Motorcyclist are 10 times more likely to be injured and 35 times more likely to die than passengers in a car crash. With the increase in popularity or motorcycles, there are more and more motorcycle accidents each year. In the past, most motorcycle accident cases involved young riders (18-25) on sport bikes. But recently, I have seen a trend to more and more motorcycle accidents involving riders over 40 and in my case over 50 years old.
Most cases we handle involve Failure to Yield or Left Turn (CVC 21801a) in which a car turns directly into your path at an intersection, Unsafe Lane Change or “Exit” cases which occur on the freeway, where a driver crosses into you or your path. We also take on the difficult cases where the Traffic Collision Report alleges the motorcyclist is primarily at fault for riding at Unsafe Speed (CVC 22350) or for making an Unsafe Lane Change (CVC 21658a).
Tom Reinecke has served as a former Traffic Judge pro tem in California Superior Court.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, you need the Best Motorcycle Lawyer. Attorney Tom Reinecke has been recognized as the “Top Gun” of motorcycle accident attorneys in Southern California. The Reinecke Law Firm are Real Lawyers that get Real Results. We are not a referral service. We have offices serving Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire and San Diego.
For more information about what you should do after a motorcycle accident, see our motorcycle accident information page or call us at (800) 275-8326.
Never, ever give a written or recorded statement to any insurance company without contacting a motorcycle accident attorney first. The questions asked by the insurance company are designed to have you either admit liability or admit to being partially at fault for causing or contributing to the accident. YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT – CALL AN ATTORNEY
MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS AN OVERVIEW
Riding motorcycles is a popular activity and motorcycle registrations are on the rise. Despite their popularity, the inherent nature of motorcycles makes riding them a potentially dangerous undertaking. Unlike cars and other vehicles, motorcycles offer drivers and passengers no protection. There is nothing between the rider and the open road other than the clothes the rider is wearing and possibly a helmet. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact The Reinecke Law Firm in Serving All of Southern California, California, to schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney who can explain your legal options.
COMMON CAUSES OF MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS
Motorcycle accidents, like all accidents involving motor vehicles, can be caused by a number of different factors. While an accident can be the fault of the motorcycle driver, many times, other drivers cause accidents involving motorcycles. Because of a motorcycle’s relatively small size, many drivers of passenger cars and trucks do not see motorcyclists. Even if they check their mirrors before changing lanes or turning, the motorcycle may be in the car’s blind spot, and an accident may result.
MOTORCYCLE LITIGATION BASICS
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may have many questions about your legal options. You may have never been involved in a lawsuit before and not know where to start. The following information provides a general overview about motorcycle accident cases.
MOTORCYCLE DEFECTS AND RECALLS
A defect in a motorcycle or one of its parts can cause serious accidents. For example, a defective helmet might not provide the protection it is intended to, resulting in more serious head injuries. A defect in the brakes may not allow you to stop in time to avoid an accident. If you suspect that your motorcycle has a dangerous safety defect, you can report this defect to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency tasked with investigating alleged defects, issuing safety standards for vehicles and requiring manufacturers to recall vehicles that do not meet federal safety standards.
MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT RESOURCES
American Motorcyclists Association – An organization that pursues, protects and promotes the interests of motorcycle enthusiasts.
Bikers Rights Online – Devoted to motorcycle riders’ rights, this site includes articles, studies and a review of helmet laws that is searchable by state.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety site features vehicle ratings, safety facts and publications.
Motorcycle Consumer News – An advertising-free, multi-faceted resource for the motorcycling public.
Don’t discuss your accident or injuries with anyone!
Only discuss the accident or injuries with your doctor and your assigned Property Damage Adjustor. Most importantly, don’t give any written or recorded statements to anyone, especially representatives from the insurance company.
Do speak with the insurance company regarding your motorcycle damage, car rental, storage, and towing costs.
If the Property Damage Adjustor has not already done so, they will be contacting you in the next few days to arrange for the inspection of your motorcycle. However, speak with them regarding your property damage claim!
Don’t give a written or recorded statement to anyone.
If your vehicle has been towed and is being stored, lower the amount of your damages by calling the storage yard to “release” your vehicle to the insurance company, or move your vehicle to “fee free” location.
Do follow your doctor’s medical advice.
Only by following your doctor’s advice can you hope to fully recover from your injuries. Make sure you tell your doctor everything about your injuries. Do not exaggerate, but at the same time do not understate the extent of your pain or injuries. Keep in mind that your doctor or nurse will write down in your medical chart everything you tell them regarding your complaints and injuries. If you do not tell them about all your injuries, they will not be noted in your medical records. This could present a problem if you or your attorney needs to verify a particular injury and you did not tell your doctor of all your symptoms.
