Motorcycling offers an unparalleled sense of freedom, but when a motorcycle accident disrupts that freedom, leaving you injured and facing financial losses, the path to recovery can feel anything but freeing. If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident in Texas, here’s what you need to know about the claims process generally. Be sure to contact a Caldwell, TX and Buffalo, TX motorcycle accident lawyer to get information specific to your case.
What Are the Steps for Filing a Motorcycle Accident Claim?
Step 1: Gather Evidence at the Scene
Getting evidence is important for building a strong claim. If you’re not hurt too badly, here’s what you need to do:
- Call the police: Reporting the accident establishes an official record and allows officers to document the scene, interview witnesses, and make an initial determination of fault.
- Seek and provide medical attention: Even if you feel unharmed, getting checked by a medical professional ensures any injuries are identified and treated promptly. Request copies of all medical records related to the accident. Make sure an ambulance is called if anyone has been hurt, including the other driver or any passengers or bystanders.
- Document the scene: Take photographs of the damage to your motorcycle, the surrounding area, and any visible injuries, so long as it is safe to do so. Capture skid marks, debris, and traffic signals that may be relevant.
- Exchange information: Collect contact details from all involved parties, including drivers, passengers, and any witnesses, if you’re physically able to do so. Note down insurance information and license plate numbers of all the cars involved.
Step 2: Filing an Insurance Claim and Understanding Fault Determination
Once you’ve received medical attention and gathered evidence, filing an insurance claim becomes your next priority. In Texas, you typically have two options. First, you can file a claim with your own insurance company. This option applies under your uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage if the at-fault driver lacks sufficient insurance or is unidentified. Second, you can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If the other party is clearly responsible for the accident and has insurance, this is the preferred course of action.
Texas follows a modified comparative negligence rule. This means you can still recover compensation even if you were partially at fault for the accident, as long as your contribution to the accident is less than 51%. The percentage of fault attributed to you will directly affect the amount of compensation you receive. Thus, if your damages are $23,000, but you are found to be 15% at fault, your final damages would be reduced by 15%, or $3,450.
Claim Filing Process
Your first step is simply notifying the insurance company about the accident. It’s important to do this as soon as possible, as delays can complicate the claims process. When reporting the accident, provide a factual account without admitting fault or giving detailed statements about the accident’s cause. The insurance company will have their own processes that you must follow and paperwork to be filled out, and they should explain this to you and ensure you have all the necessary paperwork when you first call them.
The insurance company will assign an adjuster to your case. This individual is responsible for investigating the accident, assessing the damage, and determining the settlement amount. Always work amicably with the adjuster, but never volunteer any information that isn’t specifically requested, and be sure to run everything by your lawyer before you send it to the insurance company.
Step 3: Communicating with Insurance Companies
Remember, insurance companies are in the business of prioritizing their bottom lines, and their tactics may not always align with your best interests. Here’s how to approach communication effectively:
Maintain Honesty and Consistency
Stick to the factual details of the accident and avoid embellishing or exaggerating. Any inconsistencies can be used against you later.
Never Admit Fault
Even a seemingly harmless apology can be misconstrued as accepting blame. Remember, fault determination is a complex process, and admitting fault prematurely can significantly weaken your claim.
Keep Up Social Media Silence
Publicly discussing the accident on social media can really hurt your case. Insurance companies may monitor your online activity and use your posts to downplay your injuries or claim you were engaging in risky behavior.
Keep records of all communication with the insurance company, including phone calls, emails, and written correspondence. Note the date, time, and key details of each interaction for future reference.
Exploring Legal Representation
If the insurance company denies your claim, offers an unfair settlement, or employs questionable tactics, your lawyer will be able to help. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can gather additional evidence, interview witnesses, and consult with accident reconstruction experts to build a comprehensive understanding of the event. An experienced lawyer also understands both how insurance policies work and the negotiation strategies insurance companies use.
If the insurance company remains unreasonable, your lawyer can also represent you in court, fighting for your rights and pursuing the compensation you deserve. Legal representation is an investment in your future. While some accident claims may seem manageable on your own, involving a lawyer from the outset ensures your rights are protected throughout the process.
Step 4: Preparing for Litigation
Most motorcycle accident claims are settled out of court. However, it’s always possible you might have to go to court to achieve fair compensation. If your case goes to trial, it will be heard in a Texas court, and the decision will be made by a judge or jury. Preparing for litigation involves gathering and organizing all evidence, including witness statements, medical records, and expert testimony.
Your attorney will present your case, highlighting the negligence of the other party and the extent of your injuries and losses. The defense will have the opportunity to present their case, as well. In a trial, the burden of proof lies on you to demonstrate that the other party’s negligence caused your injuries and that your claims for damages are justified. It’s essential to remain patient during this time: this process can be lengthy. Your attorney will handle the legal aspects, but your input and cooperation are crucial for a successful outcome.
Step 5: Review Settlements and Compensation
If a settlement is reached, either through negotiation or litigation, you will review it with your lawyer. Compensation in a motorcycle accident claim can include money for economic damages like medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage, as well as for non-economic damages like pain and suffering and emotional distress. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded, but only if the defendant’s actions were particularly reckless or negligent.
It is unwise to accept any settlement without first talking to your lawyer. Your lawyer will review it to ensure that it is fair to you and properly compensate you for your true losses. Your lawyer will also help you to thoroughly understand the terms of the settlement before you sign on the dotted line. Remember, once a settlement is accepted, you cannot later go back and ask for more money, even if your circumstances change.
Contact a Caldwell, TX and Buffalo, TX Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today
Filing a motorcycle accident claim and seeing it through to the end can be a long and complicated process. Your lawyer is on your side to smooth things out and ensure everything moves as quickly as possible, while also defending your rights and fighting for fair compensation. To work with an experienced lawyer who will fight hard on your behalf, contact Brian Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer