More than 8.5 million motorcycles cruise the roads in the United States today. The freedom and thrill of the open and scenic road draw in many motorists. Motorcycle riding is not only fun but also practical. Sadly, some rides end in tragedy.
According to information provided by the Insurance Information Institute, motorcyclists are five times more likely than other drivers or passengers to be injured in a crash and 29 times more likely to suffer fatal injuries. Many motorcycle accidents are the direct result of the negligent or careless actions of another driver. There is no excuse for motorists who do not drive carefully around motorcyclists. When drivers are negligent, they should be held liable for the injuries they cause.
You are riding your motorcycle and enjoying the freedom of the open road. Before you know it, you are on your way to the hospital in an ambulance. What happens now? What steps do you need to take? Your actions after a motorcycle crash can substantially affect your health and well-being, as well as your legal rights and financial future. It is in your best interest to do many of these things as soon as possible after your accident. If you cannot do some of them, ask a family member or friend to do them for you.
Getting medical attention and treatment should be your top priority after a motorcycle accident. Many victims are transported to the hospital once emergency response teams arrive on the scene. If you are lucky enough to walk away from the accident, you still need to see a doctor as soon as you can.
If you appear to have no injuries and feel fine, you still should seek medical care. Often, motorcyclists experience a rush of adrenaline after an accident, preventing them from feeling pain. Some injuries don’t immediately show symptoms.
For example, even though a helmet will protect your head to some extent in an accident, you can still suffer a blow or other impact to the head hard enough to cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Symptoms of a TBI can reveal themselves for hours or days after the accident. Broken ribs and internal bleeding can sometimes have delayed symptoms as well. Seeking medical attention right away could save your life.
If you decide to file a legal claim, your medical records can serve as evidence of the accident and the specific injuries you sustained. By documenting your injuries with a licensed doctor as soon as possible, insurance companies and their legal defense teams aren’t likely to be successful if they argue that your injuries are from something other than your motorcycle accident. When negotiating a settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, medical records can give you more leverage.
Be sure to follow through with the treatment recommendations of your medical providers. Not only does it benefit your health, it also benefits your legal claim. If you don’t follow the advice and instructions of your doctor, you can give the impression that your injuries aren’t as bad as you say they are or that you aren’t willing to do what it takes to heal.
Collect Photographic Evidence
Photographic evidence is more valuable than the written accounts of the accident. It’s hard to argue about what pictures or videos reveal. The scene of the accident will provide critical clues and information to help investigators and insurance carriers determine liability for the accident.
When law enforcement officers arrive at the scene, they will likely take photos. Even still, they can make mistakes and not collect enough pictures to show details and tell the story. Take additional photos if you can before the evidence disappears. Having too much information is better than not having any at all.
With cell phones in nearly everyone’s possession today, this step is easier than it used to be. You can use your smartphone to take videos or pictures of the damage to your motorcycle, the damage to other involved vehicles, road and weather conditions, your injuries, the license plates of the vehicles involved, and anything else that might have played a role in the accident or was damaged.
As soon as you can, download the pictures from your phone to a computer or flash drive so that you have a safe place to store them. You will likely end up emailing them to the claims adjuster and your attorney if you choose to hire one.
File Your Insurance Claim
Whether you file a claim with your own insurance company or a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, try to do so as soon as possible. The laws in your state will dictate with which insurance company you should file the claim.
The insurance company is not your friend. It is a for-profit company whose objective is to make money, not pay other people money, especially if you file a claim with the other party’s insurance company. Report your accident but don’t voluntarily give additional details. Anything you say could be used against you to deny or devalue your claim.
Be aware that you have the right to speak with or hire an attorney before and after speaking with the insurance company. It’s common for insurance companies to try to settle with car accident victims as soon as possible after the accident. Victims are often financially and emotionally vulnerable at this time and likely haven’t contacted an attorney yet. It’s a prime opportunity for insurance companies to take advantage of claimants. Even if you aren’t sure if you have a legal claim or not, it is still a good idea to discuss your case with a motorcycle accident lawyer.
Keep Records, Bills, and Receipts
Motorcycle accidents can be one of the most expensive types of traffic accidents when it comes to bodily injury, medical treatment, and lost earnings. To have a successful motorcycle accident lawsuit or get a fair settlement from the insurance company, you need to prove your financial losses related to the crash and your injuries.
