Riding a motorcycle offers a closer connection to the road, but it can be dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that more than 5,000 motorcyclists died in traffic accidents in 2019. These numbers don't include the thousands of riders who are seriously injured in accidents each year.
When you're making a legal claim after a motorcycle accident, having the right lawyer on your side can be crucial. In this article we'll cover:
Motorcycle accidents can occur in a wide variety of situations. Most often, they're due to the carelessness ("negligence" in the language of the law) of a vehicle driver, the rider, or both. Common motorcycle accident scenarios/causes include:
Get more details on common causes of motorcycle accidents.
As with most kinds of traffic accidents, there are key steps to take in the wake of a motorcycle accident:
It's possible to handle a motorcycle accident injury claim on your own, if all goes smoothly and the insurance adjuster is coming to the settlement negotiation table with a fair offer. But having a lawyer on your side is crucial in a few common scenarios.
The first is when you've filed a claim the insurance company (the at-fault driver's, or your own) but there's disagreement about a key aspect of your case—anything from the severity of your injuries to who was at fault for the accident.
The second scenario in which you almost certainly need a motorcycle accident lawyer is when you need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
A lawyer isn't always needed to resolve a motorcycle accident insurance claim. If you're comfortable handling the day-to-day aspects of the claim, and most importantly, sticking it out during settlement negotiations to make sure you come away with a fair result.
But when the insurance company (especially the at-fault driver's) is pushing back on a key issue that could have a big impact on the value of your claim, it might make sense to turn the matter over to an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer. And if you've suffered serious injuries, having a lawyer on your side from the start might end up being in your best interest. The lawyer's expertise in putting your best case together (from establishing fault for the accident to illustrating the impact of your injuries on your life), and their comfort with the often adversarial settlement negotiation process can be crucial to getting the best result.
If you need to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, a motorcycle accident lawyer will be familiar with local court rules on filing a personal injury case and all phases of the lawsuit process, including discovery, settlement negotiations, motions practice, trial, and appeal (if necessary).
The single biggest reason to hire an attorney to handle your lawsuit is that you don't know what you don't know. For instance, do you know the statute of limitations for filing a motorcycle accident lawsuit in your state? And if you do, are you aware of the exceptions and how they work? And if you decide to file a lawsuit, are you in a notice pleading or fact pleading jurisdiction? Finding the answer to this question isn't the hard part. The hard part is knowing the question exists in the first place.
One place to start is online. You can type "motorcycle accident lawyer in [your town or city]" into a search engine, and check out the results. This is admittedly a somewhat scattershot approach.
Other sources to consider include recommendations from friends, family members, or coworkers, as well as contacting your local bar association. Most states have a bar association, with is a professional organization of lawyers. And many counties and major cities have their own local bar associations, too.
When doing your research, you want to focus on lawyers that spend most of their practice on motorcycle accidents. If you're in an area where this isn't possible, then you can expand your search to personal injury lawyers who handle car accident cases.
After you get a list of a few potential lawyers or firms to hire, you'll want to contact them and set up an initial consultation. The vast majority of motorcycle accident lawyers will offer free consultations. They'll get the basic facts of your case, make sure there aren't any immediate deadlines you need to be aware of, and provide an overall picture of what you could expect if they take your case.
During this consultation, you should ask a few questions to help decide if you want that lawyer to represent you in your motorcycle case. Potential questions include:
As important as the answers to these questions are, it's also important to pay attention to how the attorney answers them. For example, concerning what your case is worth and how long it'll take, there's no way for an attorney to provide an exact answer. The best they can do is provide a rough estimate or cite examples of similar cases they handled and how those turned out.
The majority of lawyers that take on motorcycle accident cases get paid the same way most other personal injury lawyers get paid – on a contingency fee basis. This means they only get paid if they win your case or otherwise obtain a recovery for you. Then they take a certain percentage of what they recover. This is often anywhere from 25% to 35%.
There are nuances in how the final amount gets calculated. For instance, if your attorney takes 30%, will it be "off the top" before any of the litigation expenses get paid? Or will they first pay off any litigation costs, then take 30% of what's left? Before you agree to hire a motorcycle lawyer, make sure your attorney explains to you how the attorney's fees work.
The short (and likely frustrating) answer is no one knows for sure. Every accident is different and each claim and lawsuit involves different juries, lawyers, judges, and insurance claims adjusters. But below are some major factors that can influence how much your claim is worth:
Learn more about how much a motorcycle accident injury claim might be worth.
If you still have questions, you can learn more about getting help from a personal injury attorney. If you're ready to reach out to a motorcycle accident lawyer, you can use the tools right on this page to connect with a legal professional in your area.