The four collision types we discuss next are highly targeted by insurance carriers for defense and claims denial. These are motorcycle accidents, moped/scooter accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents. A common thread among these cases is the severe and occasionally catastrophic injuries that follow from these incidents. Pedestrians and motorcycle riders have very little protection when a collision occurs. Thus, injuries can be devastating, and the victims’ claims for medical care costs and lost quality of life can easily exceed all available insurance coverage.
Legal representation in motorcycle accident cases is strongly encouraged. I am a fellow rider, and I understand the unique handling characteristics of motorcycles. You should look for a lawyer who understands how a motorcycle operates and handles and who has dealt with the physics involved in analyzing and reconstructing these unique accidents. Insurance companies target motorcycle accident cases for total denial by using North Carolina’s pure contributory negligence law. If the motorcycle rider is slightly at fault for causing his or her own accident in North Carolina, he or she has no claims and no payment rights. Even in clear liability cases, adjusters often argue that the motorcycle rider placed him- or herself in a position of danger simply by riding the motorcycle. While the law does not support this position, if a jury misunderstood the law and placed slight blame with the rider, the victim would receive zero compensation for his or her accident claims.
Insurance adjusters also work very quickly to secure written or recorded statements in these cases. They try to trap the motorcyclist into admitting to speeding or failing to take the earliest available evasive maneuver. Also, because the stopping distances, turning capabilities, and handling characteristics of motorcycles are quite different from a car’s handling and braking capabilities, they use complex accident reconstruction knowledge to build upon facts that support laying blame with the biker. In fact, they know that many people are afraid to ride motorcycles and they will try to encourage a jury to conclude that the biker “assumed the risk” of injury and thus caused his or her own injuries. This is not a correct application of North Carolina’s assumption of risk law. However, if the defense attorney sways the jury in this direction, you could lose the motorcycle injury trial.
When seeking legal counsel in a motorcycle accident case, discuss your case directly with the attorney who will personally handle the case. Look for at least some riding experience. The attorney in a motorcycle accident case should understand the hand-brake, foot-brake, clutch, gear function, and handling traits so he or she can truly understand the details of what you went through before, during, and after impact. Make sure the attorney is prepared to investigate the collision and analyze all collision facts to nail down fault and legal responsibility. While interviewing attorneys, also make sure they have significant experience with serious and catastrophic injury cases. Injuries in these cases are often permanent. However, without admissible medical evidence confirming permanency and the anticipated cost of future medical care, the insurance carrier will not pay for future medical needs or for future pain and suffering.
Careful focus should be applied to the reconstruction of the accident, application of all traffic laws, anticipation of available liability defenses, photography and documentation of all physical and emotional injuries, presentation of medical opinion evidence on scarring / permanency / future medical needs, and thorough analysis of jury verdict trends in similar cases. A careful search for additional at-fault parties and additional insurance coverage should be undertaken to access all available funding. Motorcycle accident claims often bring large settlements and verdicts. Thus, thorough medical evidence and all other value factors should be pushed aggressively to secure maximum compensation for the injured rider and his or her family.