Motorcycle accidents happen frequently, especially in Florida where the sunny weather begs motorcycle enthusiasts to head out for a joy ride. But, unfortunately, joy rides can be a dangerous pastime. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles estimates more than 8,700 motorcycle crashes, resulting in almost 500 fatalities, occurred on Florida’s roads and highways during 2018. Bikers face a high risk of serious injuries or death when they are involved in an accident because they have little protection when another vehicle hits them. If you find yourself in a motorcycle accident, you might feel overwhelmed. In addition to feeling pain from your injuries, you might be angry, upset, and have trouble thinking clearly about the steps you need to take after the accident. If you are fortunate enough to walk away from a bike crash, you need to complete as many of the following tasks as you can in the minutes, days, and weeks immediately after your accident. If you are too severely injured to move or cannot do some of these things, a loved one can act on your behalf.
Let a Doctor Examine You for Injuries
If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident, it’s highly likely emergency response teams will show up at the scene of the accident and you will be transported to the nearest emergency room for treatment. If you are fortunate enough to walk away from the accident, you need to prioritize your health and get to a doctor as soon as possible. First, the adrenaline that rushes through your body during and after an accident might prevent you from feeling pain immediately after the accident. Second, some injuries do not show symptoms right away. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) commonly occur during motorcycle accidents, even when a biker is wearing a helmet. The helmet might mitigate the force of the impact, but hitting your helmet on the pavement can still cause damage and you might not see evidence of the injury for hours or days after the accident. Other injuries that might not be immediately visible include broken ribs and internal bleeding. Choosing to go to the doctor right away might save your life. Your medical records also serve as evidence of the accident and your injuries when it comes to seeking compensation later on. Insurance companies and legal defense teams will find it difficult, if not impossible, to argue that your injuries were a result of another accident or event if you make sure to document them right away. Medical documentation can also serve as leverage to negotiate a settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Collect Contact Information
Law enforcement will gather information from drivers and witnesses when they arrive at the scene of a motorcycle accident, but they sometimes make errors or omissions. While waiting for them to arrive at the scene, use the time to collect as much information from those involved in the accident as you can. Ask for names, addresses, email and phone information from drivers, passengers, and any witnesses who have stopped at the scene. You should also ask for insurance information from drivers and record the license plate numbers of any vehicles involved. In some cases, motorists get antsy and might try to leave the scene of an accident, especially if they know they caused the accident or if they have a long list of traffic violations on their record. Gathering information early can protect you from negligent drivers who choose to leave the scene of the accident. But remember to avoid discussing the facts of the accident. Do not admit fault or say anything that can be used against you later to devalue your personal injury claim.
Gather Photographic Evidence
Gathering photographic evidence if possible is important because it’s more reliable than a handwritten interpretation of the scene of an accident. The scene of an accident provides valuable clues and information that can help investigators and insurance companies determine liability in an accident. Law enforcement will probably take photos when they arrive, but protect yourself by taking additional photos before the evidence is carried away. Police officers make mistakes, and even though having additional photos might not help you, it never hurts to have extra information. Start by using your smartphone to take video or snap photos of damage to your motorcycle and damage to the vehicle(s) involved in the accident. Each accident is different, but you should focus on taking pictures of anything you think might support an insurance claim or lawsuit. This includes taking photos of any hazards that may have led to the accident, any other road conditions, and the vehicles’ license plates. You should also take photos of any visible injuries.
Obtain a Police Report
At some point soon after your motorcycle accident, you will want to obtain a copy of the final traffic crash report. It might take law enforcement up to 10 days to complete the report. You can order the report online through Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for $10 plus a $2.00 convenience fee. Once your purchase is complete, you have immediate access to the crash report and you must download a copy within 48 hours. If you prefer to get a copy of your crash report in person, you can visit the nearest Florida Highway Patrol Troop Station; however, you will need to fill out a Sworn Statement to Obtain Crash Report to submit with your fee.
