A motorist traveling in a passenger vehicle is shielded by two tons of steel, but a typical motorcycle rider is left exposed to the world around them. This is just one of the many reasons why car accidents can be so catastrophic and life-changing for motorcycle accident victims. All too often, vehicles that should be sharing the road with motorcyclists collide into them blindly, causing severe damage.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you deserve justice for your suffering. Have a look at the most common motorcycle accident injuries, and consider these average motorcycle accident settlement amounts. Then, reach out to an attorney to decide if a motorcycle accident lawsuit is right for you.
What Are the Most Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries?
Even while wearing a helmet and practicing safe driving laws, motorcycle riders are at risk of several severe accident injuries. Some injuries are minor, such as a herniated disc or bruising. Other injuries are disabling, such as limb amputation, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or paralysis.
The most common motorcycle accident injuries include road rash, brain injuries, facial fractures and disfigurement, and broken bones.
Road rash is a type of friction burn unique to motorcyclists. It occurs when the skin comes into contact with the pavement during an accident. The angle of the crash may cause the motorcycle rider to slide across the roadway, scraping away skin and creating severe abrasions that can resemble burns.
Mild cases of road rash can heal within two weeks when cared for properly. Other forms of road rash can penetrate all layers of the skin and require skin grafting surgery to heal. In more severe cases, the impact can cause debris to become lodged in the rash itself. Contaminated road rash can result in a serious infection if not treated properly.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), head injuries are a leading cause of death and serious injury in motorcycle accidents. In fact, head and brain injuries make up nearly a quarter of all motorcycle crash injuries. The risk of a brain injury is a reason alone to abide by Arizona’s helmet law. Research shows that motorcycle helmets are 29 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries and 67 percent effective in preventing a serious brain injury.
However, even with a helmet, there is a chance of suffering a severe brain injury. A motorcycle crash may eject the rider off their vehicle or cause them to slide along the ground. In either case, their head can slam onto the hard pavement. Possible injuries range from mild abrasions to a traumatic brain injury (TBI), like a concussion.
Brain injuries can have lasting impacts on a victim, including loss of speech or other functions critical to daily life. These injuries can require extensive rehabilitation or long-term medical care. For these reasons, brain injuries typically result in an increased settlement amount.
Facial Fractures and Disfigurement
All Arizona motorcyclists are required to wear glasses, goggles, or a transparent face shield while operating a motorcycle. However, fragile structures such as the jaw, nose, and ocular bone are still at risk of breaking. When a rider’s head comes into contact with the pavement, their entire face is at risk of road rash or facial fractures.
The force of impact can also cause skin lacerations or avulsions that result in permanent scarring. A laceration is a type of jagged tear in the skin. An avulsion occurs when skin tears are so severe that they pull soft tissue away from the bone. Deep cuts to the skin sustained during a motorcycle crash can also sever nerves in the affected area, causing nerve damage and impacting a victim’s sensory or motor abilities.
Motorcycle riders are more likely to injure their legs and feet than any other part of their bodies. Because a motorcyclist’s legs are the closest to the ground, they are likely to come into contact with the pavement during an accident. In fact, in a study of over one million motorcycle injuries, the NHTSA discovered that nearly 30 percent of all injuries occurred to the lower limbs.
If a motorcycle rolls over during an accident, it will often land on top of the rider’s legs, resulting in a high chance of a fracture. In particular, the fibula and tibia bones are most at risk of suffering breaks. Depending on the position of the legs during the crash, the rider may also sustain soft tissue damage. Similarly, the legs are highly susceptible to extreme road rash during an accident. Severe cases may require skin grafts to properly close the wound.
Motorcyclists are encouraged to utilize crash bars to help prevent leg damage. Motorcycle crash bars mount on either side of the lower frame of a motorcycle. Crash bars prevent the rider from scraping the pavement if the bike drops or crashes.
