Motorcycle Accident Damages and Your Claim
For all of the adventure involved in riding a motorcycle, motorcyclists are nonetheless 27 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than occupants of cars and trucks. Those who survive the initial crash are often left with serious, life-altering injuries.
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, you may have heard the term claiming damages or recovering damages, and yet are unsure what those terms mean. Read on for more information about the damages involved in motorcycle accidents, and the legal process of claiming them.
What Are Damages in Motorcycle Accident Claims?
In a civil case, such as a motorcycle injury lawsuit, damages refer to the monetary payment that is provided to the claimant for expenses and impacts to his or her life that resulted from an accident that was caused by someone else’s careless or reckless actions.
Motorcycle injury lawsuits mainly recover two types of damages:
- Compensatory damages: Just as their name suggests, compensatory damages are intended to compensate an individual for the expenses incurred—known as economic damages—as well as the life impacts that the victim of a motorcycle crash experiences as a result of his or her injuries, which are known as non-economic damages. This monetary payment for compensatory damages can be awarded by the court or can be obtained through a settlement offer from the at-fault party’s insurance provider. Compensatory damages are not considered income, and are therefore not subject to taxation by the Internal Revenue Service.
- Punitive damages: Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not awarded as coverage of economic or non-economic suffering that was incurred as a result of the accident. Instead, punitive damages are awarded by the court to punish the defendant for particularly reckless behavior. An example of a type of motorcycle accident case in which punitive damages would be considered is an accident in which the at-fault party was driving drunk and extremely dangerously, after having multiple prior convictions for driving under the influence. Also unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are considered taxable as they are not related to compensation for the injury itself.
A Look at Damage Categories Available After a Motorcycle Crash
When considering compensatory damages, what expenses can be claimed? Here are some examples of both economic and non-economic impacts from a motorcycle accident that are often included in an award or settlement for damages.
Economic Damages of Motorcycle Accidents
As previously explained, non-economic damages pertain to actual out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
This can include:
- Medical expenses, such as emergency treatment at the scene or in the emergency department; transport to the hospital via ambulance or air; diagnostic testing; physician or surgical services; hospitalization; prescription medication; physical therapy and rehabilitation. The provision of prosthetic limbs or assistive devices such as a wheelchair or crutches can also be claimed.
- Lost wages, due to being too injured to work after the accident or being forced to miss work to attend an injury-related medical appointment.
- Loss of future earning capacity. This damage is claimed when an individual acquires a permanent disability as a result of the accident that renders him or her unable to perform the same job-related tasks as he or she did before the accident or even causes the claimant to be unable to return to any type of work as a result of his or her disabilities.
- The cost of repairing or replacing the claimant’s personal property that was damaged in the accident, such as his or her motorcycle or motorcycle helmet.
- Other out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of modifying the claimant’s home or vehicle to accommodate his or her disabilities or the cost of transportation to and from medical appointments.
Non-Economic Damages of Motorcycle Accidents
Non-economic damages are those that pertain to the negative impacts that an injury has on a person’s day-to-day life.
Examples of non-economic damages that are frequently claimed after motorcycle crashes are:
- Physical pain and suffering as a result of the injuries incurred in the accident.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life, which is a damage claimed if the injury results in the claimant’s inability to participate in activities and hobbies he or she previously enjoyed. For example, if the claimant enjoyed hiking before his motorcycle crash but now can no longer participate in that activity due to losing his leg in the accident, he could claim loss of the enjoyment of life.
- Loss of consortium. This is a damage that is collected on behalf of the injured person’s spouse for the loss of physical intimacy and companionship as the result of a serious injury or permanent disability.
Starting the Process: Hiring a Motorcycle Accident Attorney
A crucial part of starting the process of claiming damages after a motorcycle accident is the hiring of an experienced attorney to provide guidance, and to fight for your right to be compensated for the injuries you have incurred. Many people are tempted to pursue compensation for their injuries without an attorney.
This is almost always a mistake because:
- The at-fault party’s insurance provider will likely attempt to avoid paying you entirely or will offer to pay you far less than what your case is worth. Insurance companies are in the business of making money. One of the ways they do this is by avoiding large payouts to individuals who were injured by the careless or reckless actions of their insured. Insurance companies will often attempt to speak to accident victims—often before they’re even out of the hospital. Speaking to an insurance company representative carries the risk of saying something that can be interpreted as an official statement or that gives rise to questions about who was at-fault for the accident. Another common trick that insurance companies employ is to offer a quick, low settlement in the hopes that the victim will be lured by the amount offered and the ability to settle the case quickly. Unfortunately, these quick settlements do not provide the amount of money necessary to cover all of the claimant’s expenses. However, if the settlement is accepted, the claimant cannot go back and ask for more money later when he or she realizes that the compensation wasn’t enough. An experienced attorney will properly value your case to help you obtain an amount of compensation that is based on the expenses and impacts you have actually incurred and will likely incur in the future as a result of your injury.