File an Insurance Claim
Florida is a no-fault insurance state that requires those who register a motor vehicle to carry minimum amounts of property damage liability coverage and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage; however, motorcycle drivers are exempt from these laws. This means if you were in a motorcycle accident caused by another party, you cannot recover damages through your own PIP policy. If you have a PIP policy for a motor vehicle, it does not extend to your motorcycle like it would to a bicycle. Your first step to begin to recover damages is to file a claim with your motorcycle insurance carrier, if you have one. Most insurance companies require you to report any accident, even if you aren’t at fault. Your policy will have specific requirements, but your insurance company might cancel or choose not to renew your policy if you fail to report the accident. Once you call your insurance carrier, they will start the ball rolling with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you do not have motorcycle insurance, your first order of business will be to notify the at-fault driver’s company of the accident. Keep in mind that an insurance company is not your friend, especially when you aren’t the policyholder. Report the accident, but don’t offer any additional information. The carrier will send out an adjuster and/or investigator to get the information they need to determine liability. Talking too much might offer the company something they can use to deny or reduce the value of your claim.
Keep Bills, Receipts, and Pay Stubs
The severe injuries that often accompany a motorcycle accident make them among the most expensive type of traffic crashes on average in terms of bodily injury, medical treatment, and lost wages. To prevail in a personal injury lawsuit or get a full and fair settlement from an insurance company, you need to prove all economic losses related to the accident and your injuries. Not only does this include property damage to your motorcycle, but you must also keep records of medical bills, travel to and from the doctor for treatment and aftercare, prescriptions, and over-the-counter pain medication. Medical expenses might also include visits to specialists like physical or occupational therapists. If you suffer severe injuries in a motorcycle accident, you will likely miss weeks or even months of work. You need to provide your attorney with evidence of your salary before the accident, as well as lost wages due to hospitalization and any paid time off you had to use as a result of your accident. Other expenses you should track include domestic replacement services to help with things you did for yourself before your accident. Examples include lawn services, cleaning services, and childcare services. If you need to make modifications to your home to make it more accessible after an accident, you should also save those receipts to share with your attorney. Examples include installing handrails, adding a wheelchair ramp, or building a main floor addition because you can no longer go up or down the stairs.
Keep a Daily Journal
When you bring a lawsuit against an at-fault driver, part of the value of the suit lies in your non-economic losses, which are often difficult to quantify. As soon as you are physically able, you should keep a daily journal describing how you are feeling. This is especially important if you have suffered a traumatic brain injury. Not only does the journal provide evidence for your claim, but it also can provide your doctor with evidence about symptoms you are experiencing so that they can better treat your condition. If you have severe visible injuries, you should also take photos of your healing process a few times per week.
Don’t Speak to Anyone About Your Claim
The at-fault driver’s insurance company will investigate the motorcycle accident and they will interview you about the accident. Insurance adjusters have extensive training and experience in getting accident victims to say things that can devalue their claim so the company can avoid some or all financial responsibility for an accident. Adjusters will typically also speak with the victim’s friends and family members. Although your loved ones are concerned for you and want to know about your accident, it’s best to avoid sharing details until your claim has been settled or litigated. For this reason, it is best to let an attorney handle all communications with insurance companies.
Stay off Social Media
Insurance investigators look for any way to devalue your claim. Social media interactions can be detrimental to your claim if investigators interpret posts or photos in the wrong way. They might find pictures they can use to downplay your injuries or suggest you are making a stronger recovery than you reported. They might also look at social media history to find evidence that you might have sustained injuries in a different accident. You don’t have to delete Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but you shouldn’t post anything until your motorcycle accident claim has been settled or litigated.
Don’t Accept an Early Settlement Offer
After insurance companies investigate an accident, they likely know whether their policyholder was at fault. But insurance companies don’t stay in business by paying every claim that comes their way. When they cannot deny a claim, they will still take measures to pay out as little as possible. One strategy to avoid large payouts in a settlement or court-awarded damages includes offering an early settlement to accident injury victims. The carrier wants to entice the victim, who might be suffering financially from the accident, to take the money and waive their right to a lawsuit. You should, instead, consider this early offer as a starting point for negotiations. Do not accept an offer without speaking to an attorney. It’s highly likely a lawyer can negotiate a higher settlement for you.
Contact an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
When you sustain severe injuries in a motorcycle accident, it’s almost always in your best interest to consult a lawyer. While motor vehicle drivers often cause motorcycle accidents, other causes include poorly maintained roads and motorcycle defects. An experienced attorney will investigate your accident and uncover relevant facts to support your case and determine liability. The lawyer can also handle communicating and negotiating with insurance companies and fight to get full and fair compensation for your injuries and related losses. You shouldn’t have to suffer financial stress because of another party’s actions. You can let your attorney handle the bothersome details of your case while you focus on healing and recovery. Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/motorcycle-accident-attorneys/