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Motorcycle accidents carry a high likelihood of bodily injury. Additionally, these injuries stand a higher chance of being more serious than injuries sustained in a car accident, especially with the improved safety features in today's cars.
Of course, with so many variables, there is no set amount in an injury claim. Your claim depends on the type of damages unique to your situation, as well as proving that the other driver was liable. Additionally, some states put caps on the amount of damages you can recover after a motorcycle accident. Basically, though, you can claim medical expenses, including anticipated future medical care, and lost wages, including any reductions in potential future earnings. You may also be able to claim damages like pain and suffering.
In order to collect damages from the other driver, you must prove he or she was liable in the accident. If you cannot prove the other driver was negligible in some way, he or she owes you nothing.
This does not necessarily mean you have no means of collecting at least reimbursement of medical bills for your injuries. If you have full coverage insurance (instead of liability only), you may be able to collect from your insurer to pay for repairs and medical bills. Your attorney can advise if this is the case.
After a motorcycle accident, you may claim four main types of damages.
- Medical expenses, including past, present, and future medical expenses
- Lost wages, including past and future lost wages
- General damages, including both mental and physical pain and suffering
- Property damage, including repairs to your motorcycle
Medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage are measurable amounts, whereas there is no set means of calculating pain and suffering. A common practice is to determine pain and suffering based on the amount of your compensatory damages.
Medical expenses include any out-of-pocket expenses incurred during treatment of your injuries, such as emergency room visits, chiropractor care, prescription medication co-pays, and primary physician care. Additionally, if your doctor says that you require future treatment, meaning medical treatment after the date you settle your claim, these expenses also qualify as damages. This may include physical therapy or follow-up surgeries. Include the doctor's referral for future treatment as documentation in your claim.
If you missed time from work due to your injuries, you may claim lost wages, even if you did not actually miss pay (i.e., using sick time). This includes time spent driving to medical appointments as well as leave taken to recover from your injuries or treatments.
If the nature of your injuries inhibits future earnings, include these calculations in your claim for damages as well. This is commonly referred to as loss of earning capacity.
Pain and Suffering
These types of damages are difficult to quantify, as assigning a monetary value for emotional distress or physical pain is impossible. This is likely why the idea of assigning a multiplier to quantifiable damages arose. Typically, this multiplier ranges from 1.5 to four times the claimant's total damages, though this is not a given (especially when compensatory damages exceed $50,000).
These types of damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, and loss of consortium. Emotional distress encompasses the psychological impact of an injury, such as fear or anxiety, and may be included in pain and suffering claims.
Loss of enjoyment refers to your everyday habits and pursuits, such as exercise and hobbies. Loss of consortium refers to personal relationships, typically with the plaintiff's spouse though may also include the relationship between parent and child.
Your claim will likely include property damages, such as repairs to your motorcycle and replacing protective gear such as your helmet. You may also include clothing damaged in the accident in your property loss claim.
If the defendant's conduct is judged particularly negligent, careless, or egregious, you may be entitled to punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are exactly what they sound like: punishment for the defendant's behavior. The intention is deter future egregious behavior. If the other driver was guilty of DUI, reckless speeding, or a similar violation, you may be able to pursue punitive damages.
To give you an idea of the wide variability in settlements awarded for a motor cycle injury case, we provide a few examples.
- A motorcyclist struck by a car suffered numerous injuries and required surgery for a shoulder fracture. The car's driver apologized at the scene of the accident, which served as an admission of guilt in court. The jury awarded the motorcyclist $474,416, but reduced the verdict by 20 percent, as they determined the plaintiff shared 20 percent of the responsibility for the accident.
- A man driving a motorcycle, and his passenger, were struck by a car turning left out of a driveway whose driver failed to look right before making the turn. The motorcyclist and his passenger sustained massive injuries, causing nearly $500,000 in medical bills between the two of them. The case settled for the driver's insurance $1.5 million policy limit.
- .While driving his motorcycle through an intersection with traffic, an oncoming driver made a left turn, striking the motorcycle. The car's driver and passengers claimed the cyclist hit him, but witness testimony supported the driver on the motorcycle. The driver's insurer offered an $80,000 settlement, which the plaintiff rejected. Just before going to trial, the case settled for $450,000.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you are the victim of a motorcycle accident, schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case. He or she will advise you on the merits of your case and help set reasonable expectations as regards possible damages.