You Were in a Motorcycle Accident: Now What?
The screech of brakes fills the air. Your motorcycle slides underneath you. The impact takes your breath away as adrenaline flows through your body and, hopefully, masks any immediate pain. Now what? Once you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, how should you proceed? What should you do to keep yourself safe—both physically and financially—following the accident?
This dilemma is not so unusual in Florida. The number of motorcycle accidents has steadily increased in our state, from more than 9,800 in 2014 to more than 10,300 in 2016, with a corresponding increase in injuries. Florida, in fact, leads the nation in motorcycle accidents.
This guide will help you determine what to do after you’ve been injured in a motorcycle crash.
At the Scene of the Accident
If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident, you should take a few important steps while at the scene of the accident to protect yourself. Chances are, after the accident, you’ll be reeling and your head will be spinning. Following these steps, however, can help protect you both physically and financially.
Get out of the road as soon as possible. When involved in a car accident, the parties are often instructed not to move their vehicles. When you’re on a motorcycle, however, move yourself if possible, rather than staying with your bike. If you remain in the road, other cars pose a serious risk, as other drivers may not see you or realize that an accident has occurred. It’s especially important to get out of the road if you are in a vulnerable location, such as just around a blind curve, on a busy road, or in an area where other drivers might not be able to see you clearly.
Call for help. If no one at the scene of the accident has called for help yet, make sure that you call 911. Share information about the accident: your location, the number of vehicles involved in the accident, and any other details that you think may be important. Make sure to mention that you were on a motorcycle, especially if you have been seriously injured in the accident. If you’re unable to call for help yourself, designate a specific individual to do so. Try to point directly at someone or call them by characteristics that are easily identifiable. Simply yelling, “someone call 911!” may not suffice; often, crowd mentality leads bystanders to assume that someone else will take on that responsibility. It’s much safer to shout something like, “girl in the blue shirt with the red hat—call the police!”
Evaluate your injuries. Your injuries may prevent you from moving safely. In that case, ask for help from those nearby, who may be able to block off the flow of traffic and help protect you. Even if you’re able to move at the scene of the accident, you should pay careful attention to your body to determine how badly you’re injured and what treatment you may need. If injured, ask these important questions:
- Can you move freely and without restriction? Check your hands and wrists, your legs, and your neck to be sure that you can move. Pay attention to any sharp pain or numbness, which may be an indication of serious injury.
- Can your legs sustain your weight? If you’re stumbling, staggering, or experiencing pain when you attempt to walk, you may be seriously injured.
- Are you bleeding? In a motorcycle accident, your only protection against lacerations and scrapes is the clothing and other gear that you’re wearing, which may not have fully protected you from road rash or other cuts. Look carefully for bleeding, especially severe bleeding.
- Do you have any common symptoms of a head injury? Symptoms may include confusion, disorientation, and nausea. Pay attention to any warning signs, like slurred speech or difficulty processing or remembering information.
Check your helmet. While at the scene of the accident, you should take a look at your helmet. Wearing your helmet can decrease your risk of injury by 69 percent and your risk of death by 37 percent—and chances are, it did its job in this accident. Your helmet, however, will serve another purpose when the accident is over: it will help tell the story of what happened. If your helmet is scraped, dented, or broken in any way, you likely hit your head during the accident. If you’ve hit your head, you will likely need to be evaluated for a head injury at the hospital.
Collect the right information. At the scene of the accident, you should start collecting the information that you’ll need down the road in any legal proceedings. If possible, collect information from the driver of the car. Snap a picture of their driver license and insurance information, so that you’ll have it later for your records. Taking a picture on your phone will ensure that you’re able to access that information later, whereas simply writing it down on a piece of paper may cause you to lose that vital information. If possible you should also collect contact information for any eyewitnesses. Your safety and your medical care, however, should be your first priority. If you have serious injuries, or if it’s not safe to move around the area, wait for the police to gather that information.
Take pictures. Take a look around the scene. There are often several pieces of information that may be useful later—and the best way to capture this information is with your smartphone. Again, move around the scene only if you’re able to do so safely and if you can do so without making your injuries worse. If you’re physically and mentally able to, take pictures of the following:
- Your motorcycle, including any damage to it.
- Any vehicles driven by other drivers involved in the accident, including damage to those vehicles, pictures of the license plates, and any identifying marks on the vehicles.
- Pictures of anything that might have contributed to the accident, including features of the road or anything else that may have caused the driver to be distracted or lose control of the vehicle.
- Pictures of your and anyone else’s injuries at the scene.
