How Much Is an Average Motorcycle Accident Settlement? - Hensley Legal Group, PC

How Much Is an Average Motorcycle Accident Settlement?

Whether you are zipping through congested city streets in the middle of the week or cruising the great outdoors on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, a motorcycle is an exciting yet affordable means of transportation – though certainly not the safest one.  American motorcycle accidents claimed the lives of 5,932 riders in 2021 alone, and even nonfatal […]

June 13, 2024

Whether you are zipping through congested city streets in the middle of the week or cruising the great outdoors on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, a motorcycle is an exciting yet affordable means of transportation – though certainly not the safest one.  American motorcycle accidents claimed the lives of 5,932 riders in 2021 alone, and even nonfatal crashes can inflict punishing injuries that could stretch a motorcyclist’s wallet to the breaking point. 

If you are contemplating a personal injury case for your own motorcycle accident, it is natural to wonder “How much is an average motorcycle accident settlement?”  Join us as we take a look at what compensation may be available after a collision on a motorcycle. 

Why Are Motorcycles So Dangerous? 

Before we delve into the monetary value of a motorcycle accident, we should spare a moment to discuss the particular dangers that motorcycles pose. 

Because make no mistake, motorcycles are among the most dangerous types of vehicles, with motorcycle accidents disproportionately wreaking grievous bodily harm and even death.  While motorcycles make up only three percent of all registered motor vehicles, motorcycle accidents are responsible for 17 percent of all vehicle occupant fatalities.  And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), cyclists are four times as likely to be injured as other passenger vehicle occupants and 24 times as likely to be killed in a crash. 

The sad fact is that many of the qualities that make motorcycles so appealing – their compact size, their light weight, and the opportunity they present to move around obstacles and veer between lanes – are the very same qualities that make them so hazardous in the event of a collision. 

Unlike cars and trucks, motorcycles feature minimal shielding between the riders and other vehicles or the road itself.  Consequently, motorcycle accidents could put cyclists into immediate contact with metal and asphalt, making catastrophic injuries all but inevitable, which may be why as many as 83,000 riders were hurt nationwide in the most recent year on record.  

Moreover, the smaller dimensions that make motorcycles so much easier to maneuver give them much shorter stopping times as well, which could increase the chances of a rear-end collision.  And because they are supported on two wheels rather than four or more wheels, motorcycles may be less structurally stable, so cyclists may tip over or even get ejected when they are struck or jostled, adding to the frequency and the severity of motorcycle accident injuries. 

Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries 

And motorcycle accident injuries are both frequent and severe indeed.  While a rider may be able to walk away from a minor mishap with only a few scrapes and bruises, most motorcycle accidents involving other motor vehicles will produce injuries that are much more dire, especially in collisions at high velocities.  A study by the NHTSA determined that the three most common motorcycle accident injuries are: 

  1. Lower extremity impairment – Given how exposed a rider’s legs are, it may be no surprise that fractured or impaired lower extremities are the leading injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents.  
  2. Upper extremity trauma – Injuries of the upper extremities trail closely behind in their rate of occurrence, with the arms and shoulders sustaining blunt force trauma if a cyclist should roll over in a crash. 
  3. Head and brain damage – A rider’s head may be similarly subjected to damage during a motorcycle accident, which may sometimes result in motorcycle head injuries no helmet could have mitigated, such as intensive traumatic brain injury or TBI. 

Motorcyclists could further suffer from: 

  • Neck and spinal injuries  
  • Broken ribs 
  • Lacerations 
  • Road rash 
  • Scarring and disfigurement 
  • Burns 
  • Internal bleeding 
  • Organ rupture 
  • Amputated limbs 
  • Partial or total paralysis 
  • Loss of memory 
  • Coma 

The economic impact of motorcycle accident injuries can sometimes be as profound as the physical impact, both in terms of the direct costs of treatment and the secondary costs associated with lost hours of work or loss of trade.  As an illustration, the same NHTSA study referenced above calculated median hospital charges of: 

  • $21,000.00 for motorcyclists with “single-isolated lower extremity injuries”; 
  • $39,000.00 for motorcyclists with “multiple lower extremity injuries”; and 
  • $56,000.00 for motorcyclists with lower extremity injuries “in combination with” other injuries. 

It should be noted that this study was released in 2008, and the cost for that same treatment may be notably higher today, since patient treatment costs in the United States increase by approximately six percent year over year.

Given how much more motorcyclists are at risk of serious injury than other motorists, drivers have a duty to watch out for riders, give them extra room, and slow down more gradually when cyclists are in the vicinity.  And if they fail to honor these obligations, motorcyclists are sure to suffer the brunt of the consequences. 

