Key factors to negotiate a fair motorcycle accident settlement
If you are a motorcycle owner, you may at some point be involved in motorcycle accident lawsuit or insurance claim. Many motorcycle accidents involve serious injuries, which mean that you could be highly dependent upon a high dollar settlement or verdict to get the medical treatment you need. What is the average motorcycle accident settlement you might expect?
All motorcycle accident cases are different, so arriving at a precise figure is a guessing game. However, there has been research conducted by Thomson Reuters that showed between 1999 and 2006, the average motorcycle accident settlement was $73,700. This data is more than a decade old, however, and should be taken with a large grain of salt. Your motorcycle accident settlement could be much less or much more.
This article sheds light on some of the key factors that go into the final dollar figure for a typical motorcycle accident settlement.
Major Factors That Affect Motorcycle Accident Compensation
As with any accident, the damages that you have suffered are a determining factor in the size of the accident settlement or verdict. Before your motorcycle accident claim goes to court, you and your personal injury attorney will carefully calculate your losses. These may include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
Your accident injuries will be included in any calculation your attorney makes. Remember that some damages, such as medical costs and lost wages, are simpler to calculate. You can easily show how much your medical bills were, and how much you made last month or last year in your job.
But for less concrete damages such as pain and suffering, your attorney will be making educated guesses about what you are entitled to. Typically, your defense attorney will review the awards made in similar motorcycle accidents in the area in the recent past.
If you have suffered injuries that will affect you for a long period of time or permanently, the value of the settlement will rise. For example, if you are a waitress and you lost your leg in a motorcycle accident, you will often be entitled to additional compensation. This is an especially disabling injury, and you might be entitled to compensation for:
- Cost of medical treatment and physical therapy in the future
- Expense of drugs that you need to deal with pain
- Vocational rehabilitation costs so you can get a new job
- Home health aide services to help you handle daily tasks
- Possible home remodeling required
- Vehicle that is modified for someone who lost a leg
You also may be entitled to punitive damages, which are intended to punish the driver for particularly reckless behavior. For example, if the driver who hit you was intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of 0.15% or higher, this can be considered especially reckless in many states. Note that punitive damages are capped in many states today. In Missouri for example, you cannot be awarded more than 5 times the damages or $500,000, whichever is higher.
As the plaintiff, you will usually need to prove that the defendant acted in a very wrong way with convincing and clear evidence, to receive punitive damages. Some states also have laws that require a part of the punitive damages awarded to go into a state fund. Utah is an example.
Whether you will be entitled to any or all of the above types of compensation depends upon the exact nature of your injuries. Also important is who was at fault in the motorcycle accident.
What Is The Degree of Fault?
A significant factor in the value of any car accident claim or lawsuit is the matter of fault. As the plaintiff, it is your responsibility to show strong evidence that the defendant caused your accident injuries. If you lack this critical evidence, your case’s value drops.
Even if you have serious injuries, the defendant may decide to go to trial if fault for the accident is unclear. There are some states, such as Virginia, that have a contributory negligence rule. This means that if you are even 1% responsible for the accident, you cannot collect damages for your injuries. This is a much stricter standard than the comparative negligence rule that many states have. This rule means that if you are found to be 10% at fault for the accident, you are entitled to only 90% of whatever amount the jury awards you.
A related issue to fault is the fact that some juries carry a bias against motorcyclists. This by no means assures the defendant that he or she will win the case. However, statistically it has been shown that a plaintiff in a motorcycle accident has a harder time winning a fair settlement or verdict.
How Much Insurance Is Available?
If the person who caused your accident injuries has few material assets, the settlement will not be more than the liability limit of the person’s motor vehicle insurance policy. It is possible that the jury verdict could be above the liability limits of the insurance policy. But if the defendant has no assets to liquidate and no cash or retirement savings, you may not be able to collect the full verdict amount.
When the defendant has no significant assets, your attorney may advise the best path forward is to accept a settlement equal to the coverage limits of the insurance policy.
Waiting to Receive Compensation
This issue does not relate directly to the actual average dollar amount of the motorcycle accident settlement, but it is important. If you have serious injuries, waiting for weeks or months for compensation can be problematic. Some cases will settle more quickly than others. Some accidents will not settle at all. These have to go to court to be decided by a jury. Naturally, such cases can take months or even years to resolve; many courts have crowded calendars and cases can take a long while to get to the trial phase.
If fault in your motorcycle accident case is clear, the insurance company may pay the claim relatively quickly. But be prepared for the insurance adjuster that uses a delay on purpose to negotiate the settlement down.
The average motorcycle compensation amounts will be affected by how long the case takes. As the injured party, you and your attorney need to determine if you are better off settling faster for a smaller amount, or waiting for a larger amount that may only come via a lengthy trial by jury.
Permanent Motorcycle Accident Injuries
It is important to remember that you should never settle the case until the full extent of your accident injuries is clear. All motorcycle accident settlement amounts are final. It is impossible to go back to the insurance company a month later if your motorcycle accident injuries are worse than first thought.
An experienced personal injury attorney will not recommend that you settle the case until your injuries are healed, or until medical professional states that further improvement is unlikely. At that time, you may have a permanent injury. If the injury is permanent, this is a major factor you need to know before settling the claim. So, never rush through negotiations when there are serious injuries.
Should You Settle or Go To Court?
This is the big question that you and your attorney need to answer. Fortunately, experienced motorcycle accident attorneys are very effective at making this determination. It is true that most personal injury cases are settled before going to court, but this may or may not be best for you.
Your attorney will perform a cost analysis after considering all of your economic and noneconomic damages. As noted earlier, these include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc. Your attorney will determine if it is likely that the cost of going to trial is not going to outweigh possible recovery of additional damages in the future. In this case, if the cost of going to trial is going to be high (and take too long), you may be better off with a settlement.
Some insurance companies may not want to pay the damages to which you are entitled, however. So, going to court may be the best option. But going to court means your fate is in the hands of a jury. There is no guarantee when going to trial, especially with a motorcycle case, given the frequent jury bias against motorcyclists.
There are some motorcycle accident cases where the insurance company makes an absurdly low offer. If you have serious accident injuries and the insurance company makes an offer that does not even cover your medical costs, going to court is the way to go.
Examples of Motorcycle Accident Compensation Amounts
The exact amount of your motorcycle accident settlement will vary based upon the many factors noted above. But below are some real motorcycle accident settlements in recent years from around the US:
- $3.5 million: Client was riding in Connecticut when he crashed on a poorly maintained road. Settlement was reached with the defendant milling company.
- $1.9 million: Client was riding when a truck turned left in front of her. Major injuries required several surgeries.
- $1.7 million: Client was riding as a passenger. Suffered serious personal injuries when a car turned left in front of the motorcycle. The plaintiff’s husband died.
- $530,000: Defendant drove car into motorcycle’s path. Client died in the crash.
- $515,000: Defendant made a left turn in front of client. Serious injuries sustained that needed many surgeries.
Summary of Motorcycle Accident Settlements
All motorcycle accidents are unique events. Many accidents involve serious personal injuries, but it usually takes the expertise of a motorcycle accident personal injury attorney to determine whether you are better off settling or going to court.