There are more than 8.5 million motorcycles registered in the U.S. with California accounting for 881,386 of them. The ability to get out onto the open road and enjoy a view unobstructed by the glass and steel that surround occupants of other vehicles is one reason why motorcycles are so popular. This also puts riders and passengers at greater risk of serious injuries and death in the event of a collision.
Motorcycle riders are 26 times more likely to die in an accident than are the occupants of other types of motor vehicles. About 88,000 motorcycle riders and their passengers are injured in nonfatal accidents each year in the U.S. If you are injured or a loved one is killed in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence of another party, you could be entitled to seek compensation through a motorcycle personal injury lawsuit.
When To Hire a Motorcycle Personal Injury Lawyer
Your claim for compensation for the injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident is classified as a civil lawsuit. This is in contrast to a case involving a violation of the state’s criminal code, such as assault or drug possession, which is a criminal matter handled in the state’s criminal courts.
A motorcycle personal injury lawyer is one whose practice usually is limited to handling claims on behalf of accident victims. The websites and advertising of many lawyers claim the firms handle personal injury cases along with an array of other types of cases, including criminal defense, real estate, and trusts and estates.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, you might receive letters from lawyers offering their services to handle your case. The State Bar of California regulates lawyer solicitation and advertising, including the sending of letters to accident victims. Although letters soliciting clients may be a legitimate practice, you must do your research to ensure the attorney you depend upon to obtain maximum compensation for you has the skills, knowledge and years of experience to be capable of doing so.
Instead of a law firm that relies upon solicitation letters to generate a high volume of cases that can be settled quickly, you want an attorney willing to devote the time and resources to maximize the outcome. Motorcycle personal injury lawyers with significant experience in the courtroom pursuing claims for accident victims through jury and non-jury trials usually have built reputations as being willing to do all that is necessary to achieve the best possible result for their clients.
Questions to Ask a Motorcycle Personal Injury Lawyer
Finding an experienced motorcycle personal injury lawyer takes some effort on your part, but doing so can make a big difference in the final outcome of your claim for compensation. Most motorcycle personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to offer prospective clients the opportunity to have their cases evaluated and to ask questions about the claim and, more importantly, about the qualifications and experience of the lawyer.
Take advantage of the offer of a free consultation to interview a few motorcycle personal injury lawyers before hiring one to handle your claim. Recommendations from friends and relatives might be helpful to get the names of lawyers, but it is up to you to meet with the person to determine if he or she is the motorcycle injury lawyer you want handling your claim. Here are a few questions to help you gather the information needed to make the right decision.
1. Is the lawyer’s practice limited to motorcycle personal injury?
There is nothing wrong with being a jack-of-all-trades and many of the more than 170,000 attorneys in California handle multiple areas of the law, including motorcycle personal injury with varying degrees of success. However, the ability to investigate and assess the value of a personal injury claim requires the lawyer to have the experience and knowledge that can only be developed through years of actually handling cases similar to yours from intake through trial.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, you want an attorney who knows and understands how motorcycles are ridden and the particular risks confronting riders and their passengers. Retaining the services of a motorcycle personal injury lawyer with experience handling motorcycle accidents means your lawyer knows what to look for when investigating the accident and assessing the strength of your claim.
2. How many cases similar to yours has the attorney successfully taken to trial?
The vast majority of personal injury claims are settled before they go to trial. In fact, a study by the federal government found that only 3 percent of civil cases arising from motor vehicle accidents ever went to trial. Some attorneys and law firms prefer to settle cases as quickly as possible to avoid the time and expense needed to properly prepare a case for trial.
A settlement can be good for the accident victim, but not when the lawyer’s reputation for settling cases and avoiding trials causes insurance company claims adjusters to offer less than the case is actually worth. Motorcycle personal injury lawyers with considerable trial experience can reject low settlement offers and hold out for more because insurance adjusters know the lawyer is capable of taking the case to trial.
3. What is the lawyer’s record of verdicts and settlements in motorcycle personal injury claims?
Past verdicts and settlements are not a guarantee of future outcomes in similar cases, but they do provide you with an indication of the motorcycle personal injury lawyers negotiating abilities and willingness to pursue a trial when necessary. When asking about prior verdicts and settlements, make certain to ask for the dates associated with them. Some attorneys will be more than willing to share their courtroom triumphs with a prospective client, but you want the information to show you the lawyer remains active in the courtroom as well as in pre-trial negotiations.
