Most motorcycle accidents result in life-threatening injuries. It is challenging for a victim of a motorcycle accident to recover from these injuries and resume his/her normal routine.
Worse still, injured motorcyclists often find it difficult to receive compensation for their injuries, especially if the at-fault motorist is either uninsured or underinsured. According to the Insurance Information Institute, Florida has the highest number of uninsured motorists in the United States. In 2015, 26.7% of Florida motorists were uninsured.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you can rely on your uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage for compensation. But, for you to receive compensation under the UM/UIM coverage scheme, you must provide sufficient proof to show that another person should be held liable for the crash. This is quite a long shot if you intend to file the compensation claim by yourself.
In this situation, an experienced and competent personal injury attorney can help you find fair compensation for your injuries. He/she will explore all viable methods that you can utilize to obtain compensation, and file a claim on your behalf.
Get in touch with us at the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney if you have been involved in a motorcycle accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist. One of our primary goals is to help motorcycle accident victims in Clay County obtain fair compensation. Do not worry about legal fees. You will not pay anything until you win.
What is Uninsured (UM) Motorist Coverage?
Florida requires all motorists to have auto liability insurance. Auto liability insurance covers for both property damage and bodily injury if you are at-fault for a crash.
However, not all motorists in Florida have auto-liability insurance. Florida has the highest number of uninsured motorists in the United States.
Even if you have auto liability insurance, and unfortunately, you become injured in an accident caused by an uninsured motorist, you may find yourself facing financial difficulties. This is because you will be required to pay for your medical expenses, vehicle damage, and any other costs resulting from the accident by yourself. On the flip side, if you had paid for UM coverage, you can claim compensation from the insurance provider.
Paying for UM coverage is optional in Florida, even though it has the highest number of uninsured motorists. But, Florida law imposes an obligation to insurance companies that sell auto-insurance to offer uninsured coverage. As a policyholder, you can reject the UM coverage plan. Generally, uninsured motorist coverage pays for:
- Medical bills
- Car damage
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral compensation
Below, we break down the two different variations of UM coverage:
- Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI) – This cover will cater to your medical expenses and lost wages and pain and suffering.
- Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) – If you are involved in a crash with an uninsured motorist that results in car damage, this cover will help you pay for the vehicle repair costs. This will enable you to drive as soon as possible. This cover is incredibly useful if you have not paid for collision insurance.
What is the Underinsured (UIM) Motorist Coverage?
Most motorcycle accidents result in catastrophic injuries. Unfortunately, some motorists may choose to have only minimum liability coverage, which is just enough for them to drive legally. Often, this choice makes them underinsured. As a result, if they cause an accident, their liability coverage may not be enough to pay for the victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and any other financial loss he/she suffered. This is where UIM coverage comes in handy.
UIM coverage can help you pay for expenses resulting from the accident if the at-fault motorist's liability coverage is not enough. There are two types of UIM coverage:
- Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UIMBD) – This insurance plan covers your medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and any other financial expenses resulting from your physical injuries.
- Underinsured Motorist Property Damage (UIMPD) – This insurance plan can pay for any property damage, including motorcycle damage.
In most instances, your insurer will offer you both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. This means that you will not be required to cater for each of these plans separately.
What to Do When Involved in an Accident with an Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist
There are various steps that you should take when you get into an accident. Here is what you should do when involved in an accident with an uninsured/underinsured motorist:
1. Seek Medical Help
The first step that you should take is to seek medical help. Your health should be your priority. Typically, some good Samaritans who have witnessed the accident can rush you to the hospital. If possible, you can call a reliable friend or family member to inform him/her that you have gotten into an accident.
Do not avoid seeking medical help even if you came out uninjured. This is because some injuries sustained in an accident usually take a long time to manifest themselves. If you do not seek medical assistance immediately, these injuries may become more severe.
2. Gather Important Details
There are various crucial details that you should collect while at an accident scene. Some of these details include:
- The name and contact information of the uninsured/underinsured at-fault party
- The names and contact information of potential witnesses
- The vehicle plate numbers of the motor vehicles involved in the accident
You will need these details when filing your claim or when instituting a personal injury lawsuit for compensation. These details will help you prove your claim.
If possible, you can ask the people present at the accident scene to tell you what they saw. Then, with their permission, you can record what they say.
3. Contact the Police
Make sure you get in touch with the local Law Enforcement Department. Call them, and inform them that you have gotten into an accident. You should also explain to them where exactly the accident scene is.
When the police arrive at the scene, they will investigate why the accident occurred. They may also interrogate you and other people present at the accident scene. Then, they will file a report.
