Motorcyclists who are involved in accidents can potentially suffer far greater injuries than those in a car or other enclosed vehicles. The bodies of motorcyclists are vulnerable, even with a helmet on. If the accident is the fault of another party, the motorcyclist should consider filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Insurance and NJ Motorcycle Accidents
New Jersey requires motorcyclists to have at least a basic policy with minimum coverage just as he/she would for a car or other vehicle. This state-mandated minimum includes:
- Bodily Injury Liability. This pays up to $15,000 for each person or $30,000 total for all persons injured in a car or motorcycle accident that the insured causes.
- Property Damage Liability. This pays up to $5,000 for property damaged as a result of an auto accident that the insured causes.
Drivers in NJ are also required to have Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which is intended to cover medical costs of the insurance holder resulting from an accident. However, New Jersey does not extend PIP to motorcyclists. Thus, the most a rider can expect from an accident is the $15,000 bodily injury liability from the other driver (assuming he/she has minimum coverage). However, for serious injuries, $15,000 is not likely to cover all of the out-of-pocket costs, depending on one’s health insurance plans.
Moreover, not all auto accidents are 100% the fault of a single driver. New Jersey uses what is called a “modified comparative fault” model for determining how much monetary compensation is awarded in auto accidents. Suppose a motorcyclist has about $150,000 in medical bills not covered by insurance as a result of an accident, which a judge and jury decide he/she is entitled to. If the motorcyclist is found to be 20% responsible for the accident, then he/she will only get 80% of percent of the $150,000, or $120,000. Anyone found to be more than 50% at fault for a crash will not be eligible for money through a personal injury lawsuit.
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What Does Insurance Cover in a Motorcycle Accident?
In addition to limits on PIP, motorcyclists may also run into a challenge if their insurance meets what is called the verbal threshold. This means the policy puts limits on what a rider can sue for in the event of an accident.
For example, a basic policy will not cover non-economic losses (i.e. “pain and suffering”) except in several specific scenarios. This includes the loss of a body part, permanent injury/disability, death of a loved one or unborn child, and broken bones. Insurance policies with no threshold have no limit on lawsuits, although these policies tend to be more expensive.
How Much Is a Motorcycle Injury Case Worth?
Every case is different so it is not easy to provide a clear figure on how much any one person could receive for a motorcycle injury. The final number will depend on the type and severity of the injury, the insurance policy of both the rider and other parties, and other factors. The median motorcycle injury settlement is estimated to be less than $75,000, according to Jury Verdict Research. However, this figure is misleading as many settlement amounts are confidential.
How Long Will a Motorcycle Accident Claim Take?
While there is no fixed timeframe for how long an accident case will take, there are two basic roads: fast and slow. Generally, a settlement will take less time–often 30 to 90 days.
A trial will take much longer. Firstly, before going to trial the insurance or other parties will likely attempt to settle, so this negotiating process will have to occur first. Secondly, once it is determined that the settlement is inadequate, the parties will gather additional evidence (called the “discovery phase”) as they prepare for trial.
This part alone can take up to 12 months. In some cases, the courts may ask both parties to attempt to mediate again in order to make one last attempt to avoid trial. This may add a few more days to the process.
Finally, if the mediation is unsuccessful, a court date will be scheduled. It can take as long as 2 years before the trial starts. Depending on the complexity of the issue, it could take many more months before a verdict is reached.
There are certainly cases where this process is worth the time and effort. However, most cases are relatively minor and can be resolved with aggressive negotiation in the settlement phase.
Should My Motorcycle Injury Case Go to Trial?
The question of whether a case should be brought to trial is best answered by one’s personal injury attorney. Many clients are under the impression that if the case goes to trial, he/she can win more money than in a settlement. This is not necessarily the case.
Many insurance companies don’t want to go to trial because the trial process is costly and time-consuming. An insurance company or other defendants in a case that ends up at trial will fight significantly harder to ensure a favorable outcome. Likewise, a judge and jury are going to consider all of the ways in which the plaintiff (the person suing) may have contributed to the accident. The final result could easily be a much smaller figure than the initial settlement.
