Motorcycle Accident FAQ
- I've been in a motorcycle accident and the at-fault party does not have insurance. What are my options?
- I've been hurt in a motorcycle crash and the at-fault party has very little or minimum insurance coverage. How can my bills get paid?
- I've been in a motorcycle accident, what should I do at the scene?
- I've been in a motorcycle accident and the at-fault driver's insurance carrier and I disagree on property damage issues. What are my options?
- I've been injured in a motorcycle accident. What should I do first?
- I've been injured in a motorcycle accident. Do I have a time limit in which to bring a motorcycle injury claim?
- I've been offered money for my totaled motorcycle by the insurance company. Do I have the option to keep my motorcycle?
- I've caused a motorcycle accident. What are my options?
- I was in a motorcycle accident and broke my leg. The other party was at fault. I was not wearing a helmet. Will this hurt my case?
- Is a motorcycle injury claim worth pursuing? Should I hire a motorcycle accident attorney?
- My motorcycle was wrecked in an accident that was not my fault. Who pays to get my motorcycle fixed?
- What kind of factors may affect the value of a motorcycle injury claim?
- Where is the best source to find statistics on motorcycle accidents in California?
If the at-fault party doesn't have significant personal assets, you may not be able to recover any damages from that individual at all. You simply cannot get blood from a stone. That's why having your own UI/UIM motorcycle insurance coverage is vital.
We recommended that you possess at least $100,000 in uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage so you know that if you’re in a motorcycle accident and the at-fault individual has little or no insurance, you at least have $100,000 at your disposal with your own motorcycle insurance carrier.
You may also strongly consider having an Umbrella Insurance Policy. These types of larger policies, for not a lot of cost in premium, could provide a significant amount of financial protection.
Also, it is very important to make sure the uninsured/underinsured coverage you obtain is applicable to your use of a motorcycle. A number of insurance companies who provide higher limits when an automobile is being used, restrict those limits when you are riding a motorcycle. Check the policy and make sure your agent understands your needs.
You may still recover compensation for your motorcycle accident personal injuries if you had uninsured motorist coverage or if you were covered by your own insurance policy or a family member’s insurance policy (that you live with) had uninsured motorcycle coverage at the time of the crash.
Many insurance policies include language that covers family members or roommates that reside with policyholders. If in any doubt, ask the insurance company for a copy of the policy and check the language. Remember, though, that there are only two years on an uninsured motorist claim to demand arbitration in writing via certified mail or file a claim against the uninsured motorist. If you do not do this, and two years passed, you may be restricted from pursuing a motorcycle accident injury claim.
We often have to tell our clients involved in a terrible motorcycle accident that there’s only a minimal insurance policy from the driver who is at fault.
No matter how bad the injuries or how large the medical bills are, if the other party only has a $15,000 bodily injury coverage, then that's the amount available from the other party’s carrier. It is not likely that more assets are available.
We recommend you buy at least $100,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorcyclist coverage through your own insurance carrier. So that if you were ever involved in a motorcycle accident, you will have at least $100,000 available to you. It may not cost a whole lot more in insurance premiums.
If you were a passenger on a motorcycle involved in a collision, check with the driver of the motorcycle. You may be covered under his/her motorcycle insurance coverage, as well as your own policy.
Lastly, you could also have insurance coverage through a family member or friend who lives with you. Most policies are written to allow protection for residing relatives. You may want to ask for a copy of the insurance policy to see if you might also be covered.
Contact the police so a report can be taken. If no one is injured, often the police won’t come. If that happens, make sure to get the name, address, telephone number, and insurance company of the person, or persons, involved in the accident. All parties involved are required by law to exchange this information, regardless of who is at fault. If anyone refuses, call the police!
Also, if you are able to take pictures of the damage to all vehicles involved, as well as pictures of the accident scene, in particular, skid marks or debris on the road.
If you choose to retain an attorney the attorney may hire an accident reconstruction expert to determine who was at fault for the collision. If the fault for the accident is later disputed, pictures of the scene, debris, and skid marks may prove invaluable.
Also know that if a traffic collision report of the collision is taken and it determines you to be at fault but you feel you were not, you may still have a claim. Sometimes collision reports contain errors, and unfortunately for motorcyclists, there’s a general pre-existing bias that they are unsafe drivers.
The traffic collision report, and the reporting police officer (unless that person actually witnessed the accident), isn't always the end all be all when determining who’s at fault.
