Advice, the saying goes, is cheap. And there is no shortage of advice on the internet about what to do after you get into a motor vehicle accident. You’ll find some of that type of advice here on our blog, in fact.
A significant amount of the advice you’ll find by Googling “what should I do after an accident?” recites a basic formula: call 911, see a doctor, be wary of insurance adjusters, consult with an attorney, and so on. And, in fairness, that is usually pretty solid advice. But when it comes to a motorcycle accident, it’s also perhaps a tad simplistic.
In this blog post, we aim to dive deeper into the post-accident-advice-giving genre and walk you, step by step, through some of the significant decisions you might face after a motorcycle accident disrupts your life. We will focus specifically on steps you can take as someone whose loved one suffered serious injuries in this type of accident, because the reality is that motorcycle accidents often put motorcycle riders and passengers out of commission and unable to tackle many of the tasks below.
A Common Motorcycle Accident Scenario
Your loved one was riding his motorcycle on the road next to a busy shopping center on a clear day, observing the 35 miles per hour speed limit in that part of town. Without warning, a car driven by a teenager who was texting violated his right of way by turning left across his path toward the shopping center entrance. Your loved one applied his brakes but he couldn’t avoid colliding with the side of the car. The accident is 100 percent the teen driver’s fault. Fortunately, her parents carry ample insurance.
The force of the collision threw your loved one over the roof of the car and onto the street. Luckily he was wearing his helmet or he would have been killed instantly. As it is, he suffered a severe concussion. But that’s not the worst of his injuries. He landed extremely awkwardly on the road. The impact with the road surface shattered his pelvis and broke his arm in multiple places. He has lacerations and abrasions, and when he’s admitted to the hospital doctors discover damage to his liver and spleen that are causing internal bleeding. These are typical motorcycle accident injuries.
The medical team stabilizes him, but they tell you he faces a long stay in the hospital and an extremely painful and lengthy course of rehabilitation. He’ll be out of his job as a roofer for months, and may never recover the mobility and balance he needs to navigate ladders and rooftops safely. He was relatively healthy until now, so he carried minimal health insurance with a high deductible to save money. The collision more or less destroyed his motorcycle.
The accident is going to cause your loved one and your family extreme physical, emotional, and financial pain. What should you do?
Get Appropriate Medical Care
The first piece of advice you see in any blog post like this is one we are going to repeat, because it’s indisputably accurate. The first thing your loved one should do, and that you should do for your loved one, is to ensure he gets appropriate medical care. For now, let the hospital deal with billing your health insurance company. Just make sure your loved one is stabilized and on the path to recovery. Nothing is more important for him, for you, or for your family than to do everything you can to give him the best chance of making a “full” recovery, however long that might take.
Preserve the Motorcycle
We’re still talking about what to do in the first hours after an accident, here. The next thing it is absolutely essential for you to do, right away, is to figure out where your loved one’s motorcycle is and to take possession of it. Do this as soon as possible. Do not let a towing company or clean up crew throw the bike away. Do not let someone try to fix it, and don’t try to fix it yourself. Collect the bike and (if possible) any parts that came off of it in the accident, no matter how small, and put all of them in a dry, safe place, like a garage. Then, do not touch them.
At every phase of this process, take pictures with your phone to document the exact condition of the bike and what you are doing with it. Imagine you are a character on one of those crime scene investigation TV shows. Take a picture of everything.
Why is this so important? Well, just like the characters on TV, you are preserving one of the most critical pieces of evidence of your loved one’s accident. What happens to the other vehicle—the car he collided with—is out of your control for the moment. But by preserving his bike and its parts in exactly the condition it was after the accident you can help him and (eventually) his lawyer eliminate the chance that someone will claim the accident was your loved one’s fault.
Contact Your Insurance Companies to Give Them a Head’s Up
It is usually a good idea to call your insurance companies (motorcycle and health) soon after an accident to let them know what has happened. If your loved one carries long-term disability insurance, like AFLAC, call that company, too. In these phone calls, do not try to characterize fault in the accident or go into detail about what you think happened. Just giving them a head’s up is all you typically need to do to fulfill your obligations as a policyholder (or as the representative of the policyholder). Do not agree to any interviews or to share any evidence with the insurance company, at least not yet. If they press you about this, tell them you are going to need to talk to a lawyer first and set a date to follow up with them.
