A motorcyclist in the late afternoon driving along a highway.

Motorcycle accidents carry a high risk of injury for the biker, mostly due to reduced safety features. A car has seatbelts, airbags, and a strong frame to protect the occupants, but on a bike, there is little to prevent the rider from being ejected during a collision.

Even if the rider remains on the bike, the crash’s impact will likely have a more serious effect without the cushioning of an airbag.

Because of the risks associated with motorcycle accidents, most bikers ride carefully and do their best to avoid collisions. Defensive driving techniques can reduce your risk but can’t prevent every accident—especially when others on the road are distracted, speeding, or violating other traffic laws.

But when you try to make an insurance claim, the other driver may claim you were at fault or driving recklessly. How can you get the help you need after a motorcycle accident?

Talk With a New Mexico Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today

Because motorcycle accidents often result in severe injuries for the biker, an insurance adjuster will likely spend a long time reviewing your claim and searching for a way to blame you. We anticipate this response, so your motorcycle accident lawyer will immediately go to work investigating the accident and gathering evidence to show you had little to no fault.

We’ll also carefully evaluate your damages and ensure the insurance company provides you with a fair amount of restitution for your injuries.

If you or a loved one have suffered a motorcycle accident, please contact Olson Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. There is no obligation, and you can ask us anything about your accident.

We’ll explain the options for pursuing compensation, and if we take your case, there are no upfront fees to worry about. You won’t owe us anything until we resolve your case, so you have nothing to lose.

Please contact us today to learn more.

How Is New Mexico Working to Reduce Motorcycle Accidents?

New Mexico is home to many scenic stretches of road that are ideal for a long motorcycle ride. However, the risk of an accident is always a top concern for riders and should be important to everyone on the road.

In 2022, the state saw 54 motorcycle fatalities, including eight that involved alcohol.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) wants to remind motorists that “Motorcycle safety is everyone’s safety.” They recommend that vehicle drivers use common-sense measures like following the speed limit, observing traffic signs and signals, and avoiding distractions.

Also, if you’re behind a motorcycle, increase your following distance past your usual distance for another vehicle.

Additionally, NMDOT advises motorists to look carefully before turning or changing lanes. All too often, motorcycle accidents occur because an otherwise careful driver just doesn’t see the biker until it’s too late.

Always use your mirrors and, if necessary, briefly turn your head to check blind spots before changing lanes.

Motorcyclists are urged to complete a rider education course and maintain a current motorcycle license. On a national level, about 36 percent of motorcycle accident fatalities involve riders who aren’t licensed for a motorcycle.

While New Mexico only requires helmets for riders 17 and under, wearing a helmet and riding gear are two of the best ways to reduce the risk of injuries and death when riding. To put that in perspective, 33 of New Mexico’s 54 motorcycle deaths in 2022 were riders who weren’t wearing helmets.

Stay safe by looking for a DOT-approved helmet with a faceplate for eye and face protection.

A riding jacket, gloves, long pants, and sturdy boots can also reduce the incidence or the severity of injuries to your torso and extremities. If you’re concerned about wearing heavy clothing in the New Mexico heat, search for ventilated jackets and other items designed to keep you cool while riding.

Why Does the Insurance Company Think I’m at Fault for My Motorcycle Accident?

Many people have misconceptions that motorcyclists are reckless, prone to speeding, or obsessed with driving dangerously. In reality, most bikers understand the risks and ride carefully, but stereotypical ideas of the “thrill-seeking biker” remain a problem.

A vehicle driver who hits a motorcyclist may assume the biker was at fault for this reason, or they might just be averse to admitting they were at fault.

Because motorcycle accidents are far more likely to cause serious injury to the biker, the vehicle driver could have a better opportunity to give their statement to the police. It’s hard to clearly communicate your version of events when you’re in pain, or the paramedics are telling you to hold still.

However, the vehicle driver will likely have no or only minor injuries, so their story might make more sense to the responding officer.

As for the insurance company, it’s always in their best interest to argue that the injured person is at fault, regardless of the type of accident. There are a few reasons why:

  • Generally, the at-fault party is expected to be responsible for the injuries of others, but their car or motorcycle insurance usually covers these costs. So if you are at fault—driving a car or a motorcycle—the other party’s insurance company doesn’t have to pay anything.
  • Motorcycle accidents often result in high-dollar claims due to the severe nature of injuries. The larger the claim, the more the insurance adjuster scrutinizes it for any excuse to deny it or reduce the settlement.
  • New Mexico also uses a legal doctrine called pure comparative negligence for personal injury cases like car and motorcycle accidents. Under pure comparative negligence, fault for an injury or accident can be shared, and each party is responsible for their own portion of the damages. For instance, you might be 10 percent at fault, and the other driver might be 90 percent at fault. Or, it could be 20/80, 30/70, or any other combination that adds up to 100.
  • As a result, the insurance company doesn’t need to prove that you are wholly at fault to save money. If they argue you are partially responsible for the accident, they can reduce your settlement by whatever percentage of fault they decide you have.

It’s not unreasonable to expect an injured person to pay for a share of the damages they actually caused. The problem lies in whether the insurance company’s calculations are accurate.

In some motorcycle accident cases, the insurer overestimates the biker’s percentage of fault or assumes some fault when they have none.

How Can a New Mexico Motorcycle Accident Attorney Help You Get a Fair Settlement?

Trying to navigate the world of insurance claims and comparative negligence on your own is confusing and exceedingly difficult. Few people have the expertise to calculate their own percentage of fault or even know if they have any responsibility.

