Motorcycle Accident Injury & Death Cases: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • Who can sue for a motorcycle accident injury and death case?
    • The operator of a motorcycle and his/her survivors in a wrongful death case can sue for their damages if any other party is at fault.
    • The passenger on a motorcycle can normally sue a motorcycle operator if the operator is at fault and/or any other person or entity that is responsible for their injuries.
    • Any other person injured by a motorcyclist, such as a pedestrian, can recover damages against the motorcycle operator and any other responsible party.
  • Who can be held responsible for injuries or death to motorcycle operators and passengers?
    • Any person or entity that in any way causes a motorcycle accident through his or her wrongful conduct will be considered to be at fault and held responsible for the injury or death. This includes a wide array of potential defendants including other vehicle drivers, product manufacturers, owners of dangerous private or public property, repair shops and any other person or entity that contributed to the accident.
  • What if I was partially at fault for causing the accident?
    • California is a comparative fault state. A person can sue for serious personal injury even if they are partially at fault. As long as they can prove that one or more other parties are also at fault. However, the amount of a plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by the amount of their fault. Therefore, if someone is awarded $5 million dollars in a serious personal injury case, but are found to be 50% at fault, the recovery will be limited to $2.5 million dollars. This is also true in wrongful death cases in which the award is reduced by the percentage of decedent’s fault.
    • As a motorcycle operator, you should be aware that there is a general public prejudice against motorcyclists that can affect the amount of fault attributed to a motorcyclist in any given accident. This is one of the reasons why it is important to retain an attorney and experts skilled in motorcycle accident cases who know how to deflect this bias against motorcyclists.
  • Is an investigation of my motorcycle accident case important?
    • It is critical. Since there is almost a presumption in the general public that motorcyclists assume the risk for their own injuries and they are usually at fault for causing accidents, it is essential that a quick and thorough investigation is performed to establish fault on other responsible people or entities and to establish that the motorcyclist did little or nothing to contribute to the accident.
    • Investigation should consist of an examination of the scene; an examination of the instrumentalities that were involved in the accident; obtaining statements from witnesses and the reports from investigating agencies.
    • Of prime importance is maintaining the motorcycle and helmet in the exact condition they were in at the moment when the motorcyclist came to rest after an accident.
  • Is insurance coverage an important issue?
    • It may be the most important issue in your case. If you are a motorcycle operator and did not have liability insurance at the time of the accident, you will not be able to recover damages for your pain and suffering. Thus, you will be limited to recovery of damages for medical expenses and wage loss. However, passengers on motorcycles do not have to carry insurance to be able to recover all of their damages.
    • Further, since motorcycle accidents usually involve serious injuries or death, it is important that the at-fault party have enough insurance coverage to cover all of your damages. If you have purchased an uninsured or underinsured motorist policy, that policy might help compensate you if the responsible parties are uninsured or underinsured.
    • One of the reasons why it is so important to do an investigation in a motorcycle accident case is to make sure that all potential defendants are included in the case which will increase your likelihood of obtaining full compensation for your injuries.
  • Are liability experts important for my case?
    • Yes. Most motorcycle accidents that result in serious injury or death will require the retention of accident reconstruction experts and human factors experts. It is helpful if the plaintiff retains an expert who specializes in motorcycles and motorcycle accidents. There are unique aspects of motorcycle accidents that many general accident reconstruction experts do not understand.
  • Is it important to retain experts on the issue of liability and damages?
    • Yes. In addition, biomedical and biomechanical engineers can be helpful in proving that the accident caused your serious injury or a relative’s death and other experts such as doctors, vocational/life care experts and economists can also be useful at trial in wrongful death or serious injury cases.
  • How long do I have after my accident to file my motorcycle injury case?
    • Generally speaking, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. This time period can occasionally be extended if for some reason you were not able to discover your injury or the negligent cause of your injury for some time period after the accident. However, in a serious injury case, a delayed accrual of the statute of limitations for late discovery is extraordinarily rare.
    • If your case is against a government entity, a claim must be brought within six months of the date of the accident.
    • If the plaintiff is a minor, a minor has until their 19th birthday to bring case unless there is a government claim in which a minor should bring the claim within six months of the accident, or one year at the latest.
  • Will my motorcycle accident settle out of court?
    • Yes. Probably close to 90 percent of motorcycle accident cases settle; however, they can be more difficult to settle than other motor vehicle cases because defendants and insurance companies are more willing to try them, hoping that the public’s bias against motorcyclists will help them win the case or hold down damages.
  • Is it important to retain an attorney for my motorcycle accident case?
    • Yes, if the motorcycle accident has resulted in a serious injury or death. Without an attorney, there will always be an assumption that the motorcyclist was at fault and evidence will be gathered by the other side to support that contention. You need to hire an attorney to perform investigation and retain the right experts to prove your case and your injuries. Further, through the litigation, an attorney will be able to cross-examine witnesses against you and hopefully turn their testimony to your favor.
    • Most legal questions require complex answers. The answers provided here may not be complete or fully accurate but attempt to provide consumers with abbreviated answers. For more detailed answers to these questions, a consumer should check out other articles in this section of this website, research other legal articles and texts on the subject matter or consult with an attorney.