All drivers in San Diego should carry auto coverage. Unluckily, motorists who are not responsible enough to drive without the insurance are also likely to break another traffic rule and cause a motorcycle accident. Like any accident, you will experience loss of property, expensive medical expenses, and painful injuries. However, the defendant will not cover the losses incurred. So, what are the available options? The San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm can assist you in the motorcycle accident involving an uninsured motorist.
Understanding Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC) in San Diego
Generally speaking, you are entitled to compensation for losses incurred due to a motorcycle accident caused by another person's negligence. The same holds for an uninsured motorist. Nevertheless, even if you successfully proved that the defendant was accountable for your motorcycle accident and you get a judgment against the defendant, you are not guaranteed that you will receive compensation. Most uninsured motorists don't have much in terms of assets or money. Therefore, trying to receive compensation from them is a losing battle.
Even though every driver in California should have a minimum amount of insurance for their motor vehicle, some drivers still drive without insurance. According to a poll conducted by the Insurance Journal, ten percent of motorists in the U.S. don't have any auto coverage. In layman's language, one in ten motorists are without insurance, and the negligence might leave you at risk. Carrying uninsured motorist coverage as a motorcyclist prevents you from paying the damages of a collision not insured by another driver.
The state of California requires motorists to carry 15/30/5 liability coverage. The coverage implies that if an insured person is responsible for the accident, their insurance provider will pay:
- Fifteen thousand dollars for demise or bodily injury per individual
- Thirty thousand dollars for death or total bodily hurt per collision
- Five thousand dollars for property damages
Insurance in California is accessible in greater amounts than the minimum limits. For instance, most insurance companies offer a maximum of three hundred thousand for total bodily hurt per crash and one hundred thousand dollars per person.
However, most people are not willing or can't afford to foot the premiums. As a result, this means damages like medical expenses following the accident will be covered by government programs like Medi-Cal and Medicare or private health insurance companies.
To solve this, the laws require insurance providers to offer insurance for a collision caused by an uninsured motorist. The insurance is called uninsured motorist coverage.
Assume Andrew runs a red light and hits Jane, who is on a motorcycle. As a result, Jane suffers a broken leg and a head injury. Jane's medical expenses total fifty thousand dollars and miss four weeks of work, which she would have made twenty thousand dollars. The total repair of her motorcycle is ten thousand dollars, making the total damages eighty thousand dollars exclusive of pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Andrew does not have auto coverage, but Jane has UMC. That means she can receive compensation up to limits of the policy from her insurance provider. If Jane has a minimum of 15/30/5 insurance, she can receive fifty thousand dollars for her injuries and five thousand dollars in property damage. If she has higher limits on her insurance, she will collect more.
Understanding Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Although motorists and motorcyclists pay for coverage, they often choose insurance at the least amount. The amounts are too little to cover all damages and inadequate if a severe accident occurs.
Do You Require UMC If You Have Health Coverage?
Government programs like MediCal and Medicare and private health insurance will cover medical expenses after the accident, irrespective of who caused the accident.
However, most people carry policies with co-pays and high deductibles. Moreover, health coverage plans don't insure services like acupuncture and chiropractic care. They do not also compensate for lost income, emotional distress, and property damages.
Uninsured motorist coverage is a coverage that permits you to receive compensation from your insurance provider for all compensatory damages following a motorcycle accident that isn't your accountability.
How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage Do You Require?
Generally, California insurance companies provide customers uninsured policy limits equivalent to a motorist's liability policy limit.
If you have bought 50/100 limits for a collision that you cause, you could buy a 50/100 policy limit for a crash caused by another underinsured or uninsured driver.
You might not recover more for injury caused by the uninsured driver than your policy limits amount. This is unlike other states such as Nevada, where UM policies cover every damage caused by insured motorists.
If you want more coverage than the maximum uninsured motorist coverage available, you should buy an umbrella policy. An umbrella policy is pocket-friendly and could be used to cover other losses under the policy of insurance carried at the maximum limits.
Ensure you tell an experienced insurance broker your needs. It is not wise to waive UMC unless you don't work, have a comprehensive disability insurance policy, or have proper health insurance.
Other Ways to Recover Compensation After Being Injured by Uninsured Drivers
Most accident victims get their medical expenses footed after the accident through government or private health insurance. Nevertheless, the health insurance companies have the entitlement to be reimbursed from the uninsured motorist policy's proceeds through the insurer's subrogation right.
That is why most people buy Med Pay insurance. Med Pay insures injuries to all involved in the accident, notwithstanding who caused the accident.
The compensation amount paid through Med Pay isn't subject to subrogation. Also, med pay insurance premiums are cost-effective.
Individuals with none of these insurance plans can also get a medical practitioner willing to receive payment on a medical lien basis. Any experienced personal injury attorney has previously worked with physicians and doctors who accept payments on a medical lien basis after motorcycle collisions.