Do be thorough when telling medical professionals about your injuries.
Doctors and nurses will record everything you tell them regarding your complaints and injuries in your medical chart. If you do not tell them about your injuries, your medical records will be incomplete and could affect the outcome of your case.
Don’t sign anything.
Insurance companies sometimes offer a quick settlement and request that you sign a General Release which will take away your right to seek compensation in the future. We recommend that you consult with an auto accident attorney for advice before signing any document that might affect your rights.
Do contact an auto accident attorney immediately if the insurance company treats you unfairly.
1) The insurance company does not return calls within a reasonable period of time.
2) The insurance company has not inspected your motorcycle.
3) The insurance company has failed to pay for your motorcycle repairs, rental expenses, aftermarket parts or other damaged personal property.
4) The insurance company has not paid all of your medical bills.
Do keep track of medical bills and other expenses.
Please keep detailed and accurate records of all your accident related expenses, including bills for doctors, hospitals, ambulance transportation, physical therapy, drugs, nursing, and household expenses. Also keep track of what you spend on taxi fares, rental cars, estimates of repair, and any other bills connected with your case. Save all bills and ask for receipts. Each bill may help to increase the value of your case.
Do make sure your health insurance pays for all your medical bills.
Even though someone else may be at fault for your accident, you are still personally responsible for the payment of all of your medical bills until your case is settled or resolved. As such, if you have health insurance, be sure to submit all of your medical bills to your health insurance company for payment. If necessary, consult with your doctors or healthcare providers to confirm that they have sent all your medical bills to your health insurance company. Any delay in doing so may affect coverage for the bills and render you personally responsible for paying them.
If you do not have private or public health insurance, please contact a customer service representative at your hospital or doctor’s office to see if you are eligible for various Federal, State, or private programs that are available to the public to assist in the paying of hospital charges. Applications for Medi-Cal, MSI, and Healthy Families (for minors only) can be obtained through our office. At The Reinecke Law Firm, we can also refer you to a doctor or medical specialist.
Do obtain and preserve the following documents and evidence:
1) Photographs of you showing any visible injuries.
2) Photographs of damage to your motorcycle.
3) Your Motorcycle Repair Estimate showing your deductible.
4) Your Health Insurance Card (front and back).
5) Your Motorcycle Liability Insurance Declaration page.
6) The names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses.
7) All medical, emergency room, hospital and ambulance bills.
8) Any collection or late notices related to your case.
Many of my clients and fellow motorcycle riders often times modify or upgrade their stock (OEM) exhaust systems with new full exhaust or “slip ons” to get a strong, aggressive sound. Mods also lessons the airflow from the engine, increases power and it’s lighter all giving better performance and it also improves the bike’s appearance. (My favorite slip-ons are Yoshimura R-77D. Twin Bros. M2 Black and any Vance Hines. I also like Rinehart Duals and Xtremes for Harley-Davidsons.)
But before you switch to a slip-on muffler or an entirely new set of pipes it’s important to know the law and the 2019 changes. The California Vehicle Code §27202 has the table of exhaust noise:
Pre 1970 93dBA
1970 – 1972 88dBA
1973 – 1974 86dBA
1975 – 1985 83dba
1986 – Current 80dBA (Credit Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger)
First, all manufacturers and aftermarket providers comply with these rules. Straight off the showroom floor, Harley exhaust systems emit noise as high as 80 decibels (dBs). For reference, a typical car idling emits noise at 35-45dBA and a lawn mower is 95dBA.
California Vehicle Code §21750- Adequate Muffler states every motor vehicle must have an adequate muffler to prevent “any excessive or unusual noise” and “no muffler hall be equipped with a cutout, bypass or similar device”.
California Vehicle Code §21751- Modification of Exhaust System states “No person shall modify the exhaust system” which will “amplify or increase the noise emitted.”
The New Muffler Law (effective January 1, 2019) – Previously a motorcyclist was simply cited with a “Fix-it Ticket” for a modified or excessively loud exhaust which could be corrected. The old law allowed you to “fix” your exhaust symptom within thirty (30) days and provide proof to avoid a fine.
However, on January 1, 2019, the NEW LAW mandates a traffic ticket for a “modified or loud exhaust or muffler system” with a mandatory fine of up to $1,000.00 with the first offenses is a mandatory $100.00, second offense a mandatory $250.00. So cut outs, bypasses, straight pipes or exhausts with holes are now illegal. No more fix-it tickets.