You have to remember that the property damage claim from your motorcycle accident is against the other driver. If the other motorist’s insurance carrier is uncooperative, treating you unfairly, taking too long, or refusing to help you with your car, then you should consider filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party to get the reimbursement.
Insurance companies will sometimes reconsider treating you unfairly if you let them know that you plan to take their client to small claims court. This is for damages that are less than $7,500.
However, before you decide to file in small claims court, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney because the lawsuit may preclude or influence your recovery for your injury claim.
This might seem obvious, but see a doctor! If you feel that you've suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident, your first and foremost concern should be your health whether you ever chose to pursue a motorcycle injury claim or not. If you are hurting get medical care promptly!
Now beyond the obvious answer, the next best thing to do is to let all involved insurance companies know you've been in an accident so they can open their files and report the incident to the DMV if necessary.
A “motorcycle property damage” or “motorcycle collision coverage” adjuster will be assigned who will help you through that process if you are making such a claim. Keep in mind that giving a recorded statement to an insurance company (whether your insurance company or not) may not be advisable until you have discussed the case with an experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney. If you are asked to provide such a statement, and you are considering an injury claim, our advice is to speak to a personal injury attorney first. Sadly, insurance companies do not always have your best interests in mind.
We always recommend contacting all insurance companies involved in the occurrence of a motorcycle accident as soon as possible, particularly if someone was hurt. This will allow insurance companies to open their file and prepare for negotiating your claim(s). But there are important drop-dead timelines in California to observe or you will be restricted from presenting a motorcycle personal injury claim at all.
You typically must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of the motorcycle accident in California in order to preserve your right to recover damages from a personal injury claim - this is known as a Statute of Limitations. If the injured motorcyclist is a minor or a person with a profound mental disability, this period can often be extended beyond the two years.
If you intend on making a claim against a government entity, the law requires that you file a claim within six (6) months of the injury-causing motorcycle accident. We have seen severely injured motorcyclists barred from pursuing a claim against a negligent government entity because they failed to file the necessary paperwork within the relatively short six month period. It’s heartbreaking. There are circumstances where a late claim can still be filed but this can be a steep, uphill process.
With government entities, if your claim is rejected you must also file a lawsuit within certain time periods after the rejection.
In order to protect your rights, if you have any question of what your Statute of Limitations or claims statute may be, we highly recommend that you contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney immediately to find out the time limitations involved.
Please know: These are general statements of limitations. There are many exceptions and you should consult an attorney concerning your particular claim and the applicable statute of limitations and any available exceptions.
Yes, you can “retain salvage” and keep the motorcycle. If you have been involved in a motorcycle crash and your bike is totaled, you have the option of keeping the bike but the insurance company handling your property damage claim will reduce the payment based on the value of the salvaged motorcycle.
What this means is that you will (1) have to accept a lesser settlement offer based on the salvage value of the motorcycle – i.e., if the owner is keeping the motorcycle and the carrier could have received $500.00 or so for the salvage, so the carrier deducts the $500.00 or so from the actual cash value settlement; and (2) the carrier and/or you have an obligation to notify DMV that the motorcycle’s been salvaged which means that the pink slip on the motorcycle will say “salvaged title” (i.e., the motorcycle’s not worth a whole lot even if it is later fixed).
If the motorcycle accident is your fault, either in whole or in part, then it may be a situation where you would turn to your own insurance company.
If you have “Comprehensive” coverage then you would look to your own insurance to replace or repair your motorcycle under that coverage. If you don't have either of these coverages, you would have to either replace or repair the vehicles involved. You may also have to defend yourself in a lawsuit that is filed against you.
If you have “Property Damage Liability Protection” then your insurance company would owe you a defense against claims made against you for damages to others.
It is important, therefore, that you purchase Liability, as well as Property Damage coverage with your motorcycle insurance company. The minimum Property Damage coverage allowed in California is $10,000.00. We would recommend that if possible you buy more than $10,000 in property damage liability protection.
We also recommend that you have at least $100,000 per person/$300,000 per incident in Liability and Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist coverage.
An expensive vehicle that's involved in a minor accident could easily wipe out minimal coverage. Multiple car accidents happen daily where one car is blamed for damage to several other vehicles. In these circumstances, if you only have the minimum coverage your insurance carrier may not have enough money to go around and you may have to contribute funds out of your own pocket in order to fix or replace all of the vehicles involved.
