Motorcycle Accident: Can I Sue?

Motorcycle Accident: Can I Sue?

Each year there are more than 4,500 fatal motorcycle accidents and more than 80,000 motorcycle injuries across the nation. Right here in California, they happen on scenic drives through rural canyons, on the city streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and everywhere else motorcycles and other vehicles ride together.

Motorcyclists are in a unique situation when it comes to vehicle accidents. Although a motorcycle offers the freedom to ride out in the open air, this also brings danger. 

While a car has a huge metal frame surrounding the driver, there’s no barrier between a motorcyclist and another vehicle. The smaller size of a motorcycle compared to SUVs, trucks, and cars can cause a motorcyclist’s injuries to be more severe during an impact.

Because of these disadvantages, it is important to be aware of your rights after a motorcycle crash. Motorcycle accidents can bring expensive medical bills, bike repair bills, and more, and the claims process is complicated.

Naturally, you probably have quite a few questions about making an insurance claim and suing another motorist. Some of the most commonly asked questions are answered below. 

Can I Sue After a Motorcycle Accident?

YES, you can sue after a motorcycle accident! Under the law, anyone who is the victim of a motorcycle accident is permitted to file a lawsuit against those responsible. If you lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident, you may also be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.  

However, the objective should not be to file a lawsuit or sue anyone after your motorcycle accident. Ideally, you will be able to settle your case via the motorcycle insurance claims process to obtain full and fair compensation. If you can’t fairly resolve your case through an insurance claim, you can sue over the motorcycle accident.

Accidents between motorcycles and other vehicles can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, lost wages, and repairs/replacements to your damaged vehicle. You shouldn’t have to pay for all of these costs due to someone else’s poor driving! 

Numerous factors contribute to increased risk of severity and injury in a motorcycle accident. These factors include helmet use, age, gender, level of experience, impairment, motorcycle engine size, the weather, the time of day, and the time of year.

Important facts about motorcycle accidents:

  • In California, the most effective way to prevent death in a motorcycle accident is to wear your helmet, as required by law
  • Our state is one of the few states with a universal helmet law, meaning you are required to wear a helmet at all times when operating a motorcycle on a public road.
  • Nearly half of the other states only have partial helmet laws, which require helmets only in certain circumstances.
  • In the state of California, a motorcycle rider can be ticketed if he or she or the passenger is not wearing a helmet.
  • Helmets can reduce the risk of a head injury by almost 70% and the risk of death by nearly 40%.
  • Between 1970 and 2005, motorcyclists under the age of 30 were more likely to have accidents.
  • In the past 10 years, the fatal injury rate of motorcyclists over the age of 49 has risen.
  • More than 25 percent of all motorcycle accidents involve unlicensed motorcycle riders, who are at a much higher risk of injury or death than unlicensed drivers.
  • The risk of injury or death in a motorcycle accident increases exponentially if you consume alcohol or drugs. More than 25% of motorcyclist fatalities involve a rider with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.

When Can I Sue After a Motorcycle Accident?

You can sue the moment after your motorcycle accident, but we never recommend immediately suing someone. You should try to work through the insurance claims process to settle your case before resorting to a lawsuit after a motorcycle accident. 

However, you obviously will want to start the process as soon as possible following the accident to give yourself the best chance of making a successful claim. You don’t want to miss the deadline set forth by California’s statute of limitations on personal injury claims.

When you or a loved one are injured in a motorcycle accident, it is important to gather your information right away and contact a personal injury lawyer. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer will jump on building a solid case while details are still fresh in your mind and the minds of witnesses.

You should sue after a motorcycle accident when:

  • The insurance carrier is no longer dealing with you in good faith.
  • The other party is denying or disputing liability when they were at fault for the accident and you have proof of their fault.
  • The insurance money is maxed out AND the person who caused your accident has other assets or money that can pay for your damages.
  • The statute of limitations has not yet run out.

