Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries in California is Complex
Understanding how much you’re likely to get as compensation for a motorcycle accident involves some complex calculations, a little guesswork, and good persuasive skills. There are no hard-and-fast rules to determine how much any one motorcycle accident case is worth in California. While there are legal guidelines and precedents which can inform individuals about estimated awards, the value of each case must be calculated based on accident-specific criteria.
That means there’s no way anyone can give you a solid answer right away, without digging deep into the details of your motorcycle accident injuries, as to how much money you’ll be awarded in your case.
Understanding How Much Your Injuries Are Worth
Of course, the actual costs associated with your motorcycle accident injuries will likely be the largest component of any compensation package you receive at the conclusion of your case.
Serious injuries (like broken bones, traumatic brain injury and injuries requiring surgery) can be extremely costly in the short term and in the long run. With the cost of medical services climbing every year, something as simple as a trip to the emergency room to get checked out can result in a bill for a few thousand dollars. If you need to be hospitalized overnight or need surgery, you are looking at several thousands in medical costs, not to mention the expenses for physical therapy and rehabilitative treatment.
Don’t Believe the Insurance Carrier’s Initial Estimate of Compensation for Your Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Believe it or not, insurance companies actually create tables of what specific injuries are worth to them. These tables look at the type of injury, the average hospital bill associated with that injury, and the overall impact of that injury on a person’s livelihood. Insurance adjusters can then look up each individual’s injuries after a motorcycle accident and come up with an estimated award within days. This is dangerous!
But just because the insurance company has these computer programs and charts doesn’t mean they encompass all of the variables to go into calculating fair compensation for motorcycle accident injuries. In fact, many of these charts don’t take into account emotional trauma, lost wages, or the stress injuries and financial hardships placed on families. Therefore, initial insurance settlement offers are usually not large enough to appropriately compensate you for all losses you suffered.
If you were not at a fault for the accident, all of your medical expenses should be paid for by the at-fault driver… unless the driver doesn’t have auto insurance or their insurance policy doesn’t cover all the expenses you’ve incurred. In that instance, you may need to look at your own insurance coverage.
Settlement Value Versus Trial Value
Insurance settlements are the most common (and usually most efficient) ways to get compensation for motorcycle accident injuries. In such instances, the at-fault party’s insurance carrier will tabulate what your injuries are worth. They will then generate an offer and submit it to you.
There are two important things you should know about insurance settlement offers. Because insurance carrier prioritize saving money over being fair, when they make you an offer, you should know:
- The offer is likely not the maximum amount you could potentially be entitled to.
- You don’t have to accept the first offer that’s made.
While settling out of court is a quick and easy way to get the financial support you need, don’t sell yourself short. A fair and adequate insurance settlement should take into account all the compensation you need after a motorcycle accident including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Property loss
- Long-term medical care
If it doesn’t, you have the right to ask for more. However, you have to have proof to back that request up.
Proving What Your Motorcycle Injury Compensation Should Be
Your demand letter is one of the most important parts of the financial recovery process. Crafting a solid demand letter that spells out all of the costs you’ve incurred due to another individual’s carelessness, recklessness, or negligence is the best way to get every penny you deserve. That demand letter should contain valid statements about your losses and proof to back those statements up.
That proof may come in the form of:
- Evidence collected at the scene of the accident
- Expert testimonials (doctors, specialists, etc.)
- Documentation from your employer
- Accident investigation reports
- Estimates from repair facilities
- An itemized list of everything you own that was damaged in the crash (don’t forget your clothing, cell phone, and even ancillary motorcycle equipment like saddlebags)
Motorcycle Injury Compensation When Settling Out of Court
Keep in mind that the compensation for motorcycle injuries in an out-of-court settlement can be much less than you could get if you took your case to court, but settling has a number of benefits.
- You get compensation sooner (The trial process can take years to resolve!)
- There’s less legal red tape involved (You’ll probably learn a lot of stuff you never wanted to know AND you’ll really get to know your lawyer if you take your case to trial!)
