Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Motorcycle accident injuries can be more serious than injuries suffered in car accidents because riders are more exposed.  If you are an injured victim of a motorcycle accident, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for your damages.  Before you pursue compensation in a motorcycle accident lawsuit, it is important to understand the process, identify who you can sue, know what damages are available, and be aware of time limitations imposed by state law.  As with any lawsuit, working with an experienced accident attorney will give you the best chance to collect the damages you are owed.

Parties to Sue in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, a victim injured in a motorcycle accident may sue a number of parties responsible:

  • Other drivers: The obvious parties to sue are the other driver, or drivers, involved in the accident.  Identifying fault after a motorcycle accident is critical to determining who you can sue, so take the time to understand how the accident was caused and what other drivers are liable for your injuries before filing the suit.
  • Manufacturers:  If the motorcycle accident was caused by faulty equipment on the bike, you may be able to sue the bike manufacturer and/or the manufacturer of the particular piece of equipment that failed.  
  • Motorcycle dealership:  In most states, product liaiblity law allows you to sue the dealer of the motorcycle should a defect in the bike cause the motorcycle accident.
  • Government:  If a condition of the road caused the motorcycle accident, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit against whatever government authority was responsible for maintaining it.  Lawsuits against the government are very difficult to navigate, and require an attorney’s assistance.

Identify the parties you can sue before filing a lawsuit by understanding how the motorcycle accident occured and finding out who was at fault.  You can review police records, read witness statements, take photos of the scene, and get expert opinion from professionals who have examined the accident in order to find the parties responsible.  Consult with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney if you have questions about who you can sue in a motorcycle lawsuit.

Damages in Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

Although states have different laws relating to damages owed to victims of motorcycle accident injuries, the general theory of awarding damages focuses on putting the injured victim in the same position they would have been had the accident not occured.  While a motorcycle accident lawsuit will not remove the pain and suffering experienced by the victim, the damages paid should compensate the victim all costs, attempt to assign monetary value to the physical and emotional pain associated with the injury, and, on rare occasion, punish the responsible party for serious acts of negligence.  The following damage categories are available:

  • Compensatory damages:  Compensatory damages are the straightforward repayments of all costs associated with the injury including medical expenses, cost of vehicle repairs, lost wages while unable to work, and diminished earning capacity for permenantly injured victims.  For the most part, compensatory damages are calculated by adding up the invoices and receipts for all costs paid. Future earning capacity damages require some estimation based on how much the victim made before the accident, and how much they were able to make afterwards in their limited capacity.
  • General damages. General damages are more difficult to calculate because the victim is not being repaid for costs paid during the recovery.  General damages include payment for pain and suffering, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, anguish, fear, and loss of quality of life.  When calculating general damages owed a motorcycle accident injury victim, a court or a jury will consider the circumstances of the accident and how much the victim has suffered afterwards.  General damages are not consistent, and seriously injured victims should use an attorney.
  • Punitive damages. Victims don’t get these types of damages unless the act was intentional or so bad that it was despicable. In other words, if somebody purposefully throws open their door in front of a motorcyclist who’s lane sharing because they want to scare him and he gets hurt, then that is clearly on purpose and may warrant punitive damages.

Calculating damages is a critical step to filing a motorcycle accident lawsuit, and should be done with the assistance of an attorney and other professionals who can speak to the value of your injuries.  Typically, damages must be fully calculated before the lawsuit is filed, so do not hesitate to consult with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney before taking action.

NOTE:  The actions of a victim can decrease the damages owed!  If you fail to obey motorcycle helmet laws and worsen your injuries, you may not be entitled to full compensation.  Additionally, if you take action after the accident to impair your recovery or magnify the injury, your compensation will be limited accordingly.  

Time Limits on Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident and plan on filing a lawsuit to recover compensation, you need to take action quickly.  Each state has its own statute of limitations which restricts the length of time that may pass between the date of injury and the date by which your case must be filed. In some states, that statute is one year from the date of injury; in other states, it can be two or more years.  Regardless, once the time limit has passed you cannot file a lawsuit. 

Minors injured in a motorcycle accident generally have until their 18th birthday, plus the statutory limit to file suit.  So, the statute is “tolled”, or put on hold until the minor is 18.

Motorycle Accident Attorneys

The best thing to do after you are injured in a motorcycle accident is to contact an attorney right away.  Most attorneys offer free consultations, and can help you find out if you have a legal case, and make sure you know when you need to file a lawsuit.  Be sure to ask an attorney how much time you have to file a lawsuit, and do not let your opportunity slip away. Click here, for a free consultation with a motorcycle accident attorney.

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