Can I File a Personal Injury Claim for a Motorcycle Accident?
February 10, 2023 / Personal Injury
A Motorcycle Accident Attorney Can Help Win Compensation
Motorcycles offer little protection to their riders, so it is no wonder that motorcycle crashes can have catastrophic results. Survivors may wind up with severe injuries, dealing with hospitalizations, surgeries, tremendous pain and suffering, and medical bills piling up at a time they are unable to work. It’s not uncommon for some injuries to result in death.
If you or a loved one has been injured or someone has died in a motorcycle accident, you may be able to file a personal injury claim that can bring compensation for your losses and provide the money you need to meet your expenses and pay for care.
However, this is not something you should fight for on your own. Indiana laws are complicated; insurance companies will try to deny claims or get you to accept the lowest settlement possible; and there is an unfortunate bias against motorcyclists, making it even harder to win your case and be fairly compensated.
At this difficult time, when you are trying to recover from your injuries, a personal injury lawyer who is experienced with motorcycle accidents is your best bet for winning a fair settlement. An experienced attorney understands how to investigate and prove your case, as well as the need to fight back against biases based on the assumption that motorcyclists are daredevils, drive recklessly, and usually are at fault for causing crashes.
Personal Injury Lawyers Determine Who Was at Fault
Establishing fault for the accident is one of the most important elements of any personal injury claim. To recover compensation for the damages you sustained, you must be able to prove that someone else’s negligence caused your injuries. Proving negligence legally means showing that another party, the defendant in the case . . .
- Had a duty of care not to cause harm
- Breached or failed in that duty by acting negligently or failing to act
- Caused the accident and your injuries through their breach of duty
- Inflicted damages as a result
When you retain a motorcycle accident personal injury attorney, your lawyer should start working for you immediately to prove fault and build a case in your favor. Your lawyer will:
- Meet with you to discuss how the accident happened, review who the at-fault parties may be, and determine if you have a valid personal injury lawsuit and what settlement to pursue
- Conduct investigations to gather evidence to prove how the accident occurred, such as by examining photographs and videos, and police, ambulance, and medical records and reports
- Interview witnesses and first responders
- Hire experts to reconstruct the accident and get expert opinions from medical professionals, therapists, and life-care specialists as to how your injuries will affect your life into the future and the care which will be necessary
- Negotiate with insurance companies and their lawyers for a fair settlement
- Build your case and present it to a judge and jury if necessary
Compensation You May Win
In a successful personal injury case in Indiana, you may win a compensation award, called compensatory damages. This award should cover economic damages for your monetary costs and losses, and non-economic damages, which do not have a specific dollar value but negatively impact your life.
Compensatory damages are designed to cover losses and costs such as:
- Medical and rehabilitative bills and equipment
- Costs of continuing care
- Property damage, such as to replace or repair your motorcycle
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Permanent disability, scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium and quality of life
In some rare cases, you may also be awarded punitive damages. These are to punish negligent parties for willful negligence, malice, fraud, or especially egregious behavior, and to act as a deterrent for similar misconduct in the future.
How Much Will My Award Be?
The number of damages you may receive in a successful motorcycle accident case can vary widely, from the thousands to millions of dollars. Amounts depend on the circumstances of the accident and factors such as the actual costs of the damages, the severity and permanence of your injuries, whether you will need continuing care, and whether a wrongful death was involved. The availability of evidence and insurance money, the degree of fault, and your attorney’s skill and negotiating power are also factors.
How Long After a Motorcycle Accident Do I Have to File a Claim?
Indiana has a statute of limitations (Indiana Code section 34-11-2-4), which is a deadline for filing personal injury cases that is generally two years to file a lawsuit. The clock starts ticking from the date of the accident or injury, with just a few exceptions, or on the day the person died for a wrongful death claim. This may sound like a lot of time, but lots of work must be done before a case is ready to be filed. If you miss the deadline, the courts can refuse to hear your case.
Some exceptions to the statute of limitations are when a motorcycle accident victim is not immediately aware of an injury that takes time to present or is mentally impaired, such as being in a coma after the accident.
In these cases, the clock on the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until the accident victim discovers, or should have discovered, that they’ve been injured. Also, the statute of limitations clock can be delayed if the defendant in a lawsuit leaves the state or takes steps to conceal their liability from the plaintiff.
Who Can I Sue After a Motorcycle Accident?
After a motorcycle accident, you may be able to sue any party whose negligence contributed to your accident. There are many situations where the motorcycle driver is not at fault and other parties caused or contributed to the accident. Examples include:
- Other drivers. All drivers should pay attention and follow the rules of the road. They may be found to be at fault for actions such as speeding through a light, texting on a cell phone, driving while distracted, or operating their vehicle while fatigued or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Accidents caused by defective motorcycles or parts. In this case, you might have a claim against parties such as motorcycle part designers, manufacturers, dealerships, safety inspectors, salespeople, or repair people.
- Dram shops that sell or serve alcohol to consumers. According to the law (Indiana Code section 7.1-5-10-15.5), it is illegal for dram shops (such as restaurants, bars, or convenience stores) to sell or serve alcohol to people who are already under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When an establishment breaches this law and an impaired driver causes a crash, the dram shop can be held accountable.
- The municipality or road repair company responsible for keeping a road in good condition. If hazardous roadways led to your crash, the government agency charged with maintaining the integrity of Indiana’s roadways or a negligent repair company could be found liable for your injuries.
Your motorcycle accident lawyer in Indiana will be responsible for thoroughly investigating the details of your case in order to uncover the truth about who was at fault. In some cases, there may be multiple parties at fault, and your attorney should look to name them all as defendants, as they all may have insurance and assets that can go toward a settlement.
What if I was Partially at Fault for the Accident?
If you did something to contribute to the accident, Indiana applies the modified comparative negligence test. According to the law (Indiana Code Title 34, Section 51-2-5, et seq.), as long as you are less than 51% at fault for the accident, you can still file an injury claim, but your damage award will be reduced by the percentage of fault you bear. For example, if you are found to be 30% at fault for the accident and the total award is $100,000, then the amount you receive would be $70,000.
Get Help from Our Indiana Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Although it is possible to try to bring a claim on your own, it is helpful to have an attorney for your motorcycle personal injury lawsuit. Remember, insurance companies have high-powered lawyers on their side who know how to use the laws and the facts against you; and due to the bias against motorcyclists, insurance companies, judges, and juries, will often start off believing you are at fault. Your lawyer will help dispel these biases and prove another party was at fault for the crash.
The seasoned motorcycle accident lawyers at Stephenson Rife, LLP know how to go up against insurance companies and other attorneys and how to present your case to increase your chances of a favorable settlement.
We carefully examine the facts of the accidents in which our clients were involved to determine whether another driver, a dangerous road condition, or even a manufacturing defect contributed to or caused their accident. We understand the stereotypes against people who ride motorcycles, know how to get to the true story of an accident, and identify all negligent parties to hold them accountable.