What To Do After a Motorcycle Accident
Most motorcyclists know the laws governing the licensing and use of their machines and take safety seriously each time they go for a ride. But when an accident occurs, it’s important to be armed with the correct information and to know what steps to take, both to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights to receive compensation. Here’s a list of what you should do after a motorcycle accident:
Immediately after an accident, if you are able, make sure you and others are out of harm’s way. Concern yourself primarily with oncoming traffic and then the vehicles involved in the incident. If you smell gasoline, move as far away from the source of it as possible.
In the aftermath of an accident, adrenaline released by your body can make you feel lightheaded and disoriented. More importantly, adrenaline combined with shock can make you temporarily unaware of just how seriously you may be hurt. Your first action should be to call 911, even if you don’t think you’ve been badly hurt.
Many injuries may take hours, days or even weeks to show symptoms. By calling emergency services, you can trust that medical professionals will carefully evaluate you for all signs of injury. Do not remove your helmet or protective gear before emergency personnel arrive as you may exacerbate injuries to your neck and spine.
Calling 911 will also get law enforcement officers on the scene quickly. This is important for many reasons. Police will secure the scene and instruct other drivers and witnesses to stay put, and direct traffic if necessary. They will photograph and document the accident site, interview the drivers and witnesses and put that information into a police report. Police officers can also determine if another driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Later, you can request a copy of the police report from the DMV, which may be instrumental in any insurance claim you make.
Don’t Move the Vehicles
Unless there is an imminent risk to others or yourself, leave your motorcycle where it is. When police officers photograph the scene, they will take careful note of the position of each vehicle involved in the crash, which will be evidence that may prove who was at fault. Don’t move your bike until the police say it’s okay.
Never Leave the Scene
Leaving the scene of an accident can, at the very least, cause your driver’s license to be suspended or revoked. If there has been any injury or property damage, leaving the scene of an accident is a felony in all fifty states. Do not leave the scene of an accident until given permission by the police.
Don’t Admit Fault
Human beings will often apologize to each other for even the most minor social infractions, such as accidentally bumping into a stranger in a store or restaurant. However natural it may seem, do not apologize or admit fault for the accident, either to another driver or to the police. You may be convinced that the accident was your fault, but experience has shown that after all the facts are evaluated, the other driver or other factors may have caused the crash.
Any admission of fault will be used against you later in an attempt to deny you compensation.
Assuming you are able, gather as much evidence as you can about the other driver(s), witnesses and police officers. For drivers you will want their name, address and phone number as well as their insurance information, specifically the policyholder (for example, Allstate or Geico) and the policy number. For witnesses, their name, address and phone number will be sufficient. A police officer’s name and badge number are all you need.
Take pictures and/or video with either a camera or a cell phone of everything you can think of. Specifically, you will want pictures of:
- All vehicles involved in the crash
- License plates
- Your motorcycle
- Any skid marks or road debris
- Road conditions, such as wet roads or uneven pavement
- Any hazards that may have led to the accident
- The closest mile marker and/or intersection
- Speed limit signs
- Any visible injuries
As mentioned above, police will be on the scene and will be taking their own photographs. Though experienced officers rarely make mistakes in these cases, it never hurts to have your own pictures of the scene should it later become relevant.
Contact Your Insurance Carrier
Almost all insurers have it in their contracts that you will promptly notify them of any accident, and you should do this even if you don’t plan on making an insurance claim. If you fail to notify them of the accident, they may later deny any claim you try to make through them, or they may cancel or refuse to renew your policy.
When you speak to your insurer, or indeed to the insurer of the other vehicle(s) involved in the accident, tell the truth and give them the facts but don’t admit fault for the accident and don’t elaborate beyond the basic information. Experienced insurance adjusters are trained to use tactics in their interviews to find ways to get you to admit fault in order to minimize your compensation.
They may also try to gather information from your family members and friends, so it is best to limit your conversations with them to the bare facts.
If you sustained injuries in the accident, it is best to consult an attorney with experience in motorcycle accidents because they are familiar with insurance company methods and can handle all communications with the insurance companies.
Keep Bills and Receipts
These documents will be very important if you do choose to go forward with an insurance claim. Safely store all bills and receipts not just for medical services and prescriptions, but for any other services you need after the accident, such as lawn maintenance, household cleaning or childcare. Keep any bills or receipts for medical equipment as well as any alterations to your home to make it more accessible after the accident.
Also, keeping a copy of your previous paystubs will help prove your income prior to the accident.
Stay Off Social Media
While it may seem appropriate to share on social media what you’ve been through after a motorcycle accident and detail your recovery, it is best not to do so. Insurance adjusters will most certainly be reading your social media posts in an attempt to find discrepancies in your story, to prove that you were not injured as seriously as you claim, or that you’re recovering faster than your injuries would suggest. All of this is an attempt to limit what they pay out on your claim.
Don’t Accept an Early Settlement Offer
After an accident, especially one where you’ve been seriously hurt, it will seem like the bills are piling up and you’re not sure how you’re going to manage your finances. Insurance companies know the strain you’re under and will often offer you a lowball dollar amount as an immediate settlement.
If you take this settlement, the moment you cash their check you will be unable to make any future claim for compensation for your injuries, even though your injuries may take longer than expected to heal or never heal completely.
However tempting it may be to accept an early settlement offer, speak to an experienced attorney first who can advise you whether the amount is appropriate based on your injuries and the circumstances.
Contact an Attorney
At Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP, we’ve been successfully representing motorcycle accident victims for over 25 years. Our experienced team of legal professionals will fight hard to make sure you receive the compensation you’re entitled to after your accident.
We’re here for you 24/7 at 1-800-LAW-1010. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, call us today for a free, no obligation evaluation of your case.