Injured in a motorcycle accident in California?
Scranton Law Firm
Your Personal Injury Lawyer for Motorcycle Accidents in California
Biking isn’t just about getting from A to B. It’s a lifestyle, a mode of transport and a hobby all rolled into one. Scranton Law Firm is a team of legal experts and personal injury lawyers with a keen background in biking. No strangers to the open road—and the pitfalls and injuries that can come with the life—we are the best source of legal advice and representation for all motorcyclists in California.
No matter what kind of personal injury you’ve suffered as a result of a motorcycle accident, we are more than familiar with the repercussions of a bike accident and the medical procedures that you may have to go through as a result. We know the impact that all of this disruption can have on everyday life and always make it our number one priority to get your life back to normal as quickly as possible while protecting you from the stress that can come from pursuing a legal case.
If you’re ready to get some no-obligation advice about your motorcycle injury case, get in touch with our experienced team today and we’ll arrange a video call or an in-person meeting wherever is most convenient for you.
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Biking in California
We have some of the nation’s best roads for motorcycling, so attract plenty of passionate bikers to our state. Famous for our winding roads, long coastline and jaw-dropping views, the Golden State is the perfect backdrop for a motorcycle vacation whether you’re riding solo or in a group. Many visitors like to start on one end of the coastline and work their way up or down, enjoying everything California has to offer along the way. As our larger cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, are renowned for their gridlocked traffic during rush hours, switching to a motorbike for the work commute is a popular choice here. Our state’s lane splitting laws make motorcycles a great way to bypass all that slow-moving traffic so you can use that boring, wasted commute time for something a little more fun.
Find Out If You Have A Case.
California is home to the most bikers of any state by far: with over 800,000 registrations in 2019. Considering the popularity of motorcycles in our state, you’d think that biking would be exceptionally safe in California. Sadly, our state plays host to the second most motorcycle fatalities in the whole of the USA. Deaths as a result of motorcycle accidents have actually been increasing in California despite fatalities from other road traffic accidents becoming less and less common over recent years.
Across the USA, motorcyclists have been up to 27 times more likely to die in traffic crashes than people driving or riding in other types of vehicles per mile travelled. In 2016, 576 motorcyclists were killed in California compared to 1,357 people traveling in passenger cars. This amounts to a massive overrepresentation of motorcycle drivers in fatality statistics—sadly a common phenomenon simply due to the more dangerous nature of motorcycles as vehicles. This means it’s essential for bikers to be extra cautious when sharing the road with other vehicles.
Top Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
There are many ways that a motorcyclist can be involved in a road traffic accident. Even if you follow all of the advice regarding safe road use as a biker, no amount of preparation on your part can make other vehicle drivers pay adequate attention on the road. Let’s take a look at some of the causes of motorcycle accidents, including:
- Excess speed
- Road surface
- Weather conditions
- Lack of visibility
- Motorcyclist error, e.g. failing to stop at a stop sign
- Other party’s fault e.g. failing to check for motorcyclists before changing lanes
- Insufficient stopping distances
- Driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs
It’s essential to keep to the speed limit on all urban and rural roads. This not only helps to keep you safe but also prevents you from undermining your own legal case if you were to have an accident resulting in a personal injury. If you were traveling above the speed limit when you had your accident, the other party could claim that you contributed to your own injuries by breaking the law. As California law allows for comparative negligence in personal injury cases, your excess speed could be used to lower the amount of compensation that you would otherwise be awarded.
An increase in speed makes accidents more likely to be severe in nature. The more energy there is propelling the bike and driver along, the more force is behind any collision that occurs. What’s more, speed also impacts the amount of time that road users have to react to hazards. According to Go Safely California, the average distraction causes the driver to take their eyes off the road for five seconds. Now, that may not sound like a lot but that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field when traveling at 55 miles per hour. Motorcyclists routinely travel much faster than 55 miles per hour, so can cover a much larger distance in just a few short seconds. As speed increases, your reaction window narrows. Even if you are riding perfectly safely and obeying all the rules, speed can turn a near-miss into a serious accident with severe consequences for all those involved.