4. What legal organizations does the lawyer belong to that are related to personal injury?
Active membership bar association or trial lawyer organizations helps attorneys remain in their particular area of the law. A personal injury lawyer active in his or her state bar association or national associations devoted to trial advocacy and personal injury law is a good sign that the attorney is making the effort to remain up-to-date on the most effective trial strategies, laws, and techniques for resolving accident victim claims.
5. Who will handle your case?
You might assume the lawyer you speak with during the initial consultation will be handling your case, but you could be wrong. Some law firms routinely assign associates and paralegals to handle various aspects of a motorcycle personal injury case. It is not uncommon for the preparation of the documents necessary to start your lawsuit to be assigned to a paralegal, which is fine as long as you know the attorney you thought was going to handle your case retains ultimate responsibility for it.
6. What is the attorney’s current caseload?
If the office has files scattered about and the lawyer is interrupted by calls or staff members interrupting with questions about pending cases, the person might be too busy to give your claim the attention it needs and deserves. Ask the lawyer how long it will be before work will begin on your case. Unless work will begin immediately, the attorney might be too busy to handle your claim.
7. What is expected of you?
Some clients expect their attorney to handle everything with as little input from them as possible while others want to actively participate. Discuss your preference with the lawyer during the initial interview to make certain you are both in agreement.
8. Will the lawyer allow you to speak with a past client with a claim similar to your own?
A lawyer’s website might contain testimonials from current or past clients, but these should not be a substitute for speaking with the client to ask questions. Of course, the lawyer is not going to give you the name of a disgruntled client, but someone who went through a case similar to yours can tell you about the lawyer’s responsiveness to questions, the ease of communicating with the firm’s support staff and the ability of the attorney to keep the client informed during all stages of the case.
9. How much is the case worth?
Evaluating the value of your claim is where the experience of the motorcycle personal injury lawyer really comes into play. Through a review of the facts of the case and the injuries you suffered, the attorney should be in a position to give you an estimate of its value based upon similar cases he or she has handled in the past.
10. What fees will the attorney charge?
Most motorcycle personal injury claims are usually handled under a contingency fee arrangement between you and your lawyer. The written retainer agreement states that the lawyer is agreeing to represent you for an agreed upon percentage of the amount recovered for you through settlement or verdict. The percentage is negotiable between the client and the lawyer, but the average is usually 33 percent of the recovery.
It is essential for you to take the time to read and make certain you understand the fee agreement before signing it. The law permits the lawyer to include in the agreement that disbursements and costs advanced by the lawyer to pursue the can be recovered regardless of the outcome of the case. In other words, you could lose and still be liable to your lawyer for disbursements for court fees, the cost of depositions and for fees paid to medical and other experts testifying at trial in support of your claim.
The benefit of a contingency fee arrangement should not be overlooked. The average person seriously injured in a motorcycle accident is not going to have access to the funds needed to finance a lawsuit against a negligent party, including the fees a topnotch motorcycle personal injury lawyer would charge. Contingency fee agreements give you access to experienced and skilled motorcycle personal injury lawyers to allow you to pursue your claim.
11. Does the lawyer have the financial resources to properly handle the case?
The out-of-pocket costs associated with a motorcycle personal injury lawsuit are fronted by your attorney. It is fair and appropriate to ask the lawyer you are interviewing if he or she has the financial resources required to see your case through to a verdict after trial. Read more to know about Hire a motorcycle accident lawyer
According to studies reported in the “DePaul Law Review,” the expenses could be as high as 5 percent of the gross recovery ultimately obtained on behave of the accident victim. Unless the attorney you choose to represent you has the resources to advance the expenses, the fight your lawyer can wage on your behalf will be restricted and could affect the amount of your compensation.
Contact a California Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
If you have been injured or a loved one killed in a motorcycle accident, there is a lot at stake. Choosing the right motorcycle personal injury lawyer to affect the success or failure of your claim for compensation. The lawyer you choose must be capable of taking on insurance companies and defense attorneys whose objective is to pay as little as possible to resolve your claim. The answers you receive to the questions suggested here will go a long way toward helping you make an informed decision about a motorcycle personal injury lawyer, so begin by calling a motorcycle accident lawyer.