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Personal Injury Blog

Motorcycle Accidents: Can an Injured Motorcyclist Without Helmet Recover Personal Injury Damages?

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyer

Helmet laws have been controversial for decades, with states yo-yo-ing between having them, not having them, and having some version. Motorcyclists enjoy the wind in their hair with the freedom of the road stretching out ahead of them and decry the need for helmets. This is fine in Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire - and 28 other states if you're at least 21 years of age - but 19 states have a universal helmet law which requires all riders to wear a helmet. This safety measure is based upon crystal clear statistics that show head injuries are the primary cause of fatality in motorcycle accidents. In fact, statistics show that wearing a helmet prevents brain injury in 67% of motorcycle accidents and is 37% effective in mortality prevention. That aside, do the helmet laws of your state affect your rights with regards to personal injury recovery? In a word, yes. 

State Laws

Each state dictates the laws governing insurance rates and coverage. Three primary considerations in an accident include:

  • Whether your state is an at-fault or no-fault state
  • Whether your state has a helmet law
  • Your level of negligence in the accident

In a no-fault state each driver pays their own damages regardless of who caused the accident, with important exceptions: if your personal injury exceeds Personal Injury Protection coverage, and/or you are permanently injured, you are entitled to sue the at-fault driver.

If the state also has a helmet law, your insurance carrier will pay your claim up to your personal injury limits, then either drop your coverage or raise your future rates. A rider without a helmet is a high-risk rider for any insurance company, given the likelihood of significant head and brain injury and the attendant elevated medical costs, incurred in a motorcycle accident. (The exceptions still apply but defending your claim is harder). 

In an at-fault (tort law) state without a helmet law, the negligent driver has to pay damages - once their negligence is proven. Where it gets complex is in an at-fault state with a helmet law, such as California.

Contributory or Comparative Negligence

If you are injured in a motorcycle accident in an at-fault state with a helmet law, and you weren't wearing a helmet, you suddenly have a degree of negligence in the accident. This means that you caused some or all of your own head injuries when you broke the helmet law. The other driver's insurance company and/or attorney can certainly claim this. Five states in the U.S. can defend against your personal injury claim through "injured party's contributory negligence": Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. In these states you may not recover any damages if you weren't wearing a helmet in the accident.

California has a comparative fault law which allows juries to determine a percentage of injuries caused by your own negligence, to reduce your personal injury damages; that is, they argue that a certain percentage of your injuries could have been prevented by wearing a helmet. For example, if 40% of your injuries are head injuries that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet, the court reduces your personal injury damages by 40%. In some states, the court will deny your claim if the other driver's lawyer can prove that your "comparative negligence" was 50% or greater.

Whatever your situation, your best chance of damage recovery lies in hiring a personal injury lawyer who understands insurance and state laws. You don't need the headache and stress of dealing with the other driver's insurance company and legal team while you're recovering from perhaps life-altering injuries. If you live in the Los Angeles area, please feel free to contact us at Freeman & Freeman, LLP or call 818-992-2919 and let our experts handle your claim.

 


Motorcycle Accidents Without a Motorcycle License

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyers

Once you get that standard driver's license that many people get as teenagers, you can hop into most cars and be able to drive with a valid license. However, it doesn't work the same for motorcycles. You need a special motorcycle license to legally ride on the road. While the licensing type and timeline varies from state to state, they all share this in common. However, while you should have a license while riding a motorcycle, not everyone does.

Sometimes motorcycle driver's hit the road without a license for one reason or another. Yet, if they get into a crash, they believe that not having a license bars them from any legal action, but that isn't true. It is important to remember that even if you don't have a motorcycle license, you can still get coverage for a motorcycle accident if it was the result of the negligence of another.

Proving Fault

If you were in a motorcycle accident without a license, the smart money is on the insurance of the other driver blaming you for the accident because you do not have a motorcycle license. However, with the help of a lawyer, you can completely negate this if the other driver was indeed to blame. Fault in a motorcycle accident can be laid by proving the other driver was doing something they should not have been. These incidents include:

  • Speeding
  • Running a red light
  • Driving under the influence
  • Following too closely

However, no one will just take your word for it. You need to be able to prove that the other driver was at fault. If you cannot, then you may, in fact, be barred from compensation. In order to prove fault, consider collecting evidence via the following:

  • Photographs of the scene
  • Police reports of the accident
  • Witness testimony from the accident scene
  • Blood alcohol content results from the driver

By being able to prove fault, you can still get compensation for your injuries and the damages to your vehicle.

Penalties for Driving a Motorcycle Without a License

While you will not be barred from compensation if the accident was not your fault even if you did not have a license, you will not get off without punishment. You will still get the accident covered with the right lawyer, but they should also help to prepare you for legal action. When in an accident without a motorcycle license, the police pretty much have no choice but to charge you. In California, this is a misdemeanor level crime, meaning penalties range from a fine of up to $1,000 and/or six months in jail. It is also likely that the police will confiscate your motorcycle until you receive the appropriate license.

The unfortunate thing about this potential legal action is that it is particularly difficult to defend against. Prosecutors need to only prove you didn't have a license and that you were on an official roadway to get a conviction for driving without a license. However, the right lawyer can help to limit the punishments you receive from this.

If you have been in a motorcycle accident of any kind, whether you had a license or not, contact us today. The Law Office of Freeman and Freeman is no stranger to serious motorcycle accidents and we know how to fight to get you the compensation you deserve for injuries that are so often more serious than standard auto accidents. Just because you didn't have a license or might have had some fault in the accident doesn't mean you don't deserve compensation for your damages. So let us help you fight the good legal fight.