None of this means that a settlement offer is necessarily the best offer either. Ultimately, an experienced personal injury attorney can provide clear guidance on one’s specific case the best strategy for receiving just compensation.
What Can be Used to Determine Fault in a NJ Motorcycle Accident?
Insurance companies (as well as juries in a personal injury lawsuit) use a variety of factors to determine how much each driver is at fault in a car accident. This can include:
- Photos of the accident scene (taken by police, witnesses, security cameras, or the parties involved)
- Details of the police report
- Witness statements
- Traffic camera footage or surveillance camera footage
- Dashcam footage
- Breath, blood or urine test results for alcohol or drugs (both for the motorcyclist and other parties)
- Cell phone records (for evidence of an active call or texting)
Case Law Analysis
NJ Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims
New Jersey allows a motorcyclist to file a personal injury claim against another person within two years from the date of the incident. This is known as the “statute of limitations.”
It is expected that a person first makes every effort to receive adequate compensation from the insurance companies before filing a personal injury claim. This can be very time consuming so it is important that a person gets started right away. Those who miss the two-year cutoff may not be able to file a claim, although some exceptions apply. Always discuss the situation with an attorney before assuming a case is or is not possible.
Types of Injuries Caused by Motorcycle Accidents
A motorcycle crash can cause more than road rash. Since the rider of a motorcycle has less physical protection in a crash, common injuries in motorcycle accidents tend to be more serious. Motorcyclists are far more likely to suffer broken bones, muscle damage, dismemberment, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
Helmets and other safety gear can only do so much. It is not uncommon for motorcycle accidents to result in permanent disability, which can require a lifetime of ongoing medical treatment, including surgeries, medication, and physical therapy. In addition, depending on the injury and occupation, the motorcyclist may not be able to return to work or to even perform basic everyday activities. In such cases, a New Jersey personal injury attorney is usually required to help recover the damages for such injuries.
New Jersey Motorcycle Accident Statistics
New Jersey streets saw 12,000 motorcycle accidents between 2012 and 2016. More than 2,200 occurred in 2016. Unlike two-car collisions, more than 80% of motorcycle accidents result in injury or death. Two-thirds of fatal motorcycle accidents involve a driver not seeing the motorcyclist. More than a quarter (26%) list unsafe speeds as a factor. However, a rider doesn’t have to be going fast to get injured; most motorcycles are going less than 30 mph when the rider is injured in a crash.
Frequently Asked Questions
In many cases of a car making a left in front of a motorcycle, the driver of the car is at fault. However, one should never presume this to be the case every time. There may be reasons the motorcyclist was partially or entirely at fault regardless of the car driver’s actions.
Theoretically, a motorcycle rider can still sue for injuries sustained in an accident even if he/she was not wearing a helmet or other protective gear. However, this decision will count against him/her. Many common head injuries can be attributed to not wearing a helmet, so the other party may not be liable for them.
A traffic ticket issued in connection to an accident can and likely will be used against a driver or motorcyclist. Past traffic tickets should not be used against a person to determine fault in an unrelated accident. However, insurance adjusters may try to use them to their advantage in negotiating a settlement. A good attorney can argue against this tactic and seek to obtain a more justifiable award.
There is no way to know for sure if a case will have to go to trial. Most personal injury cases are settled without trial, but some, especially those involving large awards, may end up before a judge and jury. It is often preferable that a case not go to trial as it can delay the time it takes to receive any kind of compensation. It is best to defer to one’s attorney before deciding to take a case to trial.
Who Should I Contact About My Motorcycle Accident Injuries?
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a motorcycle accident, contact the attorneys at Rosenblum Law. Our experienced and skilled attorneys have won many cases with positive results. To speak directly to one of our attorneys call 888-235-9021 or email us today.