I’ve Been Hurt in a Motorcycle Accident in Clearwater — Do I Need a Lawyer?
Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes | Motorcycle accident
You always have the choice to represent yourself after a motorcycle accident. However, hiring a Clearwater personal injury lawyer can help you to secure the compensation you need to pay your medical bills and recover your lost income.
Florida’s no-fault insurance system provides quick money for people who are injured in a car accident. But Florida does not require no-fault insurance for motorcycles. As a result, you may not have no-fault coverage to pay your medical bills after a motorcycle accident.
This leaves you with just one option: seeking compensation from the driver that caused the accident. This means battling the at-fault driver’s liability insurer. If you cannot settle with the insurer, you will need to file a lawsuit against the driver.
Here is a guide to recovering compensation after a motorcycle accident in the state of Florida, along with reasons to have a lawyer on your side.
Florida’s Insurance System
All motorcycle owners in Florida must prove that they have the financial ability to cover any bodily injuries or property damage they may cause in an accident. Most motorcycle owners comply with Florida’s law by buying liability insurance. You can also self-insure or secure a surety bond.
But liability insurance only protects other parties. If a motorcycle rider sustains injuries in an accident, the liability insurer will not pay for the rider’s medical bills.
Florida requires drivers of passenger vehicles to buy personal injury protection (PIP) coverage with their auto insurance. PIP coverage pays claims made by the vehicle owner for medical bills and lost income after a car accident, regardless of who was at fault for their accident.
Everyone, including the at-fault driver, receives PIP benefits after a car accident.
The requirement to buy PIP coverage does not apply to vehicles with fewer than four wheels. Some insurers do offer optional PIP coverage for motorcycles, but these coverages do not provide the same benefits as automobile PIP coverage. This is because PIP coverage for motorcycles falls outside of Florida’s no-fault insurance system.
Since Florida does not require PIP in motorcycle policies, most motorcycle owners decline PIP coverage. This leaves motorcycle riders without any personal motorcycle insurance benefits after a motorcycle crash.
Benefits of Fault-Based Liability
Vehicle owners with PIP coverage can only file a lawsuit after they exhaust their PIP benefits or suffer a permanent injury.
But motorcycle owners are not bound by this limitation. Since motorcycle owners are not part of the no-fault system, they can always file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver after an accident.
This holds true even when the motorcycle owner bought optional PIP coverage, since motorcycle PIP coverage does not fall under the umbrella of Florida’s no-fault system.
When Do You Need a Lawyer After a Motorcycle Accident?
Obtaining compensation after a motorcycle accident usually involves two steps:
Filing a Liability Claim
Florida does not require owners of vehicles that are subject to the no-fault insurance system to buy bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance. But if the at-fault driver bought optional BIL insurance, your first step after a motorcycle accident injury will be a claim against the driver’s insurance policy.
This claim will describe your damages and offer supporting documentation. The damages you can claim for a motorcycle accident injury include:
- Bills for medical treatment, therapy, and medication
- Lost income while recovering
- Diminished earning capacity due to permanent injuries
To document these damages, you will include copies of medical bills, timecards/wage statements, and letters from doctors about your injuries.
You do not need a lawyer to file an insurance claim. But having a lawyer’s assistance can speed up the process.
An insurer can delay a decision on your claim by requesting additional documentation. An injury lawyer knows the documentation that is required to file an insurance claim. As a result, insurers often cannot use this tactic when a lawyer files the claim.
Additionally, after the insurer reviews the claim, the company may make an offer to settle the claim. This offer will often fail to cover your documented expenses. You will need to negotiate with the insurer to get a better settlement offer.
An injury lawyer can provide negotiating skills and experience to push the insurer to cover all of the damages from the motorcycle accident.
Filing a Lawsuit
If you cannot settle the insurance claim — or the at-fault driver lacked liability insurance — you will need to file a lawsuit to pursue compensation. Florida law does not require you to hire a lawyer to represent your interests in court. But the complexities of an injury lawsuit will likely justify hiring a lawyer to litigate your case.
To win a case against the at-fault driver, you will need to prove negligence. This requires proof of four elements:
If you can prove that the driver violated their duty to exercise reasonable care while driving and caused your injuries, a jury will award damages. But this can be difficult, especially when a case includes complicated facts.
For example, an at-fault driver might try to shift some or all of the blame for the accident to you. The driver might accuse you of driving recklessly or speeding.
If the driver can show that your negligence contributed to the crash, a judge could reduce your damages.
Hiring a Lawyer for Your Motorcycle Accident
Most injury lawyers offer a free consultation to evaluate your case. This allows you to discuss your injuries and the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage with the lawyer to determine whether a compensation claim will be worthwhile.
Injury attorneys usually work on a contingency fee. This means you only pay attorneys fees if the attorney recovers a settlement or award on your behalf. The fee will be a percentage of the total amount recovered.
A lawyer can help you to secure fair compensation for your injuries by negotiating with insurers and litigating against the at-fault driver. Therefore, you should consider hiring a lawyer after your motorcycle accident.