Motorcycle Accidents Happen:
What Every Biker Should Know
We mentioned in our most recent post on the Top 10 Causes of Motorcycle Accidents bike accidents account for about 14% of all highway crash deaths according to the NHTSA’s latest data. You can wear the right gear, travel at safe speeds, stay out of drivers’ blind spots, and still end up as the victim of a traffic accident. In fact, bikers are about 28 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than their car-driving counterparts. As such, it’s vital that you know exactly what to do during and after an accident occurs.
We’d all like to think we can handle ourselves during a traumatic car accident, but a crash can leave us feeling injured, disoriented, and overwhelmed. It can be hard to think clearly about all the steps you need to take when you are in pain and dealing with the adrenaline and mental impact of an accident.
To help, we’ve put together a list of actions you should keep handy in the unfortunate event of a traffic crash – and the two things you should NEVER do.
1. Before the Accident – Prepare as Best You Can:
Prepare for the worst – but take responsibility for encouraging the best outcome. Follow our tips in previous articles, like taking a motorcycle safety course, equipping yourself with the right gear, and riding smart (at the speed limit and out of blind spots).
Keep hard copies of vital information, like your insurance card, ID, and emergency contact info in a place where someone will find it in the event you are in a crash. Most bikers keep such items in their glove compartments, seats, tour packs, and saddlebags. Make sure someone knows where you are when you’re riding alone, and never ride without uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage!
2. Before the Accident – Have the Best Insurance Possible:
For your protection and peace of mind, you owe it to yourself and your family to have appropriate motorcycle insurance. Your policy should cover more than your bike and any property damage – it should also cover you! And remember, just because you have a motorcycle insurance policy, that’s not to say you have the motorcycle insurance protection you need in case of an accident.
A crash can take you out of work for weeks or months. What will happen to you or your family in the event you are seriously injured? Motorcycle accidents rarely occur without some kind of serious injury to the biker, typically resulting in hospital admission, high medical bills and lost time from work. Don’t skimp on your policy. Don’t be the biker who falls into the trap of buying motorcycle insurance for a low monthly premium thinking you have “full coverage,” only to find after an accident you basically had no coverage, except coverage for your bike and to help someone else. Also, do not sign any selection/rejection forms allowing the insurance company to limit or remove uninsured motorist coverage from your policy.
Before you saddle up, make sure you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in your policy. If you are involved in an accident, there is at least a 1/3 chance the other driver will not have insurance to cover your lost wages, medical bills, mental anguish and pain & suffering. This coverage helps if you are in an accident caused by a driver with little or no insurance. We can’t tell you the number of cases we’ve litigated where having uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage was vital to ensure the best recovery for the client. To learn more, to protect yourself and your family, check out our page on insurance commercials and The Five Facts Every Rider Should Know About Insurance Companies.
3. At the Scene – Safety First:
If you did not sustain serious injuries, you need to get yourself to a safe place. If you are able, get yourself off of the road and away from any traffic. Focus for a moment on breathing – this can encourage your body from going into shock from the adrenaline still flowing through you. If you sustained serious injuries, where you cannot move out of harm’s way, someone needs to stay with you, keep you stabilized until emergency responders can arrive.
As bikers, we should also educate ourselves of what to do after an accident. There are helpful YouTube Videos on this subject. Be sure to check out this Accident Scene Management program – it allows you to take an online class to reduce injuries and fatalities to motorcyclists until emergency help arrives.
Such materials also teach how someone should “delegate” others to go 100 feet in each opposite direction to warn traffic of the accident, which also leaves room for fire rescue vehicles to arrive at the scene; and, a fellow rider or bystander should be clearly instructed to call 911, to making sure emergency services are called, without confusion as to who makes the call.
Importantly, do not remove the victim’s helmet, jacket, or any other protective clothing, unless necessary to make sure the person is breathing, or to stop bleeding. You may have more serious injuries than visible, and adrenaline can prevent you from feeling pain, and shock can disorient and confuse you. You also must remember there may be a chance of a spinal injury, so you nor anyone else should attempt to move your body in any way. If possible, wait for emergency services to arrive - don’t risk exacerbating any injuries.
