5 reasons you should hire a motorcycle accident lawyer
South Carolina is a beautiful state to enjoy while riding a motorcycle. There are many scenic routes and places to go, or you can simply enjoy cruising down the road with no destination. If you experience a motorcycle accident, you could find yourself injured, in pain, dealing with medical bills, and missed time at work.
It’s very common for people to wonder if they really need to hire a motorcycle accident lawyer. You may think that you can just file an insurance claim yourself – and you can. However, dealing directly with the insurance company has its problems. There are issues that may come up dealing with fault, parties involved, the size of the settlement, and more. Having an experienced motorcycle accident attorney can help you to avoid the pitfalls and secure the settlement you deserve for your damages. Here are 5 Reasons You Should Hire A Motorcycle Accident Lawyer:
South Carolina’s Modified Comparative Negligence Laws May Reduce Your Settlement – But A Lawyer Can Help
South Carolina handles personal injury cases like car and motorcycle accidents with something called “modified comparative negligence.” This refers to the assignment of fault in an accident. Under comparative negligence rules, if the plaintiff, or accident victim, is found to have contributed to the accident by less than 51 percent, they are still eligible to collect damages. But those damages will be reduced by the amount they were at fault. So if the plaintiff is found to be twenty percent at fault, they will only receive 80 percent of a compensatory award.
Now, you may be thinking, “I wasn’t at fault at all.” And you may be right. But that doesn’t necessarily mean comparative negligence rules won’t affect how much you receive in damages. It’s important to understand that the other party’s insurance company does not want to pay your claim, or wants to pay as little as possible. So the insurance adjuster will frequently look for excuses to say you somehow contributed to the accident. They may use this as justification for making a lowball settlement offer that doesn’t begin to cover your claims. They may say that they can prove you were somewhat at fault in court. Sometimes when this happens, the accident victim may decide to just take whatever they can get from the insurance company, even if it isn’t enough to cover all their bills.
However, this decision is often a mistake. The fact that the insurance adjuster says you were at fault does not necessarily mean they can prove it in court. They may just be bluffing in the hopes you’ll agree to let them off the hook with a cheap settlement. If you do have to take the insurance company to court, your attorney may be able to refute their claims that you contributed to the accident, or make it clear that your role was very minor. If one of these arguments succeeds, you will be more likely to get a larger settlement.
Keep in mind that if your motorcycle ride takes you over the state line into North Carolina, and you have an accident there, contributory negligence laws apply in that state. These are stricter than comparative negligence rules – if you are found to even be 1 percent at fault, you will not receive any damages. Again, a good personal injury lawyer may mean the difference between receiving a settlement and receiving nothing. Your attorney may be able to fight the insurer’s claims that you were at fault so you can get the compensation you deserve.
The Insurance Adjuster Is Not Your Friend
Comparative negligence is one excuse insurance companies use to deny you the compensation you need for your motorcycle accident injuries, but it’s not the only one. Insurance adjusters are quite skilled at thinking of reasons your injuries aren’t covered. If they can’t prove you were at fault, they may reference some obscure part of the policy that says they don’t have to cover X or Y. A skilled attorney may be able to argue that your circumstances don’t actually fall under X or Y, and therefore your claim should be covered.
Could you argue your case with the insurance company? Maybe, but the vast majority of people who don’t happen to be lawyers struggle to even understand the intentionally complex legal jargon crammed into insurance policies. These policies are meant to be confusing, so it’s easier for the consumer to just believe the insurance company’s opinion of what a clause means. It can be difficult to argue with an insurance company employee who is well-trained on the policy and on what to say when denying claims. And even if you can follow the policy well enough to know the insurer isn’t being fair, convincing the insurance adjuster of that is another story.
A claim denial isn’t the only potential issue, either. Sometimes, the insurer may just make you an offer that’s too low. They don’t even have to justify it by claiming you were partly at fault for the accident (although they can). They can just simply say that’s all your claim is worth or all they’re prepared to offer. In some cases, the accident victim may think the offer sounds good, but they may not be taking into account all their expenses. Your settlement should cover:
- All your current medical bills, including travel expenses if you had to travel for treatment
- Expected future medical costs if you are still in treatment or will likely need continued care, such as physical therapy or mobility aids
- Lost wages if you missed work due to your injuries
- Future lost wages if you become permanently disabled and can’t work due to your injuries
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage to your bike or other property involved in the accident
- Loss of consortium/companionship in the event that a loved one died in the accident
You can get out a calculator and add up the bills you currently have, but it’s not always easy to estimate future medical costs or lost earning potential. It’s also difficult to figure out what “pain and suffering” is worth in dollars. An attorney can help you determine what kind of settlement you should be seeking.
