Motorcycles are a compact and convenient means to travel. Whether you’re up for a leisurely ride along the coastline or simply want to beat stand-still traffic, a motorcycle will get you where you need to be, and quickly!
However, your two-wheel vehicle also presents a more significant risk of accidental injury, which can deprive you of time and resources. Though the last thing on your mind after a deadly skid down the road will be to hire a personal injury lawyer, it’ll pay off to do so.
With that in mind, you won’t have all the time in the world to decide you need an attorney. In this guide, you’ll learn the leniencies and limitations of filing a lawsuit and how the process functions.
The Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents
The period during which you can file a lawsuit against the negligent party is called the statute of limitations. This period aims to drive evidence-based decisions that deteriorate or become less reliable over time. Think of it this way – if you decide to press charges some five years later, you will not recall the details as accurately as you would a few days after the fact.
In Florida, the statute of limitations for motorcycle accidents is four years – significantly longer than that of most states.
What to Do Before You File Your Lawsuit
There are a few factors that may impact your ability to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit immediately, such as:
- Recovering from your injuries in-hospital or at home
- Gathering evidence related to the accident to evaluate the role each party played during the event
- Collating an initial damages assessment
Suppose you have no use of either arm or are barely making it around without assistance. In that case, you’ll have to shelve the steps mentioned above – unless you immediately contact an attorney, which can radically speed up the process.
What Contributes to Motorcycle Injury Risk?
Injuries are common in motorcycle accidents. They’re also far more severe than most auto accidents. Below are the factors that contribute to the increased risk of injury:
- Size: Motorcycles are compact and more likely to end up in a driver’s blind spot compared to a larger vehicle. Nearly 42% of all motorcycle accidents occur when a car makes a left-hand turn, increasing the likelihood of a motorcycle being struck while heading straight through an intersection.
- Road hazards: Motorcycles aren’t nearly as stable as passenger vehicles and can become susceptible to accidents on poor road conditions or inclement weather. Thus, you’ll want to be on the lookout for potholes, slick roads, and uneven lane heights.
- Poor maintenance: Just as you would a passenger vehicle, it’s imperative that you service your motorcycle for its tires, breaks, and drive chain. One faulty break or inconsistency in your back wheel can result in a devastating accident.
- Insufficient driving knowledge: A third of all motorcycle accidents in the U.S. involve an unlicensed or improperly licensed driver. Learning to ride via a family member or close friend will impart a lack of defensive driving skills. Always enrol in a driving school before you hit the road.
- Lack of protective features: Unlike a car, motorcycles don’t come equipped with added safety features such as a seat belt or airbag. Thus, cyclists must be diligent in wearing helmets, gloves, and special clothing.
Currently, there will be over 1,000 injuries for every 100,000 registered motorcycles. Of every accident, only 14% don’t involve a fatality or injury.
Common Contracted Injuries After a Motorcycle Accident
Because motorcycles lack a robust, protective frame, the following types of injuries are most common:
- Traumatic head and brain injuries: Cyclists that experience a strong collision are likely to become ejected from the vehicle. If the driver isn’t wearing a helmet, the chances of head and brain injuries are increased and can lead to calamitous results such as a coma, vegetative state, or brain death.
- Spinal cord injuries: Similarly, significant impact can result in a spinal cord injury, which removes the brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body. Cyclists who suffer from spinal cord injuries experience numbness and muscle weakness due to paralysis.
- Neck and back injuries: These types of injuries are the result of whiplash, slipped or herniated discs, and nerve damage. If you contract a neck or back injury, it may require long-term physical therapy.
- Broken bones: Any type of hard impact can result in broken bones. Severe breaks may require surgery or physical therapy.
- Road rash: Similar to carpet burn, being dragged or scraped across the ground can result in abrasions called road rash. Naturally, road rash is far more acute than carpet burn and can require skin grafting to heal.
- Cuts and bruises: Some lucky drivers can walk away from an accident with only cuts and bruises. Even then, deeper cuts and sore bruises can interrupt daily activities.
Though full physical recoveries are not a requisite to filing a lawsuit, you’ll want to dedicate recovery time to ensure you gather the appropriate data and evidence with a level head. With that in mind, you will have to be mindful of your filing deadline.
Who is Responsible for the Accident?
Before filing a lawsuit, it’s imperative that you define which party was responsible for the accident. Though it is less likely that a cyclist acts intentionally or negligently, it’s best to work closely with your attorney to determine the responsibility of each party.
Below are a few of the individuals or entities that can be held liable for an injury.
- Negligent driver: In the event of a collision, any failure to comply with driving laws or regulations can hold that party liable for damages. These failures might encompass speeding, failure to check a blind spot, driving distracted or while under the influence.
- Employer: Suppose the negligent driver was operating within the scope of their career duties at the time of the accident. If so, their employer can be held liable for the occurrence.
- Local government: If neither party acted irresponsibly, the accident may have occurred under the pretense of poorly-maintained roads. Local governments are responsible for ensuring that traffic signals are functioning correctly and roads are paved evenly.
