How Much Is My Motorcycle Accident Case Worth?
The aftermath of a serious motorcycle accident is a time of tremendous adversity. Nursing severe injuries and coping with emotional trauma can be immensely challenging. You may also be falling behind on essential bills due to the unexpected medical costs and loss of income. Fortunately, it may be possible to obtain compensation for any direct and indirect losses incurred as a result of the crash.
It’s only natural to wonder how much money you might walk away with once your case has been resolved. The answer depends on a number of factors including the nature of your injuries, the kinds of damages you have incurred, and whether you have made any mistakes that will diminish the value of your claim.
Below we’ve outlined some of the primary factors that could impact the final settlement or verdict in a motorcycle accident case:
1. Whether You Were Partially Liable
In the state of Florida, a personal injury plaintiff is responsible for paying the percentage of their damages that corresponds to their own percentage of fault. For example, if you were hit by a driver who failed to yield the right of way but you were speeding at the time of the crash, you might be found 20 percent liable. If you incurred $50,000 in medical bills and other damages, you would only be able to recover up to $40,000.
Because Florida follows a pure comparative fault standard, a personal injury plaintiff can pursue damages even if they were 99 percent liable for the accident. This differentiates Florida from states that use the pure contributory negligence or modified comparative negligence standard.
As you might suspect, insurance adjusters will go to great lengths to shift part or all of the blame to the claimant. This is one reason why it’s so important to hire a skilled motorcycle accident attorney. Your lawyer can make sure you are treated fairly and gather the evidence needed to prove fault. Even if it seems obvious that another party caused your injuries, the best attorneys will build your claim as if they are going to trial by gathering all available evidence and perhaps consulting with an accident reconstruction expert so they are prepared for all eventualities when settlement negotiations begin.
2. The Kinds of Injuries Sustained
The cost of medical care, lost wages, and other direct expenses tends to correlate with the severity of the injuries sustained. Motorcycle accident injuries can range from minor bruising to brain trauma and spinal cord damage, which means the settlement calculations can vary dramatically from one case to the next.
Serious injuries usually result in more substantial pain and suffering, as well. That means the value of non-economic damages also tends to be greater in these cases.
3. The Amount of Income Lost Due to the Injuries
What was your income before the injury occurred? How many days of work have you missed? Will you be able to return to the same profession? What was your career trajectory? How old were you at the time of the accident? Your lawyer will have to answer these and other questions when approximating the value of lost income.
In addition to loss of past income, the settlement can account for any income and benefits you are reasonably certain to lose in the future as a result of the collision. Arriving at a fair figure for loss of future income usually involves complicated formulas and often requires the deposition of vocational and financial experts. This is especially true in cases that involve long-term or permanent disability to victims who were relatively young.
4. The Value of Other Economic Damages
Economic damages are objectively verifiable losses. We’ve already touched on two types of economic damages that might be available after a motorcycle accident: medical costs and lost income; however, there are many other kinds of losses that fall into this category. In fact, any reasonable and necessary expenses arising from the crash might be recoverable. Examples include:
- Domestic Help: If you are unable to complete routine tasks around the home—such as cleaning and cooking—you can pursue compensation for the cost of hiring a service for domestic assistance.
- Transportation: Are the injuries or your medication preventing you from operating a motor vehicle? If so, the cost of transportation may be a recoverable expense.
- Home and Vehicle Modifications: Sometimes it is necessary for an accident victim to modify their home and/or vehicle to accommodate new disabilities. The cost of these upgrades can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars.
- Child Care: If the injuries prevent you from caring for your children, your lawyer can include the cost of child care in the settlement calculations.
- Property Repairs or Replacement: The cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle and any other property that was damaged in the accident might be recoverable.
5. The Extent of Your Pain and Suffering
We’ve already defined economic damages, which are the objectively verifiable losses stemming from a tort. But there are other consequences of a motorcycle accident that cannot be proven with receipts and invoices. These subjective losses are called “non-economic damages.”
One category of non-economic damages is pain and suffering. You might have a strong claim for pain and suffering if the crash caused permanent disfigurement, a permanent injury, or significant scarring.
6. The Permanence of Your Injuries
The more time it takes your injuries to heal, the higher the value of your claim will likely be. This is especially true if the injuries are preventing you from earning an income. Long-term or permanent disabilities also tend to result in greater medical costs and more substantial non-economic damages.
7. The Insurance Coverage and Assets of the Liable Party
No matter the value of the damages you have incurred, it is possible that your financial recovery will be limited to the insurance coverage and assets of the liable party. Your motorcycle accident attorney can perform a thorough investigation to determine the defendant’s asset value and to identify any other avenues for pursuing compensation.
8. Your Own Insurance Policies
If the opposing party does not have the insurance coverage or assets to pay for all your losses, it may be necessary to seek compensation from your own insurance policies. Below are a few examples of insurance policies that might pay out benefits after motorcycle accidents that involve uninsured or underinsured defendants:
- Personal Injury Protection: PIP is a type of no-fault insurance that covers a portion of the medical bills and lost income resulting from an accident. It may also cover domestic help and other reimbursement services. Unfortunately, PIP does not cover pain and suffering. If your loved one died in a motorcycle wreck, PIP might cover up to $5,000 in funeral and burial expenses.
- Collision Coverage: This policy pays for property damage caused in an accident with another vehicle or object.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: UM/UIM coverage pays out benefits when the policyholder is involved in a crash with a driver who is uninsured or does not have enough coverage to pay for the resulting damages. Drivers can purchase uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage and uninsured motorist property damage coverage. Although these policies are not required in Florida, it is advisable to purchase UM/UIM coverage and bodily injury liability coverage in addition to the required PIP and property damage liability coverage.
9. Whether Punitive Damages Are Recoverable
Were you hit by a drunk driver? Did the liable motorist flee the scene? These are two common scenarios that might warrant punitive damages, but they’re certainly not the only ones. If it is determined that the defendant acted with gross negligence or intentional misconduct, a punitive award might be available.
In Florida, there is usually a cap on the amount of punitive damages a personal injury plaintiff can obtain. The typical cap is $500,000 or three times the compensatory damages. If the defendant was motivated by financial gain, the cap increases to $2 million or four times the compensatory damages amount. There is no cap in cases that involve intentional torts.
10. The Cost of Property Repairs
The cost to repair or replace your vehicle and other property damaged in the crash can be included in the settlement figure. This amount can be substantial depending on the value of the vehicle you were driving.
11. Whether Your Case Proceeds to Litigation
Litigation often comes with added costs such as expert witness fees. Despite these fees, it may still be in your best interests to proceed to litigation if the opposing party refuses to pay a fair settlement.
Speak with a Stuart Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today
At Donaldson & Weston, we have many years of experience representing motorcycle accident victims and their families. We know what it takes to win substantial settlements and verdicts in these cases. Our legal team won’t let the insurance company get away with undervaluing your claim. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Stuart, send us an email or dial 772-266-5555.