Examples of when you may be able to sue after a motorcycle accident:

  • A driver made a left-hand turn across traffic and failed to see your motorcycle coming.

  • A car swerved into your lane of travel and hit your motorcycle.

  • Your accident involved a pedestrian at night who may not have been following the law.

  • An Uber driver was looking down at their app and rear-ended your motorcycle.

  • A driver was impaired, drove erratically, and pushed you off the road.

  • A semi-truck driver failed to check his blind spot or signal before moving into your lane of travel.

  • A semi-truck’s poorly-fastened load flew off and created a no-contact hazard for your motorcycle.

As you can see from the examples above, there are plenty of instances when you can sue after a motorcycle accident. You can sue when someone is negligent, interferes with the motorcyclist’s right-of-way, and causes a crash. A negligent driver may be held liable for another person’s injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Who Can I Sue After a Motorcycle Accident?

You can sue any person, company, or governmental entity who is in any way responsible for or a substantial factor in causing your motorcycle accident with injuries. 

California is a comparative negligence state, which means that fault is determined by the percentage each party holds for causing the accident. Even if you, as the injured motorcyclist, are partially at fault, you may still be able to file a lawsuit against another responsible party.  

For example, if you were speeding on your motorcycle and a car cut you off, you could be found to be 20% liable for causing the accident and the other driver 80%. You could collect 80% of the full value of your motorcycle injury claim from the other driver in an insurance claim or lawsuit.

Motorcycle Traffic Collision

If your motorcycle accident was caused by another motorist, the driver at fault for causing the collision can be held responsible for damages to you as the injured party. You can sue that motorist.

Motorcycle Road Defect or Dangerous Condition

If your motorcycle accident was fully or partially the result of a defect or dangerous condition of the road, you may be able to sue the city, state, or other municipality for their negligence in contributing to the cause of your accident. 

PRO TIP: If you are suing a governmental entity, you must file a claim with them within SIX MONTHS of your motorcycle accident, or your claim may be forever BARRED!

Motorcycle Construction Accident

If your motorcycle accident was caused by any kind of construction, you can sue the governmental entity or construction company for their contribution to the cause of your injuries.

Motorcycle or Equipment Defect

If you are seriously injured as a result of some defect with your motorcycle or other equipment, you may be entitled to sue the manufacturer, dealer, and/or service persons/companies who made, sold, or repaired your motorcycle or gear.

Whatever the cause of your motorcycle accident, don’t try to handle filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit on your own. Claims adjusters from insurance companies and their attorneys will do their level best to pay you the very lowest amount they can get away with. 

Trying to hold your own against an experienced claims adjuster or insurance lawyer can result in you receiving less money than you deserve. Speak to an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as possible after the accident before you fill out any paperwork or sign any documents. 

The at-fault party will be responsible for covering your medical bills either directly or through an insurance company. In some cases, the responsible party will attempt to delay the payment process. 

Sometimes, this tactic is used to try to force you to settle out of court for a much lower cost than they would be paying if they lose a lawsuit. They’re hoping the charges will be dropped or that the strain of going through with the suit will cause you to pursue an out-of-court settlement instead. Get a free consultation with a qualified motorcycle lawyer to find out who you can sue after a motorcycle accident.

How Do I Sue After a Motorcycle Accident?

How to sue someone after a motorcycle accident is a great question, because it has to be done right! To start, directly following the motorcycle accident, you must call 911 to report injuries or any substantial damage. Failure to do so could harm your health and hurt your legal case.

Next, it’s important to get the information from the other driver(s), motorcyclist(s), and/or pedestrian(s) involved. Include license plate numbers, names and contact information, insurance information, year, make, model and color of any vehicles involved, all vehicle identification numbers (VINs), and the contact information of any witnesses to the accident. 

If you are unable to obtain information from any one of the individuals who are involved in the accident, or if the situation escalates, call the police. Take photos or videos of the scene of the accident to obtain a record of what happened and take pictures of your damaged motorcycle and any injuries you may have. 

