By Scott O’Sullivan, The O’Sullivan Law Firm
Motorcycle riders are a tight-knit group. When I attend rallies, rides and other motorcycle events, I’m always inspired by the sense of camaraderie shared by bikers, who seem to walk around like they share the best secret in the world. They all love biking, bikers and bikes. They share a special bond.
That’s why it can be deeply traumatic for so many people when a biker goes down. The ripples of pain spread through the community in larger and larger concentric circles, and everyone wants to help, which is another inspiring aspect of the biker community.
But a motorcycle accident is typically hardest on those closest to the injured biker. Spouses, children and parents suffer the most emotionally. Sadly, they may also suffer financially. There are very few “minor” motorcycle accidents. Injuries suffered by the rider and damages to their bike can require thousands and thousands of dollars to fix.
When I receive calls from people who need legal help after a motorcycle accident, I typically hear from spouses or significant others. Specifically, the biggest percentage of my calls come from wives and girlfriends. (There are more male bikers, hence more men are in accidents.) These women are usually completely overwhelmed by the things they’re trying to manage on behalf of their loved ones, from medical treatments, health insurance questions, motorcycle insurance calls and their spouse’s lost wages. On top of that, they are consumed by fear. Will my husband/boyfriend live? What will he be like when he leaves the hospital? Will life ever be normal again?
Often, I meet with spouses in their homes or in the hospital because the injured biker is bed-bound and wants to be part of the conversations we have on his behalf. In the most tragic cases, the biker has died and the spouse is completely adrift.
If you’re reading this article and any of the above issues and emotions feel familiar, you have my empathy. I’m sorry you’re facing such a terrifying and exhausting experience. Hopefully the next few suggestions will help to ease your burden or, at the very least, guide you to resources that can help.
- Call BikerDown.org: BikerDown is a non-profit organization that was established in 2011 with a mission to assist motorcycle accident victims. BikerDown provides emotional support to family members of injured or killed riders, medical equipment and even financial advice to help victims keep creditors at bay as they recover. To initiate the process, you need to complete a help request that indicates what kind of help you need. Someone from BikerDown will then respond within 24 to 48 hours and will schedule a personal visit with you.
- Make sure you give your loved one’s health insurance to the hospital; not his motorcycle insurance: Believe it or not, hospitals will do everything in their power (sometimes skirting the law) to charge victims the absolute maximum that they can. Even when the victim has health insurance, which should help to keep costs low, the hospital will ignore the health insurance and try to stake a claim on the injured motorcyclist’s future legal settlement. It’s healthcare billing fraud, and we’re fed up with seeing it happen. Make sure you specifically tell the hospital that they only have your permission to bill your loved one’s health insurance and they must use his health insurance. In fact, I would put your expectations in writing. Check out this article on health insurance billing fraud for help with the language.
- Do not talk to the other driver’s insurance company: You need to think of the other driver’s insurance company as an adversary. They are looking to protect their interests and, therefore, they will be looking for ways to get out of their responsibility to cover your costs. Don’t give them the opportunity to do this! First of all, do not ever allow them to take a recorded statement. If they pressure you to make a recorded statement, make sure you have a personal injury attorney with you at the time. Additionally, by Colorado law, insurance companies are not allowed to use any statement that you make within 15 days of being in care or treatment after an accident. If they try to contact you and take your statement within this timeframe, seek an attorney immediately.
- Only tell your insurance company the bare minimum: Sadly, even your own insurance company will do all they can to limit the amount that they must pay you. You are legally required to call them after you’ve been in an accident, but you can limit what you say. Here’s my advice: give them as little information as possible in your initial call with them. Then, if you were injured in the accident, call a personal injury attorney for advice.
- Call a personal injury attorney: If your loved one was injured in a motorcycle accident, you should call a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. I know this sounds self-serving, but the insurance companies truly do not care how badly your loved one was hurt. They have teams of attorneys and “service reps” on staff who are trained to find ways to limit their liability.
Take Preventative Measures
Now, if you’ve read this entire article and you’re lucky enough to never have lost a loved one to a motorcycle accident, I’m happy for you! But I hope you will also encourage your biker to purchase enough insurance to make sure you won’t be destitute after taking care of his medical needs. I wrote an article about the types of insurance that motorcyclists should have in order to take care of their families in case of an accident. You can read it here.
Call me if you have questions: 303-388-5304.