Can I sue after a motorcycle accident?

For many people, riding their motorcycle through the North Carolina scenery can be a freeing and stress-relieving experience. Unfortunately, sometimes the joy of the ride can be shattered by an accident, and if this happens, you could be seriously hurt. In fact, if you’re in a motorcycle accident, you have about an 80 percent chance of injury or death versus only 20 percent if you’re in a car crash. This is mostly due to the additional safety features found in cars, including seatbelts, airbags, and the larger vehicle’s strong metal frame.

As a result, many motorcycle enthusiasts take every precaution to ride safely and avoid accidents – but the same can’t always be said for other drivers on the road. If you’ve been hurt in a motorcycle accident caused by a negligent driver, you may be facing serious injuries and mounting medical bills. Head injuries are especially common in motorcycle crashes and can lead to long-term difficulties like traumatic brain injury (TBI). Broken bones and internal injuries are also common and can lead to lengthy recovery periods. Even with good health insurance, you may have a mountain of medical bills that aren’t covered, especially if you need months of care. When trying to figure out how to cover your costs, it’s a good idea to see a motorcycle accident attorney for a free consultation to learn more about your options.

Can I Sue After A Motorcycle Accident?

Yes, although your lawyer will probably try to negotiate with the driver’s insurance carrier before filing a lawsuit. If the other driver was at fault, then their insurance company should, in theory, pay for your costs. Of course, things don’t always work out this easily in the real world.

There are many issues that may crop up while dealing with an insurance company, which is why we advise clients to speak with an attorney before talking to the insurer. The first potential difficulty is related to a concept called contributory negligence. This is a statute in North Carolina that essentially designates fault in traffic accidents as an all-or-nothing situation for the purposes of liability. If one party is found to be 100 percent at fault for an accident, then they and/or their insurer must pay damages to the other party/parties.

But not every accident is this black-and-white. In many situations, a court may find that one party was mostly responsible for the crash, but the other party had a small amount of responsibility. If this happens, no one has to pay anyone damages. Not surprisingly, the other driver may claim that you somehow contributed to the accident, and their insurance company will probably be in a hurry to back them up.

If this has already happened to you, don’t try to fight the insurance company or the other driver’s assertions on your own. In fact, you shouldn’t communicate with the other driver’s insurance company yourself, either. Insurance adjusters spend all their time trying not to pay claims. One of their most important job functions is reducing the amount of money the company pays out to claims by as much as possible. They know all sorts of tricks for placing blame on the injured party.

Unlike the insurance adjuster, a personal injury lawyer will be on your side. Additionally, they are also well-versed in insurance company tactics and know-how to negotiate with the insurer. They also know how to evaluate claims of fault and supposed “evidence” of this fault and will have a good idea if the other party’s story is likely to hold up in court. As a result, they may be able to convince the insurance adjuster to reconsider your claim.

But What If The Insurance Company Already Made Me An Offer?

That’s great – it means the insurance adjuster realizes that trying to blame you is unlikely to work. But don’t agree or accept anything until you’ve spoken to a lawyer. A quick offer may also mean that the insurer knows they probably can’t avoid paying entirely, so instead, they’re doing damage control and trying to reduce the amount they’ll have to pay. Many initial offers from insurers are simply too low to cover all your costs. 

Even if the offer amount would cover your current medical bills and damage to your bike, you have to think about other expenses. Did you have to miss work and lose income after your accident? Do you still have future healthcare costs to worry about, such as physical therapy, follow-up appointments, or other continued care? What if you don’t recover fully and develop chronic pain or a permanent disability? These additional costs should be figured in. Additionally, you deserve compensation for your pain and suffering.

It can be tough to figure out what a fair offer would be on your own, but your attorney can advise you on whether or not the insurer’s offer could be better. If you want to seek a more fair amount, your lawyer will make a counter-offer to the insurance company and negotiate with them until a deal can be reached that satisfies you.

In some situations, no such agreement can be made because the insurance company won’t budge. If this happens, you and your lawyer may discuss proceeding to an actual lawsuit. 

You would typically file the suit against the other driver’s insurance carrier, but in some circumstances, you may need to sue other parties as well. For example, state requirements for auto insurance only call for at least $30,000 in liability coverage. If that’s all the other driver had, and you suffered a head injury, broken bones, internal injuries that required surgery, or other serious effects from the accident, you may be left with most of the bills, even if the insurance policy pays up to the limit. In this case, you may be able to sue the other driver directly if they have enough assets to seize.