As motorcycles only have two wheels, heavy braking can push all of the bike’s and the rider’s weight onto that one front wheel. This lack of balance makes the vehicle and the driver more vulnerable, making it more likely that the rider will come off the bike if there is a collision. This is why it’s important to brake steadily using both brakes and avoid excess speed that might require you to brake suddenly in the case of a hazard.
Pot holes are a thorn in the side of all road users but can be much more of a problem for motorcyclists. After all, a car has three other wheels to rely on if one wheel strikes a hole, whereas a motorbike can be thrown completely off balance by a deceptively large pot hole. There is also the risk of debris in the road, whether that’s litter thrown from a truck or car, or debris from a blown-out tire. As most vehicles on the road have an even number of wheels, with their wheels rolling along the sides of the lane, debris is often jostled by car and truck wheels until it settles in the center of the lane. This makes the debris safer for car drivers but much more dangerous for motorcyclists, whose wheels are more likely to ride down the middle of an open lane. So, motorcyclists should pay particular attention to unexpected matter on the road.
As with all impacts, shocks and collisions, speed is the major factor in minimizing damage. If you are traveling at 30 miles per hour as you hit some debris in the road, you have a much better chance of recovering your balance and staying on course than if you were traveling at 70 miles per hour. However, it’s often impossible to avoid hitting debris in the road or running over a pot hole, especially when speed or vehicles in front of you mean that you have relatively little notice to react to these hazards.
Weather conditions can drastically change how wheels behave on asphalt. Motorcyclists in California might think that our state is particularly safe as it’s much more prone to droughts than wet weather. On the contrary, this lack of rain means that oil builds up on the roads to a much higher extent than in states with more varied weather. Once it does rain, the first liquid on the road is a dangerously slippery mixture of rainwater and oil. This phenomenon makes California’s roads particularly treacherous in bad weather. The NHTSA also warns that heavy downpours can lead to water on the road. This layer of liquid on top of the asphalt can result in hydroplaning. This is possible at speeds as low as 30 miles per hour, causing tires to lose contact with the road surface due to a lack of traction. This makes it impossible to steer, so the driver loses control of the vehicle.
Lack of visibility
Visibility is a huge topic among motorcyclists. A lot of bikers aesthetically prefer the simple, chic look of a classic black bike with understated leathers and a plain helmet. However, this look is very easy for other motorists to miss when checking their mirrors, particularly during twilight hours or if visibility is otherwise poor.
There are plenty of options when it comes to increasing your visibility on the roads—from riding a bright red bike to covering yourself in reflective yellow clothing and donning a bright neon helmet. You can even add reflective tape to your wheels and panniers to increase your visibility from the side. Adding additional lights to your bike is also a good way to catch the eye of other drivers.
With wildfires becoming more and more common, a lack of visibility due to smoke particles in the air is another hazard that road users in California should take into consideration. Smaller vehicles such as motorcycles are at more risk of being missed due to poor visibility than huge long-haul trucks. It’s therefore essential to wear reflective clothing and turn your lights on in such conditions.
Mistakes happen. Especially when traversing busy roads with multiple lanes, it can be hard to notice all the road signs around you. If you are concentrating on working out how best to deal with the three lanes of traffic up ahead—with some impatient drivers performing maneuvers with relatively little notice and space—it’s easy to miss that sign, forget to signal or accidentally increase your speed above the limit.
Other party’s fault
Sadly, many car, van and truck drivers all too often fail to consider motorcyclists on the roads. A driver of a mid-size passenger car may briefly check their mirrors to ensure there isn’t another car or a larger vehicle such as a truck before changing lanes. Many, however, fail to check for smaller vehicles such as motorcycles. It is the duty of all road users to make sure that the lane they want to move into is completely free and that their maneuver will not harm anyone else.
It can also be harder for motorcycles to evade dangerous situations on the road. For example, a car merging onto the highway when unsafe can create a number of hazards that all play out very quickly. Multiple cars may change lanes rapidly and create subsequent dangers. As bikers are easier to miss, a quick flick of the eye to the rearview mirror before moving out into the adjacent lane is not always enough. What’s more, braking quickly can shift the motorcyclist’s weight onto the front wheel, causing an imbalance that can be hard to recover from.