Spinal Cord Injuries
A helmet can protect the brain, but the neck, shoulders, and spine are still vulnerable to damage. If the force of impact crushes or damages structures in the neck, the spinal cord can be negatively affected. Severe spinal cord injuries can result in paraplegia or quadriplegia, which can both be permanent. Spinal cord injuries will almost always involve significant long-term care and lost wages, meaning they will likely result in higher settlement amounts.
Nearly one in seven motorcycle accident injuries are to the thorax, the part of the chest between the neck and abdomen. This can include damage to the sternum or ribs. These injuries can be especially dangerous—not just because they’re incredibly painful, but because fractured bones can puncture nearby internal organs.
In most accident cases, a broken rib will puncture a lung. This can cause a collapsed lung, known as pneumothorax. There can be several complications stemming from a collapsed lung, including difficulty breathing, pneumonia, and other infections.
Motorcyclists are a whopping 16 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash. In fact, motorcycle crashes claim the lives of more than 2,000 riders each year in the United States. In the most severe personal injury cases, a motorcycle rider struck by a motor vehicle may die from their injuries. In personal injury law, this is called a wrongful death.
What Are the Types of Damages in Motorcycle Accident Cases?
Before searching for a motorcycle accident settlement calculator, it’s important to understand the types of damages that can be included in an injury claim. Most personal injury cases demand payment for two types of damages: special and general.
What are Special Damages?
Special damages are also known as “economic damages.” These types of damages are capable of exact calculation, down to the last cent. A good example of special damages is medical expenses.
A motorcycle accident victim will collect an itemized bill for each medical treatment they receive. These bills, invoices, and receipts make it easy to calculate the total dollar amount of their damages.
Special damages listed in most motorcycle accident claims include:
- Ambulance fees
- The cost of prescriptions and surgeries
- Medical bills and future medical treatment, including home care
- Lost earnings and lost earning capacity
- Property damage
What are General Damages?
Unlike special damages, general damages do not have an exact dollar amount. For this reason, general damages are also referred to as “noneconomic damages.” The insurance company determines the cost of general damages. To calculate general damages, the insurance company multiplies the economic damages by a number from one to five (based on the severity of the injury).
Common general damages listed in motorcycle accident claims include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Long-term disability or paralysis
8 Factors That Impact a Motorcycle Accident Claim Settlement Value
There is not one settlement average for motorcycle accident injuries. Each motorcycle accident is evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine a fair settlement amount. During the discovery phase, a variety of factors are looked at to determine an overall payout.
There are eight major factors that influence the average settlement for a motorcycle accident injury. However, the three most important are the severity of the damage, liability, and pain and suffering.
1. The Severity of the Injury
The severity of an injury includes not only the extent of the damage but also the expected healing time and cost. For instance, a minor road rash can heal within a few weeks at minimum cost. Severe road rash can require surgical skin grafts, which take months to heal and thousands of dollars in medical treatment. Injuries that require more time, money, and resources will receive a higher settlement.
Similarly, a minor sprain can heal within a few weeks, whereas paralysis can be a long-term financial burden. A sprain will not impact the overall lifestyle of a motorcycle accident victim, but paralysis will make returning to pre-accident life impossible. The inability to return to normalcy will also increase the overall settlement value.
2. The Need for Ongoing Medical Treatment
In many cases, the damage sustained from a car accident will require ongoing medical treatment. A motorcycle accident victim may need to visit skin graft specialists, surgeons, and physical therapists. The cost of current and future medical care is weighed heavily in motorcycle accident settlements.
Common ongoing medical expenses include:
- Physical therapy
- Home assistance
- Dermatological care
- Pain management and medication
- Cognitive support for TBI victims
- MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, and EMGs
- Steroid and/or pain management injections to lower pain and swelling
- Surgeries, such as discectomies, fusions, and laminectomies
3. The Amount of Pain and Suffering
Motorcycle accidents are traumatic in and of themselves, but suffering a serious injury, such as a TBI or spinal cord injury, can significantly impact the mental wellness of a victim. Some victims will never feel comfortable enough to ride on a motorcycle ever again. Others are unable to return to their pre-accident lifestyle. For victims with severe injuries, a loss of motion or feeling can significantly decrease their quality of life. These tragic outcomes are referred to as pain and suffering.
