Every motorcycle rider dreads the thought of getting into an accident. We know the statistics of getting into an accident on a motorcycle is staggering, but we still love to ride. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle riders are 29 times more likely to be in a fatal accident and about six time more likely to be in an accident. The thrill of being one with the road is what most riders love about it, though, and nothing will stop us.
I personally ride and have done so for years. While I practice personal injury law, this topic is truly near and dear to me, as I watch out for my fellow riders every day, and I want to make sure you see justice if you are injured in a motorcycle accident. So without further ado, here are the questions you should ask an attorney after you have been in a motorcycle accident.
1) Have You Ever Ridden a Motorcycle?
When you are choosing a motorcycle attorney, the reason this question is important is because of nuances of riding. They will ask questions about gear, road conditions, bike condition, and weather that simply aren’t pertinent in a vehicle collision. In a car, the fact that it is 90 degrees outside won’t matter. On a bike, however, you can talk about how the heat has added extra traction to your wheels and allows for better grip, so your reaction time would have resulted in a quicker maneuver and allowed you to escape a worse injury. These minor details are huge factors which can make or break a case.
A motorcycle injury attorney will understand all of these factors much better when they too ride a bike. Because they have been in the seat, they understand the thought process as well as the risks when riding. Lastly, you really want someone who understands what it means to be a rider. Its isn’t simply transportation or simply a case, it’s a lifestyle.
2) How Many Motorcycle Cases Have You Won?
Within the scope of personal injury law, there are many different topics. Asking your motorcycle accident attorney specifically about motorcycle accidents will ensure you get someone who has handled these cases and know how to win them.
You may think, though, that simply going to a law firm that only handles motorcycle injuries would be to your benefit, but probably not. You want to make sure that you are handled by a firm that know how to win cases in many different personal injury cases, as they can use their knowledge from a seemingly unrelated case to help win yours.
3) How Much Will This Cost Me?
This is one area where you are lucky. Most (but not all) personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. What this means is the lawyer does not get paid a dime unless you win. While this is fairly common practice, there are still some lawyers who will charge a fee for their services.
Due to the nature of motorcycle accidents and motorcycle riding, most cases where you are injured are typically the fault of the other party. If you are told by repeated attorneys that you will have to pay an up-front fee for representation, there is a high likelihood that you were at fault, even if you may not think so.
4) Will You Personally Be Working on My Case
You may have seen the advertising by some large firms that are named after one or two lawyers, but don’t be fooled… They will rarely be the ones to actually work on your case. Often times, those firms have dozens of attorneys and paralegals who will do the actual work and represent you at depositions and trial. While they may be very competent attorneys, this is a classic bait and switch.
Ideally, you should try and work with a smaller firm where you are dealing with the actual motorcycle attorney. At our law firm, Paternoster Law Group, for example, you will work directly with me, Glenn Paternoster. This ensures nothing gets lost in translation and everything we do together is completely bound by the attorney-client confidentiality that is crucial in every case.
5) Do You Have the Financial Resources to Properly Handle the Case
This is a tricky question to ask anyone, but it is one that you should absolutely ask. Fighting a case can take time and a lot of money. As stated earlier, most attorneys work on a contingency basis. Until the case is paid by the other party or their insurance, nobody actually sees any financial reward from the case.
You need to know that the attorney wont be unable to continue their practice if they don’t get paid. Before you start panicking, there are legal protections once you sign on with an attorney. They wont simply forget about you and leave you stranded. Many firms work with other firms and can transfer a case, but then neither party will work as hard to get you the most for your case.
Another scenario if the attorney can’t cover the costs fast enough is to take an early settlement. While the ultimate choice is yours, all attorneys will give you their opinion to get the best outcome. If your motorcycle injury attorney is feeling the pinch, they may suggest that you simply accept an early settlement offer and call it a win. While you may have gotten paid, there may be a chance that you could have received more if your attorney could have waited.
Just make sure the attorney you are working with has a great track record, has been in business for a number of years, and is open to answering a few tough questions on their side.
6) What Happens When We Go to Trial
If you have watched any television in the past decade, you have seen plenty of shows about trials and the drama therein. Sadly for us, this is not reality. Practicing law is not actually about the trial. It is about the paperwork and the preparation of documents and facts.
Going to trial is risky. The fact of the matter is trial relies on 12 infallible humans, all of whom make mistakes, have emotions, opinions, and judgement. While we wish this wasn’t the case, it is. My job as an attorney is to represent you and do our best to get you the largest settlement we can.
This is where the preparedness comes in. When we talk with the medical professionals, law enforcement, and the other parties involved, we craft a picture of the event. We become storytellers, and use that story to your advantage to get the best possible outcomes, preferably without going to trial, as this typically results in a quicker settlement for you.
But what happens if you NEED to go to trial? First off, you need to speak to an attorney to find out how much trial experience they have. There are many attorneys who simply wont go to trial. That should be a red flag. This is a sign they don’t have the confidence to win in front of non-legal professionals and are probably the wrong fit.
Trial will require you to be present every day of the trial. You may be called up on the stand to ask about the accident. You will be asked the same question in different ways to see if your story changes at all, and the other side will use that against you.
To find out more about what happens at trial, make sure to call your lawyer and they will talk you through it.
7) How Long Will the Case Take?
This is a question we hear all the time, and that’s okay. You have been injured in a motorcycle accident, and you may not be able to work or earn money. Your savings may be getting depleted, and the money from the settlement can keep you or your family going for a while.
The cases can take more time if you aren’t very responsive to your attorney. Time is a factor that can work either in your favor or against you. If you take too long, this will only delay the proceedings. If your attorney asks for paperwork, statement, or other information, and you provide it to them within 24 hours every time, this can certainly speed up a case and the time cycle of the case.
Bonus: What Not to Ask Your Attorney
8) What Is My Case Worth
This question is, at the beginning, completely unknown. Until an attorney goes deep into the case, finds case law, precedent, and similar cases, no attorney can tell you this. Any attorney that does is not performing their duties ethically and you probably shouldn’t work with them.
Let’s take a completely hypothetical situation (Note – This is a story only and not legal advice nor a real legal situation and should not be taken as such. This is simply a narrative as an example). You are on your motorcycle at a stop light. You are holding your bike up and both feet are on the ground. A small passenger car runs over your foot while traveling 5 miles per hour. It does not break your foot. It hurts, and you go to the doctor and find out your foot is mildly bruised. What is that case worth?
This depends on a number of factors. Did the person stop and exchange insurance information with you or was is a hit and run? Did the person have insurance? Were you wearing steel toe boots while riding? How long did the bruise last? Do you work in a field where this type of injury is common (so did you actually get bruised before this and are simply trying to blame it on someone else)?
As you can see, the number of questions that need to be asked and answered are long and awkward, and this is for what appears to be a very simple issue and case. This is simply scratching the surface, and the deeper we go, the more questions that need to be answered.
So what your case is worth is unknown until the case has progressed far enough to get the other side to give a settlement offer, and that is when this question can truly be answered.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident in the Las Vegas area (or California), or a family member or friend has been injured, please call the Paternoster Law Group today. We specialize in Personal Injury Law and have worked with hundreds of motorcycle accident victims. We have won over $100 Million in damages awarded to our clients, and would be happy to give you a free legal consultation to see how we can help you too.