Insufficient stopping distances
This applies to both motorcyclists and other road users. It can be easy to misjudge how much distance a motorbike needs to stop—and heavy, sudden braking can be a hazard in itself.
It’s not uncommon for car drivers to underestimate the distance they need to come to a complete stop. For example, a car driving at 70 miles per hour needs 315 feet to come to a complete stop including reaction time. That’s considerably more than the distance required at 50 miles per hour—175 feet. Motorbikes require even more space to come to a total halt, a fact that non-bikers may not be aware of. This can result in other road users failing to give motorbikes enough space to brake in the event of a hazard.
Driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs
It goes without saying that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is both dangerous and illegal. However, there are drunk drivers on our roads. In 2015 alone, drunk driving caused 10,265 deaths across America. It’s often hard to spot a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol until it’s too late. If you do spot a car or other vehicle acting erratically and dangerously, it’s best to keep a wide berth for your own safety. Watch out for indirect impacts on surrounding traffic, e.g. if the intoxicated driver causes other vehicles to swerve to avoid a collision. These avoidance maneuvers can often result in collisions themselves, and motorcyclists are more vulnerable to serious consequences.
Distracted driving is fast overtaking driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as the most common danger on our roads. If a road user is concentrating on drinking their coffee, changing the radio station or answering a text, they cannot fully concentrate on the road. As the most vulnerable and usually smallest vehicles, motorbikes are often overlooked and can suffer more serious consequences than the drivers of more protected vehicles.
It is illegal in California to use a cellphone while at the wheel but nearly 60% of Californian drivers stated that they had been hit or had a near miss with a driver using a cellphone in 2019. So, this dangerous and illegal habit still poses a risk on our state’s roads.
One of the most controversial and potentially dangerous maneuvers that may result in a motorcycle accident is lane splitting. Let’s take a closer look at this specifically Californian issue.
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Your Personal Injury Lawyer for Lane Splitting Accidents in California
With Californian cities being famous for gridlocked traffic, the possibility of lane splitting can be one of the draws of biking to and from work. Being able to swap sitting in a stifling car in slow-moving or stopped traffic for driving freely along those white lines is the major plus point for a motorcycle commute. But it does come with certain risks…
Types of Injuries Sustained in Motorcycle Accidents and Possible Complications
As motorcyclists are more exposed than other road users, the types of injuries you might sustain in a motorcycle accident are slightly different. They are also more likely to be serious due to the lack of safety equipment available for motorcycles in comparison to larger vehicles such as SUVs.
Some of the most common injuries caused by motorcycle accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Cuts, grazes and bruising
- Spinal cord injuries
- “Road rash”
- Brain injuries
A broken leg, fractured arm, broken hand or even a fractured kneecap can be incredibly painful and difficult to recover from. Broken bones usually require casts to rest the broken limb to ensure that it heals well in the correct position. However, some broken bones in the torso can be exceptionally difficult to treat. Breaks and fractures to the pelvis or spine are among the most difficult to treat and recover from. Even a small hairline fracture around the hip socket, collar bone or rib can be impossible to immobilize completely, meaning that the patient has no other option but bed rest.
When a bone breaks, the tissues around it swell up to prevent you from using that part of your body. This can be very painful but the inflammation and clotting around the break site are essential to the formation of new bone to heal the injury. It is this turn of events that makes it difficult to impossible to use a limb that has undergone a break of any severity. Treatment may include anything from painkillers and rest to braces or casts and crutches or even a wheelchair, depending on the injury. As the body goes through the repair phase, the bulk of the healing should be over in 3 weeks. However, muscles can decondition as part of the body is immobilized, so physical therapy may be required to regain muscle mass. Broken or fractured bones generally do not come with complications unless they are left to heal improperly.
Complications include blood clots, infection, tissue damage around the break site and bleeding into a nearby joint, causing swelling. In rare cases, fat embolisms can be caused by fat being released from a large break in a major bone into the bloodstream. This can cause fatty deposits to build up in the lungs, which can be fatal. In the case of a severe break, a greenstick fracture or a cluster of smaller hairline fractures, surgery may be required. This may involve metal plates, screws or simply a manual resetting of the bone under anesthesia. Any surgery and use of anesthesia comes with certain risks but complications are rare in patients with no pre-existing conditions.
