Motorcycles are fun to ride and offer outstanding gas mileage, but the lack of a protective metal frame and safety features increases the likelihood of a motorcyclist being injured or killed in a crash. An analysis by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration of the most currently available crash data reveals that someone on a motorcycle that is involved in an accident is 29 times more likely to be killed and four times more likely to suffer an injury than occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles.
When the negligent, reckless or careless behavior of a motorist or other party causes a motorcycle rider to crash and be killed or injured, the rider or the rider’s family may be entitled to recover compensation from the at-fault party. There is too much at stake to entrust a claim stemming from a crash to anyone other than an experienced California motorcycle accident lawyer.
Should You Hire A California Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?
The public perception that someone who rides a motorcycle is a thrill seeker or does not obey traffic laws makes lawsuits to recover damages for injuries or fatalities in a motorcycle accident all the more difficult. It takes a skilled personal injury lawyer with experience successfully representing the interests of injured riders and their families to overcome juror perceptions of riders and handle the legal issues that arise in motorcycle cases.
Legal implications from motorcycle accidents
Motorcycles, which lack the crashworthiness and stability of cars and other types of vehicles, make riders more susceptible to loss of control due to weather conditions, potholes and other road hazards, in addition to collisions with objects or vehicles. When a motorcycle crashes, it results in death or injury to the rider in at least 80% of crashes according to the NHTSA.
If you suffer an injury or lose a loved one in a motorcycle accident, you need to decide whether to hire a California motorcycle accident lawyer to represent you. You may wish to consider the following ways a lawyer makes a difference to help you to make your decision:
Dealing with claims adjusters and investigators for the other parties
Waiting until after you talk to an insurance investigator or claims adjuster to consult with your own California motorcycle accident lawyer may be too late to avoid making a costly mistake. Insurance companies and the people working for them are not looking out for your best interest. Their work on behalf of the party whose negligent or reckless conduct caused the accident and the injuries and damages that you incurred. Any statement you make, even responding to a question about how you feel, could be used to weaken or defeat your claim and prevent you from receiving the just and fair compensation that you deserve.
Letting a lawyer handle communicating with insurance companies and their representatives prevents them gaining an unfair advantage through manipulation and mischaracterization of statements or comments coming directly from you. Your lawyer has the training, skills and experience to go toe-to-toe with insurance companies and defense attorneys during negotiations that may lead to a settlement.
Proving liability and damages
By undertaking a thorough investigation of an accident, your lawyer identifies and gathers evidence to prove its cause, the party or parties responsible for it, and the damages or losses that you suffered as a result. The fact that you believe that another party caused the crash of your motorcycle and the injuries you suffered is not enough to get an insurance company to agree to settle the case or convince a jury to award damages in your favor. You need evidence proving that someone was at fault.
The evidence your lawyer gathers to present during negotiations or trial proves someone’s negligence caused you to be injured. The elements of negligence include proof of the following:
- Duty of care: Another party, known as the “defendant,” owed a legal duty of care to you. For example, drivers owe a duty to operate their vehicles in a manner so as to not cause harm to others.
- Breach of the duty of care: An example of conduct that breaches the duty of care might be a driver of a car making a left turn who fails to yield the right of way as you approach on your motorcycle.
- Causation: The conduct of the defendant was what caused you to be injured or caused the death of a family member.
- Damages: Proof of the damages, such as lost earnings, pain and suffering, and medical expenses, that you suffered.
A popular defense raised in motorcycle accident cases is that the rider was somehow at fault. Insurance companies and defense lawyers play upon the “outlaw” perception the public has of motorcyclists by blaming an injured rider as being at least partially at fault in causing the accident. Motorcycle accident lawyers know how to defeat defenses, including one that accuses the victim of contributory negligence, by presenting evidence to build a strong case proving the negligence of the defendant as the sole cause of the accident.
Aggressive representation that takes a burden away from you
Representation by a motorcycle accident lawyer gives you time to focus on recovering from your injuries or time to grieve the loss of a loved one by taking on matters related to your claim for compensation, including:
- Determining the value of your claim based on the cost of medical care, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by the accident.
- Identifying all parties at fault in causing the accident and notifying them of your claim for compensation.
- Handling all communications and negotiations with insurance companies and defense lawyers for the at-fault parties.
- Preparing pleadings and other documents needed to file a lawsuit against all parties responsible for the accident.
- Developing and pursuing an aggressive strategy to get you the maximum compensation available under the law through a negotiated settlement or, if a fair resolution cannot be achieved through negotiations, by being prepared to present evidence at trial to secure a favorable award from a jury.
Throughout the process, beginning with the initial consultation and continuing to the final resolution of your claim, your lawyer works to ensure that you are kept informed about what is going on and given the opportunity to actively participate in making decisions about how your claim for damages is handled.
Potential Forms of Compensation
Your lawyer will, at a fairly early stage after agreeing to represent you, have to determine the amount of money to demand as compensation for the injuries and losses you suffered due to the negligent conduct of the other parties. Personal injury law in California makes the party whose negligence caused you to be injured responsible for making you whole again by compensating you for your losses. Compensation generally falls into the following three separate categories:
- Special damages: These represent out-of-pocket expenses related to your medical care and treatment, lost wages and property damage, such as repair and replacement of your motorcycle. Special damages may include the loss or reduction of future earnings capacity and the cost of future medical treatment doctors anticipate you may need. Special damages may be proven with receipts, bills, and invoices.