You should ask for a copy of this report. When you get this report, you should read it immediately. If you find out that it has some errors, you should request the investigating officer to correct it as soon as possible.
4. Take Photos and Videos
Photos and videos of the accident scene are quite essential in proving your claim. Generally, visual evidence holds more weight than oral or documentary evidence.
If possible, you should take photographs of the accident scene from all angles. You can use your smartphone to capture what witnesses are saying about the accident and the at-fault party's reaction.
5. Contact an Attorney
You should reach out to a personal injury attorney as quickly as possible after getting into an accident. This attorney will help you fight for fair compensation.
As a rule, you should never accept the first offer of settlement from an insurance company. This is because most insurance companies are well-known for downplaying motorcycle accident injuries. Also, take care not to admit liability while present at the accident scene or while contacting the insurance company. If you admit liability, you may end up not receiving compensation.
Filing a Claim for UM/UIM Coverage
If you become injured in an accident caused by an uninsured/underinsured motorist, you will have to go through the following steps to receive compensation:
- File a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault party
- Contact your own insurance company and notify them about your situation
- Your insurance company will open a claim after you have contacted it, or it may wait for the at-fault party’s insurer response
- Your insurance company will commence investigations about your claim
- After it completes the investigation, you will receive compensation
Although these steps may seem straightforward, you will still find it difficult to receive compensation without professional legal help. This is because the primary goal of most insurance companies is to make huge profits. Often, insurance adjusters will try to make you accept the least amount of money possible as compensation or question your claim's credibility or veracity. Let us discuss each of these steps comprehensively:
1. Dealing with the Insurance Company of the At-fault Party
In at least 70% of motorcycle accidents in Florida, often, the motorists responsible for them have liability insurance. It is recommended that while at the accident scene, you should obtain the contact details of the at-fault party and their insurance information.
Then, you should file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company as soon as possible. Typically, before you have even filed a claim, the person responsible for the accident might have already contacted his/her own insurance company. When submitting your claim, you may be expected to provide:
- Witness statements
- Photos and videos about the accident
- Accident police report
- Proof of lost income
- Medical bills and reports
- Any receipts of related expenses
When the insurance company of the at-fault party receives your claim, it will commence investigations. Take note that you will be required to prove how the at-fault party is liable for the crash.
If your claim is successful, you will receive compensation. However, if the at-fault party carries minimum liability insurance, you may not receive a sufficient amount of money to pay for your medical bills and be compensated for pain and suffering and lost wages.
You should only take this step if you believe that the at-fault motorist carries liability insurance. If you already know that the motorist liable for the accident is uninsured, you should contact your own insurance company right away.
2. Contacting your Insurance Company
Once you have found out that the at-fault motorist is uninsured/underinsured, you should get in touch with your insurance company. Usually, you will be required to fill out a particular form and provide specific details about the accident.
When speaking with your insurance company, you should be clear that you were not responsible for the accident in any manner whatsoever. Explain to them the degree and extent of your injuries and how much cover you require.
3. Opening and Investigating Claims
After the insurance company has verified that the at-fault motorist is uninsured/underinsured, it will open your claim. You will be assigned to an insurance adjuster, whose primary responsibility is to assess your claim's value.
Insurance adjusters may appear kind and friendly, but they will rarely act in your best interests. Remember that they are paid to help the insurance company make more profits. Therefore, you should take due caution while speaking with an adjuster. Do not make any incriminating statements or admissions of liability, as he/she may use them as the basis to deny you compensation.
4. Receiving Compensation
After the insurance company has completed investigations about your claim, you will receive an offer for settlement. Do not be tempted to quickly accept this settlement offer, no matter how enticing it may seem.
This is because most insurance companies will offer you the least amount of money possible as compensation to make more profits. Moreover, if you quickly accept a settlement offer, you may be unable to receive further compensation, should you get more health complications from the injuries you sustained in the accident.
Sometimes, the insurance company may downplay the degree and extent of your injuries. They can also underestimate how much cover you need. If you believe that the insurance company doesn’t want to offer you fair compensation, you should contact a personal injury attorney.
You should only sign the release form if you believe that you are being offered fair compensation. When signing the release form, you will be asked to waive your rights to pursue the company for any other further payments.
If you had stacked UM/UIM coverage, you could receive compensation from under separate policy arrangements. This means that if one UM/UIM policy isn't enough to pay for your injuries, you can claim a higher amount under a different policy.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Sometimes, the insurance company may remain adamant about paying you what you deserve. In such a situation, you should institute a motorcycle accident personal injury lawsuit.
