Settlement is a common result if you make an injury claim after a motorcycle accident, as a rider or as a passenger. In the majority of states, you may file a third-party insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. In either situation, your case is likely to be resolved through an out-of-court settlement in which the liable party (usually through his or her insurance carrier) agrees to pay an agreed-upon amount for all of your damages stemming from the motorcycle accident, and you agree to release the liable party from any further legal responsibility in connection with the accident. Read on to learn more about getting the most out of your settlement after a motorcycle accident injury.
(Note: exceptions to the procedure discussed above exist in the dozen or so "no fault" states, where you will first need to turn to your own personal injury protection coverage to get your medical bills paid and to get compensation for lost income, regardless of who was at fault for the motorcycle accident. You'll be able to step outside the no-fault system in cases where you suffer serious injury or where your medical bills exceed a certain threshold amount, but the rules vary depending on which no-fault state you live in.)
As soon as possible after a motorcycle accident, it’s important to take a few key steps to make sure you protect your right to a fair settlement that covers all your medical bills and other losses. Here are a few things you can do:
Collect evidence at the scene of the accident. Be as thorough as you can. If law enforcement comes to the scene, make sure you get a copy of any police report that is generated. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses who saw what happened. Take photographs of the scene including damage to cars and motorcycles, accident debris, skid marks, and the overall location where the accident took place. Take photos of your injuries too, if they are visible.
Even if you don’t think you are seriously hurt, get prompt medical attention if you’re feeling the slightest pain or discomfort, or if you just don’t feel right. Endorphins can mask pain after a motorcycle accident, so even if it’s a few hours or days after the crash, see your doctor or go the ER and get a thorough examination. This is obviously important for your overall health, but it’s also crucial to document any injuries that result from the crash, as part of the injury claim process.
Keep detailed records of every aspect of the accident, your injuries, your medical treatment, and all of your losses (financial and otherwise) that have resulted from the accident and its impact. That means your medical records and bills, vehicle repair estimates and other property damage, days missed at work and other lost income, and any other documentation that shows what you paid or lost. Especially if your injuries are significant, you should also keep a daily journal of how your health and overall well-being has been affected -- your limitations, discomfort, mood, and anything else you can think of.
For motorcycle accident injuries that aren’t all that serious, this may not be necessary. But if you’ve suffered significant injuries or have undergone extensive medical treatment because of the accident, it’s a good idea to at least discuss your case with an attorney, to get a clear sense of your rights and your legal options. Especially if the other side is disputing liability or questioning the seriousness of your injuries, having an experienced attorney on your side can be the difference between a low-ball settlement and a satisfactory outcome.