4. At the Scene - Call 911 – Seeking EMS & Police:
Even if you feel the crash was minor and you have escaped unharmed, contact emergency services and report the accident. Very few people are able to walk away from a motorcycle accident unharmed, and many times may not even initially realize they have been injured. Depending on the accident’s severity, police and paramedics may be called to the scene. Always insist on calling the police and requesting a crash report. We have seen numerous cases where the at fault driver attempts to talk an accident victim out of calling the police, offering his or her insurance information only to minimize the crash, also to avoid a citation. Trust me, you will not regret calling the police and obtaining a crash report when it comes time to recover for damage to your bike, or if you are injured (which again, you may not realize has happened until long after the accident occurs).
5. At the Scene – Exchange Information:
Once you are safe and emergency services have been contacted, be sure to collect the name, phone number, and license/insurance information for the other driver involved in the crash. Likewise, make best efforts to obtain the contact information of all witnesses or bystanders who can also describe how the accident happened.
It is also wise to take pictures of the other driver’s insurance card, driver’s license, registration and photographs of the property damage to the vehicles, also taking photographs of the scene, including any traffic signs, applicable traffic control devices and any defects, marks or skid marks on the roadway. Also, at the appropriate time and place, take pictures of your injuries early and often during your medical treatment, to have a full visual record of such injuries, including the placement of any external surgical hardware, on-going treatment, and any scarring.
DO NOT leave the scene until you have spoken with all relevant parties – including those involved in the crash and the police. At the same time, you should also be careful in what you say; as, you certainly do not want to say anything that would be used against you to argue you were at fault (by any percentage), and while frustrated, it is best to not be cussing or ugly at the scene, creating more issues. Any confrontation or profane language is not in your best interest at the scene or any time after.
6. At the Scene – Record the Details:
If your phone is functioning and doing so will not put you at risk of more injury, and if given the opportunity in a safe manner, you or someone else should take pictures and video of the scene. Record any damage to your and others’ vehicles, as well as any other property damage that might have occurred. Make sure to include details about your location by capturing street signs or nearby landmarks. In taking scene photos, you should also take a picture of each driver’s “point of view” before the crash – especially to show the other driver did not have any obstructions to seeing on-coming traffic.
If there were witnesses to the accident who are willing to provide information about what they say, be sure to collect it. At the very least, try to get their contact information, as long as they feel comfortable. Their testimony could prove valuable if you need to argue your case.
Some accident victims are under the impression the police collect and report the names of all witnesses and their contact information on the crash report – only later to find out the investigating officer was not complete or thorough in his or her investigation. Thus, we cannot rely on others and we need to do our very best to have a list of all witnesses and their related contact information.
7. After the Accident – See a Doctor & Start An Accident Folder:
Even if you somehow walk away from a motorcycle accident feeling uninjured, you need to get yourself checked by a professional. Serious injuries sometimes take days, weeks, or even months to become apparent, as we said, it’s nearly impossible to get into a serious motorcycle crash without sustaining some kind of injury. You could have internal bleeding, or injuries to your neck or back that go unnoticed due to the adrenaline rush of being in an accident.
If not transported from the scene by ambulance to a local hospital, if you have any complaints of injury in the hours or day(s) after the crash, you owe it to yourself to at least get checked out by an urgent care clinic or by an emergency room. Afterwards, with on-going injuries, with the assistance of counsel, there are several factors to consider before deciding on who might be the best physician to see. We've collected those factors for you here.
Start an “Accident Folder” and keep a record of how the accident happened in your own words (while your memory is fresh) also keeping record of all visits to the hospital(s) or doctor(s) you have seen, and plan on being prepared to prove all of your losses: everything from travel to and from the doctor, to treatment, to prescriptions and aftercare, to losses as a result of missed work. All will be invaluable to your lawyer if you are filing a personal injury claim. Likewise, you should not throw anything away: it is best to keep copy of your discharge instructions, injury instruction sheets, prescriptions, pill bottles, damaged personal property such as your helmet, jacket, gloves, pants or shoes; as, all such items can be photographed, cataloged and used as exhibits if the case goes into litigation.
