Factors That Can Impact Motorcycle Accident Claims in NC
Motorcycle accidents often result in severe injuries. While motorcycling gives the rider a sense of power and freedom, the downside is that riders have very little protection when they collide with other vehicles or are ejected and thrown onto the pavement. Even a minor motorcycle crash can cause serious injuries that cost you a fortune in medical bills.
If you’ve been hurt in a motorcycle wreck, you should understand your legal rights and how to pursue full payment for all of the medical expenses and other damages that were caused by your bike accident. Here are some of the factors that impact the value of motorcycle accident injury claims in North Carolina:
How Badly Were You Hurt?
When you’re in a motorcycle crash, it’s not enough to simply say you were hurt. Insurance adjusters will not accept the victim’s story, and they insist on medical evidence to show the true nature and extent of all injuries. If you don’t hire a lawyer, the adjuster will ask for direct access to your medical records. Ultimately, you will have to sign a Medical Authorization allowing insurance adjusters to communicate directly with your doctors. Also, you should know that they are looking at pre-accident medical records – hoping to find that you suffered similar pain/problems in the past. They will still make you gather and present all post-accident medical records.
The main takeaway is that you should seek thorough medical treatment for all injuries, and be open with doctors about the true extent of your pain, sleep loss, and disability. Use health insurance (if you have it) to cover and fund all medical care, and get every bit of treatment recommended by your various doctors and specialists.
The at-fault driver and all other responsible parties owe for all medical charges, including money now for future medical needs. However, you must have a doctor confirming that you will need future treatment before any insurance company will pay for future medical care.
Crash victims in North Carolina can also collect tax-free payment for all physical pain and emotional suffering arising from their motorcycle accident injuries. Here, the main factors to show are the extent of visible injuries and road rash (take photographs throughout your healing process), the evidence of pain (your medical records will document your pain complaint level at each visit), the nature of injuries (fractures bring higher verdicts than sprain/strain injuries), the nature of medical care (surgery, etc.), the duration of care (don’t rush through treatment), whether injuries will cause lasting or permanent pain/symptoms, and whether any scarring or disfigurement remains after your medical care is complete.
In most cases, it is best to complete all medical care before you seek to settle your case. Insurance companies love to settle early because they avoid responsibility for future medical needs. Also, they escape responsibility for latent injuries, problems that remain hidden for some time after the crash. You should not settle your motorcycle injury case until you truly understand your medical condition and your medical needs.
Did You Lose Wages or Earning Ability?
If a negligent driver causes a motorcycle accident, they owe for the injured biker’s past AND future lost wages. The key piece of evidence needed is a doctor agreeing that the biker was unable to work due to crash-related injuries. Even if the rider has accumulated sick/vacation benefits and is able to remain out of work and still get paid, the at-fault driver and their insurance carrier still owe the lost wage claim. This is due to the “collateral source rule” in North Carolina.
For lost wage claims, the injured rider must provide proof of employment, proof of what they were earning before the accident, and proof that they missed the opportunity to work following the crash. This evidence typically comes directly from the employer. For self-employed riders, the evidence is a bit more technical. You will typically have to provide past tax returns to show earnings, along with evidence to show that earnings ceased during medical recovery.
Serious injuries often impact future earnings. In some cases, a rider loses their job because they simply cannot continue in the same line of work. In these cases, the rider is required to “mitigate damages”, which means they must take reasonable steps to find a job that they can manage. The victim cannot simply stop working if they are able to maintain some level of gainful employment.
Serious injuries such as fractures which require the installation of screws, plates, and other orthopedic hardware to repair multiple bone breaks often allow the rider to get back to work, but ultimately result in early retirement due to medical limitations. To collect for potential early retirement due to injuries, attorneys employ Vocational Rehabilitation experts who work directly with treatment physicians and surgeons to show that the victim likely will not be able to work until normal retirement age. With proper evidence, the motorcycle crash victim can collect money damages for “lost work-life expectancy”.