How to Prevent Motorcycle Accidents 

Since motorcycle accidents tend to be so disastrous, it is of the utmost importance to take pains to avoid them.  Luckily, there are a number of precautions that you can follow to either prevent motorcycle accidents or make them less harmful.  Specifically, you could: 

  • Boost your visibility – A driver who can see you will generally not collide with you, so you should do everything in your power to boost your visibility when riding, such as flashing your lights when approaching others, attaching reflectors to your bike, and wearing brightly colored clothing. 
  • Observe the speed limit – Speeding is the chief source of motorcycle accidents.  To stay safe, always observe the posted speed limit and be ready to decelerate even more if needed in response to inclement weather and adverse surfaces.  
  • Pay attention – Distraction is also a major contributor to motor vehicle accidents of all kinds, including motorcycle accidents.  Inattentive driving has only grown with the rise of smartphones, which have been linked to 12 percent of crashes domestically, so keep your mind on what you are doing whenever you are on your motorcycle. 
  • Maintain your distance from others – Maintaining a large space cushion between yourself and others will keep you from rear-ending vehicles or being rear-ended by them during sudden stops. 
  • Approach intersections carefully – Cyclists are never more in jeopardy than when they are traveling through intersections, where more than a third of motorcycle accidents take place.  It is critical to approach an intersection carefully, looking in all directions before you proceed forward. 
  • Merge with caution – You are most prone to be inside of a driver’s blind spot when you change lanes, so be sure to merge with caution, making eye contact with or signaling to anyone in your intended lane before entering it so that they are aware of what you are planning. 
  • Abstain from alcohol and drugs – Even though drinking or getting high before operating any sort of vehicle is both incredibly illegal and deeply foolish, intoxication continues to factor into 27 percent of deadly motorcycle accidents.  Keep yourself from becoming a statistic by abstaining from alcohol and drugs before climbing onto your bike. 
  • Get your rest – Fatigue can sometimes be as detrimental to driving as drunkenness.  A cyclist who goes more than twenty hours without sleep may experience the same effects as a cyclist with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, the legal threshold for intoxication in most states, so do not skimp on your rest. 
  • Wear a helmet – Whether or not your state requires you to wear a helmet when you ride, you are only hurting yourself if you don’t, since helmets have been shown to be 67 percent effective in preventing brain damage and 37 percent effective in preventing death during motorcycle accidents.

With some basic guidelines and some good sense, you may be able to steer clear of the misfortunes that too often befall less prudent motorcyclists. 

Steps to Take After a Motorcycle Accident 

Safety is key, but you can only control what you do, not what other people do, so a motorcycle accident may still occur despite your best efforts.  When it does, there are steps that you can take after a motorcycle accident – or someone acting on your behalf should take if you are incapacitated – that could help you protect whatever case you may have, including the following: 

  • Get out of traffic – Get out of traffic as soon as you can so you do not get into another accident. 
  • Alert the authorities – Dial 911 to alert the authorities if police and emergency personnel have not already arrived and give the responding officers a comprehensive account of the motorcycle accident so that the police report will be accurate. 
  • Seek treatment – Any delays in medical care could hinder the healing process and permit doubt to be cast on the relevance of your injuries, so seek treatment right away from on-site paramedics or at the nearest emergency room. 
  • Take pictures and shoot videos – A visual document of the scene of the crash could be invaluable in establishing culpability and cataloging your losses, so see that pictures are taken and videos are shot that capture the positioning of the vehicles and other evidentiary details like skid marks.  
  • Exchange information – Because you may not have any case at all if you do not know who the defendants are, exchange essential information with the driver who hit you, such as: 
  • Name 
  • Address 
  • Phone number 
  • Email 
  • Driver’s license 
  • License plate 
  • Vehicle year, make, and model 
  • Insurance company and policy number 

Try to take down the names and numbers of anyone who witnessed the motorcycle accident as well, as they could provide independent confirmation of what transpired. 

  • Notify your insurance company – Your auto insurance company should be notified promptly so that you can remain in compliance with your policy and access its benefits, which could include reimbursement for towing, repairs, rentals, and physician visits.   
  • Avoid other insurance carriers – Your insurer will want to ask you myriad questions about the motorcycle accident – and so will the insurance carriers for the other parties.  However, anything you say to those other carriers could be used to undermine your case, so it may be best to avoid them if you can, at least until you…  
  • Talk to a motorcycle accident attorney – A knowledgeable lawyer can analyze your motorcycle accident and choose the best course of action for getting you a top settlement or verdict. 

What Is a Motorcycle Accident Worth? 