8. After the Accident – Call An Experienced Biker Lawyer To Contact All Insurance Companies, Report All Claims & Obtaining The Best Recovery:
Speaking of your lawyer, make sure you hire a good one, and hire them quickly! We’d suggest you reach out to us, as attorney Brad Souders is himself a life-long biker, also an award winning trial attorney, having more than 25 years’ experience handling such claims. A good lawyer can help, regardless of your specific situation - if you were wrongly accused of fault, if your insurance claim was denied, or if you have been severely injured and need help with the costs of treatment.
On this same subject, the sooner you retain a lawyer, the better! There have been a few cases where I have had to call a private investigator to supplement the crash report to gather vital evidence to prove fault against the other driver, to take additional witness statements, scene photographs and much more. As your lawyer, we will also take the steps of immediately contacting the insurance companies involved, reporting all claims on your behalf, providing letters of representation so they contact only our office, ordering all applicable insurance information, also starting the process of having your bike inspected and appraised – to resolve the property damage claim and any related loss of use or rental car needs.
Remember, insurance companies are not your friend – they are not looking to offer you a healthy settlement, and having an experienced lawyer on your side can make all the difference. Once your lawyer has completed the investigation, understands the insurance coverage and your injuries, your lawyer can best guide or recommend what and when things should be done – to maximize your recovery to get you the best outcome possible.
After an accident, your main focus should be on recovering your health. Having a lawyer can relieve you of worry about keeping up with the details of your case, or having to fight to get fair compensation for your losses – to hold the other party accountable, to get you the justice and compensation you deserve.
9. After an Accident – Avoid Oversharing:
The only person you should be speaking to about your accident and subsequent claim is your lawyer. This includes family and friends – we know your loved ones care, but keeping the details between your lawyer and yourself until after settlement is the smart move. The adjusters from the at-fault driver’s insurance company will likely want to speak to you about the accident, and they are experts at getting you to inadvertently say something that might devalue your claim.
Especially relevant in 2020 – stay off social media after any accident occurs and continue to stay off social media during the pendency of your injury claim and while your claim is being litigated. Anything can be misinterpreted on social media. Insurance companies train their claims representatives at the very beginning of a claim to look up the claimant on social media.
Some insurance companies even hire a third party vendor on retainer to watch your social media or Facebook posts, collecting such data – only to be used against you later. Investigators can and will use anything they can against you in order to make it appear you are recovering well, or that you might have sustained your injuries prior to the accident. That photo of you horseback riding or working out at the gym will not play well.
Finally – Two Things You Should Never Do In The Event Of An Accident:
Do Not Apologize. Don’t admit fault - not to the other involved parties, not to the police, and do not give any recorded statement to an insurance company, or private investigator hired by insurance company. Even if you truly do feel responsible, the exact cause of an accident is sometimes unclear until long after it occurs. You might even feel compelled to apologize just to be polite. Just don’t – wait to discuss the events until you are able to speak to a lawyer.
There is absolutely no chance that taking even the slightest amount of blame will help the outcome of your upcoming case. The insurance company is waiting for a reason to deny your claim. Anything you say can (and most likely will) have serious legal consequences when it comes to litigation.
After an accident, you will feel overwhelmed, possibly panicked, and not knowing what to do. It is important to familiarize yourself with the steps laid out in this article, so you know what you need to do in the event you or someone you know are in an accident. For additional information, please also visit our “Accident Checklist” page on our website, offering valuable tips, also available for download into a PDF file by clicking here.
Please feel free to “share” this writing with other bikers as they too may want to know such important steps after a motorcycle crash – as another way to help others and possibly more.
Ride Safe, Brad
Do you need an experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?
Call Brad Souders any time, day or night, at 1-866-464-5291 for a FREE, immediate consultation. A lifetime biker, and award-winning attorney with more than 25 years’ experience – A Biker Representing Bikers!
Attorney Brad Souders has a main office in Tampa, representing injured bikers and their families throughout the state of Florida.
Can’t come to us? Brad can come to you. He offers FREE INITIAL CONSULTATIONS, also offering HOME, HOSPITAL & EVENING or WEEKEND appointments by request. After hours, simply call Brad’s cell at (813) 220-7767.