If you suffered a severe injury from a rear-end motorcycle collision, you might have questions about your right to compensation and how to access it. Utah’s personal injury laws allow you to seek damages from the person who caused your accident and injuries, but first, you must build a case with evidence to support your claim, and often, a lawsuit is not the first step.
Do You Need To File a Lawsuit To Access Compensation for a Rear-End Motorcycle Collision?
Utah’s no-fault auto insurance policy does not apply to motorcycle owners. Therefore, if another driver crashes into your motorcycle, causing injury, you can sue them in civil court for damages. The first, and often a more efficient option, is to file a claim with their insurance provider. However, if you face a combative insurance adjuster, you may need to file a lawsuit to ensure a fair settlement. Signs the insurer is uncooperative include:
- Denying your claim without reason or for an invalid reason
- Not conducting a prompt investigation into your claim
- Demanding unnecessary documentation
- Using aggressive or harsh language during communications, often accusatory
- Misrepresenting the policy’s language to suit the company’s best interest
Occasionally, insurers will act in bad faith to frustrate you into accepting a lowball offer or to give up on your claim. Sometimes they want to run out the clock on the statute of limitations to ensure you cannot file a lawsuit. If you suspect the insurance company of using bad faith tactics, you may benefit from speaking with a motorcycle accident lawyer.
Who Is at Fault for a Rear-End Motorcycle Collision?
The first step in filing an at-fault claim is identifying who is at fault for your accident. For example, in a rear-end collision, the driver in the back is nearly always responsible. That is because most rear-end collisions result from the back driver’s negligence.
Common Causes for Rear-End Collisions
Only under specific circumstances could the driver in the front be liable for a rear-end collision. For example, suppose your brake lights do not work correctly, or you decide to hit the brakes abruptly without reason. You could be liable for the accident and resulting damages for those reasons. However, the most common causes of rear-end collisions place liability on the other driver:
- Distracted drivers can miss necessary traffic signals or overlook smaller vehicles like motorcycles.
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol decreases reaction time and impairs the driver’s ability to make snap judgments.
- Tailgating is a form of reckless driving that leaves little room between both vehicles to stop when necessary.
- Driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. Extreme fatigue can affect a person’s ability to focus and make decisions.
When the police arrive at the scene of your crash, they investigate the circumstances and document their findings in a report. In addition, because fault is generally straightforward in rear-end collisions, they will typically describe who they believe is at fault for the accident, which can serve as solid evidence for your claim.
What Damages Can You Claim in a Lawsuit?
When filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit, you must list the losses you incurred due to the accident. Utah tort law refers to all recoverable losses as compensatory damages, including economic and non-economic damages. As you build your claim or work with your attorney to build it, you will gather evidence to support every loss you list. While all motorcycle accidents have unique circumstances, most have some of the following damages in common.
Economic damages are your monetary losses. These have tangible evidence, such as medical bills, pay stubs and receipts. Most claims will include some variation of the following:
- Lost income. You can claim the wages you lost or continue to lose during recovery. If your injuries took away your ability to do the job duties you had before the accident, you could also claim the loss of earning capacity.
- The cost of medical care. You can recover any expenses for necessary medical treatments, including ongoing care.
- Property damage. The at-fault party is liable to repair or replace your motorcycle and any other damaged property.
- Replacement services. If you need household help or childcare services, you can also claim those expenses. Any expense you paid to accommodate your injuries is potentially recoverable.
Identifying and proving economic damages is usually a straightforward process. It helps to keep track of medical bills, receipts, estimates and other documentation of expenses as you navigate the aftermath of your accident.
Mental and Emotional Impact
Your non-economic damages are slightly less easy to identify if you do not have experience in tort law. For example, you can claim the following:
- Pain and suffering. This includes the physical pain you suffered from your injuries and the treatments you had to endure.
- Emotional distress and mental anguish. Severe injuries can negatively impact your mental health. For example, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are common after a serious auto accident.
- Loss of consortium. If your injuries impacted your ability to have an intimate relationship with your spouse, you could also claim that as a loss.
- Loss of enjoyment in life. Severe injuries can impact every aspect of life. You deserve compensation for the time you lost enjoying your life.
These damages have no inherent economic value, but they can account for a substantial amount of your claim. Therefore, a critical element of the case-building process is to value your psychological losses. The most common method in Utah civil court is to use a number between 1.5 and 5 and multiply it by the total value of your medical expenses. The calculations must reasonably reflect the severity of your injuries.
Punitive damages do not fall under compensatory losses. The court will only award punitive damages in cases where the defendant’s actions constitute gross negligence or maliciousness. For example, suppose the at-fault driver intentionally hit you or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and driving recklessly at the time of the crash. In that case, the court may require them to pay punitive damages as punishment for that conduct and to deter similar behavior.
Utah does not impose a cap on the amount of punitive damages you can request, but an award for punitive damages is rare in motorcycle accident cases. Additionally, it will only consider reasonable requests.
Do You Need Legal Representation To File a Lawsuit?
No law requires you to hire an attorney to handle a claim or lawsuit for a rear-end motorcycle collision or any personal injury case. However, with a legal representative, you can focus on healing while your attorney takes care of all the paperwork and builds your case. They also handle all communications with the insurance company and will negotiate for a faster and fairer settlement so that you can rebuild your life.
When Should You Talk to a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?
If you have questions about the details of your case, you can contact a motorcycle accident lawyer. An experienced attorney can guide you to the legal options available to help you recover your losses. The attorneys at Siegfried and Jensen have served personal injury victims in Utah for over 30 years. We understand the burdens you face and the need to hold the negligent driver accountable for their actions and the damage they caused. Contact us at (801) 845-9000 to schedule your free consultation and speak with an experienced lawyer today.