Lost wage claims also increase the value of the injured rider’s claim for pain and suffering. Most people worry when they are forced out of work, and many also are devastated when they are sidelined and unable to provide for themselves and their families. Further, in cases where career changes are required or injuries result in total disability, the claim for emotional suffering must include evidence to show how the injury victim loses their sense of worth, their identity, and their sense of accomplishment when they are knocked off the career-ladder they were climbing before the crash occurred.
How Much Insurance Does the Other Driver Have?
Every driver in North Carolina has to carry a certain amount of bodily injury and property damage insurance coverage. Drivers need at least:
- $30,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, up to $60,000 per accident
- $25,000 in property damage coverage
Many drivers only have the bare minimum coverage. However, we typically find extra layers of coverage by carefully investigating all facts and circumstances surrounding the collision. Here are some examples of coverage sources we find with proper analysis:
- Many drivers carry much higher limits on their auto insurance, sometimes as much as $1 million to pay injury claims
- If more than one driver contributes to causing the motorcyclist’s injuries, all drivers’ insurance policies contribute separately to pay all injury claims
- We sometimes find that drivers carry excess/additional liability coverage through a Homeowners Insurance Umbrella Policy – – these policies often add another $1 million to cover bike injury claims
- If the at-fault driver was an Uber or Lyft driver who was on a rideshare journey, those policies provide $1 million in coverage for the injured rider
- If the at-fault driver was employed, the employer’s commercial liability policy may provide additional coverage for motorcycle injury claims
Who Was Responsible for the Accident?
Does it matter who was to blame for your motorcycle accident? It certainly does, and this is one of the biggest factors in motorcycle accident claims.
North Carolina follows what’s called the “pure contributory negligence” doctrine. This means that if you were responsible for the accident in any way, the insurance company won’t give you a dime. Attorneys call this “the 1% rule”. If a motorcycle rider is just 1% responsible for causing her accident, she has no claims – no right to be paid for her injuries and no right to payment for the damaged motorcycle. While there are a few exceptions, this is a very powerful tool for insurance companies. Former adjuster and fellow rider Carl Nagle caution riders – “Insurance companies always try to place slight blame on motorcycle riders! You should not provide a recorded statement or admit to any wrongdoing, and you should always talk to a lawyer before you begin working with the insurance adjuster who is being paid to oppose your claims.”
In all motorcycle accident cases, you should take time to carefully analyze the Police Report, photos of the crash scene, witness statements, and all other collision evidence. To collect the full value of your injury claims, you must stand ready to show you were innocent, and be able to identify all legal violations for other drivers involved. An ironclad case proving negligence and dangerous driver errors is the best way to maximize injury settlements and trial verdicts.
How Did Injuries Impact Quality of Life?
As noted above, a thorough presentation of medical evidence is the backbone of a successful personal injury case. Further, it is important to personalize the evidence by showing how the motorcycle accident impacted your lifestyle, your hobbies, your family life, your scheduled vacations or family events, and all aspects of your life.
For a single parent, being pushed out of work or being left for some time in a wheelchair is particularly difficult. If you were about to start a new job, or if a marriage or other important event had to be canceled, evidence to confirm these facts will increase the value of your claim for pain and suffering compensation.
How Good Is Your Lawyer?
When filing a lawsuit for motorcycle accident claims, choose your attorney wisely. Your lawyer will need to put together a powerful case that proves negligence on other drivers, shows you were innocent, and shows a jury the full nature and extent of all of your injuries and suffering.
Our founding attorney, Carl Nagle, has owned a motorcycle and ridden for nearly four decades. He understands the handling dynamics of motorcycles, how a rider must reach when a threat suddenly occurs, and how it is sometimes best to lay a bike down rather than strike a fixed object. He is also a former claims adjuster for Progressive Insurance Company, the number-one writer of motorcycle insurance coverage in the country. He has handled motorcycle accident cases from both sides, and he understands how to build and present the strongest case for motorcycle injury compensation.
Contact a North Carolina Attorney Who Understands Motorcycle Accident Claims
If you’re a motorcycle rider who’s been hurt in an accident, don’t risk dealing with the insurance company alone. Nagle & Associates, P.A. offers reliable representation for motorcycle riders in North Carolina. Call our firm at (800) 411-1583 for a consultation on your motorcycle accident case today.