- You don’t have to invest much of your own personal time (You have to answer 100’s of written questions, give your deposition, be examined by the other side’s doctor and appear at trial for several days or weeks)
- You don’t run the risk of losing the case – and all your compensation for your motorcycle accident injuries (A settlement offer is a guarantee. A trial judgment lies in the hands of 12 strangers on the jury.)
Trial Value of Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Your accident and injury’s trial value is much more difficult to calculate than settlement value. Your estimated trial compensation really weighs on your chances of winning the hearts of a jury or the analytical mind of a judge. Even after you have evaluated your chances of winning or losing at trial, you’ll need to factor in these other costs in calculating your compensation for your motorcycle accident:
Also, you have to take into consideration the financial costs of taking a case to trial. There are expert witness testimony fees, jury fees, trial exhibit costs, court reporter fees and filing fees, not to mention the cost of you taking time off of work to attend the trial and other pre-trial events that require your attendance. Also, your attorney’s fees will absolutely increase if the case is taken to trial. All of this will eat into any compensation for motorcycle accident injuries you get at trial.
Finally, you should also consider the emotional costs of taking your motorcycle accident case all the way through trial. You will have to think about and participate in your case for much longer (months or years longer) than if you settle. Your participation (and stress) level will also increase drastically. If you settle, your motorcycle accident lawyer does all the heavy lifting, but if you go to trial, your participation is key. This can wear on you and pull you away from your family and work life.
The bottom line is that if your case does go to trial, you may win, you may lose. You may receive a large award or you may only receive a fraction of your desired award.
Factors Influencing Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Regardless of whether you choose to settle out of court, pursue a motorcycle accident lawsuit or go all the way to trial, there are factors that will affect how much you’ll likely receive.
Compensation for motorcycle accident injuries is graded on a fluid scale that includes variables like:
- Hard dollar costs
How to Calculate Your Potential Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Special and General Damages
There are two types of financial damages that should be calculated in order to come up with a figure that reflects fair and accurate compensation for your motorcycle accident.
1) Special (or Actual) Damages
2) General (or Pain and Suffering) Damages
Special damages are damages that can have an exact dollar amount affixed to them. These include:
- Medical bills – past and future
- Cost for medical transportation or other transportation made necessary by the accident
- The repair or replacement cost of your motorcycle
- The replacement or repair cost of your motorcycle gear and other personal property that was damaged
- Lost wages – past and future
- Amounts paid to anyone to do chores or services you did prior to your motorcycle accident but were unable to after the crash
These damages will likely make up the majority of any compensation you receive as a result of a motorcycle accident.
However, you can and should ask for damages that don’t have a concrete dollar amount associated with them. These factors are all often lumped into “Pain and Suffering” awards—which can be a bit misleading.
These intangible monetary amounts stem from:
- Emotional trauma – past and future
- Pain suffered as a result of physical injuries – past and future
- Physical and Stress placed on family units – past and future pain
- Loss of consortium – past and future
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement
As you can see, calculating these damages can become quite tricky. Each of these is something you’re entitled to under California law as compensation for motorcycle accident injuries, but the other driver’s insurance has little to no interest in paying these out. Your motorcycle accident attorney should hold the insurance company responsible for paying out these damages to make sure you get full compensation for your motorcycle accident injuries.
Understanding Liability in Determining Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
While your medical expenses are the largest portion of your potential compensation package, liability is the biggest factor affecting not only the outcome of your accident settlement process but also the end total you’re likely to receive after a motorcycle accident.
Liability is legal terminology that means responsibility or fault. Essentially, determining each party’s liability in an accident lets all parties come to a fair agreement as to proper compensation for motorcycle accident injuries.
