I was a passenger involved in a motorcycle accident. What do I do next?
Being involved in any kind of traffic accident can be a scary and stressful experience, especially if you or someone else involved in the accident is injured. Unfortunately motorcycle accidents have higher rates of injuries and fatalities than car crashes, with 5,014 people killed in motorcycle accidents in 2019 alone. Based on vehicle miles traveled for that year, motorcyclists were 29 times more likely to die in a crash and 4 times more likely to be injured than those riding in cars.
Injuries caused by a motorcycle crash can be painful and may take days, weeks, or months to heal. Some may lead to permanent disability. Many people who are injured in a motorcycle accident find their bills piling up while they’re both unable to work and struggling to pay for medical care. If this sounds like your situation, the best thing you can do is consult a North Carolina Motorcycle Accident lawyer to find out if you have a case.
Whose Insurance Will Cover Your Medical Costs?
This is likely a question your attorney will want to explore. If you’ve got a lot of medical bills, you may have already tried to figure it out. Will your personal health insurance cover the bill? Some of it? Maybe. What about the motorcycle’s driver? Does their insurance cover passengers? You’re about to find out. Another possibility is seeking payment from the insurance of any other drivers involved in the crash, especially if they caused the accident. Because medical treatment can be very costly, your lawyer will try to find a responsible insurance carrier to sue, but in some cases, you may also sue the individual responsible for the accident.
What is Contributory Negligence in a Motorcycle Accident?
In many states, an injured person and their lawyer will figure out who is responsible for the accident and file a personal injury lawsuit against that person or their insurance carrier. However, North Carolina has something called the contributory negligence standard. This states that if the injured party was even partially responsible for the accident, the insurance company doesn’t have to pay anything.
Naturally, this means that insurance companies frequently claim the injured party was somehow at fault for the accident. This makes it harder for motorcycle drivers to sue a negligent party, as the plaintiff will usually claim the motorcyclist was driving unsafely in some way. It is far more difficult to claim that a passenger caused an accident, unless the passenger did something outrageously dangerous. In other words, if you’re not driving a motorcycle, it’s hard to cause an accident. So if you were injured as a passenger, it will be easier for your attorney to sue the at-fault party and recover against their insurance company.
What Kind of Damages Can I Recover?
As an injured passenger in a motorcycle accident, you can potentially recover damages for the following:
- Medical bills, including hospitalization, surgeries, procedures, medications, physical therapy, etc.
- Lost wages if you were hurt and unable to work for some time (includes future lost wages if you are still out of work)
- Loss of consortium or ability to enjoy everyday life
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress
- Wrongful death if a loved one died in the accident
How Can I Prove My Case?
There are several elements of a personal injury case. First, your lawyer will need to prove the other party had a duty of care – in this case, to drive safely and act reasonably to prevent accidents. Then they must prove the other party breached this duty of care – usually by failing to drive carefully. This may mean they disobeyed traffic laws by doing things like speeding or running a red light. It may also mean they simply didn’t pay attention or look both ways, and then said they “didn’t see you.” (This is very common in motorcycle crashes with passenger vehicles.)
Next your attorney will need to prove you were injured, usually by presenting your medical records to the court. In some cases they may encourage you to testify about your experience. Last, they will need to demonstrate that your injury was caused by the party you’re suing. Sometimes this means arguing against the plaintiff’s claims that the victim had some preexisting condition which caused your symptoms instead of the accident. This is also a common ploy used by insurance carriers. Otherwise the insurance company will usually argue the other driver is at fault and therefore they will take no responsibility.
For all of these reasons, it’s important to find an experienced personal injury lawyer to assist you with your case. A skilled attorney may be able to develop a strategy to refute the insurance company’s claims and secure the compensation you deserve. If you have questions about your potential claims as a motorcycle accident survivor, please schedule a free consultation with Auger & Auger by calling us at 800-559-5741 or contacting us online so we can go over your accident details and explain your options.