According to Florida’s Statute of Limitations, personal injury lawsuits should be instituted within four years from when the accident occurred. If you do not institute a lawsuit within this timeframe, you will lose your legal right to seek compensation for your injuries.
Take note that Florida is a no-fault state. This means that the court may not require you to demonstrate the liability of the at-fault party. All you need to prove is that there was actually an accident, and your insurance company is unwilling to offer you fair compensation.
However, if you seek damages worth over $10,000, you will be required to prove liability. As a motorcyclist, you may sustain severe bodily injuries when you get into an accident. In most cases, the total cost of treating these injuries exceeds $10,000. Depending on the value of your income, the amount of lost wages may be higher than $10,000. This means that it is most likely that the court would want you first to prove liability before you are awarded damages.
To prove liability, you must assert that the at-fault party was negligent. Note that the burden of proof in Florida civil cases is on the plaintiff, and the standard of proof is on a balance of probabilities.
To assert that the at-fault party was negligent, you must demonstrate the following:
- He/she had a duty to care
- He/she breached this duty
- You sustained physical injuries due to the breach
All road users in Florida have a duty to care. This means that they have a legal obligation to safeguard the safety of other road users.
Motorists should obey traffic laws and exercise caution while driving. If, for instance, the uninsured/underinsured motorist was driving while texting, you can assert that he/she breached his/her duty to care. Generally, you can prove a breach of duty to care by demonstrating that the at-fault party did not obey particular traffic laws.
You will also be required to demonstrate that the accident occurred as a result of the breach. Then, you will have to show the court how you were injured in the crash.
Damages in a Motorcycle Accident Personal Injury Lawsuit
The court can award up to three kinds of damages when you win your case. These damages include:
- Special damages
- Punitive damages
- General damages
Motorcycle accident personal injury lawsuits can last for a couple of weeks to several years. Also, not all of them reach the trial stage. Some may be dismissed by the judge, while in others, both the defendant and the plaintiff may agree to a suitable settlement amount.
You will only receive damages if your lawsuit reaches the trial stage, and the court has ruled in your favor. Special damages would compensate you for the financial expenses you incurred due to the accident, including medical bills, lost earnings, and property damage. General damages cover non-economic losses, including pain and suffering, depression, mental anguish, and loss of consortium.
Florida courts rarely award punitive damages in motorcycle accident personal injury lawsuits. They are only awarded in cases where it is proven that the defendant acted maliciously and in complete disregard for human life.
Motorcycle Accident Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Your loved one may have been killed in a motorcycle accident involving an uninsured/underinsured motorist. In such a situation, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain damages.
Florida Wrongful Death Laws allow surviving family members to institute personal injury lawsuits when their loved ones have died in auto accidents. Motorcycle accident wrongful death lawsuits are usually high-dollar cases, and insurance companies utilize extensive resources to defend themselves against them.
The amount of damages awarded in these lawsuits will cover the following:
- Medical expenses to treat the deceased’s physical injuries that he/she sustained in the accidents
- Lost earnings during the period when the deceased was seeking medical treatment
- Future lost earnings up to when the deceased would have died if he/she had not been involved in the accident
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Mental anguish
How an Attorney Can Help
Most insurance companies will attempt to convince you that you do not need a lawyer. However, if you hire a personal injury lawyer, you will most likely receive a higher settlement offer.
Remember that you will be required to prove that you did not cause the accident. Some insurance companies can deny your claim, alleging that you caused the crash or provided incorrect statements.
Also, the insurance adjuster will record your conversation as you speak with him/her. If you make an incriminating statement, he/she can utilize it as a basis to deny your claim or offer you little money as compensation.
Moreover, some insurers can coerce you to sign the release form quickly. Note that immediately you sign the release form, you lose your legal right to pursue further compensation.
A personal injury attorney can initiate the claims process on your behalf. If your attorney fails to agree with the insurer about the settlement amount, he/she can institute a civil lawsuit for compensation.
During your consultations, your attorney will assess your claim's value and give you an estimate of how much money you are likely to get. Most insurance adjusters are intimidated by lawyers, and they will quickly shy off from denying you fair compensation.
If you decide to institute a lawsuit, your attorney will help you win. The court will then award you damages, whose amount will be fair compensation for your bodily injuries.
Find a Clay County Motorcycle Injury Lawyer Near Me
We invite you to contact us at the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney if you were injured in a motorcycle accident by an uninsured/underinsured motorist. We will help you obtain fair compensation. Call us today at 904-494-8242 for a free consultation.