Florida law requires personal injury protection (PIP) insurance for all vehicle owners...
Motorcycles have become increasingly popular across the past two decades, both nationwide and in Florida. The most recent data from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says there are 588,815 motorcycles registered in Florida. That puts the state in the #2 slot for motorcycle ownership in the United States. And, the number has increased quickly. Between 2002 and 2018, motorcycle ownership in Florida increased by 152%.
Unfortunately, the large number of motorcycles and the year-round warm weather in Florida combine to give the state a darker ranking. According to the Governors’ Highway Safety Administration (GHSA), Florida has the largest number of annual motorcycle fatalities. In the most recent year reported, Florida accounted for more than 10% of motorcyclist deaths around the country.
Another 7,849 Florida motorcyclists and their passengers were injured in 2018. More than 1,000 motorcycle accidents and 877 of those injuries took place in Miami-Dade County.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident or a loved one has been killed while riding one, you may be entitled to recover damages. But, the process of securing fair compensation is complicated, and there are many pitfalls for those who are not experienced with the Florida civil court system. So, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney as soon as possible after a serious Miami motorcycle accident.
Reasons You Should Hire a Miami Motorcycle Crash Attorney
1. It’s easy to make mistakes that can seriously hurt your motorcycle accident claim.
After a serious motorcycle accident or other injury, most people are understandably upset and confused. You may be in pain, concerned about how you’re going to keep the bills paid, managing temporary or long-term limitations and perhaps even taking medications that impact your thinking. With so many stressors and distractions, it’s easy to make an innocent mistake that can come back to haunt you.
Often, these mistakes don’t seem to have anything to do with your injury case. But, you may find out months down the road that the responsible party’s insurance company has scoured your social media and pulled out photos and posts that create the wrong impression. Or, you may decide to skip getting checked out by a doctor or some follow-up care, only to hear the insurance company argue that you made your injuries worse and they’re not responsible for full compensation. When you work with an experienced personal injury attorney from the beginning, your lawyer can offer guidance that will help you protect your claim.
2. Insurance companies don’t always play fair.
If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident that was someone else’s fault, you can almost certainly expect a phone call from the responsible person’s insurance company. Chances are the person who calls you from the insurance company will be very friendly and helpful. They’ll probably talk about how they want to help you get your money as soon as possible. But, it’s important to remember how insurance companies work. They’re businesses looking for a profit. The less they pay out to people who have been injured, the more they get to keep.
In the mid-2000s, a scandal broke when the public got a look at one major insurance company’s internal documents. The documents included training materials instructing employees on how to play hardball with people who made claims. Some employees even received bonuses for keeping the amount paid to an injured person low. Despite the bad press and some legal consequences, this report prepared several years later for the Consumer Federation of America showed that not much had changed.
If you enter into a settlement too early, you could find yourself stuck with large medical bills later – or even unable to get the treatment you need. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer will be familiar with insurance company tactics and will fight for your interests, not to protect the insurance company’s profits.
3. Identifying responsible parties can be trickier than you expect.
If you were riding a motorcycle and were hit by a car, it may seem obvious that the driver who hit you was at fault. That’s likely true – at least in part. But, there may be others who share responsibility. Some examples include other drivers sharing the road, vehicle manufacturers, and in some cases even the entity responsible for design or maintenance of the road.
Here’s a simple example: a car traveling next to a motorcycle swerves to avoid a piece of debris that falls from a truck in front of it and crosses into the next lane, sideswiping the motorcycle. While the driver who made contact with the motorcyclist is likely at least partially responsible, the driver of the truck who failed to secure his load may share responsibility. The injured motorcyclist may be entitled to partial compensation from each driver.
Identifying all possible responsible parties is critical. If you overlook someone, the person you sue may point the finger at the missing defendant in the courtroom. That could mean a reduced award, or even none at all.
4. Deadlines and technical requirements can trip you up.
Most people aren’t familiar with all of the procedural requirements associated with a motorcycle accident claim or other personal injury case. When you’re recovering from a serious injury, you probably don’t want to spend time and energy giving yourself a crash course in Florida civil procedure. And, you shouldn’t have to.
When you hire an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer, your attorney will take responsibility for managing deadlines, obtaining a copy of the police report, investigating your claim, drafting pleadings, getting defendants served, deposing the other side’s witnesses if necessary, preparing your witnesses, making pre-trial motions, creating exhibits, filing witness lists, and more. And, of course, if your case goes to trial, your attorney will manage jury selection, follow the procedures necessary to get your evidence before the court, and argue your case. You can keep your attention where it belongs, on recovering and beginning to rebuild.
5. It’s hard to know how much your motorcycle accident claim is worth.
If you search the Internet for answers, you’ll see formulas like “you should ask for three times the amount of your actual damages.” Unfortunately, that type of general statement isn’t of much use in a particular case. The amount of damages awarded in a motorcycle or other motor vehicle accident case depends on a variety of factors. Some examples include the extent of the injuries, the need for follow-up medical care of rehabilitation, any long-term or permanent limitations, the amount of income lost, the age of the injured party, the earning capacity of the victim before the accident and more.
The value of a case may also be impacted by factors that have nothing to do with the accident. For instance, some insurance companies are more likely to offer a fair settlement than others. Similarly, juries in some counties tend to be more generous to injury victims than others.
An attorney who is familiar with the Miami-area courts and is experienced in handling similar cases will be able to explain these factors in more detail and assess how they may impact your case.
6. Florida’s comparative fault statute can significantly impact the amount of damages you receive.
Florida takes a fairly unusual approach to apportioning responsibility for a motorcycle accident or other negligence-based injury claim. Under Florida’s pure comparative fault statute, an injured person may be able to recover damages from anyone who was partially responsible for that injury. However, the damages are reduced in proportion to the amount of blame.
That means that to secure the most compensation possible, it isn’t enough to establish that the other party was at fault. Imagine that you convince the jury that the other party was negligent, but the jury finds that he was only 25% responsible and you were 75% responsible. You would only be able to recover 25% of your damages.
When multiple factors contribute to a traffic crash and the blame is shared, it can be very difficult to clearly demonstrate the degree to which each party was responsible. Often, this requires the use of expert witnesses. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney understands the factors that will help determine the percentage of fault attributable to each party, and what type of expert you need to strengthen your argument.
Learn How Elstein Legal Helps Motorcycle Accident Victims
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, a car or truck accident, or any other type of motor vehicle accident, hiring a car accident lawyer is your best next step. You may have heard that you have four years to file a motor vehicle accident lawsuit in Florida, and that’s generally true. However, in certain cases, you may need to act sooner. For instance, if one of the responsible parties is a governmental entity, you may need to file a notice of claim much earlier.
Even if you have the full four years to file, there are many advantages to getting information and advice from a seasoned personal injury lawyer as early as possible. Getting right to work means you’ll likely see compensation sooner, gives your attorney a better opportunity to investigate and speak with witnesses while their memories are fresh, and helps you avoid pitfalls.
To schedule a free consultation with Elstein Legal, call 305-299-2835 or fill out our contact form.