Wait for help to arrive. You should never drive or walk away from the scene of an accident unless seeking medical help or attempting to notify the authorities of the accident. If at all possible, remain at the scene of the accident until help arrives. This will help establish exactly what happened and prevent authorities from charging you with a hit and run.
Watch what you say. At the scene of the accident, avoid making statements like, “I’m okay” or “it wasn’t your fault,” especially if speaking to the driver of the other vehicle. In many cases, these simple statements may be used against you later in court. Instead, avoid talking unnecessarily about the events that led up to the accident or your injuries. Avoid any admission of guilt until you’re able to consult an attorney.
After You Leave the Scene: At the Hospital
When you’re involved in a motorcycle accident, you should generally seek medical attention immediately, even if you don’t think that you’re seriously injured. From road rash to traumatic brain injury, you may have sustained significant injuries, which may require substantial care. Make sure you get that care as soon as possible. Don’t delay in seeking medical treatment, unless you’re absolutely sure that the circumstances of the accident were minor. At the hospital, you should continue taking steps to help protect your rights.
Go over the events of the accident in your mind. If possible, take the time to write down your recollection of exactly what occurred during the accident. Be sure to note anything that may have seemed odd at the time, such as a driver who was behaving erratically, road features that caused a problem, or another driver who behaved in a manner that may have contributed to the accident. Note any details as clearly as possible. It’s important to write down this statement as soon as possible following the accident, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the doctors and nurses caring for you. Your memory of the events leading up to the accident will be clearest immediately after it’s over, and getting your story written down or recorded quickly will ensure that you have access to those memories for as long as you need.
Be honest with your care team. There are probably a wide range of doctors and nurses available at the hospital to care for you, and many of them may ask questions that you feel are invasive or unnecessary. Be honest with your care team. You want them to develop a clear understanding of your injuries, so that they can provide you with the highest-quality care.
Talk with the police, if possible. If you were transported to a hospital before the police arrived at the scene, they may want to speak with you at the hospital. If you’re physically able to, go ahead and speak with them to discuss the circumstances of your accident and any other relevant information. It may be helpful to contact an experienced attorney prior to speaking with the police, however.
Obtain copies of X-rays and other information regarding your injuries. Information about your injuries from the hospital may be used as evidence later, so make sure that you keep any relevant data for your own personal records.
After You Receive Emergency Care
Once you’ve been treated in the emergency room, and most of your injuries have been cared for, your recovery begins. As the adrenaline wears off and the pain of your injuries sets in, there are still several important steps that you should take.
Start a file. Keep a file for your personal records that contains any and all information concerning the accident. This may include a copy of the police report, copies of your medical records, any medical bills, and damage reports on your motorcycle. Any time you collect information about the accident, make sure it goes in this file.
Figure out how much damage your bike sustained. If possible, take your motorcycle to a reputable mechanic endorsed by your insurance company. Ask the mechanic to carefully evaluate the motorcycle and provide you with an estimate for repairs. In some cases, the mechanic may determine that your bike is totaled, which means that you’ll have to replace it before you can ride again.
Stay aware of your injuries. Continue to take pictures of your injuries as they develop for your records. You should also be aware of any signs or symptoms of worsening injuries. Be particularly aware of signs of head trauma, and go back to the hospital immediately if you:
- Experience increasing confusion or disorientation
- Notice that your balance is off more than it should be, given your injuries
- Have trouble focusing or concentrating on what’s going on around you
- Notice blood in your stool or urine
- Are dizzy or nauseous
- Pass out or have a seizure
If you experience any of the above-listed symptoms, and if the doctors didn’t warn you to expect them in the aftermath of your injuries, it’s important that you return to your doctor for additional evaluation and care. You may have sustained a head injury or internal bleeding, which can lead to serious complications.
Contact a lawyer. If you’ve been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, especially if it was due to another driver’s irresponsibility or negligence, you may need a lawyer to represent you. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help negotiate with insurance companies, ensure that you’re being offered a fair settlement, or fight on your behalf in court, if needed.
Give yourself time to recover. In many cases following a motorcycle accident, it may take you more time than you expect to get back on your motorcycle. You may suffer from flashbacks or struggle to regain confidence. Wait until you have fully recovered from your injuries and follow your doctor’s instructions concerning when to ride again. Give yourself time to heal both physically and mentally.
If you were in a motorcycle accident, contact an attorney to assist you in navigating the system and ensuring that you are fully compensated for your injuries. Call the Dolman Law Group today at (727) 451-6900, or contact us online, to schedule your free consultation and to learn more about your legal rights and responsibilities following a motorcycle accident.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765