In fact, if you’ve received a settlement offer, whether or not the insurance adjuster implies the accident was your fault, we strongly recommend you speak to a qualified personal injury lawyer before accepting. You don’t want to agree to a settlement that leaves you paying out of pocket for medical expenses, sometimes for years after the accident. An attorney can go over your case and the potential offer with you, as well as your expenses, past, present, and future. If they believe you have a strong case and the insurance company is trying to jerk you around, they can negotiate with the insurer on your behalf. If negotiations don’t work out, they can represent you in court.
You May Have To Negotiate With Other Parties Besides The Insurance Company
It’s true that most motorcycle or car accident cases start by filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. But they don’t always end there. In some situations, you may need to sue another party.
If your injuries and medical costs are extensive, you may run into an issue of insufficient insurance coverage. This can also occur if the driver who hit you had no or inadequate insurance coverage.
Under South Carolina law, drivers are required to have a minimum of $25,000 in insurance coverage per person for bodily injury costs, and $50,000 coverage for all parties injured in one accident. They are also required to have $25,000 for all property damage in one accident.
What if the other driver was uninsured? You have two options: You can make a claim with your uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance if you have any, or you can sue the other driver directly. Vehicle insurers in South Carolina are required to offer you uninsured motorist coverage, and it’s a good idea to buy it if you can afford to do so. However, it is not required, and if you didn’t purchase any you may be out of luck when it comes to insurance coverage (except for a few specific situations we’ll talk about later).
You can still sue the driver who hit you. If you are considering this, we strongly suggest you speak with an attorney first. For one thing, filing a lawsuit is more difficult than making an insurance claim, and not something you want to attempt on your own. For another, your attorney can help you figure out if this is a worthwhile pursuit. If the other driver has no assets to seize, it may end up being a waste of time and money, even if you win. In other words, if the other party doesn’t have the money to pay any award you win, you may just have spent money on legal and court costs for no reason.
If you have no uninsured motorist coverage and the driver who hit you has few or no assets, are you out of options? This really depends on the circumstances of your accident. An attorney may be able to find a third party to sue, such as the manufacturer of a defective part that caused the accident or the other driver’s employer if they were driving somewhere for work when the crash happened. Speaking with a personal injury lawyer can help ensure you learn all the options available for your particular accident case.
When there is insurance coverage, it may still be insufficient for your damages due to policy limits. For example, if you had several serious injuries, you may find that your medical bills quickly exceed $25,000 in liability coverage. In this case, your attorney will again look for other parties from whom to seek compensation so you can get all your bills paid.
You May Need Help Proving Your Case
Whether you’ve already filed an insurance claim or not, you may need to prove the other driver’s fault or refute some claim made by the insurer. This can be not only time-consuming but also difficult to do on your own. An attorney can help you figure out what kind of evidence is available and gather it. This may involve:
- Gathering accident or police reports
- Reenacting the accident
- Tracking down accident witnesses the police may not have had a chance to speak with
- Looking at footage from traffic cameras, if available
- Collecting phone records
- Going over the data from vehicle black boxes
- Interviewing expert witnesses or taking their testimony on the stand in court
The average person doesn’t have the knowledge or skills to explore all the options for acquiring evidence and considering how it affects a motorcycle accident case. But your attorney and their office’s accident investigators are specially trained in these issues and can help you present the best case to defend your right to compensation.
Hiring A Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Does Not Mean You Have To Pay Up Front
Most personal injury attorneys understand that people struggling with their bills after an accident don’t have lots of cash lying around for hiring a lawyer. For this reason, motorcycle accident lawyers will usually offer a free consultation to go over the details of your accident and explain your options. They also usually work on a contingency basis, which means that if they offer to take your case, you won’t have to pay them anything upfront. Instead, they will arrange to take their fees as a percentage of the recovery after winning your case. Other fees, such as paying for expert witnesses, etc., are handled in the same way.
At Auger & Auger, we’re always happy to provide free consultation on motorcycle accidents or other personal injury cases. If you’re not sure whether you have a case or not, this is a good way to find out without any risk. We also work on a contingency basis and offer a “zero fee guarantee,” which means we won’t charge you anything if we don’t win your case. If you have questions or concerns about your motorcycle accident, please contact us today to learn more about your options for getting compensation. Call 855-969-5671 or contact us online today.