Special Report

GUIDE TO HOUSTON MOTORCYCLE CLAIMS AND LAWSUITS

motorcycle accident lawyerIf you were hurt in a Houston motorcycle accident not your fault there is a 97% chance the other driver’s insurance company will offer some type of settlement. BUT, insurance companies are not in the business of being fair, they are in the business of making money.

A study actually paid for by insurance companies found that people with attorneys get paid on average 350% MORE than people who do not have lawyers.

If you did your research and picked the right motorcycle accident lawyer there is a good chance you will get a fair settlement offer from the insurance company for your injuries, provided there is enough insurance coverage of the other driver for your injuries.

What is a Settlement?

A settlement is when the insurance company agrees to pay you a certain amount of money for your claim and you agree to accept it. Once this happens the insurance company will require you to sign a Release of Claim.

This is a legal and binding document where you agree to accept a certain amount of money and agree that once you accept the money you cannot make the same claim against the at-fault driver or their insurance company in the future, In other words, once you take the money the claim is over forever.

Property Damage

There are two types. (1) Property damage for the damage to your motorcycle and (2) Bodily injury for the damage to you. Generally, the property damage settlement happens much sooner than the bodily injury settlement. Often, the motorcycle is inspected by an adjuster from the insurance company to determine whether the bike is a total loss and if not, the costs of repairs.

You are entitled under the law in Texas to take your bike to any place you choose for repairs. Most of the time, the insurance company will be the repair facility directly for the cost to repair the motorcycle. If the motorcycle has been taken to a storage lot after the crash, it would be advisable if you had it towed to a safe location to avoid extra storage fees while you are waiting on the insurance company to decide whether they are going to accept liability for the crash

Bodily Injury

A bodily injury settlement is when the insurance company agrees to offer you a specific amount of money for your injuries. It includes money for both past and future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, physical impairment and if there is any scarring or amputation physical disfigurement.

You only want to consider settling with the other driver’s insurance company when either of two things have happened. Either, (1) you have finished going to the doctor and have fully recovered from your injury or (2) if you have not or will not fully recover from your injuries, your doctor has estimated the cost of your future medical bills and a vocational expert has estimated your future loss wages.

The Demand

If you claim is ready to be settled, your lawyer will write a demand letter to the insurance company. That letter will discuss the evidence that proves the other driver to be at fault for the accident and the nature and extent of your injuries. The letter should tell the insurance company has the injury has affected your life in all respects. Finally, it will end with an amount of money you would accept to settle your claim.

Either at the time of the demand letter or before your lawyer would have sent copies of all medical records, medical bills, video, witness statements, photographs, police report, and lost wage verification forms to the insurance adjuster so they can evaluate the evidence

Is There Enough Insurance?

One of the most serious concerns in any serious motorcycle accident is whether there is enough insurance coverage available to fully compensate the injured rider. The minimum limits of required liability insurance in Texas is $30,000 per person. If the At-fault driver only carried the minimum amount of insurance coverage and the injury is really serious, then there will not be enough money to properly compensate the innocent rider.

A way to protect yourself is to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your motorcycle. That is extra insurance on top of your required liability insurance. Liability insurance pays the other driver’s injury claim when you are at fault for the accident. It does not pay you anything if the other driver was at fault.

Uninsured/underinsured insurance pays you if the other driver was at fault but had no insurance or didn’t have enough insurance. Since there are so many people driving without even liability insurance it would be a great idea for you to get uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance. Just contact your insurance agent/company to find out what it will cost.

 

The Negotiations

Usually after 30 days after receiving the demand letter the insurance company will make their first offer of settlement. It is always too low and should be rejected. Your lawyer will then make a counter-demand that is less than the original demand. The insurance will make a counter-offer that is more than the original offer. This negotiation may go back and forth until either one of two things happens. A settlement is reached or an impasse happens because the amount of money that your lawyer wants the insurance company to pay is more than they are willing to pay.