If the other driver doesn’t have significant assets, you may consider seeking compensation from your own insurance company if you have chosen to buy uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. In the event that you don’t have this coverage, there may be other third parties you could sue in some situations. Your attorney will exhaust every option to help you find a solution.

Is It Worth Hiring A Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?

First, “hiring” a lawyer should not cost you anything upfront. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency model – when you win your case, they get a percentage of the settlement. This means that you don’t have to put up any money for your court costs or try to figure out how to pay another bill when you’re injured and can’t work. At Auger and Auger, we have a “Zero Fee Guarantee,” which ensures if you don’t win your case, you don’t have to pay anything.

However, securing the services of an experienced motorcycle accident attorney is definitely worthwhile. One Nolo survey found that 91 percent of accident victims who had a lawyer received a payout, while only 51 percent of those without an attorney collected one. The amounts were very different as well. The survey found that personal injury claims handled by a lawyer averaged compensation of $77,600, while those handled by the victims averaged around $17,600.

There are many factors affecting your odds of winning and how much you’re able to receive in compensation, and not every case is worth $77,000, or even $17,000. (On the other hand, some cases are worth more.) But securing legal representation does help to improve the likelihood you’ll obtain the largest settlement possible. The reason why is simple – most people are knowledgeable in their own fields but are not experts in insurance or motorcycle accident laws. The insurance adjuster is, though, and their job is to save the insurance company as much money as possible. Ideally, their goal is to not pay your claim at all or to pay as small a settlement as possible. 

For all these reasons, an attorney who specializes in motorcycle crashes is the person best suited to negotiating with the insurance company or other parties, identifying all possible defendants, and arguing your case in court if it becomes necessary.

Aside from bettering your chances of receiving a fair settlement, working with an attorney saves you time and stress. You don’t have to take any calls from the insurance company, argue with the driver who hit you, or try to figure out if you can even afford to continue treatment for your injuries. Instead, you can focus on your recovery while your lawyer fights to get the compensation you deserve.

How Long Does It Take To Settle A Motorcycle Accident?

The answer is highly variable, depending on many factors. If your case is very simple, with overwhelming evidence that the other driver was at fault and you’ve completed treatment for your injuries, it may be a shorter process that takes a few weeks to a few months. If your case is more complex, requiring further investigation to uncover evidence of the other driver’s fault, or the insurance company is unwilling to settle for a reasonable amount, or you have severe injuries requiring long-term treatment, you may be in for a longer process of six months to a year. Your attorney should be able to give you a better time estimate based on the particulars of your case, but it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how long it will take.

Are Most Motorcycle Accidents The Rider’s Fault?

No. Collisions between passenger vehicles and motorcycles are more likely to be the car driver’s fault. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that in nearly half of car/motorcycle crashes, the car was turning left. Frequently these accidents are the result of the car driver turning in front of a motorcycle that has the right of way, making the accident the car driver’s fault.

Why does this happen so often? There are many factors that can cause cars to turn in front of bikes, including distracted driving, impaired driving, or speeding. But even in situations where the driver was otherwise proceeding carefully, it’s very common for them to say they just didn’t see the motorcycle. This is partly due to the fact that bikes are small and easy to miss, especially in poor visibility situations. Motorists are encouraged to “look twice and save a life” to help reduce the risk of turning in front of motorcycles.

Although many crashes are the car driver’s fault, sometimes they or their insurance company may argue that the biker contributed in various ways. For example, they may argue that you didn’t have your lights on, and this made your bike harder to see, that you were speeding, or that you were riding in the wrong lane. If this happens, your attorney will make every effort to refute their claims so you can still receive compensation.

Improving Motorcycle Safety

Although you can’t control what other drivers do, there are some steps you can take when riding to reduce your risk of injury or death:

  • Wear a helmet. In 2017 alone, the NHTSA estimates that helmet usage saved 1,872 motorcyclists’ lives. In 2019, 39 percent of riders who died in motorcycle accidents were not wearing helmets.
  • Make sure your lights are working before every ride so you can be seen better in low visibility situations.
  • Obey all traffic laws, observe the speed limit, and don’t ride while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Keep an eye out for road hazards like uneven surfaces, potholes, or slick spots. These can be more dangerous for bike riders than those in passenger cars, as it is easier for a bumpy ride to destabilize a small vehicle like a bike.

When you have questions or concerns about a motorcycle accident injury you’ve sustained due to another party’s negligence, please contact Auger and Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. We’re always happy to go over the details of your case and explain your options for seeking compensation. Call us at 828-222-7649 today or contact us online to get started.