Cuts, grazes and bruising
When a motorcyclist is involved in a road traffic accident, they might feel lucky to walk away with a few cuts and bruises. However, even these injuries are not as simple as they first seem. Cuts and grazes involve breaking the skin—the body’s barrier that keeps out pathogens and foreign bodies. Cuts and grazes that were sustained during a motorcycle accident have most likely been exposed to all kinds of environmental toxins and germs. One of the most common issues is foreign bodies that have remained inside the skin: these may include glass, gravel or shreds of clothing. If cuts are deep enough, they may slash through the skin and into deeper layers of the body’s tissue. This can lead to muscle damage. The most common complication of cuts and grazes is infection from pathogens introduced when the injury was sustained. In serious cases, this can result in sepsis.
Varying from blue and purple to yellow and brown or even black in color, bruising is the external sign of internal bleeding. The blood vessels close to the skin break or burst due to some kind of external force or impact, so the blood from the capillaries leaks into the soft tissue and causes discoloration. The main complication of bruising is that it may mask bleeding deeper inside the body. If your lower back is severely bruised, you may think that your severe back pain and stiffness is being caused by the visible bleeding close to the surface and not seek treatment for internal bleeding around organs such as the kidneys.
A concussion is essentially a mild trauma to the brain. It is temporary in nature but can have far-reaching consequences during its short duration. During this type of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), the brain is rapidly exposed to a powerful force that causes it to strike the inside of the skull, something that is normally prevented by a cushioning of cerebrospinal fluid. This may be a direct blow to the head but can also include “indirect” impact, e.g. if the torso hits the ground at a high speed, the force of this blow will travel up to the head and cause a concussion. Aside from unconsciousness at the time of impact, concussions may also involve headaches (which may be severe), memory loss, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, difficulty thinking and concentrating, loss of balance and even emotional and mood problems. These symptoms may be delayed, so can strike at any time over the following 14 days.
Complications include post-concussion syndrome, whereby patients experience prolonged concussion symptoms over a period of weeks or months. As dizzy spells can come and go without much notice, anyone with post-concussion syndrome should not drive or operate heavy machinery, and in most cases will struggle to work.
Spinal cord injuries
Trauma to the back can vary from cuts and bruising to a broken spine to a spinal cord injury severe enough to cause permanent paralysis. Even spinal cord injuries can vary greatly in terms of severity and symptoms as well as long-term prognosis from patient to patient. Symptoms usually encompass some degree of tingling and/or numbness from the point of injury downwards, loss of bowel and/or bladder control, pain, stiffness, headaches and paralysis. Whether these symptoms are temporary or permanent depends on the individual injury. As the spinal cord houses so many of the body’s key nerve pathways, any minor difference in position can impact the outcome greatly.
The complications after trauma to the spinal cord can be very serious, such as pulmonary embolisms, spinal shock and heterotopic ossification. One or more of the body’s essential systems, such as the gastrointestinal system, autonomic nervous system or cardiovascular system, may experience mild to severe dysfunction. However, some of the complications to be expected in the case of a spinal cord injury may actually be less serious than the symptoms of the injury itself. As spinal cord injuries tend to involve some degree of paralysis and/or numbness, issues such as bed sores, minor accidental injuries and practical issues—such as strains from bearing all of the body’s weight with the arms—can plague day-to-day life after a spinal cord injury. Some people may need to arrange in-home care, change their career or even move into a more accessible home following a spinal cord injury.
Despite its almost frivolous name, road rash can be a serious injury that is common in motorcycle accidents. Collisions on the road can often cause motorcyclists to be propelled over the handlebars at great speed. This momentum can carry them several feet along the road after making contact with the asphalt. The friction caused by this contact can burn through the rider’s layers of protective clothing and through to the skin, resulting in bare skin being dragged across the road surface. The results can be cuts and bruising as well as symptoms similar to those caused by serious burns.
If road rash is severe, a patient may need skin grafts from other parts of their body. In most cases, the biggest risks are shock and infections caused by foreign bodies lodged in wounds or pathogens introduced to the bloodstream.
Due to the position that motorcyclists ride their bikes in, road traffic accidents nearly always involve the rider being thrown from the vehicle entirely or suffering some degree of crushing underneath the motorbike. The average motorcycle weighs around 400 pounds, so even a small portion of the vehicle weighing down on a leg—especially if it falls onto the body at speed—can cause serious injury. Even if a motorcycle slowly falls sideways from a standing position, the rider may get dragged down with the bike and end up with one leg underneath the vehicle. The weight of the motorcycle can worsen injuries such as road rash, bruising and tissue damage, as the vehicle presses the rider into the surface of the road.
Crushing injuries can encompass damage such as internal bleeding, fractures, cuts and nerve injuries. Complications include infection and long-term damage to nerves or other soft body tissue. There is also a risk of compartment syndrome, which entails a build-up of pressure in the muscles. This can prevent oxygen and nutrients from reaching the muscles and nerves, leading to permanent muscle and nerve damage.
Brain injuries can range in severity from a mild concussion to a severe or even fatal traumatic brain injury (TBI). Head injuries are among the most common serious injuries suffered by motorcyclists after road traffic accidents. Moderate brain injuries may have symptoms such as confusion and disorientation, dizziness, mood swings, difficulty concentrating and even aggression. These symptoms vary from patient to patient, and may last hours, weeks, months or years. Some brain injuries result in permanent changes. Severe traumatic brain injuries may lead to a coma or vegetative state.
As brain injuries are so complex in nature, the complications are varied and multifaceted. The biggest worry is usually whether the patient will recover their bodily functions and be able to regain enjoyment of their life. Some people go on to recover completely from their brain injury, whereas others may have a vastly different quality of life after a motorcycle accident injury.
Motorcycles may be faster, nimbler—and let’s face it, cooler—than most other vehicles out there on the roads but the rider is also more exposed. The majority of vehicles form a cage around the driver and any passengers. In modern cars, for instance, these cages are designed to crumple to absorb the impact from any collisions. Then there’s the obvious protection offered by the robust materials used to make cars and other vehicles. The larger size of other road vehicles, such as cars, vans and trucks, also means that manufacturers can include plenty of safety features to protect the occupants. Equipment such as air bags, seatbelts and ergonomic head rests all aim to reduce the risk of injury if there is a collision on the road. The compact design of motorbikes means that manufacturers have very limited options when it comes to driver safety. Still, some motorcycle models offer certain safety functions to keep riders safer. These tend to focus on stability during braking and turning, as this is when motorcyclists are most vulnerable.
Traction control prevents your rear tires from locking when the brakes are applied, helping to prevent skidding and even drifting.
Anti-lock braking systems are automated braking systems installed in motorcycles with the aim of preventing skidding. They also prevent the wheels from locking up during braking and help the rider keep more control over their bike as they turn corners. Now very popular, ABS can even decrease stopping distances on slippery roads.
Rear lift-off protection (RLP) helps prevent the motorcycle’s back wheel from lifting off the road if you have to employ an emergency brake maneuver. This may be offered instead of ABS as a cheaper alternative.
Stability control (MSC) is a lean-sensitive variation of an ABS braking system. Stability control systems use electronic sensors to evaluate your motorbike’s adhesion as it turns corners. The system engages if the driver is using the brakes, applying traction control to ensure the best possible level of stability while braking around turns. This prevents skidding and stops the motorcycle falling into the turn or “low-siding”.
Combined braking systems are a cheaper alternative to anti-lock braking systems in bikes with smaller engines. This safety feature automatically applies the front brake when the driver applies the rear brake, reducing the vehicle’s stopping distance.
Even with all this safety equipment, motorcyclists are still more exposed than other road users. When driving a motorcycle, there is no barrier to protect the rider as well as nothing to secure them to the bike. This means that the motorcyclist can be thrown from the vehicle or their body exposed to collisions directly. As a result, accident injuries can be more serious for motorcyclists than car drivers, and have long-lasting consequences.
There are a few things you can do to help keep yourself safe while you enjoy the exceptional motorcycle routes on offer here in California.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself as a Motorcyclist in California
As California’s motorcycle laws are fairly different to those of other states and countries, it’s worth taking a detailed look at how cyclists can protect themselves on Californian roads specifically…
No matter how safe you are on your bike, you can’t make other road users behave with the same level of diligence. As a biker, it’s best to always prepare for the worst and invest in good-quality gear. California has strict laws on helmet wearing, so you should always make sure that your safety kit complies with all the latest requirements.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws in California
Helmet Cams: Yes or No?
It’s becoming more and more common for bikers to wear helmet cams on the road. However, the law surrounding these gadgets is a little gray to say the least. So, should you strap a GoPro to your brand new helmet or invest in a helmet cam? Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.
Having good-quality camera footage is like striking gold in a personal injury case. There’s no need for “your word against theirs” when everyone’s actions are clear to see on screen. Unlike CCTV footage, which is fixed to one position, your helmet cam footage will show your view of events. This means your line of sight can be established during the whole incident.
Another nice side effect of more and more bikers wearing helmet cams is that other road users have become more aware of motorcycles on the road. After seeing a few viral videos of helmet cam footage, “cagers” might think twice before putting a biker at risk. Whether this is due to any care for the biker’s safety or fear of legal/financial repercussions for themselves is irrelevant. So, the trend for wearing helmet cams may help make the road safer for all bikers.
How can there possibly be any cons against something that could help you win your case and increase everyone’s safety? Well, it’s a complex and complicated issue.
First of all, California’s strict helmet laws stipulate that all motorcycle drivers and passengers wear DOT-compliant helmets. Adding anything to this helmet may void its compliance. This means that California’s comparative negligence laws could let the other party argue that tampering with a DOT-compliant helmet means you contributed to your own injuries. And this could decrease your compensation claim.
Secondly, that footage showing the other party’s mistake might also implicate you. If you are shown to be taking unnecessary risks or even breaking the law, the footage could actually end up damaging your case. It’s not really possible to pick and choose which parts of the footage to submit as evidence.
So, video footage can often be the difference between winning and losing a case. But you don’t want to do anything that might fall into a legal gray area. What’s your best option?
You can purchase body cams similar to those worn by police. These are small and lightweight, so won’t restrict your freedom of movement, and don’t come with any of the headaches associated with navigating a legal gray area. If attached to the top of your jacket, they show your perspective from close to head height. This means that the footage is almost identical to helmet cam footage, although it doesn’t indicate where and when you turned your head. A body cam could be a good middle ground to make sure you can prove your innocence if you do end up having an accident on the road.
What to Do if You Have a Motorcycle Accident
Most bikers will experience a crash at some point in their riding lifetimes. Injuries from motorcycle accidents can vary greatly, so you might be able to go straight home from the hospital or you may have several months of medical treatment ahead of you. The most important thing is that you heal from your injuries and get your quality of life back as much as possible and as soon as possible.
If you have a motorcycle accident, your first priority should be getting yourself to safety. As motorcyclists are not protected by a cage like car drivers, they are often thrown from the bike and left exposed on the road. If you are able to safely move, get yourself out of the way of oncoming traffic and other hazards. Once there is no risk of further harm, the emergency services should be called. The police should be called after any motorcycle accident, even if you have only sustained minor injuries. And as motorcycle accidents tend to involve some level of injury, an ambulance is usually required too. Once the police arrive, it’s essential that you give an accurate statement of what happened without speculation. It’s not a good idea to discuss fault or blame at the scene, as you may be in shock and could accidentally admit to something that isn’t your fault. For example, saying something like “I didn’t see the car” could be used as evidence against you, allowing the car driver to claim that you weren’t paying attention even though the driver was clearly at fault.
If you can safely do so, it’s a good idea to take photos of any damage and injuries as well as the scene of the accident in general. Try to include registration plates and other identifying information. It’s a good idea to note down the location of your accident as well as the names and other information of other people involved. You can also record the makes and models of other vehicles involved, and even the names and badge numbers of any attending police officers.
If you were in a serious accident, you may be too injured to record any details or speak to anyone else at the scene. This is why it’s essential for motorcyclists riding in groups to take on these duties for any member of the group if an accident should occur.
After initial care has been received and your condition is stable, you must inform your insurance company of your accident. This is a vital part of the post-accident process, so should be completed as early on as possible. You may have certain obligations towards your insurance company in the case of an accident, so it’s best to make sure you don’t accidentally disobey their rules and regulations. You will be given lots of information, including a claim number and contact details for the person overseeing your case. It’s essential that you keep all of this data and paperwork as you may need it later. However, it usually makes sense to speak to a lawyer before providing your insurer with a statement, as legal advice may help you protect yourself.
In general, it’s a good idea to involve a personal injury attorney specializing in motorcycle accident cases early on. If your accident is in California, you should ideally contact a local firm as California’s motorcycle laws are different to those of other states. When looking for legal representation, online reviews are a great way of judging client satisfaction. Another green flag is free, no-obligation advice rather than a paid consultation. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you don’t pay a cent towards your legal fees. This model means you can trust that your lawyer believes in your case: if they don’t win, they don’t get paid.
Once you have your legal representation, you can start pursuing your case.
Why Pursue a Personal Injury Case after a Motorcycle Accident?
After suffering a serious injury and going through a potentially traumatic healing process, the last you want is more stress. So, why pursue a personal injury case?
1. To cover medical bills
Head injuries, spinal cord injuries and crushing-related injuries are common in motorcycle accident victims, and are unfortunately also among the most expensive injuries to treat. If you’ve had a motorcycle accident, your medical bills can quickly begin to spiral out of control. Complex injuries may require multiple surgeries, months of physiotherapy and expensive mobility aids. If your accident was caused by another party, you may consider pursuing a personal injury case to cover your medical treatment.
2. To cover other bills
Medical bills might be your first thought when it comes to a serious road traffic accident but there are so many other expensive consequences of even minor injuries. If your damaged bike was your main mode of transport and you cannot ride because of your injuries, you may have to hire a car and increase the time you spend commuting each day. As a result, your children require extra childcare in the mornings and afternoons, and you have to pay a dog walker. These additional expenses can skyrocket, and that’s before even considering loss of earnings due to extended sick leave.
3. Pain and suffering
Even if your direct medical expenses are covered, your insurance will not provide you with a sum to cover the pain and suffering you have endured as a result of your accident. It’s hard to pin down a value for pain, suffering and inconvenience but this is a major consideration in a personal injury case. If you have been subjected to physical and mental pain because of something another road user did or failed to do—especially if this has a permanent impact on your quality of life—we believe you deserve compensation.
It’s simply not fair that you are left with all of these expenses to cover while going through the pain and suffering of an injury. Even minor injuries can throw your daily routine into complete disarray and you may be left with a huge amount of stress and a long to-do list through no fault of your own. A personal injury case could ensure that you are not out of pocket at the end of your recovery.
5. Creating safer roads for bikers
Sadly, motorcyclists are not always treated with the same regard on the roads as drivers of larger vehicles. Car drivers may stay out of the way of a truck for fear of being injured themselves but all too often fail to grant bikers the same consideration. Legal cases can raise awareness of motorcycle safety and make drivers more wary.
The Motorcycle Accident Personal Injury Claim Process in California
If you sustain a serious injury due to a motorcycle accident, you may want to pursue a legal case. The legal system and related processes can be incredibly complex to those of us that aren’t used to the complicated statutory language used. It is hard to know where to begin, especially if you are still suffering the impacts of a serious injury. We at Scranton Law Firm have extensive experience in dealing with motorcycle accident personal injury cases so are always more than happy to provide our clients with free, no-obligation advice surrounding their injury and case. Let’s take a look at the kind of process you can expect during your personal injury case.
1. After your injury
Immediately after your motorcycle accident, your focus will be on healing from your injuries. However, it’s a good idea to contact your local personal injury specialists as soon as possible to get some free advice so you know what to prioritize during this important first stage. Ideally, contact an expert in motorcycle accidents such as Scranton Law. We can help you draft your statement for your insurance company and advise you on your next steps so you know you’re doing everything in your power to maximize your case potential each step of the way.
We do not pursue your legal case until you have healed from your injuries and completed all your medical treatments. If you require ongoing care as a result of your injuries, we can initiate this step as soon as your condition has stabilized enough for us to get a good impression of the repercussions of your accident from your medical team. This is called “maximum medical improvement” (MMI) and applies when you have recovered as much as possible from your accident as well as any surgery or similarly invasive treatments. It’s important to rest and give your body time to establish all the injuries you might have sustained. Injuries can often “hide” immediately after an accident. You can also visit a chiropractor to assess your injuries: it’s possible to get a statement from your chiropractor for use as evidence within a legal case, so seeing a practitioner can not only speed up your recovery but also increase your likelihood of a speedy settlement. What’s more, we can include any fees for your chiropractic treatment in any compensation negotiations, so the other party will ideally cover the cost of all your treatment.
2. Claim investigation
After you reach maximum medical improvement, Scranton Law Firm will assign you a lawyer from our experienced legal team based on your situation. Your lawyer will take the time to review your case in detail: you will be interviewed about the accident and you may have to discuss your medical background including any conditions that existed prior to your personal injury. It’s important to keep all receipts for any chiropractic or similar alternative therapies along with your hospital and doctor bills. We can also take into consideration other indirect expenses arising from your injury, such as household help, childcare, rental cars and loss of earnings. In any legal case, more is more when it comes to evidence. It may also be a good idea to get a statement from a therapist regarding any psychological trauma and the impact your accident has had on your mental wellbeing. If your accident was serious and resulted in complex injuries, this process may take months.
So, although you might want to start a legal case as soon as possible after your accident, it’s often prudent to wait a while until all of your expenses can be recorded. This means we will have as accurate an idea as possible of how much financial hardship, physical injury and mental suffering you have been exposed to as a direct and indirect result of your accident. However, if you need a settlement as soon as possible to cover your expenses, you can discuss issuing a demand or filing a lawsuit earlier in order to access funds sooner—but you must understand that this approach may result in a considerably lower settlement amount, especially if you have not reached maximum medical improvement.
3. Negotiations and demands
After the claim investigation stage, your lawyer will have been able to assess all of your medical records and other evidence. They will then establish whether or not you have a legitimate case. In the majority of cases, we achieve an out-of-court settlement for our clients. If this is a possibility in your case, your attorney will contact the defendant’s legal representation or insurance company with a demand. There will be a period of negotiations resulting either in a settlement sum or a decision to move onto a lawsuit. California has a 24-month statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits. Therefore, it’s essential to file your lawsuit before this deadline expires even if you have not quite reached MMI.
If your accident has left you with permanent disabilities, your lawyer will generally file a lawsuit without first attempting to settle, depending on your individual situation.
4. Personal injury lawsuit
Your legal representative will file the lawsuit on your behalf, and then your case will go through a range of legal processes before actually going to trial. These processes can take up to two years in most cases. One of these pre-trial processes is called the discovery stage.
During the discovery stage of a lawsuit, your law firm will review statements and information from the defendant while the defendant’s team will review all of the information you have submitted. Questions will be sent between the two teams, and evidence produced. Any CCTV or helmet cam footage will be watched and analyzed. Witnesses will be interviewed and depositions taken. Your version of events will be questioned and the defendant’s team will try to reduce their culpability. California law allows for comparative negligence, meaning that the defendant’s team will try to establish the degree to which you were responsible or at fault for your own injuries, e.g. if you were speeding or not wearing a DOT-compliant helmet.
This process generally takes 6 to 12 months, towards the end of which your lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer will begin settlement negotiations. This may take place in the form of a simple discussion or require a mediator to help settle the case outside of court.
Although we manage to avoid a trial for the majority of our clients, some cases necessitate a full trial. It’s usually hard to assess early on how long this stage will take as it can be over in one day or stretch out over a number of weeks. It’s not uncommon for trials to be delayed and rescheduled multiple times as other cases before yours determine scheduling on a fluid basis. The trial—and your lawsuit—will come to an end once a decision has been made.
Scranton Law Firm
Scranton Law firm is your firm for any personal injuries arising from a motorcycle accident. No matter what stage of recovery you are in, our team of experienced lawyers (and bikers) is here to give you free, impartial advice and support to give you the best possible chance at recovering your quality of life. Lawsuits can be daunting, complex and lengthy processes, and we know exactly what to do to ensure your experience is as pleasant as possible. Get in touch with our team today to arrange a free consultation via telephone or video call or an in-person meeting so we can discuss your situation and get the ball rolling.