- General damages: Another term used to describe general damages is “pain and suffering” because their purpose is to compensate you for the pain and anxiety or emotional stress your injuries forced you to endure. General damages cannot be calculated using bills or receipts, so lawyers and insurance companies look at the severity of the injuries, the length of time it takes you to recover, the amount of disruption the injuries cause to your life and other factors to arrive at a dollar amount. General damages are subjective.
- Exemplary damages: You may hear your lawyer or others refer to exemplary damages as “punitive damages” because their primary purpose is to punish someone for engaging in particularly reckless or malicious behavior and set an example to discourage similar conduct by others.
A lawyer with experience representing the victims of motorcycle accidents knows what evidence is needed and how to present it in order to prove damages and maximize the compensation that you receive.
How Much Does A California Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Cost?
When you are in a hospital or confined to your home recovering from injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash, you need not worry about finding the money to retain legal representation. Most California motorcycle accident lawyers work on what is referred to as a “contingency fee” arrangement.
Contingency fee agreements make it possible to hire an outstanding lawyer to handle a claim for personal injuries arising from a motorcycle accident without any upfront payment or risk should the case not end in a favorable settlement or judgment. The lawyer agrees to only collect a legal fee when the case ends with a judgment or settlement in your favor.
A written fee agreement between you and the lawyer sets out the exact terms of the contingency fee, including the percentage the lawyer may take from the money awarded to you. The fee generally ranges anywhere from one-third to 40% of the amount recovered with the exact amount that applies to your case specified in the fee agreement.
Costs and expenses
The fee agreement that you negotiate with your lawyer should include an explanation about how costs and expenses related to the claim will be handled. Examples of the costs and expenses incurred by the lawyer while representing include the following:
- Court filing fees.
- Copying costs.
- Fees charged by expert witnesses.
- Fees charged by investigators.
- Fees paid for police reports, medical records, and motor vehicle records
Most lawyers will advance costs and fees as needed and recover them from the settlement or award before deducting legal fees. Your lawyer will review anticipated fees with you and include in the fee agreement how they will be handled and what responsibility you will have for paying them in case you do not recover compensation.
Speeding either caused or contributed to 33% of fatal motorcycle accidents according to the NHTSA. Increased speed generally reduces the time a driver or motorcycle rider has to react to a potentially dangerous situation without causing an accident.
Unsafe lane use
Their smaller size and profile make it easier for motorcycles to go unseen in a driver’s blind spot and be hit when a vehicle changes lane. Lane-splitting, which is not illegal in California, put riders in a dangerous position between vehicles with little room to maneuver.
Alcohol or drug impairment
Use of drugs or alcohol by a driver or motorcyclist impairs judgment, reduces ability to react to situations that develop, and increases the risk of an accident. Motorcycles, which are less stable and require more skills to operate than other types of motor vehicles, require the full, unimpaired attention of riders, which can be diminished by consumption of drugs or alcohol.
Failure to yield the right of way
Drivers who fail to yield the right of way cause deadly collisions with motorcycles. Whether making a left turn into the path of an oncoming motorcycle or attempting to beat a red light and hitting a rider entering an intersection could be avoided by obeying the law and yielding the right of way.
Potholes and road hazards
A car or truck hitting a pothole may cause an unpleasant jarring of a vehicle’s occupants, but potholes, uneven pavement, debris and sand can cause a motorcycle rider to lose control and crash. A rider injured in a crash caused by a road hazard may have a claim for damages against the municipality responsible for maintaining the road.
California Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Wearing a properly fitted DOT-approved motorcycle helmet reduces injuries and deaths. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the number and severity of head trauma in a motorcycle crash was reduced by 50% when riders and passengers wore helmets.
When you wear a helmet when riding in California, it not only reduces the risk of injury. It also keeps you from violating the state’s universal helmet law, which requires that all operators and passengers must wear an approved helmet that is properly fitted to the wearer and secured to the head using straps supplied with the helmet.
Can not wearing a helmet affect an injury claim?
California is a comparative negligence state, which means that fault on the part of an injured party that either contributed to causing an accident or increasing the severity or likelihood of being injured may be taken into consideration. A judge or jury may determine the percentage of negligence on the part of the victim and reduce the damages awarded accordingly.
Failure to wear a helmet when riding may be negligent conduct on your part. It could reduce the amount awarded to you after trial or through a negotiated settlement.
How To Hire A California Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
The idea of working with an attorney can seem overwhelming and difficult which is why we’re here. If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle incident in California and want legal advice, contact us immediately. Here are the steps to our simple, streamlined process:
1. Contact us here and inform us of your situation (be as detailed as possible)
2. Our legal aid team will collectively evaluate your situation and forward your case to one of our vetted attorneys who specializes in cases similar to yours
3. An attorney who’s already aware of your situation will consult with you free of charge to gain a better understanding of how they can help you best