If you suffered an injury as a passenger in a motorcycle accident caused by someone else, the odds are you have a valid motorcycle accident claim. Your challenge will be to determine who caused the accident, who is responsible for paying your claim, and how much your claim is worth. It’s best to seek the assistance of an experienced motor vehicle attorney to help you with this process.
How Do You Protect Your Claim After an Accident?
Take the following steps to help with your claim after a motorcycle accident, to the extent that your physical condition allows:
- Move the damaged vehicles to the side of the road;
- Call the police, so they can witness the aftermath of the accident and create a police report;
- Photograph the scene of the accident, including any property damage or injuries;
- Exchange contact and insurance details with other drivers involved, and exchange contact details with any witnesses; and
- Seek immediate medical treatment.
Once you leave the scene of the accident, seek the assistance of a lawyer as soon as possible. Avoid speaking to any insurance company until you have spoken to your lawyer.
How Do Motorcycle Accidents Happen?
Although motorcycle accidents happen in myriad ways, most accidents can be grouped into just a few categories of accidents:
- Car door accidents—some people park and then open their car door into the path of an oncoming motorcycle;
- Dangerous roads—debris on the road and uneven surfaces can both cause motorcycle accidents when they would not affect an automobile;
- Distracted driving—texting while driving, for example, is arguably more dangerous than drunk driving;
- Intoxicated driving—intoxication increases the risk of any kind of accident;
- Lane splitting—driving between two lanes of traffic is an invitation to disaster because it reduces maneuverability in an emergency;
- Left turns by motorists—cars often turn in front of the path of oncoming motorcycles.
- Product defects—a malfunctioning motorcycle or auto part can cause a motorcycle or an automobile to crash;
- Speeding—the faster you drive, the longer it takes you to slop, and the harder you hit when a collision occurs;
- Sudden stops—a motorcyclist involved in a rear-end accident often goes tumbling over the hood of the car in front of it; and
- Unsafe lane changes—many motorists fail to check their blind spots or use their turn signal.
You need to determine the ultimate cause of your motorcycle accident to identify a defendant to file your claim against.
How Much Can You Claim From a Motorcycle Accident?
The amount you can claim from a motorcycle accident depends on the amount you lost due to the accident, including intangible psychological damages. Only in rare cases can you receive more than you actually lost (in punitive damages). To determine the value of your claim, you must calculate the following sums:
- Your past, present, and estimated future medical bills;
- Your past and present lost earnings plus your lost earning capacity (if any);
- Any out-of-pocket expenses, such as child care expenses while you were in recovery; and
- Your non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and mental anguish.
Non-economic damages can easily amount to more than half of your claim. There is no meaningful “average” claim, however, because claim mounts differ greatly. But some claimants receive millions of dollars for catastrophic injuries.
Who Can You Sue?
There are several possible parties who might be responsible for your accident. There might even be more than one legitimate defendant in the same accident. It all depends on the circumstances. Consider the following possible defendants:
- The motorcyclist you were riding with;
- Another vehicle on the road (most likely a motorist);
- An alcohol vendor or a social host who served the defendant alcohol prior to the crash— Tennessee’s dram shop law (Tennessee Code 57-10-102) holds alcohol vendors liable for DUI accidents under certain circumstances;
- The employer of an on-duty driver who caused the accident;
- The manufacturer of a defective motorcycle part or auto part; and
- The city or state government, if defective road conditions caused your accident.
Unusual fact patterns might point to the responsibility of a defendant not listed above.
Insurance Companies and the “Deep Pockets” Approach to Litigation
Ultimately, the practical value of your claim is limited by how much the defendant can afford to pay. This amount, in turn, is typically limited by the amount of insurance that the defendant carried at the time of the accident. That is because in most cases, it is the defendant’s insurance company, not the defendant, who pays the claim.
Under the “deep pockets” approach to litigation, you should file your claim against the party who is best able to pay a large claim. Usually, this means the party with the most generous insurance policy. Commercial truckers and on-duty Uber/Lyft drivers, for example, carry insurance with high limits. Bars and nightclubs tend to have a lot of financial resources. If you can identify such a party as a defendant, focus on them.
How Do I File a Claim After a Motorcycle Accident?
Filing a motorcycle accident injury claim in Tennessee is fairly straightforward. Obtaining a fair settlement or verdict, by contrast, is difficult. Tennessee is an “at-fault” insurance state (Tennessee Code 55-12-122). This means that you should begin the claims process by filing a written third-party claim with the at-fault party’s liability insurance carrier.
The insurance company, being a for-profit business, will want to deny or reduce your claim. They know many, many tricks to accomplish this goal. It is virtually impossible to overestimate the value of retaining an attorney to negotiate with the insurance company.
Most motorcycle accident injury claims settle out of court. Once in a while, however, a stubborn insurance company will take a claimant all the way to trial. At this point, the assistance of a motor vehicle accident lawyer with a strong trial record is critical. You can take your claim to trial, but you can still settle it at any time before a final verdict.
We Can Make It Happen for You
Clients have been trusting Batson Nolan PLC since 1860—for over 160 years. All told, our injury attorneys have accumulated hundreds of years of experience both inside and outside the courtroom. You are a person, not a case number, and we will treat you accordingly. If you believe you might have a valid motorcycle accident claim, call us or contact us online.