Motorcycle accidents can result in serious, life-altering injuries and property damage. Injured motorcyclists or their passengers may be entitled to financial compensation for their injuries and losses from their own insurance company, from the at-fault driver or their insurer, or from another at-fault party. But sometimes injured motorcyclists are forced to negotiate with their own insurer or other parties, or even bring a legal claim, to ensure that they are fully compensated for all of their eligible losses.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, you should speak to an attorney, like the motorcycle accident attorneys at Morris James, to discuss your options and how you can obtain compensation to help you with your mounting medical bills and other expenses while you heal. If you would like to speak to one of our team, we are available for you in our local Delaware offices or online.
Motorcycle accident insurance in Delaware
After a motorcycle accident, some of your expenses may be covered by your own auto insurance company. The extent of your coverage will depend on your individual policy. In Delaware, drivers are required to carry a minimum of $15,000 personal injury protection (PIP) per person and $30,000 per accident, but you may have paid for additional PIP coverage in your own policy. PIP requires your insurance company to pay for your (and your passengers’) medical expenses and loss of wages in the event of an accident, regardless of fault.
Maximizing your coverage on your motorcycle insurance is crucial. Motorcycle policies are often sold as minimal policies with large deductibles, which are cheaper and therefore appealing. However, oftentimes, motorcyclists are significantly injured in collisions with other motor vehicles. When that occurs, a cheap insurance policy with a large deductible is unlikely to cover all of your costs from the accident. The more coverage that you have available for payment of medical bills and lost wages, the better. The attorneys at Morris James are happy to discuss the coverage that you have under your motorcycle policy with you.
If another driver is at-fault in the motorcycle accident, you may also be entitled to compensation from their insurance company. The minimum insurance coverage requirements in Delaware for motorcycles and other vehicles are $25,000 bodily injury protection per person and $50,000 per accident, and $10,000 property damage. Therefore if another driver is at-fault in the accident and your costs exceed your own PIP coverage, you may be able to get compensation for your additional expenses from the at-fault driver’s insurer.
Your losses and damage in a motorcycle accident
Insurance policies often do not cover all types of loss and damage that you suffer in a motorcycle accident, or the full amount of your losses may not be compensated by an at-fault driver’s insurer because they exceed the policy limits or the insurer refuses to pay out in full. When this happens, it is helpful (or even crucial) to have a skilled motorcycle accident attorney on your side. An attorney can explain your legal rights to you, and communicate with the insurers or other parties on your behalf to help you to get the compensation that you are entitled to by law.
An attorney will explain the different types of harm that the law recognizes and compensates in a motorcycle accident. Not all of these categories of damage are covered by auto insurance policies, and it may be necessary to bring a legal claim against an at-fault party to get full compensation for your losses:
Medical expenses after a motorcycle accident can be substantial. Ambulance fees, ER admission, hospital stays, surgery expenses, rehab costs, PT bills, pharmacy bills, therapy fees, and costs of medical devices are just some of the expenses that you or your passengers may incur if you are injured in a motorcycle accident.
Future medical bills
When someone is badly injured in a motorcycle accident, they may need ongoing medical care including medication, a medical device (such as a wheelchair,) physical therapy, or counseling. Calculating a victim’s future medical expenses is complex, and victims who do not have the help of a lawyer often underestimate their future medical expenses, or do not count them at all.
Lost wages and benefits
If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, you will likely have to miss work for days, weeks, or even months. You are entitled to be compensated for your lost wages and benefits when you miss work as a result of the motorcycle accident. This would include lost days to attend medical appointments for injuries suffered in the accident.
Future loss of income and benefits
If your injuries in a motorcycle accident prevent you from working in the future, either at all or at the same level of income as you did before the accident, you have a right to be compensated for the wages and benefits that you would have earned if you had not been injured in the motorcycle accident. As with estimating future medical bills, calculating future lost income is technical, and should be done with the advice of an experienced accident lawyer who can ensure that you are fully compensated. You should NOT accept an insurance company’s estimate of future lost income because they are acting in the best interest of their profit margin, not you.
Home and vehicle modifications
Serious injuries in a motorcycle accident can leave you with temporary or permanent disabilities that require changes to your living situation. For example, if you are left in a wheelchair, you may need a ramp, chairlift, widened doors or hallways, or bathroom aids and alterations in your home. Adaptations to your vehicle might include a swivel chair or hand controls. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides useful information on available adaptations and their costs here, estimating that a new vehicle modified with adaptive equipment could cost as much as $80,000.
Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering is the physical and emotional trauma caused by a motorcycle accident, separate and apart from the medical expenses that are incurred as a result of injuries. It includes the pain and discomfort of physical injuries at the time of the accident, during recovery, and into the future, and any emotional distress, mental anguish, or loss of enjoyment of life that the victim suffers as a result of the accident. Putting a monetary value on a victim's pain and suffering is difficult as it is not evidenced by receipts, paystubs, or invoices, and it is simply not capable of exact calculation. The amount awarded to a victim for pain and suffering will be decided by a jury at trial. However, an attorney with experience in motorcycle accidents understands how juries look at a case to determine an amount for pain and suffering, and can help victims get the amount that they deserve for their physical and emotional trauma, whether in settlement or at trial.
Although the bulk of damages in a motorcycle accident will likely stem from your physical injuries and mental trauma, you are also entitled to compensation for property damage in an accident. Damage to your motorcycle and any protective equipment would be considered property damage.
What if you are at fault in a motorcycle accident in Delaware?
If you are at fault in a motorcycle accident, your insurance coverage and entitlement to compensation may be affected depending on where the accident happened. Different states have different laws with regard to fault and different insurance coverage requirements. In Delaware, there are two very important elements of state law that will affect your compensation:
- PIP coverage is mandatory in Delaware, and applies regardless of fault. Therefore, when you are injured in a motorcycle accident, you will look first to your own PIP coverage for medical expenses and lost wages.
- Delaware is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that if you are more than 50% at fault in a motorcycle accident, you are not entitled to recover damages from the other party.
This is a simplification of two laws that can have major consequences for your case and your financial recovery. The laws surrounding compensation in a motorcycle accident are complex, and require the experience and skill of a competent attorney to interpret and apply to your individual situation.
But how much can you recover after a motorcycle accident?
We understand that it is frustrating to be told all the expenses and damage that count toward your compensation in a motorcycle accident but not be given a dollar amount. Every motorcycle accident is different, and every victim is different, so it is not possible to give a standard amount of compensation for ALL motorcycle accidents. Some people have minor property damage that is covered by insurance while others are catastrophically injured, incur huge medical expenses, and never work again. Their entitlement to compensation would be drastically different.
A reputable attorney will never guarantee you a specific amount of financial compensation after a motorcycle accident. However, after finding out more about your individual situation, an experienced attorney will often be able to tell you what other people in similar situations have received in compensation. This is one of the reasons why it is invaluable to have an attorney on your side who is knowledgeable about motorcycle accidents when you are negotiating a settlement amount or proceeding to trial.
At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you have other questions about motorcycle accidents, you may find answers in our Motorcycle & Ebike Accident FAQs, or you can contact us online or call us at 302.655.2599 to learn more.