- Motorcycle crash attorneys spend a lot of time learning not only the law but also about the challenges their clients face in pursuing compensation. People who are not attorneys should not be expected to understand specific details about the legal process, such as the proper jurisdiction in which to file your claim, the state-imposed time limits for making such claims, and other court formalities. However, if you miss a deadline or fail to follow the proper procedure for claiming damages, you could limit the amount of compensation you can receive or could even miss out on collecting compensation altogether.
- Your case is limited by insurance. One of the most important factors in your ability to receive compensation for your injury is the amount of insurance that the at-fault party has. While it is possible to file a motorcycle crash injury lawsuit and obtain a judgment against an uninsured person, it will be difficult to collect your award as most uninsured defendants do not have the money to pay for someone’s medical expenses out-of-pocket. An experienced attorney will study your case carefully to determine all sources of liability and all insurance resources that can be accessed to fairly compensate you.
Calculating Your Motorcycle Accident Case’s Value
As mentioned above, your motorcycle accident attorney will try to calculate your case’s value.
This is done by employing the following formula.
- Economic damages are relatively simple to calculate, as they involve actual monetary expenses. Your attorney will add those expenses up using documentation you provide, such as bills for medical services or the determined cost of repairing or replacing your motorcycle. Your medical professionals can help determine the estimated cost of future medical expenses based on the severity of your injury, your prognosis, and the cost of procedures you will likely need in the future. Lost wages will be calculated through your pay stubs. If you are self-employed, your previous year’s tax returns or invoices for your services may be used. The loss of future earning capacity is calculated by assessing the amount of monetary compensation and benefits you likely would have received in the future if you could continue working in the industry, and in the position, you worked before the accident.
- Non-economic damages are often calculated by insurers by taking the sum of your total economic damages and multiplying that amount by a number between 1.5 and 5. The more severe the accident, the higher the multiplier that is used.
- The total amount of economic damages and the total amount of non-economic damages are added together. Note that this does not account for a potential punitive damages award, which a jury may consider at trial.
Negotiating a Motorcycle Accident Settlement
Once your attorney has properly valued your case, he or she can initiate a motorcycle injury lawsuit on your behalf, collect evidence and witness testimony that will help you prove liability and expenses, and begin the process of attempting to negotiate a settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
It takes time to negotiate a settlement because of:
- The amount of time it takes for you to reach maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement is the point in which you have made as much physical recovery from your injuries as you will likely ever make, even if you were to continue obtaining treatment. While it is possible to calculate your damages before you have reached maximum medical improvement, this is the best point at which to prove your expenses. By this point, you will also have a good idea of the ways that the injury will impact your life, which also will assist your attorney in establishing value for your case.
- Questions of liability. Most states allow an individual to recover damages even if they were partially responsible for the accident that caused their injury. However, having some liability will generally reduce damages you can recover. The insurance company will almost always argue that your liability in the accident was greater than it was and use that as a reason not to fairly compensate you.
- Your overall health at the time of the accident. Another technique used by insurance companies to reduce the liability of their insured is to state that your injuries are related to pre-existing conditions. Your attorney will need time to establish the evidence necessary to show that the at-fault party’s actions were, in fact, the source of your expenses and impacts.
- Your patience. Initial settlement offers generally start low and grow in value the closer the case gets to seeing the inside of a courtroom. One thing that insurance companies like even less than paying out on third-party claims is paying the high costs of litigation, with the likelihood that they will also have to pay your claim as well. Often, the most reasonable settlement offer is the one that is made just before litigation begins, or even after the trial has started but before the jury renders a judgment. Your attorney will provide you with the information you need to decide on any settlement, and whether to accept that settlement is ultimately your choice.
Seek an Experienced Motorcycle Injury Attorney
The vast majority of motorcycle accident claims settle before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. That said, your attorney should feel as comfortable and confident with helping you pursue damages in court as he or she is with obtaining a fair settlement through negotiations, which is the last resort and final step in a motorcycle accident claim. There is no way to guarantee an outcome in a motorcycle accident case, and litigation is always a possibility.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765