Following an accident, motorcycle accident victims can suffer stress, anxiety, anger, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Attorneys and insurance adjusters measure pain and suffering by analyzing the amount of physical pain, medical care, and how much a victim’s life has changed. Generally speaking, victims who experience significant pain and suffering receive more compensation.
4. The Ability to Return to Work
Various motorcycle injuries, such as spinal damage or fractures, can keep an accident victim out of a job for months or years. Even if an injury isn’t incapacitating, required medications can make a victim feel drowsy, dizzy, and unable to work. Therefore, a settlement amount must account for lost earnings and earning capacity.
A personal injury attorney will determine how a motorcycle accident victim’s injuries affect their lifetime income. Victims who are permanently unable to return to work will likely receive a higher settlement amount.
5. The Degree of Fault
A significant factor in the value of any motorcycle claim is the matter of fault. A driver can blame a motorcyclist for the accident, especially if the motorcycle rider was lane splitting or not abiding by the shared rules of the road. Similarly, auto insurance companies tend to blame injured motorcyclists by citing comparative fault laws, which can drastically reduce a victim’s settlement amount.
To fight back against aggressive insurance companies and defense attorneys, motorcycle accident victims require a strong case. A skilled personal injury attorney can locate as much evidence as possible to prove the other driver was at-fault and ensure the motorcyclist receives fair compensation.
6. The Amount of Available Insurance Coverage
After a motorcycle accident, a victim must file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. An insurance claim can only compensate an injured motorcyclist up to the driver’s pre-determined policy limit. This means that if the driver has a $30,000 policy limit, the motorcycle accident victim can only receive up to $30,000, regardless of their damages.
Many drivers lack enough insurance to cover devastating motorcycle injuries. Similarly, some drivers are uninsured motorists, meaning they don’t have an insurance policy at all. If an at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the victim’s damages, a motorcycle accident lawyer may consider other compensation methods. The attorney may suggest tapping into the victim’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or uninsured/underinsured coverage, and then they may advise filing a lawsuit.
A motorcycle accident lawyer can also help locate every possible insurance policy that could pay for a victim’s accident injuries. For example, after a truck accident, there are multiple insurance policies to collect compensation. Everyone from the truck driver to their employer and the owner of the truck can have separate insurance policies that a victim can claim against—the more insurance coverage available, the more potential compensation.
7. The Statute of Limitations for The Claim
Each state has a statute of limitation on personal injury claims. A statute of limitations is a court-enforced time limit that determines how long a victim has to take legal action against the individual who harmed them. Arizona has a two-year statute of limitations for a motorcycle accident personal injury claim, beginning the day of the accident.
If a motorcycle accident victim takes legal action immediately after the crash, they likely won’t have to worry about their statute of limitations expiring. However, if a victim fails to file within two years, their claim can be dismissed, and they will receive no compensation.
8. Permanent Motorcycle Accident Injuries
No accident victim should ever settle a case until the extent of all injuries is evident. All personal injury settlements are final, meaning it’s impossible to return to court and argue that the damage is worse than first expected. What the victim receives during the initial settlement is the only compensation they will receive.
Therefore, a victim should not settle their case until all injuries have healed or a medical professional decides the victim has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). At that time, it may be clear the victim has a permanent injury. Permanent injuries require life-long care, so they are grounds for a higher settlement.
Who is Liable in a Motorcycle Accident Case?
All vehicle drivers, including motorcycle riders, have a duty of care. A duty of care is an obligation to obey traffic laws and pay attention to other drivers sharing the road. Arizona requires all motorists to use common sense and reasonable care in all circumstances.
Both passenger car drivers and motorcyclists who violate their duty of care are negligent in the eyes of the law. However, motorcycle accident victims will need to prove to the insurance company that the other driver’s negligence was the direct or proximate cause of the motorcycle accident to receive maximum compensation.
