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At the outset, this Q & A is written by a motorcycle lawyer who rides a steel horse. So, although by no means comprehensive, this is the culmination of years of representing.
Motorcycle mishap victims, as well as my riding debacles, strategies, and tactics for staying safe while riding. These are bike riders’ and victims’ most frequently asked questions from a legal perspective.
A: The first step is your pre-ride checklist. Men and women who join riding clubs and M.C.s will typically do pre-ride meetups at designated locations and teach safe riding to pledges and new members. But before you get to the designated demonstrations, get to that location safely. So checking out YouTube videos, taking a rider’s course, and understanding and complying with motorcycle rider licensing and registration requirements will go a long way to keeping you safe while riding your hog, Cathay racer, or rice rocket.
Here are a few more tips:
Can you think of any more safety tips for motorcyclists? If so, contact us so we can update this information.
A: Assuming you’re not in a coma or a danger zone, the most critical step you can take is to clam up and hire a lawyer. At the accident scene, you can never admit fault. It would help if you NEVER put ink on any paper, including signing witness statements or settlements. Do snap pictures, get to the hospital, and begin physical therapy or surgery preparations. Go here to learn more.
A: This is the number one question I get from downed riders. You’d be driving a BMW M-3 if you could afford medical care. Well, not always, but many riders cannot afford a more expensive car. Sometimes they are hard-pressed to provide liability, let alone health care insurance. Not to worry, at Ehline Law Firm, we will leave no stone unturned. By hook or by crook, we are experts at finding you proper medical care.
Many methods exist for getting a great doctor and not going to collections. One way is to have a doctor who trusts the attorney. Then, the lawyer can sign a lien. The client agrees to pay the doctors out of the proceeds of their injury settlement. There is also MediCal and MediCare. But other sources exist, like med pay and workman’s insurance too. We can help you understand more when you visit.
A: This is a big issue. It requires a Long Answer. Many injured riders think they can deal with the crafty insurance adjusters and get as much as a lawyer can. But all the reported studies indicate that a represented party has a much better chance at a successful claims resolution or in court.
Lawyers who understand the rules of evidence, and liability, already have the baseline experience to get the ball rolling. Since many of our lawyers are veterans who ride choppers, we’ve seen many similar past fact patterns within standard caseloads. So we’ve likely already dealt with a particular issue or law rule.
This leadership means motorcycle crash victims will have confidence and knowledge on a matter they know NOTHING about. An excellent motorcycle lawyer will also learn to present you and your case in the most favorable light. This representation is priceless when dealing with an adjuster, judge, or jury.
You become a celebrity, and the advocate becomes your “handle.” Get it? You get insulation and the face of a mean, pit-bull lawyer tearing into your adversaries. The benefits of counsel don’t end there. A personal injury lawyer must know much about medicine and bodily harm. Most hurt riders have no clue how to read medical charts or decipher X-Rays.
Experienced counsel makes a jury hone in on the permanent physical and mental scars. For example, you could become paralyzed, or have lost your senses of touch, feel, or pain. A lawyer can focus on how your limitations prevent you from going to the bathroom, working, or dating. Do you see where this discussion will go?
Now imagine trying to argue your damages to a jury. An outstanding attorney will go the extra mile to learn the medicine of your case. That is what we do. And you should expect nothing less in your quest for recovery.
As always, you may need a professional accident reconstructionist to prove it was not your fault, etc. You have a lot to know, and failure to learn could blow your whole case and any economic recovery chances. In other words, a few bad choices can put you in the poorhouse fast.
So while you could get a quick settlement without counsel, once you sign on the dotted line, there is no more money. EVER. So what about the fact you can no longer work? How is a cheap settlement going to pay for that? This is why you should always consult a lawyer after a motorcycle crash.
A: Understand that often, you will screw up and not take an ambulance to the hospital. You may wait to get medical care or legal help. In the meantime, the person at fault could be plotting to blame you for everything.
As discussed above, there are many potential aid sources that only an attorney would know how to get. Some doctors will not touch a patient with no insurance. So patients must show they have a prominent motorcycle lawyer.
After all, the caretakers don’t work for free. They need adequate assurances you can pay at the case conclusion. The other reasons are that you can now heal and mend and have a gladiator, or legal mercenary, on a mission for you. You relax, and we fight. What is wrong with that?
A: To most lawyers, this is a silly question. But our lawyers are compassionate enough to comprehend that this will always be the most crucial issue for a disabled rider. And rightly so. Of course, not only is it unethical for a lawyer to evaluate a case like that, it is impossible.
Everything is weighed on a case-by-case basis. Every plaintiff, wreck, and defendant is different. Some injuries are worse than others. Some at-fault drivers have more money or coverage to pay, etc. An adjuster and jury may have an entirely different idea of the case’s value.
But an unfamiliar jury could go either way. They could buy the defense arguments that it is your fault, that you lost your life, etc. The adjuster may be willing to roll the dice, offer you a pittance, and risk a trial. Of course, this chance of you tripping up is another reason you should never talk to the insurance adjuster.
If the size you up, or you get angry and lose it. So they will assume you will do the same in front of a jury and blow your case. Understood?
