Victim of a North Carolina Careless Driver Motorcycle Accident.
As a motorcyclist driving on North Carolina’s roads, you are vulnerable. According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Association, every year over 5,000 people die in motorcycle accidents. Of those, about 160 will die in North Carolina alone. Add to that another 100,000 people injured on a bike annually, and you know one thing: if you or your loved ones suffer serious injury or death in a motorcycle accident, you need to be more than a statistic. Retaining an experienced personal injury lawyer with direct experience riding motorcycles and handle motorcycle accident injury cases is the most critical step you can take in the effort to protect AND ENFORCE your legal rights.
Carl Nagle holds a motorcycle endorsement, owns three motorcycles currently, and he has been riding motorcycles for over 40 years. As a fellow rider, he understands the dynamics of motorcycle riding and exactly what a fellow rider faces when reacting to sudden emergency of threat of crash. Carl also was a claims adjuster for Progressive Insurance Company, the number one insurer of motorcycle riders in the country. Because he handled claims from both sides of the fence, he understands the steps your insurance adjuster will take to minimize or avoid payment of your motorcycle injury claims. Also, Carl only handles serious motor vehicle accidents and he has worked with the best motorcycle accident reconstruction experts. He knows how to build and solidify proof to show both that you were an innocent victim, and that your injuries are severe and life-changing and warrant the highest possible tax-free settlement payment.
Documenting the Accident Scene:
Following any motorcycle accident, you are going to be in a state of shock or disorientation. Someone in a two-ton vehicle or three-ton truck has made a left-hand turn as if you weren’t there, crashing into you. 42% of all motorcycle collisions start this way. All you were doing was going straight through the intersection, headed home from the store, and now, because of this, let’s face it, reckless driver who was probably on her mobile phone not paying attention to the road, you endure injuries that change your life. But you can’t get angry. You must keep your wits about you and, to the greatest extent possible, methodically do certain things.
First, get clear of the roadway if you are able. A common result of motorcycle accidents is a subsequent collision caused by motorists who come upon the first collision scene. If you have a passenger, ensure his or her safety and then do the same for anyone else who may be impacted. Two, find your cell phone – always carry one with you – and call 911 (or direct someone around you to do so). Some injuries necessitate instant medical care, and legal liability follows second in importance to health. Now, with that same phone, three, take photos of everything around you, and tap the video button as well. In other words, document that accident scene as best you can, and if there are bystanders, ask them to please do the same and share their photos and footage with you and/or the responding police officers.
As experienced motorcycle injury attorney knows, this “at-the-scene” evidence will make a huge difference in most motorcycle injury cases, impacting everything from insurance coverages and driver identification, to proving the negligence of the other driver and maximizing your own personal injury settlement payments.
Preserving Evidence at the Scene:
Again, safety first. Do nothing that compromises that. But then, elicit the help of others if you need to, and make sure that everything of any consequence at the scene is preserved, i.e., “bagged and tagged” or kept by the police or someone. Everything you can think of or see should be included: your motorcycle helmet, anything you were carrying, whatever you impacted, and of course, the motorcycle itself. You could say that the motorcycle will be Exhibit “A” in your personal injury claim, as it will appear prominently in your insurance claim package, at any settlement or arbitration proceeding, and at trial should the matter not resolve. Not to mention, you’ll need to accurately assess the damage to your bike and the need, cost, and place for repair or replacement.
Sadly, even though helmets are worn by many motorcyclists today, the most common motorcycle injury is a head injury. Traumatic brain injury (TBI), concussions, minor brain damage and lower, upper spinal injury -- are also common injuries endured by motorcycle accident victims. While nobody wants to be hospitalized or to ride in an ambulance, motorcycle accident victims should always accept the offer of EMS transport and evaluation at an E.R. or trauma center. Report EVERY injury, head-to-toe as your doctors can only provide care for problems and injuries that they are made aware of. Motorcycle riders often under-report their injuries and symptoms and this results in lower settlement payments. Use personal health insurance to fund all medical care. This protects your credit, opens doors for more medical-care options, and typically increases the net amount you collect at the end of your case.
Motorcycle riders have little protection when they collide into other vehicles or objects or are ejected onto the pavement. Injuries can be quite severe, and the best personal injury lawyers always leverage medical experts’ involvement to prove the full extent of all injuries, and how the injuries will negatively impact your health over the remainder of your life. While attorneys should not refer an injury victim to a treating physician, lawyers do get involved assembling the team of medical experts, economic experts and collision reconstruction experts who help to prove the case and maximize the impact of your evidence. We always listen carefully to our clients to understand their injuries, and we work hard to establish evidence to make sure that the opposition hears your story and respects your claims with payment of the true trial-verdict value of your personal injury case.