California is a comparative liability state, which means that each party in the accident is assigned a portion of the liability. Factors that affect an individual’s liability in motorcycle accidents in California include:
- Whether all parties were following applicable traffic laws
- Exacerbating circumstances beyond anyone’s control (weather is a good example of this)
- Exigent circumstances (conditions which force drivers to make an emergency maneuver)
- Negligence (whether one or both parties breached their duty of care to the safety of those around them)
An insurance adjuster (or judge or jury in court cases) will assign each party a percentage of the fault in accident cases based on these factors. That percentage is then used to determine how much you might get as financial compensation for motorcycle accident injuries.
Even if you were partly at fault for your motorcycle accident, you can make a claim, but it will be discounted by whatever percentage you are at fault.
For example, if your California motorcycle accident case is worth $500,000 if you were not responsible at all for causing the accident, but you were found be 50% at fault, you would get half the value of your case or $250,000, not the entire $500,000.
Insurance Policy Limits Determine Maximum Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Because most California motorcycle accident claims are made against individual motorists, unless they were working for a company at the time of the accident, the high end of the compensation for your motorcycle accident injuries will most likely be dictated by their liability insurance policy limit.
Sadly, California only requires motorists to carry a minimum of $15,000 of liability coverage. That means your motorcycle accident compensation could be limited to $15k.
If however the motorist carries more than the California limit, or they were working at the time of the accident, you can hope to get more than this minimum. If not, other sources of recovery would be your own underinsured insurance coverage if you have it, or going after the motorist personally, which is usually a dead end.
So, just because you have serious injuries from a motorcycle accident caused by someone else, that doesn’t mean you will get the full value of compensation for your motorcycle accident injuries.
Prejudice Against Motorcyclists Affects Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Another factor which may come into play (but shouldn’t) is the innate prejudice that motorcyclists face every day. Though riding has become more and more popular every year since the early 2000s, it’s still not uncommon to hear people voice negative opinions about motorcyclists based on misconceptions, singular bad experiences, and media influence.
This prejudice shouldn’t enter into the compensation process but it often does. Investigating police officers, insurance adjusters, even jury members have been known to let their negative prejudices influence them when it comes to deciding if a motorcyclist deserves financial compensation and how much that compensation should be.
While it may be impossible to completely overcome this stigma, your motorcycle accident attorney should do everything they can to present you as an individual client and not a representative of a collective.
As you can see, calculating the compensation for motorcycle accident injuries can get complicated. That is why you should contact an experienced and focused California motorcycle accident lawyer to evaluate your case.
What to Expect from a Legal Consultation
No motorcycle crash lawyer can tell you exactly how much your insurance settlement or court-ordered award will be. However, when you speak with an attorney during a consultation, they should be able to give you a fairly rough estimate as to how much compensation you could potentially seek.
It’s up to you then to decide how to follow through with the matter. Will you accept the compensation for your motorcycle accident offered by the insurance company? Will you ask for more? Will you have to take the liable party to court in order to get everything you deserve?
Those questions can only be answered on an individual basis and must be based on case specifics. However, an experienced motorcycle accident attorney should be able to guide you to the solution that’s right for you.
WARNING: If you speak with a motorcycle accident attorney who tells you how much your case is worth (or what they think they can get for you) during your first or even second conversation with them, be very cautious! This is often just a tactic to get your business.
Determining the value of a serious motorcycle accident injury case takes a lot of dedicated time and attention to the details of your case. Unless you have a really small, simple case, no one can give you an accurate estimate right off the bat.
Make sure that the motorcycle injury lawyer you choose is a straight-shooter who won’t exaggerate the value of your case just to get you as a client!
Hiring a Good California Motorcycle Accident Attorney is the Best Way to Increase Your Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
One final element that can positively affect the motorcycle accident injury compensation you get is the motorcycle crash lawyer you hire. You should find a focused and dedicated lawyer to handle your case. Having a good motorcycle accident attorney by your side will ensure that you aren’t forced to settle for a lower settlement than your case is worth.
Having an Attorney Will Get You More!
The Insurance Research Council found that:
People who are represented by a lawyer receive an average of 3.5 times more for their personal injury settlement than people without an attorney.