Motorcycle claims have many things in common with car accident claims, but there are several significant differences as well. It’s important to understand the additional concerns before filing an insurance claim for your motorcycle accident, so you can be prepared for potential issues.
First, we’ll discuss the differences, then we’ll look at ways to improve your chances of receiving a fair settlement from the insurance company.
Unfortunately, riding a motorcycle carries a higher risk of injury than riding in a car. The freedom of cruising down the road with the wind at your back is paired with a lack of safety features like seat belts, airbags, and the hard metal shell of a car frame. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the risk of serious injury or death resulting from a motorcycle accident is about 80 percent, versus only 20 percent for a car accident.
Most bikers know the risks and take every precaution to ride safely, avoid wrecks, and reduce the risk of injury if one does happen. But you can’t control what other drivers on the road do, and sometimes negligent drivers can cause a motorcycle accident despite the motorcyclist’s best efforts to stay safe. When this happens, the biker may suffer multiple injuries, and require extensive medical care. All of this leads to a higher likelihood of large claims after motorcycle accidents.
In general, insurance company adjusters or representatives don’t like to pay claims. This is a little ironic considering that’s the reason insurance companies exist, and what they often brag about in their advertisements. The undeniable fact is that insurers make more money when they pay less in claims. As a result, they often deny claims or make a settlement offer that is too low for the accident victim’s situation.
Let’s return to the larger claim amounts common with motorcycle accidents. Knowing these statistics, insurance adjusters may be more inclined to look for excuses not to pay your claim. There are numerous reasons the insurance company may cite for denying your claim, but frequently they use contributory negligence statutes to suggest they have no responsibility for the claim because the crash was your fault. Motor vehicle accident claims are typically made against the at-fault party’s insurance, so by denying their client was at fault, the insurance company is effectively saying, “This isn’t our problem.”
Where do those contributory negligence rules come in? Contributory negligence is a system for dealing with fault in personal injury claims used in North Carolina and only a few other states. Essentially, these statutes say that if the victim contributed to an accident in any way, even if they were only 1 percent at fault, they can’t collect any damages from the other party (even if that party was 99 percent at fault). Naturally, insurance companies see this as a convenient way to get out of paying a claim. They don’t have to prove you were entirely at fault, just that you made some small mistake and contributed in some small way to the crash. If an insurance company has denied your claim by saying you’re at fault, call a North Carolina motorcycle accident attorney right away. They can take steps to refute these claims and protect your right to compensation.
If the insurance adjuster doesn’t think they can get out of paying your claim entirely, another tactic may be to quickly make you an offer. This comes as a relief to many people, because of course they want their claim paid, especially if medical bills and other expenses are stacking up. But be wary of a quick offer. The insurance carrier may be “lowballing” you, or offering much less than your claim is worth. We recommend you speak with a qualified motorcycle accident lawyer before accepting or rejecting any offer from the insurance company. They can help you figure out if the offer is reasonable, and if it isn’t, they can assist you in negotiating with the insurance company. Sometimes a conversation with an attorney can convince the insurance adjuster to reconsider their offer because it lets them know they can’t push you around.
It’s unfortunate, but many people have inaccurate ideas that bikers are all risk-taking adrenaline seekers. This can be a problem if your case goes to court. It may be easier for the other party’s attorney to convince the jury that you contributed to the accident, and therefore are not entitled to any damages. Again, the best way to improve your chances of overcoming this challenge is to contact an experienced motorcycle crash attorney to represent you. They can explain all the reasons the accident wasn’t your fault in an easy-to-understand way.
This happens occasionally with car accidents, but it’s much more prevalent in motorcycle crashes, simply because larger vehicles are easier to see. However, there are also other factors that may make it harder for drivers to spot a bike before it’s too late:
Motorcyclists can improve their safety by taking steps to be as visible as possible. Wearing reflective clothing or placing reflectors on your bike can help. You should also use your lights during the day if it’s gray or cloudy, to help drivers see you better.
But motorists in larger vehicles also have a duty of care to pay attention and drive safely. If distractions beyond your control caused a driver to crash into your bike, your attorney may be able to make a case that they acted negligently and should be responsible for your damages.
We handle a surprising number of claims for bikers who were hurt when driving past a parked car. This is another type of “didn’t see them” situation, where the vehicle driver goes to get out of the car, opens the door, and doesn’t realize a motorcycle is moving by them. It often results in the bike T-boning the door. Even at lower speeds, the biker may be knocked off their bike and seriously injured, especially if the impact throws them into other traffic. (In some situations, this may result in the motorcyclist having potential claims against both the driver who opened the door and the driver who subsequently hit them again.)
Unfortunately, there is very little the motorcyclist can do to head off an accident in this scenario. Only in some situations can you move to an inner lane and avoid driving past a long row of parked cars. On some streets, this is not an option. You can move to the left side of your lane, but that’s the best you can do. Drivers and passengers in vehicles parked along the road should always look carefully before opening their car doors.
Intersections are common sites of accidents in general, but present extra problems for bikers. Another very common scenario is when a driver turns left in front of a bike. Again, the driver often claims they didn’t see the motorcycle. Other issues may also contribute to the crash – in some cases, the driver may have misjudged how quickly the bike would enter the intersection, or the driver may have turned against the light.
While it’s important for everyone to approach intersections with caution, motorcyclists need to be extra careful to watch out for cars coming, even when the bike has the right of way. Unfortunately, sometimes the driver of a stopped car will decide it’s clear if they don’t see the bike and start into the intersection at the same time as the motorcycle, resulting in a serious accident.
Another situation that can make it harder for a driver to see a motorcycle is when the motorist is planning to pass another car or large vehicle. The driver may swing out slightly to get a good look at the oncoming traffic lane, then decide it’s clear. If, however, they miss a motorcycle heading their way, a head-on crash can happen quickly. Sometimes the biker swerves to avoid the head-on collision, but goes off the road and crashes into another obstacle, like a tree.
Your claim should be filed promptly, but it doesn’t have to be filed immediately. Take the time to ensure your statement is brief, to the point, and says nothing that can be construed to mean that you contributed to the accident. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. For this reason, we recommend accident victims speak to an attorney before filing a claim, and definitely before talking with an insurance adjuster who may call if you did file a claim. It’s easy to accidentally say something that can be misinterpreted to make it seem like you might have contributed to the crash – especially if the insurance adjuster calls while you’re in a lot of pain from your injuries, taking heavy pain medication that may make you groggy, or otherwise not in the best state of mind to make a statement. If you’ve already filed a claim and it’s been denied for any reason, don’t argue with the insurer yourself – seek legal advice before doing anything.
You should not have to pay a motorcycle accident lawyer anything upfront. Find one who offers a free consultation so you can learn your options about getting your damages paid. If they do take your case, they should do so on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t have to pay them anything if they don’t secure a settlement for you. Your attorney can then advise you on how to handle the insurance company and can negotiate with the adjuster if they’ve made you a lowball offer. If necessary, your lawyer can argue your case in court – however, most motorcycle accident cases settle before reaching the trial stage.
If you have questions or concerns about your motorcycle accident claim, don’t hesitate to contact Auger & Auger for a free and confidential consultation. You have nothing to lose by speaking with a lawyer. An attorney from Auger & Auger can help you with filing your claim and, if necessary, a lawsuit against any possibly liable parties. They will walk you through your available legal options for receiving the maximum amount of compensation available under the law.
To speak with one of our motorcycle accident attorneys for free during your no-obligation initial case evaluation, call us now at (855) 969-5671 or contact us online.