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Oregon: What to do before and after a motorcycle accident

Posted 04-01-2012 at 09:11 AM by caslaw

Those of you who know me know that I am an attorney.

I will follow this with a blog entry about what to do in Washington. In the meantime, while some of the legal information will be different in other states, the basis premise is the same.

DISCLAIMER (you knew there would be one): The information in this blog post is not intended as legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

So here are my tips:

BEFORE AN ACCIDENT:

Motorcycle Safety


Rider Training:
If you are new to motorcycling, or you are returning to motorcycling, rider training courses are available through Team Oregon. This is also now required in Oregon for new endorsements.

Safety Gear: In Oregon helmets are required. Optional protective gear includes motorcycle boots, gloves, pants, jackets, and armor. Gear has evolved over the years and includes many materials such as leather, kevlar, specialty nylon and polyester materials, CE-approved armor, and even carbon fiber. Gear is also now available in high-visibility colors.

Motorcycle Maintenance: The mechanical condition of your motorcycle is important to your personal safety. Tire condition, brakes, and other mechanical aspects of your motorcycle should be maintained in a good and safe condition. A pre-ride inspection of tire inflation, brake condition, fluids, and other conditions takes just a few minutes but can make a difference.

See and Be Seen: Always be aware of your surroundings, adjusting your riding to the environmental conditions. Ride with the assumption that you are not seen. Most accidents occur because automobile drivers (cagers) do not see the motorcyclist and pull out in front of them. While you cannot control what cagers will do, you can help ensure your best reaction when they do the unexpected.


Ride Your Own Ride: Always ride within your own limits. Don't try to ride to other riders' limits. Many single-vehicle motorcycle accidents happen because riders push themselves and their bike beyond their limits and the limits of the riding conditions.

Insure Yourself

Motorcycle Insurance:
You should consider insurance as insurance to protect yourself instead of insurance to protect others. Oregon law only requires 25/50 liability and Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. What minimum coverage means is that if you are in an accident in Oregon and a cager with minimum limits or no insurance pulls out in front of you, there will be only $25,000 total coverage for your injuries. A helicopter ambulance to the hospital trauma unit will exceed this amount on the first day. A lot of riders buy the cheapest insurance policy with minimum limits in order to comply with the law on the assumption that they are insuring others who are not likely to be seriously injured as the result of a motorcycle. In truth, the more coverage you buy, the cheaper it is. That first 25/50 over coverage usually costs more than the amount it would cost to increase that coverage to 100/300 or even 250/500. I have seen too many injury victims in my office with serious injuries and only $25,000 in coverage.


Health Insurance:
Most motorcycle insurance policies provide for only $5,000 in medical coverage (regardless of fault). If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, your access to medical care is critical. Health insurance is the most effective means of insuring that you get the medical treatment that you need and that you do not suffer a financial injury on top of your personal injury.


Disability Insurance:
If you are unable to work as a result of an accident, you will need to protect yourself from the lost wages you will suffer during your recovery. Most motorcycle policies do not provide for wage loss. Private short-term and long-term disability policies may be available through your employer and are available on the private market.

AFTER AN ACCIDENT

Medical Treatment

Get Help at the Scene: Do not hesitate to accept help from witnesses and do not hesitate to flag someone down if no one else is at the scene. Have them call 911 for police and medical assistance. Let a witness move your motorcycle if it needs to be moved. Many riders will react to their motorcycle instead of their own injuries, often by lifting up their motorcycle and moving it. As much as you may love your motorcycle, its value is minor when compared to your health and safety. Find a safe place to stay still until medical help arrives.


Ambulance: If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, do not hesitate to take an ambulance. Most injury victims are not aware of the extent of their injuries due to shock. If you are hurt you should not try to ride your bike. Take the ambulance to the hospital and call a friend to meet you there.


Hospital: Do not decline diagnostic tests. Get any X rays, MRI's, CT scans, or other tests that medical professionals suggest. Knowing the full extent of your injuries as soon as possible will aid your recovery and reduce the chances of concealed injuries going untreated.


Follow-up Care:
Follow up with your primary care doctor. It is good to have a familiar physician serve as the gateway for your medical treatment. See any recommended specialists and comply with physical therapy, chiropractic care, or home exercises that are prescribed. While it is inconvenient to have to attend multiple appointments, the temporary inconvenience of these appointments pales in comparison to the life-long inconvenience that comes from a poor recovery from injuries.


Protect Your Legal Rights

Protect Yourself at the Accident Scene:
If you are physically able, call 911 for assistance and get contact information from witnesses. If you are not able to do this yourself, request assistance from a witness or bystander and ask them to call 911 and get witness information for you. This is particularly important if your are involved in a hit-and-run or phantom vehicle accident. Many insurance companies will deny coverage in these types of cases where there are no witnesses or other corroborating evidence. If the police respond to the accident, be sure to give them information (if you can) so that the police report contains both sides of the accident story.


Keep the Details of Your Accident and Injuries Private: This is probably the most common mistake I see. DO NOT post details about your accident and injuries in public forums or on Facebook. Let friends and family that care about you know about your condition privately. Insurance adjusters and attorneys know how to use the internet too. They can search public forums for your posts and use the information against you. It is now standard practice for insurance defense attorneys to request information from your Facebook account.


Cooperate With Your Own Insurance Company:
You are required to cooperate with your own insurance company as a condition of your coverage. If you have medical and wage loss coverage, your insurance company will be making payments for your medical care and compensating you for your wage loss. You may also have Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage that will compensate you for your injuries. If you have collision coverage, your insurance company will pay for the repair or replacement of your motorcycle.


Speak to the Other Insurance Company Only if You Have to:
The other party's insurance company will not be providing you with any financial benefit while you are recovering from your injuries. You should only speak to the other party's insurance company if you do not have collision coverage and need them to pay for the repair or replacement of your motorcycle. If you do need to do this, do not discuss your physical injuries. Politely decline to speak about your physical condition. The insurance adjuster will do his or her best to make it sound like you need to speak to them and that they are trying to help you. This is not true. They represent the other party's interest which is adverse to your interest. This does not make them bad people, just people whose job it is to work against your interest.


Retain an Experienced Motorcycle Attorney: Most people think that they do not need an attorney and that an attorney will just take 1/3 of their financial recovery leaving them with only 2/3 of what they would have received had they not had an attorney. One of the major insurance companies got into trouble because they sent out brochures with this message to injury victims. When you consider why an insurance company would do this, it makes perfect sense. Injury victims with attorneys have greater financial recoveries than those without attorneys -- and this costs the insurance company more money. Making a major legal decision without an attorney makes as much sense as making a major medical decision without a doctor. Since almost all attorneys charge a contingent fee (they recover a percentage of your recovery) it makes sense to retain an attorney early in the process. You are going to pay the same amount for the attorney, so you might as well have one throughout the process. This will also minimize the mistakes you might make on your claim without an attorney. You should also retain an attorney with specific experience in motorcycle cases as they involve unique issues when compared to other accidents.


Don't Put This Off: The statute of limitations in Oregon for motorcycle accidents is two years. If your accident involves a public entity such as the State, a City, or a County, you are required to give notice of your claim (tort notice) within 180 days of your accident. If you fail to timely file suit or give tort notice, your legal rights will be lost.
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