Motorcycle Accident Settlements
Motorcycle accidents occur every day in California. Some are caused by “lane splitting” or riding between vehicles to avoid traffic. While that riding technique is legal in California, it can be dangerous if negligent drivers fail to notice the motorcycle’s presence. Other accidents are caused by truck drivers who do not see an approaching motorcycle when they change lanes and by drivers who fail to yield to motorcyclists who have the right of way at intersections.
If you were injured or if a loved one died in a motorcycle accident, you may have the right to recover compensation. If another motorist was at least partially responsible for your injuries, you can make a claim against that driver’s insurance company.
What is the average settlement amount?
The settlement value of a motorcycle injury claim depends upon many factors, both tangible and intangible. The twin starting points require careful assessments of fault and of your injuries.
A California driver is at fault if he or she was negligent. The violation of traffic laws, such as a failure to yield or to signal a lane change, is evidence of negligence. Not paying attention to road conditions or to surrounding traffic is also careless driving behavior.
Sometimes fault for a collision is shared by a motorcyclist and by the driver of another vehicle involved. In those cases, California uses a rule called comparative negligence to determine who is responsible for damages. That rule requires a determination of the percentage of fault attributable to the motorcyclist and to other drivers involved in the accident. The compensation payable to an injured motorcyclist is then reduced by the driver’s percentage of fault.
For example, suppose that $40,000 would be fair compensation for a motorcyclist’s wounds. If the motorcyclist was 25 percent responsible and another driver was 75 percent responsible for the collision, the motorcyclist would receive $30,000 in a motorcycle accident lawsuit settlement.
Placing a value on motorcycle wounds is not easy. If you were injured due to another California driver’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation that will restore you to the position you were in before the accident. That means that you are entitled to the payment of your medical expenses and your lost income so that you do not lose money as a result of the collision. It is more difficult to place a value on pain and suffering. No amount of money will take away your pain, but you are entitled to financial compensation for the physical pain and emotional distress you endured.
If the motorcycle accident caused a long-lasting or permanent disability, you may be entitled to additional compensation. A motorcycle accident settlement for a disabling injury might include:
- The cost of future medical treatment and physical therapy
- The expense of medications you will need to purchase
- The loss of future income
- The cost of vocational rehabilitation
- In-home nursing or homemaker services
- Home remodeling to accommodate a disability
- A vehicle that will accommodate a disability
- Future pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life
Different motorcycle accidents produce different injuries. Some are more serious than others. Different accidents also produce different assessments of comparative negligence. California compensation must be determined on a case-by-case basis. For that reason, there is no “average” value. Every case must be evaluated on its own merit.
When a motorcycle collision lawyer calculates values, they also take intangible factors into account. If your case goes to trial, will the jury feel sympathy for you? Will the jury relate to the driver who collided with you? Is the evidence concerning the cause of the collision in dispute, and, if so, what is the jury likely to believe? Attorneys rely on years of experience, informed by close attention to jury verdicts in similar cases, to determine the value of a particular case.
What percentage can I expect my lawyer to take?
Although it is possible to hire California lawyers at an hourly rate, negotiating a settlement or taking an injury case to trial can take hundreds of hours. Few injury victims want to pay the large retainer that an attorney would require to take a case on an hourly basis. Fortunately, a personal injury attorney who agrees to take your case will almost certainly offer to charge you a contingent fee. That means that you pay no fee unless the lawyer recovers compensation for you. The lawyer’s fee is a percentage of the amount recovered. The lawyer will also be reimbursed from the motorcycle accident settlement proceeds for expenses that the lawyer paid (such as the cost of obtaining your medical records). Contingent fees make it possible to hire a lawyer when an injured person might not be able to afford an hourly rate.
Although percentages can vary, a typical California attorney’s fee for a case that goes to trial or that has been prepared for trial is one-third of the recovery. A somewhat higher fee might be charged in complex cases. A lesser fee might also be available for cases that settle before a lawyer has engaged in substantial preparation for trial. It would be rare for any continent fee to be less than 25 percent of the recovery. The fee will be explained in detail in a written fee agreement.
How long do I have to wait to receive compensation?
Some cases settle more quickly than others. Some claims do not settle and need to be decided by a jury. Those cases usually take the longest to resolve because many courts have congested calendars and cannot quickly bring cases to trial.
Some insurance companies will pay claims promptly particularly when fault is clear, and injuries are not extensive. Some insurers use delay as a negotiating tactic. Negotiations tend to be prolonged when evidence of who is responsible is in dispute or when wounds are severe. Sometimes a neutral mediator is used to help the parties reach an agreement.
You never want to settle a case until you understand the full extent of your injuries. Any California settlement you make is final. You cannot go back to the insurance company later and ask for more money if your damages turn out to be more serious than you anticipated.
As a general rule, your lawyer should not advise you to settle your case until your injuries have completely healed or until your doctor tells you that your wounds are unlikely to improve. Only at that point will you know whether you have a permanent injury. Since the permanence of an injury is a significant factor in valuing a claim for settlement, you should not rush into negotiations. Settling a claim prematurely may cause you to lose compensation to which you would otherwise be entitled. Your lawyer is in the best position to tell you when your claim is ripe for settlement.
Want to find out how much your motorcycle accident lawsuit settlement will be? Call (800) 838-6644 to obtain a free case evaluation from a skilled lawyer for collisions that occur in California.