If you have received injuries as the result of a motorcycle crash, you may be wondering where to turn to achieve the justice you deserve. On the road, drivers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to keep motorcyclists safe from preventable injury. In the courtroom, they must answer for any negligence by compensating the motorcycle riders affected by their carelessness. To assert your rights following a motorcycle accident, it is crucial to enlist an experienced personal injury attorney to help you navigate your case.
Travis G. Black and Kelsey DePaoli are highly skilled Sacramento motorcycle accident lawyers. When you work with The Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC following a motorcycle accident, you can expect dedicated legal counsel to fight for the compensation you deserve. Perhaps most importantly, we are aware of the bias faced by motorcyclists when they present a claim. In response, we approach your case with a unique understanding of motorcycle culture as well as the particular legal difficulties you might encounter.
Your Rights Following a Motorcycle Accident
When you are dealing with a motorcycle accident causing personal injury, it is vital to keep your rights in mind. If another driver’s negligence caused your injury, you should not be responsible for the associated medical costs.
As the victim, you are entitled to receive compensation for your expenses. Expenses may include the cost of any medical treatment you receive, as well as lost wages, pain and suffering, repairs to your motorcycle, and more. No matter the impact your motorcycle crash has on your life, you should not suffer financially due to another individual’s negligence.
What Is the Most Common Motorcycle Accident?
In the Sacramento area, motorcycle accidents can stem from many circumstances. The most common include:
- Intersection accidents. If the driver of a larger vehicle fails to pay proper attention to the road, they may fail to notice and account for motorcyclists at intersections. Without proper attention to the rules of the road, motorcyclists, or other drivers, inattentive drivers often thoughtlessly run stop signs or red lights or fail to properly yield. When a motorcyclist goes unseen in an intersection, the result can be a serious T-bone or head-on crash. Injuries sustained by a motorcyclist during this type of intersection accident can be catastrophic, often leading to long-lasting or lifelong consequences.
- Open door accidents. Like most cities of its size, Sacramento has busy streets that can result in minimal distance between parked cars and active lanes of traffic. Before opening a car door, it is the driver’s responsibility to carefully look both ways. Unfortunately, this standard is not always upheld. What might seem like a simple, momentary lapse in judgment can result in devastating injuries for motorcyclists, including traumatic brain injury and paralysis. If motorcyclists aren’t given enough time to avoid an open car door that juts into their lane of traffic, the courts can determine negligence on the part of the car’s driver.
- U-Turn accidents. While performing an illegal U-turn can seem like a reasonable risk to the driver of a larger vehicle, it is crucial to remember the risk of injury to others on the road. Illegal U-turns can result in more than just a ticket—in some cases, this illegal maneuver places a vehicle directly into oncoming traffic, risking devastating injury to others, especially motorcyclists. Under California law, legal U-turns are limited to select scenarios and locations.
- Left turn collisions. For motorcyclists, left turns are especially dangerous since the maneuver requires crossing into the path of oncoming traffic. This danger is only exacerbated when a negligent or distracted driver is involved. If the driver of a larger vehicle is in a rush to beat a red light, they maneuver their own vehicle straight forward and possibly at an increased speed. Together, these factors may cause the driver to fail to notice a motorcyclist making a left turn. This can lead to a severe T-bone accident and serious injuries for the motorcyclist.
- Broadside collisions: If the driver of a larger vehicle becomes distracted or chooses to run a red light, fails to yield the right-of-way, or chooses to speed, they risk a side impact, or broadside, collision. Motorcyclists involved in a broadside collision risk catastrophic injury or even death, due to the lack of protection offered by their motorcycle against the force of being struck by the other vehicle. Additionally, a side-impact collision can take the form of the motorcyclist striking the side of a larger vehicle that has failed to yield, ran a stop sign or red light, or otherwise pulled out in front of the motorcyclist.
Motorcycle accidents may also result from a driver’s failure to signal, or other unsafe lane changes.
What Should I Do After a Motorcycle Accident?
Motorcycle accidents are unique in that more accidents result in either serious injury or death. In fact, around 80% of motorcycle crashes result in significant injuries, far surpassing those experienced by car drivers. Only a minority of motorcyclists escape an accident unscathed or with minor injuries. In addition to the physical pain and stress you will experience in the wake of a motorcycle accident, medical bills are quick to pile up. To mitigate this expense, many individuals’ first instinct is to turn to their insurance company.
Unfortunately, insurance companies are profit-driven businesses, and the sad reality is that they often do not have your wellbeing in mind, even when you have experienced a substantial injury. In fact, many insurance companies go out of their way to provide you with the lowest settlement offer possible, often far below the actual cost of your medical bills and property damage. For that reason, it is important to consult an experienced Sacramento motorcycle accident attorney. An attorney can approach the situation with your best interest in mind and with the goal of securing the fair compensation you deserve.