In any event, you are entitled to the fair value of your riding equipment like your boots, shattered helmet, etc. If your lawyer can prove fault, you can also recover money for pain, suffering, lost work, and other compensatory damages. It takes a team of dedicated doctors, lawyers, and experts to build and preserve your claims to be a success.
In the end, anyone who has served on a jury knows they would rather be elsewhere. This juror cynicism means the cards remain stacked against you, so you must have a compelling case. A non-represented party will find convincing jurors and witnesses of their righteousness. It would help if you didn’t suffer this same fate. The motorcycle accident statistics show many people are biased against riders. So this will be a balancing act for your trial counsel.
A: This is a question we get a lot. Riders are like, hey, my bike is dust. By the time I got out of the hospital, I owed more in storage fees than worth. First, you should have hired a lawyer to secure that bike and advance the costs before they skyrocketed. But if you were in a coma, etc., that is not always possible. It may have already been auctioned off for parts.
But it is vital evidence in your case in chief, and steps should be taken to retrieve and store it without breaking the chain of proof. In the worst-case scenario, you should have it examined by an expert and have pictures taken of the entire bike from far away and close up. Hire a lawyer, or better still.
A: As discussed above, some bikes are beyond repair, impounded, and sold off as scrap. But your damage will not always be so extreme you can’t motorcycle. Even at other times, the bike will need to be replaced. If you have a custom, souped-up motorcycle, you need to get the fair value of those aftermarket parts to get a fair property damage offer.
Of course, the adjuster will almost always try and underpay. They often use a captive appraiser, who will go out and find similar bikes in your geographical area, and claim your bike is worth little. When we called the list the insurance company used to base their price upon, we found the bike for sale damaged.
Sometimes it had a blown motor or never existed. In other words, the company insurance company lies and pretends they were honest when arriving at the dollar figure.
Either way, a lawyer will ask the client to go down the list, compare, and then get back your notes. We will then act as your voice and argue about the differences between your bike and the price comparisons they used. In extreme cases, we will help you file insurance fraud complaints against the lying insurance company.
We hold the insurance company accountable and put their feet to the fire. So when it comes to getting the bike repaired or replaced at the total value, we are right on the money. Typically the insurance company will act more responsively when they see we caught them at their game. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Here, the oil is compensation for your bike.
A: The mantra of many liability providers is to delay, deny, and defend. So know this before you start to get mad. And don’t get even. Go ahead and even the odds of winning more money with a great lawyer. They don’t want to pay up—the bottom line. If you don’t retain a lawyer, a common tactic is for the adjuster to pretend he wants to help.
They will insinuate if you can wait a little longer to see a doctor, etc., they will do what they can to get you money. They often try to make you wait until you no longer have the right to sue in court and kick you to the wayside.
Understand their approach. No lawyer, you’re dumb. But if a lawyer is present, they had better settle if they are a good lawyer. So find one with a record of hitting home runs against the insurance company.
No matter who your opposition is, it takes longer to settle for a reasonable amount. While unrepresented by counsel, a fast settlement is a means of getting a quick, hasty amount. And again, good luck getting the actual cash value without an expert.
A: As discussed, bikers are much less visible to car operators than fellow autos. Lack of attentiveness and the lower visibility of a rider means that most accidents are not the rider’s fault. But the insurance company for the at-fault party rarely lets facts get in the way of a good argument not to pay.
So don’t count on the adjuster being honest or reasonable. They owe you no duty unless they are your insurance company. There are so many scenarios where you could be hurt in a no-fault accident that they boggle the imagination of most riders. So worry about getting to the hospital, and let us PROVE you were not the blame.
You can leave nothing to the imagination of a shifty insurance company employee. It would help if you hit them square between the eyes with an iron-clad prosecution of your claim. That is what we help you do. We are the rider’s friend.
A: Understand that at-fault car operator are notorious for trying to pin the blame on anyone but their insured. And this is particularly the case after an adjuster coaches them on what they “could” say or what “could have happened.” “Maybe,” the motorcyclist was “trying to run a red light?”
Don’t be surprised that the guy apologizing at the accident scene will lie through his teeth once he gets off the phone with his insurance carrier. There is no powder-coating this. Pure evil is what we are up against with the insurance company. The statistics PROVE most left-hand turn collisions are not the rider’srider’s
The truth is what we seek. And the fact will settle your case fastest when a no-holds-barred attorney stands at your side.
A: Typically, unless the failure to wear the helmet worsened the injury, you should still be able to seek medical and other compensation. So if, for example, you broke your leg, that would be covered. But if you shattered your skull, it is unlikely you can recover for that unless your attorney can prove the helmet would not have prevented a cracked skull. Get it?
A: The Vehicle Code mandates that any wreck involving loss of life, limb, bodily injury, or over $500 total estimated damages means the cops must come to the accident scene. Just the property damages alone in most bike wrecks easily exceed $500. Don’t be scared of a defendant when they insist the police don’t come. Protect your rights and let the attorneys argue it out later. Get it? To learn more about our motorcycle safety lobbying efforts, please get in touch with us using our online contact us form or by calling our injury lawyers in Los Angeles at (213) 596-9642.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.