Below are some guidelines on how to deal with insurance companies after a motorcycle accident. For an immediate consultation with Georgia motorcycle accident lawyer, Julian Lewis Sanders, regarding your rights, please call 1-855-JSANDERS now.
Okay, so you’ve had a motorcycle accident and now you’re wondering what to do next. Let’s go through it step by step – starting from the first moment after the accident happens:
- Statements at the accident scene. After a motorcycle accident, it is critically important that you are mindful of any statements you make — either to the other party, the police, witnesses, or insurance adjusters. Regardless of whose fault you believe the accident was, you should not admit fault. An accident is a jarring and traumatic experience, and it is not always immediately clear how it happened.
- Calling your insurance company. As soon as reasonably possible, call your insurance company using the toll free number on your insurance card and inform them that an accident occurred. You should have as much information as possible for the claims person, including the police incident number (or report number) or the name and badge number of the police officer on the scene. You should give them the other person’s insurance information and the names and contact information of any witnesses. Again, don’t admit any fault. Remember, these calls are often recorded. By law, the insurance company is supposed to tell that the call is being recorded, but to be safe, you should assume that everything you say is being recorded.
The claims manager may ask about your property damage and any physical injuries. At this point, you may not know the extent of either. Don’t guess! Physical injuries sometimes don’t manifest until several days or even weeks after an accident. Regarding damage to your motorcycle, wait until a full inspection has been done by a mechanic YOU trust (more on this below).
- Assessment of fault. If the other person was clearly at fault (e.g., you were rear-ended, the driver ran a red light, was cited for a moving violation, etc.), your insurance company may attempt to work directly with the other person’s insurance company, if any, to pay for your damage. If there is no insurance, you are entitled to payment from your own, uninsured motorist coverage if you purchased such coverage. If your damages exceed policy limits (more on this below) you should consult Julian Lewis Sanders. Remember: even if you were at fault for the accident, you are still covered for your damages up to your policy limits!
Be careful: insurance companies will typically assign fault for an accident, which will become a part of your record and affect your insurance rates. Insurance companies sometimes blame the motorcyclist and jack up their rates even when they had no fault in causing the accident! Make sure you review your insurance company’s accident report and their assessment of fault. This is typically available online or upon request. Ask your insurance adjuster point blank whether you are being assigned any fault for the accident. If you believe you are being assigned fault improperly, you can file an objection with the insurance company and ask for a re-assessment. If the insurance company refuses, you may wish to consult a lawyer.
- Payment of Property Damage. If you were involved in an accident, then your motorcycle most likely has some significant damage. Insurance adjusters always recommend that you use one of their “trusted” mechanics to repair your bike. Unless you personally know and trust the mechanic they recommend, don’t do it! The mechanics used by insurance companies often cut corners to save money and you end up with lingering mechanical problems or a bike that doesn’t look or feel like it did before the accident. By law, insurance companies cannot force you to use a particular mechanic – you are entitled to have your bike fixed by whomever you choose. Make sure you take your motorcycle to someone who is going to fix everything wrong with it (or make an honest assessment that the bike is not salvageable), and that you get your motorcycle back in as good a condition as before the accident, or if necessary, a replacement bike.
- Payment for Physical Injuries. Unfortunately, as motorcycle lawyers and riders ourselves, know all too well about the injuries that often accompany motorcycle accidents. Even the most careful rider with the best safety equipment sometimes cannot avoid injury. If you have suffered physical injury from the motorcycle accident, you are entitled to reimbursement of your medical bills and other damages. If your injuries are anything beyond a few bumps and bruises, e.g., if you have broken bones, deep lacerations, or neck/back injury, you may be entitled to significant damages beyond medical bills – discussed in more detail below.
- Other Damages. If you have suffered any significant injury, you may be entitled to damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, lost future earnings and disability, among other things. Your spouse may also be entitled to damages for loss of consortium (i.e. loss of companionship) due to your injuries. These types of damages are difficult for a non-lawyer to measure and negotiate. If your injuries are significant enough to involve these types of damages, we recommend getting a lawyer to assist you.
- Be careful cashing any check or signing anything. If you decide to handle your motorcycle accident claim on your own, be very careful before signing any settlement agreement with your insurance company or before cashing any check. By signing an agreement or cashing a check, you may be forfeiting any further rights to payment. Remember, the insurance company’s main goal is to get you to accept a low-ball settlement. In some cases, they even employ tactics that amount to “tricking” their customers, such as putting language in the memo line of a check which states that if you cash it, you are giving up any right to further claims! Beware!
- Side-deals with the other party. Sometimes, after a motorcycle accident, the other person involved in the accident may suggest that you just settle the matter for cash, without involvement of police or insurance. Beware! If you make this type of deal, you could forfeit any future claim against that person, or even with your own insurance policy! Many policies have language that voids your policy if you make any private, undisclosed deals relating to accidents. Also, beware making simultaneous claims to your insurance carrier and side-deals with the other side. This, too, could potentially affect your recovery or void your policy. The best and safest course is to document the accident with the police, let your insurance company complete its investigation, and, if you have any injuries, consult with a lawyer.
- Subrogation (I.e., Your Insurance Company Wants Reimbursement). If you receive money from the other party to the accident (either directly or from their insurance), your own insurance companies may claim rights to some of this money if they paid for any of your medical care, mechanic’s bills, etc. caused by the accident. Although your insurance companies may be entitled to SOME reimbursement, in many cases they are not entitled to everything they demand. Know your rights! Part of the service that our motorcycle lawyers provide is to negotiate and settle these types of claims with your insurance. Be careful when you decide who you hire as your lawyer: many lawyers look at insurance claims as “your problem,” and consider their job complete the moment they get a settlement or a judgment and take their fee. At The Law Offices of Julian Lewis Sanders, we stay with our clients every step of the way–even after settlement or judgment–and ensure that our clients not only get the largest recovery possible for their motorcycle accident, but also KEEP as much of it as possible!
If you or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident in Georgia and would like to talk to our Julian Lewis Sanders, give us a call at 1-855-JSANDERS, or send us an email. We are happy to take the time to discuss your case and discuss your options. There is no obligation and never any fee unless we recover money for you.