But what would constitute a top settlement or verdict for a motorcycle accident?  Or, to put it more plainly, what is a motorcycle accident worth? 

Jury verdict research by Thomson Reuters has calculated the median motorcycle injury verdict after a personal injury trial to be about $73,700.00, though motorcycle accident cases could settle for far less or far more than that figure because every motorcycle accident case is unique, with unique elements that could influence how much a plaintiff could be compensated.  These elements include: 

Fault 

You will need to prove that somebody else was at fault for your motorcycle accident if you hope to receive anything for it.  If the fault lies solely with someone else, that individual or entity would be solely liable for your damages.  In the case of a motorcycle accident, the at-fault parties could include: 

  • The driver of the vehicle who hit you 
  • The owner of that vehicle (if separate from the driver) 
  • A company making use of that vehicle commercially 
  • A mechanic if improper servicing of that vehicle or of your motorcycle led to the motorcycle accident 
  • The manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of a defective part that contributed to the accident 
  • A government body when the accident was brought about by poor road maintenance  
  • Contractors hired by that government body to work on that road 

…and perhaps other parties as well.  In some instances, multiple parties could share varying degrees of civil liability for a single motorcycle accident, for which they might share varying degrees of fiscal liability.  Alternatively, there may be other instances in which the fault would lie entirely with you, meaning that there would be no outside party to pursue.   

But there are some situations in which both you and another party could share blame for a motorcycle accident.  When this happens, you will only be able to recover for your losses if you can show that the other party was MORE at fault than you were, and the amount that you recover may be reduced in proportion to your own level of fault. 

Damages  

Assuming you have found someone who is sufficiently at fault for your motorcycle accident to justify a claim or a lawsuit, how much you can get through such a claim or lawsuit will be driven by the extent of the damages you have incurred.  These damages can take many forms, and a skilled motorcycle accident attorney will work tirelessly to ensure that your settlement or verdict reflects all of them, including: 

  • Past, present, and future medical bills 
  • Lost income 
  • Reduction of your long-term earning capacity 
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Mental and emotional anguish  
  • Diminished quality of living 
  • Mobility restrictions 
  • Loss of consortium 
  • Punitive and wrongful death damages (if relevant) 

The more significant your damages are, the more significant your motorcycle accident settlement can be.  Thus, if you only went to the emergency room once and were able to restore your health completely after your motorcycle accident, your settlement would be far less than if you had to undergo multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitation and were left with permanent disabilities.   

But even if your damages merit a substantial settlement package, whether or not you actually obtain one will be decided by the… 

Insurance Coverage 

You could have cataclysmic motorcycle accident damages and garner little or nothing for them if the insurance coverage of the defendants is either inadequate or nonexistent.   

For example, imagine your medical bills after the motorcycle accident add up to $100,000.00, but the driver who caused the accident only carries a $25,000.00 auto insurance policy on his or her vehicle.  The most you would be able to recover from that policy would be $25,000.00, leaving you on your own for the remaining $75,000.00 of your medical bills, not to mention your lost wages and other damages.  On the other hand, if you were injured in an identical motorcycle accident, but the driver who hurt you carries $1 million of applicable insurance coverage, you might be able to secure a settlement or verdict that is equal to your losses. 

As you can see, the amount of insurance coverage can make a huge difference in your motorcycle accident case, so it is crucial that you identify all possible avenues of recovery, both from every potential defendant and even from yourself if you have an uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) policy on your motorcycle.  You could even attempt to go after a defendant’s personal assets if his or her insurance coverage is lacking, though those assets will probably be lacking as well. 

Bias Against Motorcyclists 

Before we wrap up, we should touch on how widespread bias against motorcyclists could negatively affect your motorcycle accident settlement.  It may be unfair, but many members of the public view riders as fundamentally reckless, and they may bring their views with them when they serve on a jury for a motorcycle accident trial.   

And you can bet that the insurance company will have no qualms about exploiting this bias to settle your claim for pennies on the dollar.  This is why you should retain a trial-tested motorcycle accident lawyer who can credibly threaten to go to court.  By presenting an airtight case that fully conveys both the guilt of the defendants and your own losses, your attorney can overcome a jury’s prejudices and get you what you deserve. 

Getting Justice for Motorcycle Accident Victims 

A motorcycle accident can turn your world upside down, making it harder to make ends meet, much less acquire the resources to stave off ruin.  But if you have been injured because of somebody else’s negligence, turn to Hensley Legal Group, where we have been getting justice for motorcycle accident victims since 1998. 

Schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Indiana motorcycle accident lawyer by calling or texting us at (317) 472-3333, chatting with us online, or filling out our contact form at your earliest convenience.