Insurance claims following a motorcycle accident can be messy and a nuisance to deal with. Each accident can be handled in a variety of ways, depending on who was at fault and the type of damage inflicted upon an individual or vehicle. Injury claims differ from property damage claims. Accidents that do not involve another vehicle differ from accidents caused by another vehicle. Some claims are filed against the motorcycle rider’s own insurance company while others are filed against the company that insures the driver who caused the accident.
In all cases, riders can protect themselves by following a few simple rules when they make a motorcycle claim. Act promptly, preserve evidence, follow a doctor’s advice, and stay on top of the claim. Insurance companies save money by saying “no,” but riders can obtain fair compensation by paying attention to details.
What Type of Claim Do I Need to File?
There are two types of motorcycle accident claims: property damage claims and personal injury claims.
- Property damage refers to a claim for damage to the motorcycle. If you were involved in a collision with another driver and the other driver was at fault, you will probably want to seek compensation from that driver’s insurance company. If you were at fault or if no other driver was involved, you can make a claim against your own insurance policy, provided you have appropriate coverage.
- Personal injury claims cover injury to your body and related losses as a result of an accident caused by the driver of another vehicle. To succeed in a personal injury claim, you need to prove that the other driver was at fault.
What Can I Collect in a Property Damage Claim?
If you bring a claim for damage to your motorcycle, you will generally be entitled to collect the lesser of your repair cost or the value of your motorcycle at the time of the accident, minus salvage value.
The value of your motorcycle at the time of the accident is the amount you would have received if you sold it to a stranger at a fair price. It is not the price you paid when you bought the bike. Unfortunately, sentimental value is not included in the calculation.
You should be able to collect the full amount if you are making a claim against another driver’s insurer. If you are making the claim against your own insurance company, the amount you will receive depends on the terms of your policy and whether you have appropriate coverage.
- Collision coverage applies if you collided with another vehicle. It may also apply if you collided with a fixed object, like a guardrail.
- Comprehensive coverage applies to damage that wasn’t caused by a collision. If you wiped out on a curve and damaged your bike, you may be able to collect under your comprehensive coverage.
The maximum amount that you can collect depends on how much coverage you purchased. Your policy will also include a deductible, which is an amount you pay out of your own pocket before the insurance company pays anything. If the repair cost or the value of the motorcycle is less than the deductible, you will not be able to collect on your claim.
Making an insurance claim may cause your insurance rates to increase. If you won’t be collecting much after the deductible, you might save money by paying for repairs out of your own pocket to avoid paying higher insurance premiums.
What Can I Collect in a Personal Injury Claim?
Compensation for a personal injury generally includes three kinds of losses. Lawyers refer to these losses as “damages.” They are:
- Medical expenses, including doctor and hospital bills, physical therapy bills, prescription costs, and any other healthcare expenses you incurred or are likely to need in the future as a result of the accident.
- Wage loss caused by an inability to work because of accident injuries, and the loss of future earning capacity if you will be unable to return to do the same work in the future.
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life that is attributable to the accident, including damages that will continue into the future.
Depending on the state in which the accident occurred, these damages will probably be reduced in proportion to your share of responsibility for the accident. Different states have different rules for damages when the rider and another driver are both at fault, so you may need to seek legal advice before you can negotiate a fair settlement.
Permanent injuries typically result in larger damage awards. Compensation may be needed to pay for vocational rehabilitation, wheelchairs, a wheelchair-accessible van, home healthcare expenses, or the residential cost of an assisted-living facility.
Placing a value on a personal injury is more art than science. Lawyers compare the facts of each case to similar cases that have been decided by juries. If your injuries are significant and you don’t want to settle for less than your claim is worth, you might benefit from legal advice.
How Do I Prepare to Make a Claim?
The first step in making a claim is to preserve evidence. If the accident involved another vehicle:
- Take as many pictures as you can of the accident scene before vehicles are moved. Pay special attention to damage to your motorcycle and to the part of the vehicle that collided with your bike. Take pictures of skid marks, gouges in the road, and other conditions that shed light on how and where the accident occurred.
- Ask to see the driver’s license of any vehicle operator who was involved in the accident. Make a note of the name, address, and license number.
- Write down (or photograph) the car’s license plate number and make a note of the car’s make and model.
- Ask for proof of the driver’s insurance coverage. Make a note of the driver’s insurance company.
- If any witnesses saw the accident occur, ask them for their names and telephone numbers. You or your lawyer may need to get statements from them.
- Notify the police and wait for an officer to arrive. Ask the officer for his or her card and ask whether the officer will assign an accident report number. Use that number to obtain a copy of the accident report when it is available.
If you were injured, get medical attention right away. Explain every symptom to your doctor, no matter how insignificant it might seem. Remember that accident settlements are heavily influenced by medical records. If you had minor neck pain after the accident but don’t mention it to your doctor, an insurance claims adjuster will assume that your nagging neck injury was caused by something other than the accident.
Make sure you follow through with recommended medical care. When accident victims skip appointments or stop going to physical therapy, insurance adjusters assume that they had completely healed, and will not believe that later symptoms are related to the accident. The failure to follow through with recommended care is the number one way in which accident victims harm their own cases.
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How Do I Make the Claim?
If you are making a claim against your own company, have your insurance agent put you in touch with a claims adjuster. The adjuster will probably have you sign a proof of claim form. Make sure the form is accurate and complete. You’ll need to obtain repair estimates or evidence of your motorcycle’s value. Your insurance company has a duty to negotiate with you in good faith, so you will probably be able to obtain a reasonable settlement.
If you are making a claim against another driver, contact the driver’s insurance company. Unfortunately, that company has no duty to be fair when it negotiates a settlement. Insurance adjusters usually make low initial offers. They may try to drag out the negotiations if they can’t get a quick settlement. They aren’t always truthful. Their goal is to save their company money. They may even earn a bonus by settling claims for less than their true value.
Insurance adjusters have an incentive to settle before the full extent of the injury is known. You should never settle a personal injury claim until your doctor has told you that your injuries have completely healed or have become permanent. Settlements are final, so you can’t ask for more money if the injury turns out to be more serious than you expected it to be.
If your claim is against your own company, your insurance contract requires you to cooperate with the claims adjuster. If the adjuster wants you to give a statement, you should do so. If your claim is against another driver, you might want to get legal advice before you decide whether to give a statement. Making a mistake when you talk to the adjuster can hurt your claim.
Accident claims are subject to a statute of limitations. If you don’t settle or file a lawsuit before the limitations period expires, you lose your right to collect compensation. If you were in an accident with another driver, the deadline will depend on the state in which the accident occurred. If your claim is against your own insurance company, the deadline is determined by the law of the state where you obtained the insurance policy.
The deadline for bringing a claim against your own insurance company might be different from the deadline for bringing a claim against another driver. In addition, your insurance policy imposes a deadline for filing a claim with your insurance company. It is best to contact your own insurance company right away if you are bringing a claim against your collision or comprehensive coverage.
In the end, making an insurance claim is about protecting yourself. You buy insurance to protect the value of your motorcycle. When you are injured in a collision with another vehicle, you protect yourself from financial losses by collecting the compensation you deserve.
The process of making an insurance claim can be complicated, particularly when a rider has serious personal injuries that are caused by a careless driver. In those cases, the best way to protect yourself is to ask a personal injury lawyer to help you make the insurance claim. Lawyers have experience assessing fault and valuing claims for settlement. That experience can assure you that you receive the compensation you deserve for your accident injuries.