Motorcycle Accidents: The Importance of Hiring a Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Thursday, April 12, 2018

After being injured in a motorcycle accident, it is easy to become overwhelmed by everything you need to take care of such as going to doctors appointments and meeting with your insurance company. However, you do not want to make the mistake of attempting to go through this difficult time alone. An attorney can help to walk you through this oftentimes confusing process, and they will make sure that someone is looking out for your best interests during this difficult time. If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a motorcycle accident, here are just a few of the reasons you should consider consulting a personal injury attorney.

An Attorney Can Walk You Through The Legal Process

As we previously stated, filing a personal injury claim can be an extremely complex process. There will be various legal documents that you will have to file, forms that will have to be filled out properly, and all of this often has to be completed within a set period of time after your accident. The fact is that unless you have legal knowledge you will likely find yourself drowning in complex legal documents and terminology you don't understand. However, an experienced lawyer can help to walk you through this process and explain to you what is happening and what you are signing at each step of the way. They will also shoulder much of the burden by completing and filing the paperwork for you, ensuring that you have enough free time to focus on your recovery.

Get Help Establishing Fault

Unfortunately, more often than not a driver will not admit their fault in an accident. This means that it will be up to you to establish proof that the accident wasn't your fault, and that you deserve to be compensated for your injuries. This is where having an experienced lawyer on your side can be particularly critical, as they will have first-hand experience furnishing proof in cases similar to yours, and they will have experience working to get their clients the compensation they deserve. With a personal injury attorney working for you, you will have the best shot of proving the other driver's fault.

Have Someone Looking Out for Your Interests

Hiring a personal injury attorney is the only way to ensure that you have someone looking out for your interests during this difficult time. People often make the mistake of assuming that they do not need an attorney as their insurance company will watch their back; however, this is a misconception. The fact is that insurance companies are generally looking to close a claim as quickly and painlessly as possible. They are then often focused on looking out for their own best interest, and what is in the interest of their own pocketbooks, rather than on ensuring that you are being taken care of. By hiring an attorney, you will have someone looking out for you who will make sure that you are being treated fairly, and that you are properly represented, during this difficult time.

Benefit From Expert Knowledge

If you do not consult a personal injury attorney, you may also be leaving yourself open to being taken advantage of. The fact is that you likely do not know the full extent of what your injuries are worth. Thusly, without an attorney, you may agree to a settlement that is much lower than what you deserve. A personal injury attorney will have a great deal of experience assessing claims similar to yours, and they will be able to make sure you are properly compensated for your injuries, any time off of work, and your medical expenses.

Contact us to learn more about why you should consult a personal injury attorney after being injured in a motorcycle accident.

Motorcycle Accidents: Does Not Wearing a Helmet Hurt My Case?

Thursday, April 05, 2018

While many experience the siren's call at least at some point in their life that lures them onto a motorcycle, there is no argument that they are slightly less safe than your standard car. While many operate motorcycles safely, it is not always the driver of these vehicles that are responsible for an accident. However, if a motorcycle is involved in an accident, the drivers are more at risk for injury simply because the vehicle lacks that protective metal shell.

However, in an effort to cut down on the rate of severe injuries and fatalities in motorcycle crashes, many states have adopted a mandatory helmet law for both drivers and passengers. This is the case in California, in which the law requires both driver and passenger to be helmeted while on the road.

However, while this law may be in place for the safety of the riders, not everyone listens to these laws, particularly if they ride in areas where they are pretty sure they won't run into law enforcement. However, while riding a motorcycle without a helmet is your choice, if you are involved in an accident, it may make your case more difficult.

How Wearing a Helmet Affects Your Case?

In motorcycle accidents, typically you are trying to recover damages for both the damage to your motorcycle and for any injuries. However, if you were not wearing a helmet in the accident, you can be sure that the opposing insurance company's first argument will be that you will be responsible for some of those injuries.

In California, since not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is technically illegal, the insurance company is likely to say that because you were breaking the law, they shouldn't need to cover some injuries. However, while they courts may agree, a case of the court completely preventing collecting compensation altogether is not likely to happen.

Yet, in making this decision, there are two factors that can affect how much compensation you receive if you were not wearing a helmet. These factors include:

  • Was There a Head Injury? - If you were in a motorcycle accident while not wearing a helmet and you actually did not suffer any head injuries, then the fact you were not wearing a helmet is completely irrelevant. However, if a head injury was present, it is likely that the courts will likely hold you at least a little bit responsible and modify the amount you will receive for the head injury alone while often covering the other injuries in full.
  • Was the Accident the Other Driver's Fault? - Similar to helmetless accidents where there is no head injury, if the accident was the fault of the other driver and they alone could have prevented it, then whether you are wearing a helmet or not does not matter. If the other driver had driven more safely, it can be argued that you wouldn't have those injuries in the first place. However, in this situation, the insurance company is still more likely to at least try to argue that the amount of damages should be limited due to your illegal behavior.

Need Help?

Were you hurt in an accident on your motorcycle in California? If you were not wearing a helmet, you may think that because you were acting illegally that you don't have a lot of options or even a right to compensation. However, that simply is not true. If you were in a motorcycle accident, due to the sheer nature of the vehicle, you may have more injuries than a standard car driver, and whether you were wearing a helmet or not, you can recover at least some compensation for your injuries. If you need representation in your case, contact us today.


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From our offices in Woodland Hills, California, Freeman & Freeman, LLP, provides legal advice and representation for clients in communities throughout the state, including those in Burbank, Glendale, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Tarzana, Santa Clarita, Agoura Hills, Reseda, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Northridge, Granada Hills, Pacoima, Panorama City, North Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Lancaster, Palmdale and Alhambra.