Why You Need an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer to Represent You in Your Motorcycle Accident Claim
By David Carnes, Staff Writer
Motorcycle accidents are particularly likely to result in large verdicts and settlements, because a motorcyclist’s relative lack of protection in an accident drastically increases the odds that the victim will suffer serious injury or death. Establishing a motorcycle accident claim often involves extensive investigation and may require considerable legal expertise.
If you or a loved one was seriously harmed in a motorcycle accident, the last thing you should do is to try to represent yourself. The insurance company will take advantage of your inexperience and likely give you a settlement that may seem good, but really is less than what you are entitled to receive. The bottom line is that you need an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer to represent you.
Finding the Right Defendant
One of the most important -- and often overlooked – aspects of pursuing a motorcycle accident claim is selecting the right defendant (or defendants). If this job isn’t done correctly, even if you win a judgment or settlement you won’t be able to collect the money. Although the driver or his liability insurance carrier is the obvious first choice, many other defendants are possible depending on the facts of your case, including the following, among others:
- The driver’s employer, if he was a commercial driver on-duty at the time of the accident,
- The manufacturer or distributor of the motorcycle or a motorcycle part (such as a tire) if a defect in the motorcycle caused the accident or caused your injuries to be more serious,
- The state government, if the accident was caused by inadequately maintained roads or traffic signals,
- The manufacturer of a traffic signal, if a traffic signal malfunction caused the accident.
You may be able to pursue your claim against more than one defendant -- the driver’s insurance carrier, the driver’s employer and the state government, for example. If you win in court, “joint and several liability” might be assessed against the defendants, meaning that you can collect all of the judgment from all of them, some of them or any one of them.
In a negligence claim, you must stablish that the other driver carelessly caused the accident. You must also prove every penny of any damages that you are claiming. If the accident involves permanent disability, a good lawyer with an experienced expert witness will know how to help you calculate and prove future medical expenses and lost earnings, critical components of a personal injury verdict or settlement. Remember that it can be very, very tricky to calculate these amounts decades into the future.
Product Liability Claims
In a product liability claim, you assert that a defect in the motorcycle itself, such as defective brakes, caused the accident, The Harley Davidson “death rattle” (the violent vibration of certain models at high speeds) is an example of an alleged defect that has given rise to considerable litigation. In a product liability lawsuit, you can sue anyone in the chain of distribution from the manufacturer to the retailer, without proving that the defendant was at fault for the defect. If the other driver’s car malfunctioned, you might even assert a claim against the manufacturer or distributor of the other driver’s vehicle.
Wrongful Death Claims
Obviously, a deceased victim cannot file a lawsuit. All states allow certain close family members to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit (although some states require the actual lawsuit to be filed by the estate executor). Wrongful death laws differ somewhat among the various states; in particular, states differ as to what types of losses you may claim damages for. Depending on the state, you might be able to claim damages for:
- Burial and funeral expenses,
- The deceased’s medical bills,
- The deceased’s pain and suffering prior to death,
- Your own psychological losses such as grief and loss of companionship’
- Loss of financial support or reduction in the value of an inheritance due to the deceased’s lost earnings.
- The accident was partly or wholly your fault.
- The defect in the motorcycle did not render it “unreasonably dangerous” (in a product liability claim).
- The defendant’s negligence did not cause the accident (if, for example, the defendant was intoxicated, but the accident would have occurred with equal severity even if he had been sober).
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, our lawyer search function will allow you to locate a personal injury lawyer in your jurisdiction.