If you were seriously injured in a motorcycle accident that was even partially the fault of another person, you should seek legal advice from a personal injury lawyer. Insurance adjusters know that the tactics they use against people who file their own claims — lowball offers, delay, or just denying the claim — won't work against a seasoned professional.
There are times, however, when you may want to know how to file your own motorcycle claim. When injuries are minor or the claim involves only property damage, your likely recovery might not justify the involvement of a personal injury attorney. If you are in that situation, here are some tips for filing your own claim.
Making Insurance Claims
California is a comparative fault state. That means that if you shared responsibility for the accident, your recovery is reduced in proportion to your share of the fault. If you were 40% at fault for an accident, the compensation to which you would otherwise be entitled is reduced by 40%.
Insurance adjusters will try to convince you that the accident was your fault. The most common motorcycle accident involving another vehicle occurs when a driver makes an unexpected left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle. Since the motorcycle rider strikes the car, the adjuster will claim that the rider was at fault. That's not true. A rider might share a small percentage of the fault (probably no more than 25%) for not anticipating that the car would turn, but most of the fault rests with the driver who failed to yield.
Stick to your guns when you negotiate with an insurance adjuster. If you can't make a fair motorcycle settlement, think about taking your case to small claims court. You can seek compensation of up to $7,500 in a California small claims court. The clerk of court in the county where the accident occurred can give you forms to fill out. You can also learn about small claims procedures from that court's website.
Property Damage Claims
If your motorcycle was damaged because of another person's negligence, you can make a claim against your own collision coverage if the vehicle struck you (or if you struck a vehicle that turned in front of you). If you swerved to avoid a careless driver and your bike was damaged in a fall, you can make a claim under your policy's comprehensive coverage.
If you do not have applicable insurance coverage or if you do not want to pay the deductible, you can make a motorcycle claim against the negligent party's insurance coverage. The first step is to identify the negligent driver. Unless you observed a license plate number, that can be difficult if the car drove away after you crashed.
Assuming you identified the driver, you should have received insurance information at the time of the crash. If you did not, the insurer should be identified on the accident report. You can get a copy of the accident report from the police department that responded to the crash.
Once you have identified the appropriate insurance company, you can make a motorcycle insurance claim. You'll need to get a repair estimate. Some companies want to have their own claims center evaluate the damage on your bike. You should cooperate with that process, but you aren't required to accept a low-ball offer.
Keep in mind, however, that you are not entitled to a better motorcycle after the accident than you had before the crash. The insurance company only needs to pay for used parts, since you had used parts at the time your motorcycle was damaged (unless you crashed a brand-new motorcycle).
If you negotiate with the adjuster and cannot arrive at a fair settlement, you can file a claim in small claims court. Whether you will do better in court depends on the strength of your proof that the other driver caused the accident and whether your repair estimate is more credible than the insurance company's.
Motorcycle Injury Claims
Never settle a personal injury claim until you know that your injury has healed. If you still have nagging pain, your case is not ready for settlement. Keep seeing your doctor until the problem has resolved. If you settle and then find out that the nagging pain will never go away, you can't go back and ask for more money.
You can compute your total compensation by adding up your medical bills and lost wages, then doubling or tripling that amount to account for pain and suffering. That's an easy rule-of-thumb to follow when settling a minor injury claim. Keep in mind, however, that you will need to reduce the total to account for your own share of fault, if you were partially responsible for the accident.
Once you decide upon the value of your motorcycle insurance claim, double it and make a demand to the insurance adjuster in that amount. You need to start high, so you have room to negotiate, but if you ask for much more than twice the settlement value, the adjuster will not take you seriously.
Remember that any serious injury, including a relatively minor injury that will have permanent or long-term effects, is probably not one you should settle yourself. A California personal injury lawyer can usually obtain a substantially larger settlement than you could negotiate on your own behalf. In addition, a personal injury attorney knows how to deal with the tactics that insurance adjusters use to avoid paying the fair value of a clam.
Need help with your claim? Contact us today for a free consultation from experienced motorcycle accident lawyers.