At this point your lawyer should discuss with you whether it is worth it to file a lawsuit. It is not uncommon in a very serious injury or wrongful death case involving a motorcycle accident for good motorcycle accident lawyers to file a lawsuit as soon as they get a copy of the police report showing the other driver to be at fault.

The reason is that only the fear of a trial will force the insurance company to offer the most money to settle your case

The Lawsuit

In Texas, it generally takes 12-18 months from the time of the filing of the lawsuit until the time the case comes up for trial. Many times a case may requires several trial resets because of the backlog of cases waiting to go to trial.

Here are the stages of a lawsuit that involves injury or death of the rider

  • Filing of the lawsuit
  • Service of the answer:A process server or constable will actually find and hand a copy of the lawsuit to the Defendant. They will contact their insurance company. The insurance company will hire a lawyer to defend the person sued. The person bringing the lawsuit is called the “Plaintiff”. The person/company being sued is called the “Defendant” 
  • Answer: This is the written response from the party being sued, the defendant, to the allegations raised in your lawsuit. Laws vary from state to state, but the defendant could have up to 30 days from when the lawsuit was served in order to file an answer to it. 
  • Discovery:This phase of the process is when each side in the lawsuit tries to gather information about the various issues. Depositions (sworn questions and answer session),  interrogatories (set of sworn to questions), demands for release of medical records and physical examinations are only a few of the methods the parties may use to gather information about fault and damages. 
  • Motions:Motions are written requests asking the court to resolve a legal issue or other matter prior to the case actually going to trial. Motions could be based upon a party’s failure to comply with discovery requests. 
  • Conferences:Depending upon state laws and local court rules, conferences could be scheduled requiring the attorneys for the parties to meet with a judge to discuss the status of the case. These conferences are usually to ensure the case continues moving along toward trial or other resolution. 
  • Mediation: That’s where you and your lawyer go to a neutral lawyer’s office who is a trained mediator. The defense lawyer and insurance adjuster will also attend the mediation. You and your lawyer are put in one office, the defense lawyer and adjuster are put in a separate office. Then the mediator goes back and forth between the offices relaying offers and demands until hopefully the case settles in mediation. Yes, that is how it is actually done. It’s not pretty but it does work. 
  • Trial:Once all of the preliminary steps in the process are completed, the case is scheduled for a trial. At trial you have the burden of proving fault on the part of the defendant in causing the accident and proving the extent of the injuries and other damages suffered. A judge or a panel of jurors will decide if you proved your case through a verdict in favor of either you or the defendant.

A settlement may occur at any stage during this process if the parties agree to resolve the dispute on terms that are acceptable to each of them. Settlements take time to negotiate, but when a settlement is reached, it represents an end to the dispute.

How Do I Get Started With My Claim?

If it’s a serious accident you are better off finding a lawyer who specializes in motorcycle accidents. Do not give any statement to the insurance company without first checking with a good motorcycle accident lawyer.

Remember, the insurance study that said that people with lawyers get paid 3.5X more money than people without lawyers.

If it is just a property damage claim then call the other driver’s insurance company and see if a claim has been opened. They will want the name of their driver and their policy number. If a claim hasn’t been opened ask them to open a claim. They will ask you questions about the accident. Be truthful but if you don’t know the answer to a question just tell them “I don’t know”

Ask them for the claim number, the adjuster’s name and contact information. You will need to get a copy of the police report from the agency that investigated the crash. Whether it is local police department, state trooper, sheriff or constable. The cop should have given you an incident number or case number at the scene of the accident to find the police report.

Call the department and ask if the report is ready. It usually cost $6-$8. Send a copy of that report to the adjuster. Call the adjuster to see if they can send an inspector out to estimate the property damage. Take you bike in for repair. Ask repair shop to coordinate with insurance adjuster for payment of the repairs. Give the repair shop the adjuster’s contact information and claim number.

 

Well, there you have it. I hope this report helped you.

If you have any questions call me at 713.984.9848 or e-mail me at hjhowerton@comcast.net

 

Sincerely,

Hugh Howerton

Hugh Howerton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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