Substantiating your injuries and damages after a motorcycle accident requires leaving a paper trail. Keep records, bills, and receipts in a specific file or location. Be sure to keep all of your accident-related medical bills, medical records, documentation of travel to and from the doctor for treatment and aftercare, and correspondence from insurance companies, or from your employer related to your time off due to the accident.
You will also need evidence to prove your lost wages. If you sustain severe injuries in a motorcycle crash, you may miss weeks or even months of work. You need evidence of your income before the crash, earnings lost due to hospitalization, and any paid time off (PTO) you had to use as a result of your injuries.
Other costs you should track are domestic replacement services to help with things you did for yourself or your family before the accident, including:
- Lawn services,
- Cleaning services
- Childcare services
If your injuries require you to make modifications to your home to make it more accessible, you should save those receipts as well. Examples of these modifications include adding a wheelchair ramp, installing handrails, or constructing a main floor addition because you can no longer use the stairs.
Keep a Daily Journal
While your financial losses are important, you don’t want to forget about your non-economic losses. It is essential to have proof of these as well, though it can be harder to do. A daily journal can help quantify and express your non-economic damages. As soon as you feel well enough, keep a daily journal to describe how you are feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically. Maintaining a journal is particularly crucial if you suffer from a TBI.
If you cannot participate in activities or events that you otherwise would have if it weren’t for your injuries, write about that in your journal. For example, if you can’t attend a wedding, graduation, school program, or participate in hobbies or recreational activities you once enjoyed.
Your journal can also serve to provide your doctor with information about your symptoms so that they can better treat your condition. Along with daily journaling, take pictures of any significant visible injuries that you have a few times a week, to document their healing.
Take a Social Media Break
Investigators for the insurance company will use anything they can to reduce the value of your claim. It is a given that they will be scouring social media sites looking for your accounts. When they find them, they will likely interpret your posts or photos in a manner that devalues your claim. If they find pictures of the vacation you took two years ago, they could purport that you took the vacation after your injuries.
If you post about going somewhere or doing something, they can take that to mean that your injuries weren’t that severe, to begin with, or have healed. If you posted about your financial issues, they might try to argue that you are bringing the lawsuit and blowing it out of proportion to solve financial problems.
You might feel like posting about your motorcycle accident, injuries, and recovery on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat. Social media is a convenient way to let all of your family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances know how you are doing, but it can harm your case. For example, if you describe the accident, they can twist your account and use it to claim that you have some or all of the liability for it.
You don’t have to delete all of your accounts. However, it’s important to note that even if you keep your social media accounts extremely private so that people you don’t know can’t find you or see your posts, your social media activities can still end up in the hands of insurance investigators. They might friend or follow your friends to try to get more information about you, and they can even subpoena your social media accounts.
Limit Your Discussion With the Insurance Company
The at-fault driver’s insurance company will likely call you and ask for a recorded statement. They might make it seem like this is mandatory and that they can’t process your claim without it, or that it will take longer to process your claim if you don’t agree to do it.
Nothing could be further from the truth. You are not contractually obligated to comply with their insurance company. You can refuse to give a recorded statement, ask that they call back at a better time, or provide a written statement instead. You can also hire an attorney. If you do, the insurance company will have to go through them to speak to you in the future.
If you do agree to provide a recorded statement, more often than not, the insurance adjuster will ask you leading questions and try to twist what you say.
For example, they might ask:
- You did see the other car coming, didn’t you?
- You’re feeling better now, right?
- You weren’t wearing a helmet, were you?
It’s typically best for your claim to avoid giving a recorded statement. Insurance adjusters take advantage of innocent victims through these conversations so that they can either deny their claim or pay them much less than what it is worth.
Consider Hiring a Motorcycle Accident Attorney
After your motorcycle accident, you should consider hiring a motorcycle accident attorney who will guide you through this often complicated and lengthy process. A lawyer can assist you in seeking the full and fair compensation you need and deserve for your injuries.
In fact, studies show that injured individuals who hire an attorney to represent them usually receive more compensation than those who do not. When you have an attorney on your side, you can focus on recovering from your physical injuries while they focus on obtaining and maximizing your financial recovery. Contact Brauns Law, PC today for a free consultation.