Hiring a Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Motorcycle accidents can lead to serious injuries, which often creates a need for an experienced lawyer.

By , J.D. · Villanova University School of Law

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:

  • what to do after a motorcycle accident
  • why getting a fair outcome might require a motorcycle accident lawyer, and
  • how to choose the best motorcycle accident lawyer for you and your case.

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

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:

  • another vehicle making a left-hand turn in the path of the motorcycle
  • phone use and other forms of distracted driving
  • dangerous road conditions
  • lane splitting on the part of the rider
  • speeding
  • alcohol or drugs

Get more details on common causes of motorcycle accidents.

What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident

As with most kinds of traffic accidents, there are key steps to take in the wake of a motorcycle accident:

  • Stay at the accident scene. Leaving the scene of an accident is usually a crime, for starters, and it won't help any injury claim you decide to make later on.
  • Get emergency medical attention for anyone who needs it. If you or anyone else has a significant injury, call 911.
  • Call law enforcement to the scene, if they don't arrive on their own. Any police report generated after the accident could play a big part in an insurance claim or court case after the crash.
  • Exchange information with anyone else involved in the accident. This includes driver's license information, insurance details, and contact information.
  • Gather evidence of the accident and how it happened. This could include taking pictures to show property damage, road conditions, or anything else relevant to the accident. If there were any witnesses, talk to them and see if they'll give you their names and contact information.
  • Report the accident to your insurance company.
  • Write down everything you can remember about the accident, how it happened, what you saw, what you felt, and so on.
  • Get medical treatment at the first sign of pain or discomfort, and be sure to attend all scheduled appointments, and follow up with referrals to specialists. Learn more about medical treatment and vehicle accidents.

When You Should Consider Hiring a Lawyer After 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.

How a Motorcycle Accident Attorney Can Help With an Insurance Claim

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.

How a Lawyer Can Help With a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit

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.

How to Start Your Search for an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorney

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.

What to Look For in a Motorcycle Accident Attorney

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:

  • Will you personally handle my case or will a paralegal and junior associate handle most of it?
  • What do you charge and how does your fee structure work?
  • How many motorcycle accident cases have you taken to trial?
  • What's your firm's policy on communicating with clients or providing case updates?
  • Are there any facts about my accident that help or hurt my case?
  • If we lose the case, do I have to pay anything?
  • What is my case worth and how long will it take to get paid?

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.

How Most Motorcycle Accident Lawyers Get Paid

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.

How Much Is Your Motorcycle Accident Claim Worth?

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:

  • The severity of your injuries: The more pain and suffering and medical care resulting from your motorcycle injuries, the more the claim is worth. An injury that's permanent or affects daily living will also increase a potential claim's value.
  • Availability of evidence: The more persuasive evidence available to support your claims, the bigger the settlement offer you can expect from the insurance company.
  • Your level of fault in causing the accident: Depending on whether you're in a contributory or comparative negligence state, any potential damage award or settlement could be affected if you're at least partially at fault for the accident.
  • How you come across: The less sympathetic or believable you appear to a potential juror (in the adjuster's eyes too), the less value your claim probably has.
  • Insurance coverage: Whether it's resolved with a trial or an insurance claim, it's often an insurance company that writes the check to compensate someone for motorcycle accident injuries. So the lack of insurance coverage or low policy limits could mean even the most clear-cut personal injury lawsuit leads to a much smaller recovery, or no recovery at all.

Learn more about how much a motorcycle accident injury claim might be worth.

Still Not Sure About Hiring a Motorcycle Accident Attorney?

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.

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