Comparative Negligence in a Motorcycle Accident Case
Arizona abides by comparative negligence laws, which means an injured motorcyclist can pursue compensation from the other driver, even if the motorcycle rider was partly to blame for the accident.
However, under comparative negligence laws, a victim’s compensation is reduced by their percentage of fault. So, if a motorcyclist was 20 percent to blame for the accident, their final settlement amount is reduced by 20 percent.
Consider a motorcyclist struck by an oncoming vehicle. The motorcyclist was speeding at the time of the accident. The oncoming driver made a sudden left turn into a shopping plaza and failed to stop and look for approaching traffic. The driver hit the motorcyclist. The motorcycle rider suffered a broken leg and road rash.
Technically speaking, both parties were in the wrong. The motorcyclist was speeding, and the driver failed to use reasonable caution before turning. However, since the accident was not likely to occur without the driver making the left turn, the driver’s negligence is the proximate cause of the accident. The driver would be found liable for the accident, but the speeding motorcyclist would have their final compensation amount partially reduced.
Who Pays the Damages in a Motorcycle Settlement?
Who pays the damages in a motorcycle settlement depends on how the claim was filed. Most accident claims are filed through the at-fault driver’s insurance company first. If there is not enough insurance coverage to compensate for a victim’s medical costs, lost wages, property damage, and other expenses, a victim may file a lawsuit. Filing a motorcycle accident lawsuit allows the victim to sue the responsible party and/or the insurance company for damages they’re owed.
Receiving an Average Settlement from the Insurance Company
After gathering all evidence to support a case, a personal injury lawyer submits a demand letter to the other party’s insurance company. This letter specifies all damages, both special and general, as well as why the other party is liable for paying them. In most cases, the insurance company responds with a counterclaim.
If both the victim and the attorney are pleased with the counterclaim, they accept the settlement offer and payment is released to the victim. If not, the attorney negotiates with the insurance company until a fair settlement is reached. If both parties cannot agree on a final settlement amount, the attorney will advise the victim to move forward with a civil lawsuit to expedite the settlement check timeline.
Filing a Lawsuit to Collect Damages
If negotiating with the insurance company fails, a victim can file a lawsuit to have the other party pay their damages. First, a complaint is sent to the at-fault driver and/or their insurer. A complaint is a legal document that outlines the claims the victim has against the at-fault driver. An individual typically has 30 days to respond to a complaint.
Once a complaint has been filed, a motorcycle accident attorney will double-down on all evidence to prove the at-fault driver was responsible for the victim’s accident injuries. The attorney’s ability to prove the at-fault driver’s liability will affect the victim’s final payout. A judge or jury verdict determines the final settlement amount, which is paid out by the responsible party.
How Long Does It Take To Receive an Injury Settlement?
While some motorcycle accident claims can settle within one to three months, other cases can take an average of one to four years. How long the compensation process takes depends on if the insurance company accepts the initial demand, if the case goes to trial, and if the motorcycle rider is shown to be partially at-fault for the accident.
If the insurance company immediately agrees to the settlement offer, the settlement can be paid much faster. If the motorcycle accident victim hired an attorney to argue their case, the attorney will process the check first. After deducting the appropriate attorney fees and paying any medical liens, the settlement is paid out to the victim. The average time to receive an injury settlement is approximately five to six weeks.
What is the Average Motorcycle Accident Settlement Amount?
As a disclaimer, it’s important to remember that the average motorcycle accident settlement amount varies on a case-by-case basis. The overall settlement amount will rely on multiple factors, including the severity of the injury and if there was shared liability. Generally speaking, the average motorcycle claim ranges from $10,000 to $50,000 for mild injuries. More serious injuries can result in settlements of $100,000 up into the millions, depending on the injuries sustained.
Consider these recent motorcycle accident compensation amounts.