To prove your motorcycle accident case, you’ll need to show that you made reasonable choices before and during the accident, and the other party did not. This can be quite tricky to prove without the help of a talented motorcycle injury attorney. So make sure your attorney has plenty of experience with motorcycle crashes in California so they can advise you on how to sue after your accident.

Why Would I Sue After a Motorcycle Accident?

There are many reasons why you would sue after a motorcycle accident. The injuries caused by a motorcycle accident can range from minor to severe and your costs may begin to spiral out of control. 

  • Your injuries can result in loss of wages that you would have earned

  • You could suffer lost earning capacity and become less able to earn future income

  • You may have a loss of consortium, including lost companionship, support, and spousal intimacy

  • You will likely have non-economic damages, including pain and suffering

To recover money for these losses, you must file a motorcycle accident claim and maybe even sue after your motorcycle accident. When you consult with a personal injury lawyer, they will be able to let you know if your motorcycle accident case can be resolved by simply filing a claim or whether you will have to sue. 

Consider your injuries and other damages, and think about your future living with the trauma of the accident. Some of the common motorcycle accident injuries that may result in financial compensation are listed below. 

Road Rash 

Road rash is especially common among motorcycle accidents and occurs when the skin is scraped off part of your body. The area affected generally looks raw, red, and bloody.

Although this injury is usually extremely painful, a deep wound can result in damage to nerve cells, resulting in a loss of feeling in part of the injured area. A doctor will be able to monitor the injury to help prevent infection and to ensure that the healing process is happening properly. 

Broken Bones 

Broken bones can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. There are four main fracture types: displaced, non-displaced, open, and closed. Displaced fractures occur when the bone is broken in two or more places and no longer aligns. If there are more than two pieces to the broken bone, the fracture is called a comminuted fracture. Non-displaced fractures occur when the bone is either partially or fully broken but remains in alignment. 

Closed fractures occur when the bone breaks but does not pierce the skin. Open fractures occur when the bone has pierced the skin and has either remained visible or receded into the wound. Open fractures are especially dangerous, as they can result in deep bone infections or the severing of a major blood vessel. 

Head, Neck, and Spinal Injuries 

Head, neck, and spinal injuries have the potential to be the most damaging of all. The brain and spinal cord are some of the most fragile parts of the body, which is why they are encased in bone for protection. 

Motorcycle head or brain injuries include closed head injuries and open head injuries. Closed head injuries occur when the skull itself remains intact and include concussions, contusions, and scalp wounds. Open head injuries occur when the skull is fractured or has been penetrated by an object. 

Open head injuries can be deadly if part of the bone or the penetrating object enters the brain. Motorcycle accident neck and spinal injuries can cause problems ranging from temporary paralysis to paraplegia or quadriplegia, which are paralysis of the lower body only or paralysis from the neck down, respectively. These injuries can result in a lifetime of difficulty or chronic pain. 

Biker’s Arm 

Another nerve-related injury common to motorcyclists is called “biker’s arm.” Biker’s arm occurs when the rider uses his or her arms in an attempt to protect themselves during an accident. 

This injury can result in paralysis of the arms by affecting the nerves in the entire arm. In many cases, symptoms of biker’s arm are not immediately apparent and may not be felt for days or even weeks after the crash. 

Disfigurement and/or Loss of Limb 

The blunt trauma of a motorcycle accident can result in disfigurement of the face or loss of limbs. Surgeries and therapies can be a painful and drawn-out process that puts a huge dent in your pocketbook. Investing in a good personal injury lawyer can help ensure that you receive the compensation you need following an accident. 

Internal Bleeding 

Internal bleeding can be deadly, resulting in shock and tissue death if not diagnosed in time. The symptoms of internal bleeding can vary widely depending on the severity of your accident and may be hard to detect. 

