Some people who sustain personal injuries in motorcycle accidents may believe their cases are so straightforward and clear-cut that they could save money on legal fees by handling their own claims. An injured plaintiff acting as his or her own legal counsel may indeed lead to lower legal fees overall, but it can also lead to a lower level of representation than an experienced Massachusetts motorcycle accident attorney could offer and a much lower compensation award. Call our personal injury lawyers at (619) 391-6001 to learn more about your motorcycle accident and for a free consultation.
Because of their size, motorcycles are difficult to see and present unique dangers on the road. Unlike motor vehicles that provide protection by way of seat belts, airbags, and brake systems, motorcyclists rely on little more than quick reactions and a helmet to ensure their safety. As a result, motorcycle accidents are extremely dangerous for riders. An accident that might otherwise be a small “fender-bender” can be far worse for a motorcyclist.
A plaintiff recovering from serious injuries from a motorcycle accident will have a very difficult time meeting the court’s strict filing requirements and uncovering the various available avenues of compensation after an accident. The average person with no legal experience or training likely won’t know where to look beyond his or her hospital bills and vehicle repair costs. An experienced Massachusetts motorcycle accident lawyer can offer a higher level of representation than the average plaintiff could manage alone.
Massachusetts’ modified comparative negligence law is another reason to hire a motorcycle crash attorney for a motorcycle accident claim. While Massachusetts follows a no-fault rule for vehicle accidents, an injured driver or motorcyclist may have grounds for a claim under certain circumstances. However, a modified comparative negligence law means that plaintiffs could lose a portion of their cash award if they bear any fault for the claimed event. A good motorcycle accident attorney will ensure his or her client does not absorb more fault that he or she deserves.
Massachusetts uses a modified comparative negligence statute, meaning that a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit may still recover damages even if he or she partially caused the accident in question. However, the plaintiff loses a percentage of the cash award equal to his or her fault percentage and may only recover if his or her fault percentage is lower than the defendants.
In a $50,000 motorcycle accident lawsuit for which the plaintiff absorbs 10% of the fault, the plaintiff loses $5,000 or 10% of the case award for a net total of $45,000 instead. This is one of the major reasons to hire a Massachusetts motorcycle accident lawyer after a serious motorcycle accident; without proper representation, an injured plaintiff may absorb more fault that he or she rightfully deserves.
Under the no-fault system for handling car accidents in Massachusetts, injured drivers or motorcyclists need to file a claim against their own auto insurance policy for recovery after an accident, regardless of who caused the accident. This system exists to prevent lawsuits for low-value claims to free up legal resources for larger claims.
If a driver’s injuries meet the state’s criteria for a legal claim beyond the driver’s own insurance, the driver must have sustained at least $2,000 worth of medical expenses from the accident in question and his or her injuries must include a bone fracture, serious disfigurement, or substantial loss of bodily function such as vision or hearing. If an injured driver’s damages exceed this threshold, then he or she would file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If the at-fault driver’s policy cannot fully cover the victim’s damages, then the victim may have grounds for a personal injury claim for full recovery.
Massachusetts follows a no-fault rule for car accidents but all drivers must carry auto liability insurance that meets the state’s minimums. An auto insurance policy in Massachusetts must include:
Failing to maintain auto insurance in Massachusetts that meets the state’s minimum requirements may lead to significant legal penalties including fines, driver’s license suspension, and possibly jail time. A driver caught without appropriate insurance may also need to pay an additional fine equal to one year’s worth of premium payments for an auto insurance policy that meets the minimum requirements based on the highest market rate of such a policy at the time of the offense.
A motorcycle accident lawsuit in Massachusetts will fall under personal injury law, and the plaintiff in such a case may collect several types of compensation for a successful lawsuit. Generally, the defendant is responsible for making the plaintiff whole again after an accident the defendant caused. When insurance isn’t enough to cover the plaintiff’s damages or the plaintiff incurs additional damages beyond the scope of available coverage, the defendant is responsible for the remainder.
Damages in personal injury claims typically include:
An average plaintiff will have difficulty proving his or her damages and securing compensation without a Massachusetts motorcycle accident attorney’s help. Additionally, a lawyer can help limit the effects a plaintiff’s negligence may have on the claim.
Motorcycles are nowhere near as crashworthy as most enclosed passenger vehicles like cars, trucks, and SUVs, so a motorcyclist faces significant injuries in an accident. Some of the most common injuries include broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, internal organ damage, deep cuts, burns, and more. Since motorcycle accidents commonly result in disfiguring wounds and permanently disabling injuries, many motorcycle accident claims will likely meet the state’s requirements for filing personal injury lawsuits.