So you’re in a motorcycle accident. You are transported by ambulance to the hospital. And the next day you have no idea where your bike is. All you have, hopefully is a little card for the CHP or Police Department with the report number. So what do you do?
CHP or Police Department:
The first thing you, or your lawyer, will do will to call the responding CHP office (address typed on card) or the responding Police Department and ask where the bike is. If they do not know, ask the what tow yards are you “contracted” with usually it’s 3 or 4 tow yards. Then call the tow yards and give them the date time, description of you bike which will include with the license number or the last four of the VIN. Hopefully, you have located your bike.
“Liability Only” or “No Insurance”:
The next issue is what type of insurance coverage you have. If you have “liability only” insurance coverage this means you only have bodily injury and property damage coverage at least the legal requirement in California (bodily injury coverage of $15,000.00 per person, $30,000.00 per accident (more than one claimant) and $5,000.00 property damage coverage) that you cause to other people or property. This means you have no “collision coverage” for the repair or replacement of your bike.
This means you are “at the mercy of the other insurance” and you have to make a claim with the third party/ driver at fault’s insurance company for the towing, storage, repair and/or replacement of your motorcycle. This is also the case if you have “no insurance”.
The issue arises is that the Traffic Collision Report will take ten days (CHP) or worse, 30 Days (Police Departments), to be completed. In the meantime, the other driver’s insurance company almost always will say they are “investigating liability” pending receipt of the Traffic Collision Report They will also say that you have what is called a “Duty to Mitigate” your damages. This means, that YOU have a duty to get the bike out of the tow yard by paying the towing and storage bill even though you were not at fault! So you need to stop the storage charges by moving your bike to a “fee free” location and to stop a potential “Lien Sale”. If you don’t get the bike out, the insurance company will argue that you didn’t “mitigate your damages” and will only pay a portion of your storage bill.
Only after both liability and coverage of the driver at fault is confirmed, can you seek reimbursement for the insurance company for the towing and storage bills. The average towing and storage bill in 2018 was $584.00.
“Full Coverage” Insurance:
If you have what is called “Full Coverage” insurance you have comprehensive and “collision coverage” which means you purchased insurance to pay for the repair or replacement of your damaged motorcycle. Collison coverage includes towing if you are involved in an accident.
However, storage and towing expenses paid under collision or comprehensive coverage are usually handled though reimbursement. This means you have to pay for the towing and storage and you insurance will reimburse you. However, the reimbursement may count toward your deductible. So you are still “out of pocket” for the bill unless you specifically purchased “Towing” coverage. Call your agent or look at your motorcycle insurance Declaration Page to see what type of insurance you purchased.
Even if you do have “Full Coverage”, insurance companies do not inspect motorcycles at tow yards. They will request that YOU move the bike (a second tow) to a repair location of your choice (I always recommend a dealer) to give an estimate of repair and send photographs of the damage to the assigned claims adjustor.
But I’m not at fault. Why should I use my insurance?
If you have “Full Coverage” insurance, ALWAYS use your insurance to pay for the repairs or replacement of your motorcycle. Why? Because if you go through the “driver at fault’s” insurance you will get screwed! The other side’s insurance company has no duty to be fair, just or reasonable.
The “driver at fault’s” insurance will first try to allege that you were somehow partially at fault for the collision even though you did absolutely nothing wrong and the Traffic Collision Report and facts have the driver at 100% at fault. Due to inherent bias against (and downright hatred) of motorcyclist, the insurance companies will claim you were speeding (most likely), inattentive or overreacted.
In addition, they have no contractual or statutory duties to be fair. They will “low ball” the estimate or repair failing to include aftermarket parts (pipes, upgrades chrome etc.) or further “low ball” a total loss offer using a third party company called CCC (Certified Collateral Corporation) to find low comps. to undervalue your bike. They will force you to accept their low offer or hire a lawyer and sue.
On the other hand, your own insurance has both no contractual or statutory duties to be fair, just and reasonable. The motorcycle repair work will be at a shop of your choice and the work will be guaranteed for life. If there is a problem, take it back and they will re-inspect and repair. As to a totaled bike, your insurance will also use CCC but they will accept internet (Cycle Trader) comps and will negotiate a fair settlement.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident and need answers, please call Tom Reinecke at (800) 275-8326.
About Thomas G. “Tom” Reinecke: Since 1987, Tom Reinecke has been a highest rated California Motorcycle Lawyer. A graduate of UCLA, former Superior Court Judge Pro Tem, and Author of California Motorcycle Law, Tom Reinecke has successfully handled thousands of motorcycle accident and injury cases.