Motorcycles are more common on the roadways than ever before. According to the latest data available from the Federal Highway Administration, there were 8.6 million private and commercial motorcycles on U.S. roads in 2015, compared with 8.0 million in 2009. With the spike in motorcycle use, the risk of being involved in a motorcycle accident also increases.
The most recent numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show there are approximately 5,000 motorcyclists killed in crashes per year and an estimated 88,000 motorcyclists injured annually. The lesson one can take away from these numbers is that motorcyclists are wise to prepare themselves in the event a crash occurs.
Part of this preparedness is understanding what to do if a crash occurs, particularly strategies motorcyclists can use to make sure they collect the right evidence after a motorcycle accident to preserve their right to compensation if they are injured due to another motorist or pedestrian’s negligence.
As a preliminary note, it is important to understand that after a motorcycle accident, making sure you and everyone else involved is safe is the most important matter to attend to. Accordingly, always seek medical attention if you need it or request help for others. After this, the second most important task is to make sure one collects two principal areas of evidence:
- accident evidence and
- evidence of damages.
Accident evidence involves anything that documents the details surrounding an accident. Collecting this type of evidence allows the often murky and confusing details surrounding an accident to be documented in order to determine who is liable. Types of accident evidence include:
Collect information such as name and contact information from witnesses and the parties involved. If other people were nearby that saw the accident make sure you collect their names and contact information. It is also important to note that the police report of the accident should contain this information, but one cannot always rely on a police report to contain all the required information, particularly if witnesses leave the scene.
It is important to obtain the insurance information of all parties involves and details regarding their vehicle such as:
- License plate numbers.
- Each vehicle’s make, model, year, and color.
- Each vehicle’s registration number.
- Each driver’s license number.
It is very important to keep any damaged property such as the motorcycle, your helmet or anything that can offer valuable information as evidence of impact. Although pictures of the damages inflicted on the property is viable evidence, the physical property will further support your claim or suit if requested by your agent or lawyer.
Cameras on mobile phones make it easy to document accident scenes. Some insurance carriers provide mobile phone apps to their customers that allow them to photograph damage from accidents to submit to their claims department. If possible, take photos of the scene of the accident. If you are unable to take photos due to an injury, ask a relative or friend or even someone you trust nearby to assist you. The following are things you should take pictures of:
- The accident scene.
- All vehicle damages.
- All physical injuries.
- Any evidence that shows road and/or weather conditions.
- The road itself, road signs, etc. at the scene of the accident
Although a person has a right to take photographs in public, it is important if someone tries to stop you from documenting the scene of an accident to communicate that the photos are for insurance purposes. If this does not stop an individual from interfering contact the police. Further,
Further, it is important to determine if any surveillance cameras or traffic cameras were in the area that may have documented the accident. If surveillance cameras or traffic camera was present, contact the owner and make certain the footage of the accident is preserved.
The amount of information a person must deal with after an accident can be overwhelming. If this information becomes too convoluted, it can make it difficult for an attorney evaluating the case to determine if a claim exists and the amount of damages which one may be entitled. Therefore, a good strategy involves maintaining a journal of everything that had happened at the accident, your medical injuries, your appointments, expenses, etc.
Police reports provide an important piece of evidence from an official third party who can also testify to his or her report in court if required. Generally, persons involved in an accident are provided the report immediately. However, if a report is not provided, one can be requested at the police department with jurisdiction over the accident. For Californians, if the police did not arrive at the scene of an accident, a traffic accident form (SR1 form) must be submitted within 10 days of an accident, irrespective of who was at fault at the nearest police station.
The second category of evidence a party involved in a motorcycle accident should collect involves documenting damages related to the accident. The process of collecting this evidence is often carried out over the long term.
As a general rule, an injured party in a motorcycle accident may be eligible to receive financial compensation for injuries and expenses resulting from the wrongful actions of another. An injured motorcyclist may receive, at a minimum, the following types of compensation:
- Damages to compensate a party for the repair, replacement or loss of value done to their property
- Damages to compensate the injured party for the cost of medical care arising from the injury.
- Damages to compensate for lost earning capacity (an injury’s impact on present and future wages or “loss of earning capacity”).
- Compensation for the psychological impact caused by an injury. These are often referred to damages for “pain and suffering.”
Based on the compensation available a party injured in a motorcycle accident should collect the following evidence:
It is important to make certain all dates of medical treatment and the names of medical providers are recorded for the purposes of collecting information about the case. Also, all bills should be collected with running total showing which bill has been paid by the injured party or by insurance.
Documenting all present and future income is done by relying on pay stubs and tax returns.
Any property damage resulting from an accident should be documented with receipts for repairs, storage and towing to the repair shop. Further, it is important to maintain a record of receipts for the replacement of damaged properties; receipts for rental vehicles and documentation of any recent repairs or improvements made to your car shortly before the accident to establish the value of the vehicle at the time of the accident.
Collecting the evidence after an accident can mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful claim for damages after a motorcycle accident. Although the tips provided above are not exhaustive, they offer a good starting point for your insurance agent.
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