Motorcycle collisions often cause catastrophic injuries, including TBIs. A TBI (traumatic brain injury) in a motorcycle wreck can arise from the rider striking his or her head on the road or other objects. Although wearing a helmet can reduce the odds of a life-threatening brain injury in a motorcycle crash, it is not a safety guarantee. Even with a helmet, a motorcyclist could suffer a traumatic brain injury. A TBI can cause symptoms such as cognitive challenges, motor dysfunction, confusion, memory loss, headaches, nausea, fatigue, mood swings, personality changes and permanent disabilities. A severe spinal cord injury could also be permanently disabling for a motorcyclist if it causes paraplegia, tetraplegia or another type of paralysis.
Work with an attorney if you or a loved one has any type of injury from a motorcycle accident, but especially a serious or catastrophic injury.
One of the most important things an injured rider should remember is that an at-fault driver is responsible for the injured rider’s future medical expenses, including the effects of a permanent injury or disability. For example, if a plaintiff’s injuries necessitate long-term, in-home personal medical care, the defendant may be liable for the cost of this treatment.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation collected 2016 crash data from MassDOT Registry of Motor Vehicles based on the crash reports submitted by the State and local police. While most motorcyclists are at risk of injury while driving on the road, the most common type of collision appears to be rear-ending and single-vehicle crashes.
Motorcycle riders often drive between lanes of slow-moving cars or drive along the shoulder of the road in order to avoid waiting in traffic. Called “lane splitting,” this type of driving is illegal in Massachusetts and can greatly increase the chance of a car-on-motorcycle accident. Although the dangerous operation of a motorcycle is a common cause of motor vehicle accidents, many motorcycle accidents occur because the driver of an automobile fails to yield the right of way to a motorcyclist who is operating with due care.
Since Massachusetts is a comparative negligence state, a motorcyclist may be barred from recovering damages if a court finds that he or she was more than 50% at fault for the accident. In determining liability, a court will ask:
It may take an attorney to determine liability for your motorcycle accident and combat the comparative negligence defense during your claim. A lawyer can maximize your financial outcome by gathering clear and convincing evidence of the at-fault party’s negligence or recklessness. Your lawyer can help with tasks such as identifying the defendant, preserving evidence, issuing subpoenas and proving your case. The liable party in your motorcycle accident claim will depend on the cause of the crash.
Motor vehicle drivers are common defendants in Massachusetts motorcycle accident claims. Drivers can be responsible for causing motorcycle wrecks from speeding, following too closely, making unsafe left-hand turns, running red lights, failing to yield the right-of-way, texting and driving, and many other acts of negligence. All vehicle operators in Massachusetts must carry minimum amounts of insurance to pay for victim’s injuries after serious accidents.
If the driver that ran into you while you were motorcycling in Massachusetts was performing occupational tasks at the time of the collision, you may have a claim against the driver’s employer. If it was a UPS truck, for example, UPS may owe you compensation rather than the individual driver. Proving vicarious liability for an employee’s negligence could help you obtain maximum compensation for your losses.
Many motorcycle accidents in Massachusetts come from defective and dangerous roadways. Road defects such as cracks, potholes, uneven shoulders, loose rubble, fallen tree limbs, discarded trash and missing guardrails are more dangerous for motorcyclists than passenger vehicle operators. It is the city’s responsibility to maintain safe roads and highways. The negligent failure to do so could lead to liability for the city or state government.
Some motorcycle crashes in Massachusetts happen due to vehicle defects, such as bad brakes or defective tires. If a defective motorcycle part caused your accident or contributed to your personal injuries, the manufacturer or distributor of the item could be liable for your damages. The three main types of part defects are design flaws, production errors and marketing mistakes.
It is possible to hold multiple parties responsible for your motorcycle accident. Massachusetts’ joint and several liability law means each defendant will be liable only for his or her portion of fault for the motorcycle accident rather than the whole of the plaintiff’s damages. Naming more than one defendant in your case could improve your odds of recovering fair compensation.
Establishing negligence and liability in Massachusetts generally takes proof of four key elements: duty of care, dereliction of duty, direct causation and damages. You or your motorcycle accident lawyer in Massachusetts will need to prove, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant owed you a duty to exercise reasonable care, did not perform the tasks necessary to fulfill this duty and caused your crash. Speak to a lawyer about your specific case, since some types of claims do not require proof of negligence. A claim against a manufacturer for a defective motorcycle part, for instance, may not require you to prove negligence.
Given the fact that Massachusetts is a comparative negligence jurisdiction, it is vitally important to investigate every detail of a motorcycle accident to determine who is at fault. At Sweeney Merrigan Law, we have the expertise necessary to investigate each aspect of an accident. When necessary, we utilize accident reconstruction experts and investigators to fully assess the cause of an accident. We also review an available video footage and examine the damage to each vehicle in order to achieve the most accurate assessment possible.
If you have been involved in an accident with a motorcycle, call Sweeney Merrigan Law today at (619) 391-6001. We will fight for your rights and get you the compensation you fair compensation for your injuries.