Drunk driving is problematic for all road users, including motorcyclists. They are exposed to a greater danger of injuries and death since the drunk driver has his/her abilities impaired.
You need to be prepared to take the next legal steps if you or a loved one is injured in an alcohol-related motorcycle accident. Some steps include seeking medical care and filing a lawsuit against the drunk driver.
G. Dallas Horton & Associates works with victims of drunk driving accidents in Las Vegas, NV, helping them build a case against the at-fault party and recover damages for their injuries. We take over the legal matters to help families and their loved ones adjust to a new life accommodating their injuries or losses.
Overview of Alcohol-Related Motorcycle Accidents
Drunk driving is a crime across all 50 states, but that does not prevent drivers from driving while intoxicated or alcohol-related accidents from happening. An alcohol-related motorcycle accident is one where a drunk driver hits a motorcyclist.
Such accidents are devastating for the rider since they have reduced protection compared to a vehicle’s occupants. The rider could suffer severe injuries such as broken bones, severe road rash, and traumatic head and spinal injuries.
Alcohol is a sedative that relaxes the body and mind, leading to a state of limited awareness of the surrounding environment. In such a state of limited awareness, drivers lose important skills that they require to drive safely.
A drunk driver is more likely to cause an accident since alcohol impairs judgment, coordination, and vision. An impaired driver will take time to recognize hazards on the road and take longer to respond to or avoid that hazard.
Drunk drivers have poor chances of noticing other road users, including motorcyclists, exposing them to an undue risk of injuries and death.
Under normal circumstances, sobriety ensures that drivers can recognize hazards, changing weather conditions, reckless behavior by other road users and traffic signs, then respond to these signals to ensure they remain safe.
However, with alcohol in their system, everything comes to them slowly, including responses. The risk a driver poses increases with every drink the driver consumes, even if they do not become drunk. Some drivers, who are well below the legal limit, have their driving impaired that they are a hazard to themselves and other road users.
Drunk drivers are also more uninhabited and likely to engage in risky driving behavior such as road rage and reckless driving. Given the driver's intoxicated state, such behavior can lead to severe fatalities for motorcyclists and other road users if an accident occurs.
In Nevada, motorcyclists injured by drunk drivers can file a lawsuit against them to recover damages for their injuries. The families that lose a loved one in an alcohol-related motorcycle accident can also file a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for their loss.
What to Do After an Alcohol-Related Motorcycle Accident
Being hit while riding a motorcycle can leave you with severe and life-threatening injuries due to the massive impact against a bike. When a vehicle hits a motorcycle, the rider is likely to be thrown off the bike and onto the road. Depending on the direction from which the accident occurs, the cyclist could be thrown off and land with their head first on the road, or the bike falls on them if they are thrust sideways.
Regardless of the direction of impact, the motorcyclist absorbs most of the accident's impact leading to severe internal and external injuries.
Immediately after the accident, you might not know what to do or even be in a conscious state to make such decisions. Here are some of the things you can do if you are still conscious and able to move around:
1. Call 911
Your health, at this point, is the most important thing. Call 911 to report the accident and request emergency medical care. The accident's impact on your body could have caused severe injuries that you might miss by just looking at yourself. If you have a passenger on your bike, check them for injuries and help where you can.
When they arrive at the scene, cooperate with the police, and answer questions when asked, but do not assign or take the blame. The police could record your statements, which could be used later to discredit your claim. Do not exaggerate or provide details you are not sure of since it could affect your claim later.
Ask the police about how you can obtain a copy of the accident report later.
2. Exchange Information With the Driver
Share and take information such as the license plate number, the driver’s name, and insurance details from all drivers involved in the accident. Share your contact information and collect that of all other drivers in the accident.
Leaving without such information could make it hard to locate the at-fault driver later when you want to seek compensation for your damages.
Collect contact details of eyewitnesses since they will be important in providing additional information about the accident.
3. Seek Medical Attention
Most people make the mistake of ignoring or minimizing their injuries after a motorcycle accident. The period after an accident is not one in which to act strong and invincible. Check yourself into an emergency center for a thorough checkup.
Let the doctor know that you were in a motorcycle accident and ensure that you report any symptom you feel, whether you think it is related to the accident.
You must also notify the doctor of pre-existing medical conditions that could have been worsened by the accident. For example, if you had an injured knee previously, and you were injured again in the accident, let your doctor know so that they can account for the injury in the diagnosis and treatment.
Having a pre-existing injury does not reduce the potential recovery. Hiding it does. When you fail to disclose pre-existing injuries and conditions, the insurance company and the jury will view you as a deceptive and money-motivated claimant.
4. Record Everything from the Accident
When you file a claim against the at-fault driver, you must prove that that driver caused your injury through their negligence. You can prove that the driver was at fault if you have concrete evidence that shows how the accident happened.
