What If They Claim the Collision Was My Fault?
Our law firm sees that many motorcyclists wipe out because drivers forced them to take evasive maneuvers. What may look like “a single-vehicle collision” on the outside really needs to be investigated. As we assess your claim, we will look at its strengths and weaknesses and devise the best strategy possible. But you should know that even if you are found partially to blame for the accident, that's no reason not to file a lawsuit. California works on a standard known as “comparative negligence,” which means if the driver was 90% responsible for your stay in the hospital, he is on the hook to pay 90% of all your related bills!
Bikers are acutely conscious of the dangers they face, and less likely to make risky maneuvers. Car occupants in their steel cages don't tend to be as watchful. Most crashes in Orange County are caused by:
Another thing we should mention is lane-splitting. It is perfectly legal in California, so the fact that you were lane-splitting cannot be held against you in an accident. Tourist drivers cannot use “I didn’t know” as a defense.
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Lane splitting refers to when a motorcycle drives through lanes of traffic, rather than staying in one lane. Currently, California is the only state where lane splitting is legal. With the Californian population constantly growing, and thus our traffic becoming more and more dense, it is no wonder that lane splitting is so common amongst bikers.
However, many car drivers don’t bother looking before they switch lanes. This leaves motorcyclists at risk of severe injury. Often times, even in clear cases of driver negligence, the biker is blamed for the ensuing accident.
This isn’t fair, and you shouldn’t be liable for someone else’s poor decision making. When lane splitting, be sure to drive under the speed limit, don’t cut off cars, and avoid weaving through traffic as much as possible. If you follow the law and stay alert, the driver responsible for the accident will have no way to pin the blame on you.
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California’s Helmet Laws
In the state of California, all motorcyclists must wear a United States Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant motorcycle safety helmet, no matter their age or experience level. The California Department of Motor Vehicles heavily stresses the importance of the helmet complying with all DOT requirements, as accidents involving non-compliant helmets are three times more likely to involve fatal head injuries. A DOT-compliant helmet will have the DOT lettering engraved on the back of the helmet alongside the make and model of the helmet, meaning it was properly tested by the Department.
Many motorcyclists often wonder if they can receive compensation if they were partially at fault for the accident or did something that contributed to their injuries, such as not wearing a helmet. The truth is, you often can. California is a comparative negligence state. While the law requires a motorcycle operator to wear a helmet, failing to do so does not eliminate your ability to make a claim. However, your claim value may be reduced by your comparative negligence compared to the negligence of the other driver.
As an example, if you were not wearing a helmet and you would not have sustained any injury in a minor accident if you were, your failure to wear a helmet may preclude you from making a claim. On the other hand, if your accident was so severe that you sustained broken bones, or scrapes or other injuries that would have occurred anyway, then you are entitled to make a full claim and be fully compensated for your injuries.
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Motorcyclists are often well aware of the negative bias others have toward them, which often keeps many from pursuing a claim when the other driver was clearly at fault. After an accident, you may be resistant to contacting the police, speaking to a doctor, or dealing with insurance companies. We will not sugarcoat your situation and say that every party you deal with is going to take your side. Police officers who are not experienced at reviewing motorcycle accidents may place the blame on you in their report. In turn, medical providers may have a bias in their treatment, devaluing your injuries and making recovery more difficult. Both of these factors are often utilized by insurance adjusters to keep motorcyclists from receiving proper compensation.
However, as California is a comparative negligence state, the law may very well be on your side, despite any fault you may assume. To ensure you receive the fair treatment you deserve under the law from the police, your doctors, and insurance companies, you will need the aid of a law firm that has experience handling motorcycle accident claims. At Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie, our team has spent more than 45 years advocating for the rights of injured motorcyclists throughout Orange County, but it’s not only how long we’ve been practicing law that matters, but also the types of cases we have handled. Not only do our lawyers personally understand how to ride motorcycles and the complex nature of motorcycle accidents, but we also know how to win motorcycle cases and have secured millions of dollars for injured motorcyclists.
When you work with our team, we will utilize all of our skills, knowledge, and resources to build a strong case for damages and ensure you receive proper treatment for your injuries. That means carefully reviewing all available evidence, getting you in contact with doctors who are experienced in treating motorcycle accident victims, and aggressively advocating for your rights in an auto accident claim.
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Evidence in a Motorcycle Accident
Counteracting motorcycle bias can be a difficult task on your own, as you will want to convince not only the insurance adjuster handling your case, but also prepare as if your case is going to trial. While only one in ten injury claims reaches the trial phase, the cases that do will be reviewed by a jury, who may have their own biases against motorcyclists. However, these biases can be defeated if you work with an experienced attorney who collects the correct pieces of evidence.
When preparing your case, the key pieces of evidence you will need are:
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Accident photos
- Surveillance footage
- Witness statements
As noted earlier, motorcycle bias can influence the police report and medical evaluation you receive after an accident, but that bias can be counteracted with an in-depth investigation by a skilled attorney. When reviewing your case, we may also look at other pieces of evidence that less-experienced attorneys might miss, such as:
Damage to clothing: During a motorcycle accident, your clothing can become torn, ripped, or stained with paint from the at-fault driver’s vehicle. This includes everything from the pants you were wearing to your helmet and leather jacket. You will want to seal your clothing in an airtight bag until an investigator can properly test and analyze your clothing to help in your claim.
Damage to your motorcycle: Just like your clothing, your motorcycle will likely show signs of damage after a collision, often demonstrating where the vehicle struck you. Scrapping or repairing your vehicle right after an accident may prove to be a fatal mistake. Instead, have your vehicle stored in your garage or a storage unit until an accident reconstructionist can review it.
GoPro footage: Many riders have started attaching GoPros to their helmets or vehicles in order to record their trips. Such footage can prove invaluable in your case by clearly outlining how you were injured and your actions leading up to the crash. Even if you do not have a GoPro, other drivers or riders near you may also have useful footage.
Driving records: Your personal driving record may come into play during settlement negotiations, as the insurance adjuster will want to make a case that you have a history of reckless driving. However, this can also help demonstrate that you have a history of safe driving. In turn, your attorney may also subpoena the at-fault driver’s records to determine if they have any traffic violations on record.
In addition to physical evidence, your attorney can also account for any financial evidence that supports your claim and demonstrates why you should receive compensation from the at-fault driver.
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The Compensation You Deserve
To preserve your net recovery after paying for your bills, fees, and long hospital stays, it’s important to pay attention to your medical management. Your health insurer or the hospital will seek reimbursement from any money you recover from the motorcycle accident case. Our experienced Orange County car accident attorneys will negotiate this reimbursement to preserve the maximum amount for you.
The pain and suffering a motorcycle accident victim suffers may go far beyond physical problems. We know to ask for compensation for:
- Diminished cognitive abilities
- Inability to return to one's previous job or need to obtain new employment
- Changes in personality
- Severe financial pressure caused by multiple doctors' visits, multiple surgeries, prescription medications, and physical rehabilitation, among other issues
We don't just ask for it; we know how to get it. If you've been injured in a motorcycle accident in Costa Mesa or Orange County as a result of someone else's negligence, we urge you to contact us immediately, so that you can get the compensation you deserve. Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie has won hundreds of millions in verdicts and settlements for our clients since 1974. We will do our best for you as well. Call (949) 752-7474 to schedule your case evaluation.
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