$1.5 Million for Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit
A Connecticut wife was incredibly distraught when her husband was struck by another vehicle while riding his motorcycle. She immediately reached out to a personal injury lawyer, who sought out the police bodycam footage from the scene of the accident. The footage proved to be compelling evidence, as the video showed the man screaming in pain as EMTs removed the tattered Harley Davidson boot from his fractured ankle.
The victim ultimately required surgery to repair the damage. Attorneys also videoed the victim’s wife in the local hospital as she waited for her husband to come out of surgery. Combined, the footage of the accident scene and the victim’s distraught partner were enough convincing evidence to grant the victim a $1.5 million motorcycle accident settlement offer.
$1.75 M for Motorcycle Accident Amputee Victim
A motorcycle rider was stopped at a red light in a left turning lane. When the victim’s left-turn arrow turned green, he proceeded through the intersection to make his turn. Without warning, a car traveling the opposite direction barreled through the intersection and struck him. The victim suffered serious injuries that ultimately resulted in the amputation of his lower leg.
The car’s female driver was cited at the accident scene for running the red light. She told investigators she was straightening her floor mat and was unaware the light had changed. Police on the scene determined her to be solely at fault for the crash.The victim received $1.75 million for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and the future cost of his prosthetic leg.
What Does a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Do?
One of the most common questions a motorcycle accident victim has is whether or not they need a motorcycle accident lawyer.
A strong attorney-client relationship has several benefits, the first being that a victim can take the necessary time to heal while an attorney argues their case. This process can take significant time and energy—two things that a recovering victim may not have.
A strong accident claim will also require well-organized paperwork and extensive evidence to support the value of a victim’s damages. Some of the evidence a motorcycle accident lawyer will help gather include a police accident report, witness statements, and documentation of damages.
Any time law enforcement responds to an accident scene, there will be an official accident report on file. Police accident reports typically include witness statements, a diagram of the accident, and any citations issued to the driver. Most importantly, the report will include the investigating officer’s opinion of fault, which carries a lot of weight with insurance companies. In terms of evidence, police reports are essential for validation purposes. Motorcycle accident attorneys can easily and quickly recover police reports as well as police bodycam footage and other pertinent police evidence.
Witness statements can be pulled from a police accident report or recorded at the scene of the accident. These statements are important evidence, as they help set the scene for what happened at the time of the crash. Likewise, a motorcycle accident attorney can seek expert witnesses to create a reenactment of the collision itself. These findings can help prove who was truly at-fault for the accident, ensuring the victim is properly compensated.
In the heat of the moment, many drivers will make a statement to the victim or surrounding witnesses. Statements like, “I’m sorry; I couldn’t see you” or, “I was on the phone” are strong evidence of liability. Whenever possible, record the driver’s statements with a cell phone or write them down immediately. An attorney can then use these statements to prove that the at-fault driver was aware of their negligence.
Medical Records and Bills
Medical records, especially an emergency room admission chart, are crucial evidence in a motorcycle accident case. These records directly connect a victim’s injuries to the accident. Plus, a victim’s statements to their doctors and nurses can be used as evidence in their case.
Likewise, copies of all medical bills verify a victim’s medical visits and prove the cost of the injuries. The total cost of medical treatment is key to calculating the total amount of compensation, so it’s imperative to gather all necessary documents. It's best to leave this job to a professional motorcycle accident attorney, considering a victim should be healing after the accident..
Lastly, lost earnings and lost earning capacity significantly increase a victim’s overall settlement amount. While a victim is out of work, an attorney can gather a written statement from the victim’s employer, stating the amount of time lost from work. A victim can include sick leave and vacation days used for recovery in their injury claim, as well as lost opportunities for overtime pay.
Seek a Free Consultation with a Motorcycle Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident, seek legal advice from a trusted Phoenix law firm. No motorcycle rider deserves to feel at-risk or disrespected on the road. If you’ve suffered motorcycle accident injuries, seek a free consultation with a motorcycle accident lawyer today to learn how you could be compensated for your case.