Also keep in mind that even if you’re partly at fault for an accident, you still may be able to pursue and obtain a settlement. California law has a concept known as “comparative fault”. Even if you’re partially, or comparatively, at fault for a collision, you may not be completely prevented from pursuing a claim.
California law requires motorcyclists to wear a helmet. If you had a head or brain injury and the helmet would have protected you, it would affect your case.
In your case, wearing a helmet would not make any difference and this should not affect the compensation you receive from the other party.
Generally speaking, when someone is injured in a motorcycle accident as a result of another person’s fault, the injured individual may pursue a claim against the one that caused the injuries. His or her spouse may also have a claim known as loss of consortium claim.
If the motorcycle accident involves a death, the successors of that person might have a wrongful death claim.
To have a valid claim, the motorcyclist who files a claim for compensation needs to provide proof of damages and proof of the at-fault party's responsibility. The laws and rules that govern motorcycle accident personal injury cases in California are many and varied, and may generally be found in the California Codes, Rules of Court, and California case law.
The simplest way to find out if the facts of your motorcycle accident situation may constitute a valid claim is to talk to a motorcycle attorney. Keep in mind to not be concerned if the first lawyer you speak with decides not to represent you because every not every lawyer has the same experience and areas of expertise. While one lawyer sees that a claim is worth pursuing, another may not.
This depends on whether there is insurance coverage for the other driver involved, whether you have motorcycle collision coverage on your policy, and whether or not your motorcycle is a total loss, among other factors.
Simply, we have found that it is often better to negotiate the repairs or total loss of your motorcycle with your own insurance carrier under the motorcycle collision/comprehensive coverage, assuming you have it.
We have also found that it is often much faster to go forward with your own motorcycle insurance carrier because your insurance company won’t care who’s at fault for the motorcycle collision. The focus will be on repairing the bike, not first determining who caused the accident. Furthermore, your insurance company has an obligation to act in good faith under California law.
You can go through the at-fault party’s insurance to get your motorcycle repaired, and this may be your only choice if you do not have your own insurance, but keep in mind the other party’s insurance will likely want to conduct an investigation and take statements from the parties and witnesses involved to determine fault before agreeing to fix your motorcycle. This process may delay getting your motorcycle fixed for several days, maybe even weeks.
Why should you pay the deductible to have your insurance fix your motorcycle, even if the accident wasn't your fault? In our opinion, it’s a lot less hassle than dealing with the other party’s insurer, and eventually (usually within a few weeks) you’ll get your deductible refunded after your insurance company demands that it be repaid (assuming the other driver is found to be at fault). And sometimes, insurance companies waive payment of the deductible if they believe they will be repaired by the other party's insurer at a later date.
Your own motorcycle insurance company won’t care who’s at fault for the accident and generally will work to get your motorcycle fixed right away.
Determining the value of a motorcycle personal injury claim is part science, part art, and a large part of persuasive and organizational skills. All three areas must be fully developed in order to maximize a settlement.
The primary factor in determining the value of a motorcycle claim is the specific nature of the injuries and economic losses sustained (also known as damages). This is the science part of the equation, and it involves:
- A thorough examination of the injured motorcyclist's medical records and medical history.
- A medical research about the injuries that have been diagnosed, the treatments that have been used, and their probable outcomes.
- Where necessary, interviews with the treating physicians and/or requests for formal medical reports from the doctors. These services can cost a significant amount of money and should only be used where needed, however, a motorcycle personal injury attorney will usually advance to their client the costs for these reports, which can substantially increase the value of the injury claim and the likelihood of its settlement.
Next comes the art portion in presenting a claim. To do so one must:
- Honestly maximize the value of facts which increase the value of the claim; and
- Honestly minimize the impact of facts that deter from the value of the claim.
This aspect is difficult to describe except to say that any given motorcycle accident person’s situation is different, just as no two snowflakes are alike. A representation that excels at this aspect separates an average motorcycle accident attorney from the cream of the crop.
Finally, all this information must be put forward in a persuasive argument to an insurance claims adjuster, to an insurance defense attorney, to an arbitrator, or perhaps even to a jury at trial. The motorcycle personal injury attorney who has handled a great many claims and cases will have developed professional working relationships with many insurance adjusters and defense attorneys, and this can often smooth the road to the settlement of a client's claim.
The best source of motorcycle and other vehicle accidents in California is on the California Office of Traffic Safety Website.