Such evidence might include:
- Photos of the accident scene
- Testimony from eyewitnesses
- Your written account of the accident
Keeping a post-accident journal is also critical in recording additional evidence of pain, suffering, and the progress of your injuries. You can note down symptoms, medication, and treatment you receive for conditions and injuries related to the accident.
Other details to remember after a motorcycle accident include:
- Do not have the bike repaired before its post-accident evaluation. Ensure that you have records of the bike after the accident to reflect the damage caused. Keep all receipts and documentation related to your motorcycle's repair to use them if you file a compensation claim.
- Do not speak to insurance companies without an attorney present. Preferably, let your personal injury attorney handle communications with your insurance company and that of the at-fault party.
- Do not delay seeking the help of a personal injury attorney immediately after the accident. Personal injury lawsuits follow certain rules, procedures, and deadlines. Few people have the energy to recover from an accident while at the same time handling the demands of a claim negotiation or lawsuit. Attorneys take the responsibility of handling all accident-related legal matters while you recover from the injury or rebuild your life after the loss of your loved one.
Filing a Claim
Medical costs are often the prompting factor for most personal injury cases arising from alcohol-related motorcycle accidents. Victims often suffer serious accidents that cost a lot to treat and some that require lifelong medical care, such as spinal injuries.
Filing a claim is usually timesaving, and affordable for all parties in the claim. You can file a claim with your insurance company to cover some of your medical costs.
However, if you want to cover a wider range of damages, you have to file a claim with the at-fault party.
The first step in the claims process is determining liability. In accidents due to drunk driving, the drunk driver is usually at fault. Other parties who could be responsible include:
- A person or entity that entrusted a drunk driver with a car while they were intoxicated
- Manufacturers of the vehicle or motorcycle
- Federal, state, or local government bodies responsible for maintaining roads
- The motorcyclists (for instance, by failing to observe traffic laws)
If both the motorcyclist and the drunk driver are responsible for some part of the accident, they will share liability.
When you file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, they will start an investigation to determine whether that driver was responsible. These investigations examine the role each party played in the accident.
Do not handle the insurance company alone. Most people make the mistake of thinking that the insurance company is looking out for you. They are not. Their goal is to reduce liability for the insurance company by paying out as little as possible to cover your claim.
Most cases settle through negotiations if the insurance company agrees to settle at a fair amount. The fairness of the settlement you receive depends on your claim's value, the injuries you suffered, and the future losses you might experience due to the accident. For example, if your injuries prevent you from ever working again and require lifelong medical care, then your settlement will be higher.
When negotiations with the insurance fail, you can file a personal injury lawsuit.
How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Most people begin the negotiation process by filing a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver. In Nevada, a driver is at-fault for a motorcycle accident if he or she engaged in negligent driving, such as driving while intoxicated.
You must file a lawsuit within two years after the injury or six months after the death of your loved one for a wrongful death claim. The court in which you file the case is usually in the location where you were injured.
Your attorney will guide you through the process and help you file the case with the right court and at the right time.
During the lawsuit, both sides will produce evidence for and against the lawsuit. Even after filing a lawsuit, most cases end up in out of court settlements through negotiations, evidence, and sworn testimonies from both sides.
Some of the evidence usually presented in motorcycle accident cases includes:
- Surveillance footages of the accident
- Medical reports
- Expert witness testimonies
- Testimony from accident reconstruction experts
- Testimony from the driver and the motorcyclist
You have several causes of action under which you can file a case when you are injured in an alcohol-related motorcycle accident. They include:
- Negligence per se
- Negligent entrustment
- Wrongful death
Depending on the cause of action you choose to pursue, you will have to prove certain elements for each scenario.
Negligence is the common theory under which most accident victims file a personal injury lawsuit. Negligence has the following elements:
- The driver owed the motorcyclist a duty of care.
- The driver breached his or her duty of care.
- The motorcyclist suffered injuries due to the negligence of the driver.
The law has traffic rules that motorists must obey, such as driving when sober. When a driver drives under the influence, he or she is breaking the law and acting negligently. When such negligence causes injuries to other road users, the victims can sue the driver for negligence per se. Some of the elements of negligence per se include:
- The driver had a duty to obey Nevada's DUI laws.
- These laws were meant to protect other road users (including motorists) from harm.
- The driver violated the laws by driving under the influence.
- You (motorcyclist) suffered injuries as a proximate result of the drunk driving behavior.
When suing the driver under negligence per se, conviction records come in handy when proving that the defendant was liable for your injuries. However, even when the defendant was not convicted for a DUI or related offense, you can still prove that he or she was responsible for your injuries.
