There are over 8.6 million motorcyclists in the United States. If you are one of them, then you understand the undeniable appeal. Whether it is your daily driver or reserved for weekend excursions, there is a sense of freedom and adventure.
But, unfortunately, there is also heightened risk. Every year, tens of thousands of bikers are injured and thousands are killed. What should you do if you have been involved in an accident? A qualified motorcycle accident attorney may be the key to helping you recover – financially and otherwise.
Risk on the Open Road
According to the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4976 motorcyclists were killed in crashes in 2016, a 100 percent increase from 1997. Per mile, the risk of fatal injury is 29 times higher for motorcyclists than vehicle drivers. In 2013 alone, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in crashes.
The majority of motorcycle operators are careful and obey traffic laws diligently. However, there is an inherent danger: motorcycles do not provide the same level of structural protection as a car. When a crash does occur, it is more likely to result in serious injury or death.
Another factor that cannot be ignored is other drivers; while most motorcyclists are more aware and attentive to the road and to their surroundings, their smaller profile makes them more difficult to see. Just a second of inattention on the part of a vehicle driver can cause an accident. And just a second of inattention can cause life-altering injuries and significant financial hardship.
At the Scene: Tips from Experienced South Florida Motorcycle Injury Lawyers
You’ve been in a motorcycle crash; you’re scared, injured, panicked. What you do next, though, will have lasting consequences in terms of any legal action you potentially pursue. Remain calm.
- Get to Safety. Do your best to prevent more damage or put yourself at further risk. If you are in the roadway, for example, try to move over to the shoulder. Use flares or hazard lights to signal to other drivers that they should proceed with caution. The first priority is your safety.
- Check for Injuries. Assess your condition and, if there were other people involved in the crash, see if they are hurt.
- Call 911. Even if you believe that you are unharmed, call for emergency responders. Law enforcement needs to be contacted if there are injuries or extensive damage to property (e.g. your motorcycle, cars involved). It is also important to have a paramedic check you over; adrenaline can mask injuries, and you may not be aware of the internal damage and/or bleeding.
Another important reason to call 911: the resulting reports and documentation are integral pieces of evidence should you decide to engage a motorcycle accident attorney and pursue legal action.
- Notice the Surroundings. If you have injured your head, back, or neck, or you think you may have broken bones or internal damage, do not move once you get to safety (e.g. the side of the road). If you can, though, make a note of important details.
Where did the accident occur? Where were you, and where were the other drivers? What events preceded it? How were the weather and road conditions? Was the area well lit? Who was involved? If you can, take photos with your phone. Capture the state of the vehicles involved (if you can do so safely), as well as visual information regarding road conditions.
- Speak to Witnesses. The police will do this, but it can help if you ask for this information as soon after the incident as possible. At a minimum, request witnesses’ names and contact information. If they agree, have them provide a written account of what happened from their perspective.
- Panic. Easier said than done; but try to keep a calm, clear head so you can complete the steps listed above. If you are severely injured, just wait for help. Again, you want to ensure additional harm does not come to you and that you do not, even inadvertently, make the situation more complicated when it comes to a potential legal case.
- Argue or Engage with the Other Driver. If, for example, another driver struck you, do not fight. If you can, ask for pertinent information (name, contact information, insurance details). If they are acting in a belligerent or threatening way towards you, or if they appear in any way impaired, do not engage. Wait for the police.
- Admit Fault. After an accident, the scene can be chaotic. There may be injuries and confusion as to the sequence of events. Emotions often run high. Do not admit fault or apologize for the incident (to anyone, even police), and do not let someone else’s version of the accident influence your own. If you decide to pursue a legal case, what you say on the scene has a tremendous impact.
- Pressure Witnesses. As mentioned previously, gathering witness information and statements can be important. However, they do not have to provide these details to you. If they choose not to, do not engage them further.
- Leave. Report your accident to the police and stay put. At the very least, you need to exchange insurance information with the other party(ies) involved. And remember, leaving the scene of the accident could put you in legal trouble.
What’s Next – And Do You Need a Motorcycle Accident Attorney?
Should you contact a South Florida personal injury lawyer? You may wish to do so if your injuries exceed your insurance coverage limits if your injuries are severe and result in significant associated costs (e.g. medical, physical therapy, loss of wages, etc.), if your claim is denied, or if you are falsely accused of causing the accident.
If you feel that your injuries are severe or that you risk being labeled “at fault” for the accident, it is advisable to contact a motorcycle accident attorney before contacting your insurance company.
If, after a consultation, your attorney sees merit for pursuing a case, they can help you handle the insurance company. You do have to notify the adjustors, but there’s no reason you need to do so alone and without counsel.
The insurance company will want the pertinent details, such as:
- Names of other people involved.
- Make/Model of other vehicles involved.
- Names and contact information of witnesses.
- Location of incident.
Insurance adjusters will also ask about the damage to your motorcycle and the extent of your injuries. Be cautious. Giving an estimate or even saying, “I feel ok now” can impact your ability to recover the compensation you deserve. You can respond by saying you will provide these details after a damage assessment by a qualified mechanic and after a full medical assessment by a doctor.
When you engage a West Palm Beach motorcycle accident attorney, you can respond by requesting communication be directed to your legal representative. This can alleviate a great deal of stress – while ensuring that your legal case can proceed towards a beneficial resolution.
Having a qualified lawyer on your side empowers you to protect yourself and your rights. Remember, insurance companies are in the business of making a profit. If they can deny your claim or reduce compensation for any reason, they will.
When you are struggling with the aftermath of an accident, more complications and stress are the last thing you need. If you require a West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer in South Florida, contact LaBovick Law Group. Our team has decades of experience fighting for client’s rights against insurance companies and other entities.
We understand an accident is traumatic, physically, financially, and emotionally; we will help you receive the compensation you are owed so you can begin to move on.