Motorcycle Accidents FAQ
Motorcycle accidents often pose difficult issues of liability and damages. Often, police and insurance adjusters assume that the motorcycle driver was either solely responsible for the accident or was substantially at fault. Of course, that assumption is not always true; in fact, more often than not, the evidence will show that the motorcycle driver was driving as safely as he could. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, here are some frequently asked questions:
Do I have to wear a helmet at all times on a motorcycle?
Answer: Georgia law requires that everyone, including passengers, wear a helmet that complies with standards set by the Commissioner of Public Safety, which means that the helmet must be DOT compliant under the Federal Motor Safety Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218.
In addition to a helmet, you also must use protective eyewear or have a windshield on your bike. In any event, not wearing a full-faced helmet exposes you to severe head injuries.
I was not wearing a helmet in the accident. Can I still sue the driver who caused the accident?
Answer: Yes. You can still bring a claim for damages through a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and his insurance company. However, your failure to wear a helmet may reduce your damages claim if you suffered a head injury or facial fracture that would likely have prevented the injury or reduced its severity if you had worn a full-faced helmet. In other words, not wearing a helmet does not mean you lose, but it may mean you won’t win as much compensation as you would otherwise, had you been wearing your helmet.
Is lane splitting legal in Georgia?
Answer: No. You are not allowed to lane split. However, you and a fellow motorcycle rider are permitted to ride side-by-side in a lane.
Can a passenger on a motorcycle sue the motorcycle driver if the passenger is injured?
Answer: Yes. You can pursue compensation against anyone whose negligence was the cause of the accident. In Georgia, all motorists, including motorcycle drivers, must maintain insurance liability coverage of at least $25,000 per person. Your claim would be against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, which could be that of the motorcycle driver on whose bike you were a passenger. Even if you are best friends with the driver of the motorcycle, if the driver caused the accident you can pursue his insurance. You also can pursue your own insurance and any of your family members who you live with through what is called “uninsured motorist” insurance.
I was cited for speeding at the time of the accident, but the other driver made an unsafe lane change and was also cited. Can I still bring a claim against that driver?
Answer: Yes. So long as your own comparative fault was not more than 49% you can bring a case and win. If you are found to be 45% at fault and your damages are $100,000, you can collect $65,000. If you and the other driver are each 50% at fault, no one can collect compensation. Georgia is a modified comparative negligence state which means so long as you are under 50% responsible, you can win.
The driver who hit me was uninsured. What insurance can I pursue?
Answer: If you have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage on your own motorcycle insurance policy, or on any vehicle you own, then you can pursue compensation under the UM provision of your policy. You must obtain a police report and promptly report the accident to your insurer. You still must prove the uninsured driver was at fault for the accident. Also, if you are living with any relatives, you may be able to collect insurance through their policies. And have your personal injury lawyer investigate the driver who hit you. His family members may have insurance that you can pursue.
Can there be other parties responsible for my motorcycle accident?
Answer: Along with the at-fault driver, the negligence of other parties may have contributed to your accident. For example, the road that you were traveling on may have been negligently designed or lacked adequate signage. If it occurred in a construction area or zone, the contractor may have not sufficiently warned or made the roadway safe for motorists to pass through. The service to your bike may have resulted in faulty steering or braking, or a design or manufacturing flaw may have been a factor in the accident.
Will experts be needed to prove my claim for damages?
Answer: Sometimes yes. In many motorcycle accidents, experts in accident reconstruction may be hired to prove liability. A human factors expert may be hired who can explain the forces involved in how the accident occurred. If you have suffered substantial body and or head injuries, your personal injury lawyer may hire experts in neurology, economics, vocational rehabilitation, and a life care planner to testify about your economic and non-economic damages.
How long do I have to file a motorcycle accident injury claim?
Answer: In Georgia, you have two years from the date of the accident to file your case in court. You can settle your case before that time or after that time.
The two-year clock is called the statute of limitation and it can be tolled or paused. If for instance the driver who caused the accident was cited by the police, then the clock pauses until the citation is paid. Or, if the driver has any criminal charges that are brought, the clock is paused.
If the defendant is the city, county, or state, you must file a written notice with the appropriate department or agency within a set period of months of the accident.
How do I know how much my motorcycle accident is worth?
Answer: There is no formula for what an accident injury is worth. Factors that are considered include liability, the severity of your injuries, the amount of your medical expenses, future medical treatment you may need, your income loss, the effect your injuries have had on your quality of life, the county where your case is going to be filed, who the defendant is, your overall health before the accident and many other factors. A good personal injury attorney should be willing to discuss a settlement value with you but should never promise you a set number. Juries decide how much cases are worth.