I have had the honor to represent many motorcyclists after they were involved in a motorcycle crash. (There is no such thing an “accident” as they are preventable and due to negligence—not an accident.) In the course of doing this for over 41 years, I have answered many questions of motorcyclists involved in motorcycle crashes. So, I thought it would be helpful to answer many of the questions you might have about motorcycle accidents and the process of litigation that is involved. Hopefully, this will help you avoid losing valuable rights that you may be entitled to after a motorcycle crash. I don’t have space to answer all the questions I know motorcyclists have but this is a good start. If you don’t see your question here, look next month and I will have another group of questions you may have on motorcycle crashes. Or, email me with your question at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 800-721-3992.
Okay, here it goes with the first 15 commonly asked questions on motorcycle crashes:
1 – I was in an motorcycle accident-what should I do now?
It depends on your injuries. Your physical well-being comes first. If you are injured in any way, get the medical attention you need. That is first priority. Remember to keep all medical documents and bills from the ambulance, doctors, ER hospital and any health care providers. Also, remember you probably don’t know what your injuries are. You are in shock. Swelling will get worst. I have broken ankles, ribs and even a bone in my elbow and did not know until 12-24 hours later. Don’t be foolish with your health. Do get checked out. You may have a concussion and cannot think straight. We will discuss what else you should do below.
2 – What should I give to the police in my motorcycle accident?
If you are a motorcyclist, you need to be especially courteous and patient when dealing with the police. You need to produce your driver’s license with motorcycle endorsement, your proof of liability insurance and your registration documents. If you had the foresight to have a video camera on your bike, review it with the officer and offer to get a copy of that video to the officer. Video is a great unbiased witness and critical evidence. The motorist will always blame you the motorcyclist.
3 – What should I tell the police in my motorcycle accident case?
If able, tell the officer about the crash and what you observed the driver did wrong. Give facts and not opinions to support your cause. Do not argue with the officer, even if he is rude to you. Always be courteous. Be sure to tell the officer your headlight, brake lights and turn signals were on and working. Describe you took all measures possible to avoid the crash. Fully explain any evasive action such as an emergency swerve or maximum braking you did to attempt to avoid the crash and try to make sure this goes in his report. Describe in detail what the car driver did wrong. Describe all you did to drive safely. If you cannot talk due to injuries, be sure to follow up with a written supplemental statement or interview at the hospital when you can think straight and are able to.
4 – What should I tell my insurance company in my motorcycle accident case?
You must notify your insurer to handle the physical damage claim and file a claim for medical payments or a UM or uninsured motorists claim if the car driver is underinsured or uninsured. Give them the accident report number, date of the crash, location, driver’s information and drivers insurance company. They may want a recorded statement over the phone. While you have an obligation to cooperate, it is best if you have your attorney there when the recorded statement is taken. The insurance adjuster may do this over the phone and insist on doing it on your first call. You have to cooperate but, there is no rush and don’t do it alone without legal counsel. (You do need an attorney. More on that below.) If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you need to report the claim if you find the other driver is not insured or only has minimum coverage.
5 – What should I tell the car driver’s insurance company in my motorcycle accident case?
You have no obligation to say anything or give a recorded statement. You will be asked leading questions that imply the answer the adjuster wants to deny your claim. Having an attorney there, if the attorney decides you need this done, is highly recommended. I always ask the adjuster if I agree to have my client give him a recorded statement will he let me take his insured’s recorded statement—and they always say no way! Don’t give a recorded statement without an attorney. These adjusters are pros. They do this all year. This may be your first experience with claims and litigation and you are not on the same level.
6 – Who will call me from the car drivers insurance company in my motorcycle accident case?
An adjuster will call you to act like he/she is your best friend. They are not. Their mission is to deny your claim and discover a defense the insurance company attorney can use on you at trial to prevent your recovery.
7 – What will the car drivers insurance company try to do when he/she calls me in my motorcycle accident case?
Get a recorded statement as set out above. They may also ask for a blank HIPPA medical release for you to sign so they can get all your medical records since birth and deny the clam.
8 – What should I do when the car drivers insurance company calls me in a motorcycle accident case?
Tell them you are represented by an attorney. Ethical adjusters will terminate the call but some are not ethical. Attorneys have rules of ethics. Insurance adjusters do not have rules of ethics they have to follow.
9 – When should I call an lawyer in a motorcycle accident case?
You should call an experienced motorcycle attorney as soon as possible. We know how critical it is to preserve evidence, take video, locate witnesses and preserve the motorcycle for accident reconstruction purposes. You can download data from some motorcycles if the bike is not restarted. This can be critical evidence. Our phones are answered 24 hrs. a day just so we can be there immediately after the crash.
10 – When and how many pictures should I take in a motorcycle accident case?
You can’t take too many pictures! Take both the vehicles, their positions, the license plates, the street and intersection and traffic signals. Photos and video can increase the damages you can obtain in settlement and trial. This is very important to insurance adjusters and their computer settlement programs like Colossus. Colossus is used by most insurance companies to value cases. Photos of injuries and the crash site is very important. Note the date and time they were taken to mark them or have it imprinted on the photos.
11 – What if I can’t talk due to injury and want to make sure I tell my side of the story in a motorcycle accident case?
This is not uncommon. You can talk to the officer later due to a physical injury. No one will hold that against you. Be careful someone else with you does not make any statements that can be used against you. If they were not there, they should not talk to the police.
12 – What should I get from the police at the scene in my motorcycle accident?
The policeman should give you a form with his name, badge, police department name and address, the other drivers name, address and insurance information. There should be an item number on the form. Sometimes this is not given. If not, you need to get this information and write this all down
13 – Are state police or local police experts in motorcycle accident reconstruction?
Unfortunately, usually they are not. I have found most police to be totally ignorant on motorcycle accident reconstruction and most are not qualified in vehicle accident reconstruction. This can be a challenge that can be dealt with an experience motorcycle attorney.
14 – Are jurors biased against motorcyclists in motorcycle accident cases?
Perception of motorcyclists is not favorable. There are many reasons for this. I am one of the few motorcycle attorneys that has done jury focus groups on cases since 1996. We have done many on just motorcycles, motorcyclists and motorcycle crash cases. With this knowledge, I have learned how to deal with this and obtained several record judgments at actual trials. This knowledge is critical to success. If this is not done prior to trial, a bad surprise may await the unprepared attorney. It is often hard to evaluate what a winnable and a loser motorcycle case is. But a focus group knows and helps predict what the result will be at trial. I can now do these at moderate costs. Focus groups do not cost money. They make you money with bigger, record judgments and settlements.
15 – How can the bias against motorcyclist be handled at a jury trial in a motorcycle accident case?
There are ways to do this. It varies with each fact situation. But it can be done. Luckily the insurance defense lawyers don’t understand this.
I hope this helps you to know how to deal with the other driver’s insurance company when you are involved in an motorcycle accident.
GLENN C. McGOVERN is an AV Rated Trial Attorney and MSF Basic Motorcycle Instructor