The law requires that you prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was most likely driving drunk when the accident occurred. Civil cases have a lower standard of proof, making it possible to win a case even when the court does not find the defendant criminally liable for a drunk driving offense.
You can prove that the defendant was drunk through:
- Police reports
- Breath and blood tests
- Confessions from the driver at the scene of the accident
- Eye witness accounts
The law holds you accountable for giving responsibility to people who are not ready to handle such a responsibility. For example, if you allow a drunk person to operate your vehicle, you are opening yourself up for liability if the driver harms people or their property. Negligent entrustment has the following elements:
- The defendant left the vehicle with a drunk driver.
- The defendant knew or should have known that the driver was drunk and likely to cause harm if he or she operated the vehicle.
- The driver was negligent and injured or killed other people.
Wrongful death claims arise when the victim of an alcohol-related accident dies. In this case, you will have to prove the following elements:
- The victim died.
- The death was a proximate result of the drunk driver's negligence.
- You (plaintiff) are the personal representative or heir to the estate of the deceased.
- You suffered monetary damages due to the death of the victim.
- Evidence from video surveillance
Damages You Can Recover From an Alcohol-Related Accident
Alcohol-related motorcycle accidents drain you financially, emotionally, and physically. Financial effects are the first and usually, the most gravely felt as you seek medical treatment, repair or replace damaged property, and miss work as you recover from your injuries.
Fortunately, Nevada has laws that allow you to recover compensation for your injuries to make you whole again. Nevada allows for two categories of compensatory damages:
- Economic damages are those that compensate you for the financial losses you incur. These include medical costs, lost wages, lost earning potential, and property damaged during an accident. These costs are usually easy to calculate and require you to add up these expenses' total costs.
- Non-economic damages compensate you for the non-financial and subjective damages you suffer, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of consortium, emotional anguish, and loss of parental guidance.
The compensatory damages above are available in every personal injury case that settles in or out of court. Victims whose cases are settled in court can request the court for punitive damages. These damages punish the defendant for engaging in negligent acts that harm other people. Punitive damages are also meant to discourage other people from engaging in such negligent conduct.
The law in Nevada does not cap the number of compensatory damages you can recover in a case. Therefore, it rests upon you and your attorney to calculate the value of your damages that is both reasonable and fair.
Medical expenses are usually the most common type of compensation in personal injury cases. The exact value of the settlement you get varies based on:
- The nature and severity of your injuries
- The recovery time required, and
- The type of procedures you require to correct your injuries
You can calculate the value of past medical expenses by adding up the total costs for medication, treatment, rehabilitation, and therapy.
The value of lost wages follows the same principle of adding up bonuses, commissions, overtime, benefits, salaries, and other monies you could have received if you were not injured.
The law also allows you to recover the value of future losses you are likely to incur due to the injuries. For instance, once you reach the maximum medical recovery point, your doctor can give an accurate prognosis of your condition, including the complications that might arise and the type of medical treatment you will need to manage your condition.
With an accounting expert's help, you can calculate the value of future medical costs and account for them in your settlement.
An accident could also leave you incapable of working in the same capacity, which your training or skills allowed, or to earn the same as you did before the accident. In this case, you will include your lost earning potential in the settlement.
Your lost earning potential is the difference between earning before and after your accident. For example, if you earned $50,000 annually before the accident, but you now earn $20,000 per year, the lost earning potential is $30,000.
The court will account for this difference even if you cannot work after your accident, for example, due to a spinal accident that leaves your whole body paralyzed.
Pain and suffering damages present a more significant challenge for insurance companies and lawyers to calculate. These are subjective damages, which cannot be quantified easily.
Regardless, certain circumstances make it easier to receive a higher settlement for pain and suffering damages, including:
- You suffered severe physical injuries in the accident.
- Your injuries require significant time to heal, and some require long-term management.
- You have permanent scars or disfigurement due to the injuries.
- The injuries led to high medical bills.
You can provide specific evidence that will support your claim, including:
- Detailed medical notes
- Imaging tests
- Photographs and videos of your injuries before and after treatment
- Testimonies from friends, relatives, and coworkers
Due to the difficulty in calculating non-economic damages, insurance companies have developed formulas to make the process easier. The first formula involves multiplying the economic damages with a number between 1 and 5 depending on your injuries’ severity.
The second method involves assigning a certain amount of money for injuries each day, then adding up the total value of your pain and suffering.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Alcohol-related motorcycle accidents can be devastating for victims and their families. If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, you will face challenging times ahead, especially if you sustained severe injuries or those that worsen a pre-existing condition.
G. Dallas Horton & Associates works with victims of motorcycle accidents in Las Vegas, NV, helping them recover damages for their injuries. With more than 70 years, cumulative experience, our law firm helps clients recover compensation for victims of automobile accidents.
Contact us today at 702-820-5917 for a consultation.