When Should You Contact a Lawyer After a Motorcycle Accident?
Following a motorcycle accident, the sooner you get a lawyer, the better.
From the very beginning of your case, having a motorcycle accident attorney at your side will be crucial to the process. We understand that sometimes, the anguish and stress you may suffer after an accident can demotivate you. You might not want to take on any other responsibilities, including seeking out an attorney. However, by hiring a Sacramento car accident lawyer, you can significantly reduce your stress and suffering in the long run. Having an attorney on your side will always be worth it.
The sooner you consult with an attorney, the more likely you are to receive the best possible settlement. Especially in cases of motorcycle crashes, where there may be bias against the motorcyclist, it is vital that your attorney demonstrates the liability and damages involved. The longer you wait to hire a lawyer, the more likely it is that valuable evidence of negligence, including dash cam or surveillance footage, will be altered or erased. Your lawyer should begin working on your case while this key evidence is still available to prove negligence of the correct party. Without evidence, you will be less likely to receive sufficient compensation.
In addition, California sets a strict statute of limitations on claims involving property damage, personal injury, or wrongful death. You must submit your property damage claim within three years of the event in question, and must submit personal injury claims within two years of the date you sustained the injuries. This is yet another reason you should seek a Sacramento motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible.
The Importance of Establishing Liability
In order to receive the settlement you deserve, your lawyer must first prove the other party is liable for the damages they caused. To do so, the lawyer must prove negligence on the part of the other driver.
Negligent automobile drivers are the most frequent cause of motorcycle crashes, despite the typical defense used by drivers that they were unable to see the motorcyclist. However, the reality is that this is not an excuse. A driver has a duty of care to drive responsibly and in a manner that reasonably prevents injuries and other damages to the general public, including motorcycle drivers. Failing to do so by breaking the rules of the road, driving while distracted, and many other careless behaviors breaches this duty of care and constitutes negligence. Your lawyer will then prove that this negligence directly caused your motorcycle accident, which caused your damages.
Avoid Accepting Liability
In order to increase your chances of establishing the negligence of the automobile driver, avoid speaking directly with insurance companies. Some insurance companies manipulate driver statements however possible, in order to lower your settlement. Your motorcycle accident attorney can help you avoid issuing statements that could be seen as admissions of liability.
Also worth noting is that California is a pure comparative fault state. In the Golden State, an individual can still claim damages, even if they are 99% responsible for the motorcycle crash. This is unlike modified comparative fault states, where individuals are unable to claim damages when deemed over 50% responsible for the crash. In essence, if you accept a partial liability of 30% and your damages amount to $100,000, your settlement lowers by 30% to $70,000.
Potential Damages Following a Motorcycle Crash
Following a motorcycle accident due to another driver’s negligence, you have the potential to claim both special (economic) and general (noneconomic) damages. While special damages have a clear assigned value, general damages are far more subjective and often relate to the victim’s decreased quality of life.
Some of the special damages you might seek following a motorcycle crash include motorcycle repairs, the cost of medical equipment, hospital bills, doctor visit fees, and loss of wages or earning capacity. You can seek damages for both existing and future medical bills, if your physician acknowledges that you will continue to need medical care in the future. However, if this future treatment is merely speculative, you will not be able to collect damages. Your attorney will confirm any and all potential medical expenses and property damage to strengthen your claim.
Similarly, loss of earning capacity can apply to both present wages and the loss of future earning capacity. You can seek damages for income lost between the time of your accident and the time your case proceeds to court, as well as prospective loss of income. For example, if the injuries you sustain render you incapable of performing the duties of your job, you may need to settle for a lower paying position, resulting in a lower earning capacity. In this scenario, you may seek damages for the potential income lost as a result of your injury.
General damages do not carry a specific value. After a motorcycle accident, you may consider seeking compensation for pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and loss of consortium. In part, general damages describe the intense mental anguish that often follows an accident, as well as the physical pain caused by your injury. Mental anguish, physical pain, disfigurement, and the like often result in other damages like loss of consortium and reduced quality of life.
What Is a Reasonable Settlement for a Motorcycle Accident?
Although compensation for your damages is highly dependent on the circumstances of the crash, it is fair to say that your settlement should account for:
- The overall severity and permanence of your injury
- Any need for ongoing medical treatment, including physical therapy, pain management medication, and surgeries
- The extent to which your injury has changed or damaged your lifestyle
- Your ability to continue working
- Your degree of fault, and more.