Common Injuries Suffered in a Motorcycle Accident
Most of the motorcycle accidents involve fatal and catastrophic injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 14% of motorcycle accidents reported in 2010 were catastrophic. The report also indicated that you are thirty-five times more likely to sustain an injury in a motorcycle than a passenger vehicle. The injuries suffered include:
Head and Brain Injuries
Head and brain injuries occur when the victim's brain sustains direct and indirect damage due to a violent blow. The impact can directly damage brain tissue like rattling your brain in the skull, destroying nerve cells, and fracturing your skull. Also, the impact can cause swelling and bleeding in the skull.
The resulting injury can have numerous symptoms depending on what part of your brain was affected. Human brains are part of the central nervous system, and damage to brain tissues could interfere with numerous functions. Consequently, victims experience:
- Motor deficits like numbness, weakness, paralysis, chewing and swallowing challenges
- Loss of consciousness
- Speech challenges
- Loss of memory among other cognitive challenges
- Emotional deficits like depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, uncontrolled temper, and mood swings
Common types of head injuries that you can suffer in a motorcycle accident include:
- Traumatic brain injury
Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord injury is caused by the traumatic blow to the spinal cord, which breaks the vertebrae causing bone fragments to tear into spinal cord tissue. While spinal cord injuries can heal with time, sometimes they can cause paralysis.
The National Institutes of Health classifies the ranges of the seriousness of paralysis into five, namely:
- Complete impairment with no sensory function below the injury level
- Complete impairment with sensory function but no motor function
- Normal motor function
- Incomplete impairment with some motor functions
- Incomplete impairment with motor function but muscle strength loss
The injury's area plays a significant role in whether paralysis will happen and its degree.
If the injury happens in your neck, you will experience quadriplegia. Paraplegia, on the other hand, occurs due to blunt trauma to the lower back.
A motorcycle offers little protection to the rider. Although often overlooked, internal injuries are a severe threat even when the rider is in protective gear. Internal injuries include:
- Bleeding in the lungs
- Cuts, blunt trauma, or tears to stomach, bowels, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, or liver
- Injuries to the reproductive organs
- Tendon, muscle, and joint injuries
Most people assume a road rash is a minor injury. Nevertheless, even a minor road rash could have fatal consequences. It is because the skin is the largest body organ, and it protects internal body organs. While a road rash injury can be treated, it is painful.
The injury's seriousness depends mainly on the impact of the accident, the surface that caused the injury, and the safety gear you used. There are three (3) main categories of road rash injuries: compression, open wound, and avulsion. It's possible to sustain at least one type at once.
Broken bones are another common type of injury sustained in a motorcycle accident. Often cyclists hurt their ribs, legs, arms, hands, and feet. It might be because your legs were struck in the motorcycle, or you tried to break your fall using your hands. You might be required to undergo physical therapy or surgery before returning to your healthy daily life.
How Do You File a Claim?
Per most insurance policies, you should notify your insurance provider about the accident promptly irrespective of who is at fault. However, there is an exemption if no person was injured, and there was only insignificant property damage to the insured's motorcycle.
The law requires individuals to bring a form SR-1 accident report with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if they were involved in a collision where no one was hurt, and the car damage was above one thousand dollars. The report should be brought within ten days from the date of the accident.
After your accident has been reported, your insurance company will use evidence like photos and a police report to determine accident liability. The insurer's determination is not the final word, and you are entitled to bring a lawsuit challenging the decision.
Proving Your Motorcycle Accident Involving an Uninsured Motorist
You should establish liability against the uninsured driver to receive compensation. Generally, there are 3 primary sources of proof:
Evidence from the Accident Scene
The first source is the damage to the motorcycle. Even if the bike is written off in the collision, the damage's degree could explain how fast the defendant was driving during the accident and where you were injured.
Also, damage to the other motor vehicle can offer information about your accident. For instance, the damages can tell things such as:
- Where the vehicle and your motorcycle collided
- How fast the driver was traveling when they injured you
- How severe the impact of your accident was
Investigations at the accident scene can also offer information about traffic patterns, weather, and road conditions during your accident. The data is essential to determining liability.
If any person witnessed your motorcycle accident, they could account for what took place at the time of the accident. If multiple witnesses describe similar events, their testimonies can be essential during the claim settlement process.
The location and length of skid marks are also essential in determining liability in the crash. The skid marks tell how fast the defendant's vehicle was moving and how the driver braked to prevent the accident. Moreover, they can tell if the motorist braked after seeing you.
Proof from Third Party
If the police came to the accident scene, the responding police officer should draft a police report. You've a right to obtain a copy of the report. The police report must have details of the police officer's opinion on what took place and who caused your accident.
Was the accident captured on camera? In the modern-day, cameras are all over, and chances are the accident was recorded. If a business security camera or traffic camera caught the accident, it is possible to get the footage's copy to assist your accident claim. Nevertheless, because the recordings are recorded over, your experienced lawyer should try obtaining the footage as soon as they can.
Did distracted driving cause your accident? Distracted driving can involve a person who texts or talks on the phone while driving at the time of the accident. If your injuries are due to distracted driving, your personal injury attorney should subpoena the driver's phone records.
Proof from the Uninsured Motorist
Sometimes distracted driving could result from posting on social media platforms. If the driver who hurt you was posting a selfie or tweeting, their social media posts could be all you require to establish the compensation claim. Analyzing the defendant's social media post following your accident can also give proof that supports your claim. On that note, you should refrain from posting photographs from the accident scene or commenting about your injuries and the accident while the case is ongoing.
If the uninsured motorist who injured you was charged with driving while drunk and then confessed or plead guilty in court, that could be evidence in the claim. Nonetheless, there are restrictions on the relevance and admissibility of a criminal case in civil cases. Your lawyer should help you determine whether the motorist's confession or guilty plea is essential.
How Your Personal Injury Lawyer Can Assist with the Accident Claim
If you have been injured in a crash, you could be wondering whether it is wise to handle your insurance provider on your own or how a lawyer could assist you. Well, that depends mainly on the accident's complexity and specifics. Generally, the attorney will:
Communicate with Your Insurer
In your case, the attorney will open communications with your insurance company. The insurer has a pocketbook. Therefore, your lawyer needs to maintain a good relationship and interact with the insurer.
Collect the Required Liability Evidence
Your attorney will obtain all the necessary evidence to establish liability in your motorcycle crash lawsuit. Although you might have captured images of the motorcycle accident scene, any experienced lawyer might return to the crash scene to see how it looks. A picture can speak volumes, but seeing the accident scene is worth thousands of photos.
Moreover, the attorney will collect accident reports and speak to witnesses and investigating law enforcement officers.
Obtaining the Required Evidence of Medical Expenses
It is essential to have all documentation associated with your injury, but it is not easy to obtain the medical bills and records from the healthcare facility. Technically, the medical records are yours, and you're entitled to them, but sending the records to you or your lawyer is not the facility's priority.
Small hospitals may be understaffed, or the time to respond to record requests is timely. On the other hand, large hospitals might have procedures that should be followed before obtaining the medical record. When your doctor fails to respond to the request, the medical records are not complete. Any seasoned attorney will tell you that they request records more than once and that they have to follow up with the doctor's office continually.
Additionally, you might learn that your physician didn't use words that describe disability, prognosis, or causation in their notes. If this occurs, your attorney should write the physician and request that the doctor states their opinion on
- what caused the accident,
- how your injury will hinder you, and
- for how long.
Negotiate your Settlement
Negotiating a personal injury claim is hard work that requires specific skills. Your lawyer is acquainted with the law and will settle the case more than you would. The legal expert also knows how much your claim is worth and will work to ensure you receive maximum compensation.
Understanding How Much is Your Claim Worth (Damages)
If you are considering bringing a claim with your insurer from an accident involving an uninsured motorist, you might be wondering how much your case is worth. It goes down to figuring what the injury has cost you mentally, physically, and monetarily.
Many damages are compensatory damages. They compensate the victim for what they lost due to the accident (intend to make you whole again). While some compensatory damages like property damage are easy to calculate, it is difficult to put a monetary value on emotional distress or loss of consortium.
Read on to learn the different kinds of damages you can recover:
- Medical expenses involve reimbursement for medical treatment you have already received, prescription costs, and transportation costs to the doctor's office. Moreover, it includes compensation for the estimated medical expenses you will require in the future due to the motorcycle accident.
- Lost income: You might be entitled to receive compensation for the collision's effect on your income. Determining the total lost wages is simple. You just add up your employment benefits and earnings that you lost from being away from work. You can also recover the money you would have made in the future, were it not for your motorcycle accident.
- Property damage: If your motorcycle or clothing were damaged due to the accident, you have a right to compensation for the market value of the property or reimbursement for repairs.
- Emotional distress: These damages compensate victims for the psychological effect of the injury like fear, insomnia, or anxiety.
- Pain and suffering: You are also entitled to compensation for pain and discomfort you sustained during your accident and the accident's immediate effect.
How Your Action or Inaction Can Affect Your Total Compensation Amount
Sometimes, your role in causing the accident or inaction following the accident can reduce the amount of compensation available in your claim.
California follows a comparative negligence rule, and if you are partially accountable for the accident, the percentage of fault will reduce your damages.
Find Legal Representation Near Me
If you have sustained injuries after a motorcycle accident, usually, insurance is the best protection. Nonetheless, if the at-fault motorist does not have coverage, you might require a seasoned attorney's assistance. San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm understands the law's complexity and could help you recover the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 619-478-4059 to review your claim.