- Vehicle manufacturer: If a vehicle malfunction contributed to the accident, you can hold the vehicle manufacturer liable for any resulting injuries. Common malfunctions might include:
- Failed safety features, such as blind spot alerts
- Cracks or breaks in the motorcycle frame, deteriorating its ability to withstand impact
- Stalling issues
- Tire defects
- Brake issues, including improperly applied parts
What Entails a Police Report?
Regardless of who was at fault, the presented evidence must corroborate claims of negligence. A critical part of your case will be the police report, which details the scene of the accident, collects witness statements and contact information, and notes any relevant citations.
How much time you and your attorney dedicate to collecting such evidence will rely on the unique facts of each case – and how much you have to catalog.
How to Prepare a Damages Claim
You’ve suffered damages and are keen on pursuing a lawsuit. Before doing so, you have to assess the injuries suffered, which may extend past medical bills and related medical costs. Make it easier to evaluate settlement offers by including the following damages:
- Medical expenses: Medical expenses can make or break your damages claim. From initial treatment to sustaining therapy, keep track of all costs associated. List existing bills, prescription medication, and forecast the cost of future care that might involve assistive devices or physical therapy.
- Lost income: Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may have to take time away from work or cover a reduced load. If this is the case, defendants can be held liable for any lost income. They might also be responsible for recover future lost earning potential if a victim can no longer return to a permanent work schedule or becomes limited in their career advancement.
- Property damage: Hardly will a motor vehicle emerge unscathed after a serious accident. As such, defendants may have to shoulder a replacement if the vehicle is damaged or destroyed. Other property liabilities might include helmets, protective equipment, or electronic devices.
- Emotional distress: Though emotional trauma may appear subjective, the manifestation of depression, anxiety, and PTSD are entirely tangible. Sometimes, victims will experience triggers when they interact with particular sounds or visuals, and may have to attend therapy.
- Punitive damages: Not meant to compensate the victim, punitive damages pertain to punishment of the defendant. In Florida, this amount cannot exceed $500,000 or three times the plaintiff’s compensatory damages. For a victim to recover punitive damages, they must prove that the defendant acted negligently or with intentional misconduct.
While some of these claims may appear intuitive, others will require the expert eye of a professional. For instance, estimated costs such as the loss of future earning potential, can be challenging to pinpoint.
What Happens After Assessment?
Once you’ve established your losses, you and your attorney will have to compile a recovery strategy. While the defendant may likely have insurance, this amount is typically lacking in its ability to cover all the damage you’ve suffered. In rare cases, an insurance company may become unwilling to pay.
Accepting a settlement offer can become tempting, especially if you’re looking at a seemingly lucrative amount. However, it’s best to evaluate the extent of your damages before you become wooed by a five or even six-figure settlement.
Tips for Maximizing Motor Vehicle Accident Recovery
No matter how traumatic the accident, the truth of the matter is that claims begin immediately. How you facilitate this process can determine whether you are able to maximize recovery or receive less than you anticipate. Ensure that you obtain a fair deal by taking heed of these best practices.
1. Take Action Before a Potential Disaster
If your motorcycle is your primary vehicle, you are at greater risk of becoming involved in an accident. The type of insurance you purchase can determine how much in damages you can comfortably recover before making a claim.
With that in mind, you can’t simply apply for the highest coverage possible. Most insurance companies will consider your credit score, driving record, and past loans. When shopping for insurance, explore as many options as possible.
2. Begin Documenting the Scene as Soon as You Can
Whenever possible, you’ll want to begin documentation as soon as possible. A few factors that might come in handy are:
- Contact information of opposing parties and witnesses
- Photos and videos of the accident scene, including damages to your vehicle
- Photos and videos of your injuries
- Medical records and related documents
- Police reports
- Physical evidence, including your damaged property or personal effects
- Receipts of expenses incurred as a direct result of the accident
3. Get Medical Attention
While this step may appear instinctive, many will do without a medical assessment if they can walk away from the accident relatively unscathed. Regardless of how “fine” you feel, you may be harboring symptoms that indicate an underlying injury invisible to the naked eye.
As a rule of thumb, don’t skip the emergency room after an accident—no matter the wait time you’ll have to endure.
4. Don’t Accept a Direct Payment
Some negligent drivers will attempt to offer you a lump-sum in exchange for choosing not to file a claim. If you choose to accept this amount, it can affect your ability to seek compensation at a later date.
Not to mention, the amount they offer may not be sufficient to cover property damage and medical bills, among other things. Generally, you’ll want to discuss options with your attorney before you sign any papers or accept compensation.
Be Vigilant About the Information You Share
Limit sharing sensitive information such as photos of the accident or medical symptoms with your attorney. Uploading any evidence onto social media can work against you – especially if the opposite party claims you are less seriously injured than you present.
Speak With A Motorcycle Accident Attorney To discuss Your Case
Ultimately, you’ll want to prioritize getting medical attention after an accident. Upon recovery, seek immediate assistance from an experienced personal injury lawyer so as not to surpass the statute of limitations.
For a motorcycle accident attorney you can rely on, consult with our experts at Shiner Law Group. As the population in West Palm Beach continues to grow, we best understand the need for additional protection in the event of a crash.