Witnesses at the Scene:
Let’s face it, the reality at the scene is that you have endured a motorcycle accident and your legal rights likely do not feel like a high priority. However, the sad truth is insurance companies always seek to place blame on motorcycle riders. Further, to collect for your injury claims, it is your burden of proof in a trial setting and thus you would have to come forward with admissible evidence to confirm that other drivers or other outside parties caused your accident and all related injuries.
To enforce your payment rights, the story and observations of eyewitnesses may be crucial to prove your claim to an insurance adjuster, arbitrator or jury. Remember, under North Carolina law, if an accident victim is merely 1% at fault, they have no claims and no compensation rights. Insurance companies tend to pick on motorcycle riders, and they know that some jurors are afraid of motorcycles and might feel that riders take risk merely by choosing to ride a bike. Further, bikes are fast and insurance companies know that just slight error/blame on the biker allows them to deny all claims and avoid payment obligations entirely.
As soon as you are safe and if you are able, look for witnesses. Especially try to spot the man or woman who was in a position to see everything, but is about to leave the scene before the police arrive. Get the name and contacts details for that person and as many others as you can, or urge them to talk to the police (ever aware that some may not want police contact, but may be willing to help you). And gather everything else as well, including: the negligent driver’s name, vehicle tag numbers, make and model of cars and response vehicles, driver’s license numbers, VIN numbers, insurance policies, name and badge of the police officers and emergency personnel, number of the police and emergency reports – anything that will help prove your claim later. No detail is too small, and as experienced personal injury counsel at The Nagle Law Firm thoroughly understand -- the devil is always in the details.
“No Contact” Hit and Run:
It happens all the time. A reckless driver forces a motorcycle to swerve and crash to avoid a collision with a vehicle which then rushes away from the scene - either blind to what he or she has done, or deliberately because there was no contact and he thinks he can escape from the scene and thereby avoid responsibility. If you can do it, ask everyone at the scene if they saw that driver and of course get as many details as possible. But you’re often seriously injured, so there’s only so much you can do. Though we’re fighting a long shot, this is where experienced legal counsel puts an investigator promptly to work – contacting all the witnesses listed on the police report, looking for mobile images and video, talking to all the shop workers nearby who might have seen the accident through a window, and the magic bullet, as it were: sussing the CCTV-security cameras in the vicinity to find that car. Why? Because negligence does not require physical impact. The reckless vehicle driver who caused you to swerve and crash, is just as legally responsible as the one who rear-ends you.
“Contact” Hit & Run Accident:
If you are injured in a motorcycle accident and the driver who strikes you then leaves the scene and escapes detection, proving fault will still be your legal burden. Under North Carolina insurance law, if there is no contact between your motorcycle and the driver who causes the accident and then leaves the scene, you have no available insurance coverage under your household motorcycle and car insurance policies. Thus, it is imperative that you locate the hit and run driver.
If another driver does strike/contact your motorcycle and then leaves the scene and avoids detection and identification, you can use your Uninsured Motorist insurance coverage to fund your personal injury claims. It is critical to understand that if you assert claims under your UM policy, your insurance carrier indeed becomes the enemy to your case. In fact, if the case cannot be settled and you have to bring your case to a jury trial, your insurance company hires and pays the lawyer who represents the hit and run driver at court, and who seeks to blame you for the accident and to motivate jurors to minimize your injury payments.
In a hit and run accident case, follow all of the steps outlined above to protect evidence and thereby help you to protect and enforce your legal rights. Further, be careful in all discussions with insurance carriers, even your own insurance company’s adjuster.
This is just the beginning, of course, as there are a host of things that experienced counsel will do to maximize your personal injury recovery in a motorcycle accident. But if we had to leave you with one final thought, it is this: do not admit fault to anyone, of any kind, and be sure to hold all parties responsible for your motorcycle accident financially responsible for all of your losses, injuries and suffering. Further, even if you prefer not to hire an attorney, call Nagle & Associates for a free legal consultation. This can be accomplished by telephone at your convenience, and this will give you the best opportunity to have legal advice and guidance that fits with your unique circumstances. If you do need our help and representation, Carl Nagle is personally involved in every motorcycle accident case the firm handles. We offer a reduced legal fee of 25% in these cases, even if a trial is necessary. There are no fees up front, and as a percentage of your ultimate settlement or trial judgment, we remain motivated to push hard and secure the highest possible tax-free payment for your personal injury claims.