Internal bleeding can be caused by penetrating trauma such as broken bones or a foreign object, blunt trauma like being thrown from your motorcycle, or deceleration injuries, which take place when near-immediate deceleration occurs during a crash. Anyone involved in a motorcycle accident should go to the emergency room for an evaluation straight from the scene of the accident to help prevent complications from undiagnosed internal bleeding. 

Where Can I Sue After a Motorcycle Accident?

If you end up having to file a lawsuit to protect your legal rights, you must do so in court. File with the court that controls the jurisdiction where your motorcycle accident took place. 

Your attorney will help you determine which court will handle your case. If your motorcycle accident took place in San Francisco, you cannot - except under certain exceptions - sue in a court in Los Angeles. Even if you live in LA, you must sue in San Francisco Superior Court where your motorcycle accident took place. 

You may receive a motorcycle settlement without ever going to court. It depends on the circumstances. This is another reason you should consult with a trustworthy motorcycle accident lawyer so you know where to file a lawsuit for your motorcycle accident.

Who Can Help Me Sue After a Motorcycle Accident?

Filing a lawsuit should not be done by just any old lawyer you find in a phone book or off a billboard. When it comes to your life and health, or that of a loved one, you want to be sure that you have the best representation in court possible to give you the maximum chances of winning the suit. 

You would not skimp on the care you put into maintaining your motorcycle or taking care of your child. Neither should you do so when it comes to filing a suit following an accident involving a motorcycle. 

After the personal injury lawyer meets with you for the initial consultation, she will begin to go over your case and start compiling information. The review will include the following: 

  • Witness statements

  • Judge-enacted case laws about the situation

  • An in-person visit to the accident location

  • Hiring the services of an investigator to look into the details of the accident

  • Reviewing medical reports and other related records

  • Reviewing legislature-enacted laws

  • Police reports

  • Medical bills

Your California personal injury lawyer will also make contact with your insurance company on your behalf to discuss their plan for getting you the money you deserve. Following the investigation, your lawyer will then ensure that you are following the proper procedures recommended by your doctor for recovery from your injury. She will also continue building your case with information such as ongoing medical bills/treatment, records of lost income, and further statements from witnesses to the accident. 

You will need to sign a record release authorization form to allow your attorney to have access to this important information. Consider Sally Morin Law as your go-to resource when it comes to handling a motorcycle accident lawsuit.

Before You Sign Anything, Read This

Before you sign any papers or make any statements, contact a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in representing Californian motorcycle riders. Your insurance company may be in a hurry to get you to sign a waiver for your check.

This is because they can offer you a lower payout than you could obtain if you have the services of an experienced lawyer on your side. Remember, the insurance company is not keen on giving you funds. The company is, naturally, going to be more interested in paying out as little as possible while remaining in compliance. 

Be very careful about what you say immediately following an accident. Do not say anything that could imply you are at fault for the accident. Even if the other driver comes at you aggressively and tries to get you to admit that you are at fault, don’t say anything - even if you think you may have caused the accident. 

There are factors you might not be aware of that contributed to the accident, making you less guilty of, or even absolving you completely from, causing the accident. The decision of who was at fault for the accident is made by the jury and the insurance companies of the involved parties. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated into saying something you may regret later.


John A.
Motorcycle Accident Client

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"Lauren and Rebecca at Sally Morin were fantastic, and helped me easily navigate the process after my motorcycle accident. They handled all the paperwork, and interactions with insurance companies, healthcare providers, etc. allowing me to focus on my recovery. They helped me get the most compensation, and were very reasonable with the fees, etc. When the damages were slightly less than anticipated they even reduced their fee slightly to help me get more. I cannot recommend them highly enough. I hope to never need them again, but if I am in another motorcycle or bicycle accident they will be the first people I call!"

Experience a serious motorcycle accident?

Check out our Motorcycle Accident Page to learn more about how the process works.


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