Call Your Loved One’s Employer/Coworkers
Someone will need to tell your loved one’s employer and/or co-workers about the accident. Treat this conversation like the call with the insurance companies. Let them know what happened, but do not share more detail than is necessary to cover for your loved one until he is well enough to speak with them himself. If you need to make arrangements to make sure someone fills in for your loved one on a job, do that right away. The goal is to try to minimize the impact on others so that people remember those efforts when your loved one is ready to return to work.
Do a Quick Review of Your Finances
Figure out what the expected period of time your loved one will not be not working is going to cost your family. Identify how much money you need every month to stay afloat financially. Determine whether anyone can help pick up the loss of his income, whether by getting another job or seeking a loan from family or friends. Your aim should be to have as clear a picture as possible of how long you can hold out without your loved one’s income. This information is important. It helps you focus on what you need to accomplish to avoid the worst financial damage. And it can help your attorney to plan a legal strategy and to calculate potential damages you might recover.
Set up a File for Records
You are going to start receiving lots of records from insurance companies and medical providers. Try to keep all of them together in a file so that when anyone asks for them—especially your lawyer—you have them all on hand. These records document the precise nature and extent of your loved one’s injuries, and the out-of-pocket medical costs you have incurred. They will be critical to proving the amount of damages your loved one can seek to recover.
Take Care of Yourself
It is incredibly stressful to deal with the sudden shock of a loved one getting seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. To survive this moment of your life, it is important to care for yourself when you can. Do simple things like taking a daily vitamin and trying to exercise. Eat healthy foods. It might be hard to sleep, but do your best to get some rest. Let friends and family who care about you do their part to help out. Remember: being strong for your loved one as he recovers does not mean hurting yourself in the process.
Sit Down With an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Once your loved one’s health has stabilized and you have a reasonable sense of his outlook for recovery, and you have taken the other steps above to stabilize your own situation, schedule a free consultation with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney. If possible, bring your injured loved one along, or schedule the meeting at the hospital. The purpose of this meeting is to start the ball rolling on protecting your loved one’s, and your own, legal rights to compensation from the teen driver’s insurance, and potentially from others.
Think of a lawyer as a person who can take some of the burden off of your shoulders. You and your injured loved one need to focus on getting his health back and returning to living a “normal” life. Your lawyer helps you do that by taking over the process of gathering information and using it to convince insurance companies and others to pay your loved one the damages he deserves.
In a nutshell, an attorney can:
- Gather any additional evidence that’s available to help understand and explain how the accident happened and who was at fault;
- Identify all parties who have potential “legal liability” to your loved one for damages. In the scenario above, this will certainly include the teen driver’s parents’ insurance. But it is always possible that there are others whose actions may have contributed to the accident. Your lawyer’s goal is to find as many potential sources of payment for your loved one’s injuries as possible, to give him the best chance of recovering every penny he deserves.
- “Demand” payment from those parties, and engage in negotiations with them or their attorneys to try to achieve a “settlement” that pays your loved one an appropriate amount of money.
- Take legal action if those negotiations do not bear fruit, which may include taking your loved one’s case to trial in Washington State courts.
The sooner you reach out to an attorney, the better your attorney’s opportunity will be to make the most of these steps and to obtain the maximum recovery available under Washington law.
Focus on the Positive
While your attorney works, try to focus on the positives of your situation. Your loved one survived a type of accident that many do not. By choosing the right attorney, you are in good hands. Life is going to get back to “normal.” It’s going to be okay.
Do Your Part to Educate Others
Finally, here at Boohoff Law we are constantly amazed and inspired by our clients when they use their own personal difficulties and tragedies as a way to help others avoid the same outcomes. People like you who have been through trials and tribulations can do an enormous amount of good by helping others understand how to stay safe on the roads.
Of course, none of us can predict if or when a disaster may strike while we’re out riding a motorcycle. The scenario above is one of a host of typical ways a motorcycle accident can happen. But even though we can’t avoid random accidents, we can educate ourselves and others about riding safely and about how to respond if the worst happens. The knowledge and insight we gain by doing so gives us the best possible chance of coming away from a frightening, potentially devastating experience with our lives renewed.
To learn more about your rights after a Washington State motorcycle accident, contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer.