Most people assume that riding a motorcycle is inherently dangerous. Most people assume that motorcycle riders are risk takers, and that they take their lives into their own hands every time they ride. Due to a poor example set by a very small segment of the riding population, most people also assume that motorcycle riders constantly speed, weave through traffic, and put themselves and others in harm’s way.
Of course, as a rider, you know that none of this is true. You know that the greatest threat to your safety is not your own dangerous behavior, but the carelessness and recklessness of other drivers. You know that you can stay safe by riding within your limits, and you know that you can reduce (but not eliminate) your risk of injury by wearing a helmet and full riding gear.
Unfortunately, this bias against motorcycle riders and misconception of the risks associated with riding a motorcycle has the potential to affect riders’ insurance claims when they get injured on the road. Like most people, insurance claims adjusters tend to assume that riders are at fault for their own injuries. As a result, when seeking financial compensation for a motorcycle accident in Chicago, riders must diligently assert and protect their legal rights.
Dealing with the Insurance Companies After a Motorcycle Accident in Chicago
1. Proving Fault in the Accident
Even setting aside the issue of rider bias, in order to recover financial compensation after an accident, you need to be able to prove that someone else was at fault. In legal terms, this is referred to as proving “negligence,” and most accident claims involve driver mistakes such as merging without looking, following too closely, and talking or texting behind the wheel.
How do you prove negligence? The answer depends on the specific issue (or issues) involved in your collision. Generally speaking, however, the types of evidence that may be available to prove driver negligence include:
- The extent and location of the damage to your motorcycle and the other vehicle (or vehicles) involved in the accident
- Skid marks, damage to guard rails, and other physical evidence at the scene of the accident
- The police report prepared at the scene of the accident
- Eye witness statements
- Traffic camera, red light camera, or security camera footage
- Cell phone records
- Social media posts
In order to collect most of these types of evidence, it will be important to conduct an investigation at the scene of the accident as soon as possible. This is a task that needs to be handled by professionals (you should not return to the accident scene and attempt to collect evidence on your own). If it appears that you have a claim, your law firm will be able to request the police report, cell phone records, and any other records that may be available to help prove your claim as well.
2. Challenging Assumptions (or Evidence) of Rider Fault
Due to the bias against motorcycle riders, when collecting evidence of fault, it can also be helpful (and in some cases necessary) to collect evidence demonstrating a lack of liability on your behalf. The same types of evidence that can be used to establish fault can be used to establish lack of fault as well. For example, the length of your skid marks and the distance your motorcycle slid can help show that you were not speeding when the accident occurred. Likewise, eye witnesses may be able to confirm that you were riding safely with the flow of traffic when the other driver came into your lane.
3. Identifying Other Factors Involved in the Accident
While most motorcycle accident cases involve a claim against a negligent driver’s insurance company, there are various other factors that can cause and contribute to accidents as well. It is critical not to rule out these additional potential factors during the investigative process.
For example, vehicle and motorcycle defects are far more common than most people realize. From faulty brakes and tires to electrical issues and transmission failures, virtually all issues with motorcycles, cars, trucks, and SUVs have the potential to factor into collisions. Whether your motorcycle was defective or the vehicle that hit you had a defect, the manufacturer could be fully liable for your accident-related injuries. If the issue was the result of faulty maintenance or repair work rather than a defect, then the shop that performed the work could be liable instead.
Road defects and maintenance issues are potential factors as well. From potholes to blind corners, issues that might not create problems for passenger vehicles can be extremely dangerous for riders. As a rider, you have the right to expect the road to be built and maintained in reasonably safe condition, and issues with the road can provide injured riders with “third-party” liability claims similar to vehicle maintenance issues and defects.
4. Dealing with Issues of “Contributory Negligence”
In order to recover full compensation for your injuries, you need to prove that someone else was 100% at fault in the accident. But, in order to deny your claim, the insurance company only needs to show that you are 51% or more to blame for your own injuries. If the insurance company can show that you were partially at fault (but less than 51% at fault), then it can reduce your financial recovery in proportion to your percentage of liability.
This is known as the law of “contributory negligence.” Thanks once again to the common bias against motorcycle riders, questions of contributory negligence tend to come up in motorcycle accident claims. In order to maximize your financial recovery – and ideally recover 100% of your accident-related losses – you will need to be able to counter any evidence that you played a role in causing the collision.
5. Proving the Long-Term and Non-Financial Effects of Your Injuries
Under Illinois law, if you have a claim for financial compensation as a result of a motorcycle accident, you are entitled to compensation for all of your accident-related injuries. This includes financial and non-financial losses, and it includes present and future effects of your injuries.
In most cases, individuals who have suffered severe injuries in motorcycle accidents will suffer non-financial losses that far exceed their medical expenses and lost wages. As a general rule, damages for pain and suffering are calculated as a multiple of the victim’s financial losses. Non-financial losses also include things like loss of companionship, society, and loss of enjoyment of life; and, if you are no longer able to ride your motorcycle as a result of your injuries, this is absolutely a factor that should impact the calculation of “just compensation” in your case.
6. Negotiating a Fair Settlement with the Insurance Companies
Once you have evidence of fault, you have the evidence necessary to counter any allegations of contributory negligence, and you know how much you are entitled to recover, then you can begin the process of trying to negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance companies. In all cases – and especially in cases involving severe injuries from motorcycle collisions – it is important to have an experienced personal injury lawyer fighting for just compensation on your behalf.
There are a number of reasons why. Among them, even if the evidence is clearly in your favor, the anti-rider bias can still come into play. Unfortunately, the insurance companies do not always weigh the evidence appropriately; and, just because you are entitled to compensation does not mean the insurance companies are going to pay. In order to win a fair settlement, you need to be able to convince the insurance companies not only that the evidence is in your favor, but that you will be able to present a compelling case to the judge or jury if you take your case to trial.
7. Taking Your Motorcycle Accident Case to Court
Whether you have a claim against a negligent driver’s insurance company or you have a claim against your motorcycle’s manufacturer for a product defect, if you need to take your case to court, you will need to be prepared to overcome the anti-rider bias. You will need to be prepared to convince the judge or jury to render a verdict based on the facts and not based on misconceptions or generalizations about the riding community. This can be a difficult task; and, once again, hiring an experienced attorney to handle all aspects of your claim is the best way to maximize your financial recovery.
Speak with a Chicago Motorcycle Accident Lawyer for Free
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident in the Chicago area, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our attorneys are experienced in representing injured motorcycle riders in insurance claims and litigation, and we can use this experience to your advantage. To speak with one of our attorneys at a time that is convenient for you, please call 888-625-6265 or request an appointment online today.