there is an accident. Most insurance agents and insurance carriers recommend that motorcyclists carry a minimum of $100,000 per person for injuries, $300,000 maximum for injuries per accident and $100,000 for property damage per accident. They also recommend having uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

To learn more about motorcycle licensing, insurance laws, and safety, drivers can reach out to an attorney or insurance agent in their jurisdiction.

Reporting an Accident to the Insurance Company

Most motorcycle insurance companies require that their insureds report any accidents or claims to them as soon as possible. Knowing how to communicate with the insurance company before calling can be beneficial to their claim. Insurance agents will likely seem sympathetic, concerned, and helpful, but motorcyclists must remember that their goal is to pay a minimum on each claim that they settle.  Individuals should always tell the truth about their accident or claim, but they should mindful of how they describe the circumstances. Often, insurance companies will try to blame the accident on the rider’s own actions to avoid their own liability.

If motorcyclists are at fault for their accidents, it can significantly affect their claims. Some states bar plaintiffs from monetary recovery if they have any liability for their injuries while other states do not bar plaintiffs from recovery unless they are at a minimum of 50 percent at fault. If they know that they did not cause the accident, they should be cautious not to provide information that the insurance company can twist for their own interests. Describe only the facts of the accident. Making additional statements or commentary can impede the success of the case.

Reporting Motorcycle Accident Injuries

One common mistake that many accident victims make is providing simple yet damaging statements such as “I am okay” after an accident. Only the victim’s treating medical professionals and facilities should communicate information about their medical condition, as this will protect their interests. To facilitate their communication, the injured individual will be asked to sign a legal release granting the insurance company the right to have access to their medical records that are related to the accident.

To maximize compensation, it is imperative that injured motorcyclists understand that:

  • Since injuries can linger, they will need to be aware of their full extent to be fairly compensated
  • They should seek compensation not just for their medical expenses but also for their lost wages, travel expenses to medical appointments, and other out-of-pocket expenses
  • In almost all cases, settlements for injuries are final, and the claim cannot be reopened

Receiving a fair settlement requires that riders fully understand their motorcycle insurance coverage and their damages. Hiring a motorcycle accident attorney to inform them of their legal rights and be their advocate in settlement negotiations or court is generally the best course of action to ensure fair compensation after a motorcycle crash.

Accident Victims Should Be Selective in Discussing the Accident

Accident victims should not speak with the other parties involved in the accident; instead, they should refer them to their attorney. It is not the motorcyclist's job to investigate the accident or make determinations.

If possible, riders should have the police responding to the accident obtain contact information from any witnesses. They should not speak to them directly. Instead of arguing with a witness about what happened, they should save those points for their insurance company and attorney.

Injured riders should not mention or discuss their accident on social media. Attorneys for the defendants in the accident case may be able to obtain this information and use it against plaintiffs to decrease the money they receive.

How a Motorcycle Accident Attorney Can Help

Motorcyclists who were injured in an accident should discuss the circumstances and their injuries with a qualified motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will be able to determine if they have a claim worth pursuing. An attorney will identify who might be liable for the rider’s injuries, calculate the damages that are owed, and negotiate with insurance companies or their attorneys.

It is crucial that injured individuals speak to a motorcycle accident lawyer before agreeing to any settlements with insurance companies. Many times, insurance companies will try to contact victims as soon as possible after an accident. With this strategy, they might be able to get them to settle immediately for much less than their claim is really worth. Motorcyclists should be sure to protect their rights and not rush to take the first settlement they are offered and should discuss their case with an attorney before negotiating with any insurance company.

Selecting the Right Attorney

It is extremely important for motorcycle accident victims to choose the right attorney for them. Victims should consider the law firm or attorney’s reputation, read reviews, and speak to colleagues or former clients. Find out how easy they are to communicate with and how they handle client questions and requests. Ask about their results, especially if there is a significant motorcycle injury.

Injured motorcyclists should be confident in the law firm that they choose to represent them. When they do their research, they can feel assured that they hired the right lawyer for their case. footer Add