For this reason, it’s not unusual for an injured person to receive an offer from the insurance company and assume everything is correct.

Your attorney will thoroughly investigate the accident and determine if and how much fault you really have. We’ll fight for a better deal if the insurance company’s first offer doesn’t reflect our estimate.

Besides shifting blame to the injured person, another insurance company tactic to reduce costs is undervaluing the injured person’s damages. They may simply offer you less than your claim is worth or subtract the percentage of fault they think you have from a number that’s already too low.

Here are some ways we’ll work to ensure your claim is properly valued:

  • We’ll consider all your medical expenses. Many people forget about out-of-pocket expenses like prescriptions, mobility aids, copays or deductibles, etc., but these costs can quickly add up. Your attorney will ask about them and ensure nothing is missed.
  • Are you still in treatment for your injuries? Motorcycle injuries can be complicated, and many bikers require months of treatment. We don’t want you to be left with additional bills after your case settles, so we will usually wait until your treatment is complete. However, in the most severe cases, where the injured person may need lifelong care, we can estimate future costs and seek compensation.
  • Determining how much income you’ve lost due to your accident is essential. We’ll ask if you missed work and for how long. It doesn’t matter if you received paid time off—you still lost those days you could have used at another time.
  • Did your injury result in a permanent disability or chronic pain that prevents you from returning to work or from doing the same amount and type of work as before? If so, you may have a claim for lost earning potential.
  • We’ll fairly evaluate your pain and suffering. The insurance company could seek to minimize this non-economic damage in several ways. The most popular method the insurance companies use is multiplying your economic damages (such as medical bills and lost income or earning potential) by a number between 1.5 and 5. This number should correlate with the severity of your injuries, but sometimes, the insurance adjuster will select a lower number than appropriate. If the adjuster has discounted the severity of your injuries, we’ll negotiate for a more accurate assessment.

What Are Some Common Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents?

Even when you take every safety precaution, it’s easy to be injured in a motorcycle accident. If either driver is going at a higher speed, injuries may be even more severe.

Here are some common injuries we see in motorcycle accident cases:

Broken Bones

These can keep you off the road and possibly out of work for months while you recover. More complicated breaks might require surgery, a long period of convalescence, and then months of physical therapy to help you regain lost functions.

While broken bones may seem like simple injuries, they can be expensive to treat.

Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI

Wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), but if a vehicle hits you at a high speed, you may still suffer one. TBIs can occur due to hitting your head—for example, if you’re expelled from your bike and hit your head on the pavement.

Less commonly, they may occur from the jarring impact of the crash, which causes the brain to impact on the inside of the skull. Fast evaluation and treatment of a TBI is essential to lower the likelihood of long-term difficulties.

Even with prompt medical care, sometimes the injured biker may develop permanent damage from a TBI, leading to long-term disability. The effects vary widely depending on which area of the brain is affected.

Some may experience only mild challenges, while others will need round-the-clock care. Long-term disabilities could include speech or writing issues, difficulty with walking or movement, mood or personality changes, memory or cognitive difficulties, problems with work or household tasks, and more.

Patients with these injuries often benefit from different kinds of therapy, depending on their symptoms. Therapists specializing in speech, occupational support, or physical therapy can be invaluable, but these treatments are also costly and not always covered by health insurance.

If you’re struggling to afford the support you need for a TBI, please talk to a New Mexico personal injury lawyer right away.

Back, Neck, and Spine Injuries

These injuries can range from a mildly strained muscle to chronic pain to permanent paralysis. If you have any back or neck pain following a motorcycle accident—even if it seems inconsequential—be sure to see a healthcare provider right away.

It’s crucial to rule out rare but serious injuries, like a spinal fracture, and to ensure any injuries you have are treated promptly.

Soft tissue injuries in the back and neck happen frequently but are sometimes hard to treat. A strained muscle or ligament may heal on its own with rest and ice, but some patients develop chronic pain and may need physical therapy or other treatments.

If your back or neck pain doesn’t resolve itself in the time frame your doctor mentioned, please follow up with them for more treatment.

Lacerations and Road Rash

Cuts and wounds can occur in any car accident, especially those involving broken glass, but they’re especially common in bike collisions. Often, the motorcyclist is thrown to the ground, where they may be injured by broken glass or debris on the pavement.

Road rash is a common condition in bikers that occurs when street debris not only pierces the skin but becomes embedded in the rider’s flesh. If this happens, you’ll need to see a healthcare practitioner to properly clean and debride the wounds.

Even with the best care, sometimes permanent, significant scarring can occur.

Face and Eye Injuries

Some helmets lack eye and face protection, leaving the face open to injuries in an accident. In some situations, debris can enter the eyes, potentially causing permanent damage to your vision.

Facial fractures might also occur, leading to pain and swelling that could last for weeks.

Internal Injuries

Sometimes, hitting the ground can lead to torso injuries, including internal bleeding or damage. In severe cases, the patient may have organ damage or need surgery to repair the injuries.

What if an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Hits You?

New Mexico ranks second in the country for most uninsured motorists, with just under 25 percent driving uninsured. However, drivers with minimum insurance may not have enough coverage for the extensive damages that frequently occur in a motorcycle accident.

An insured driver could have as little as $25,000 per person in bodily injury coverage ($50,000 per accident) and $10,000 for property damage.

Your attorney will carefully consider the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage and determine if there is enough for all your damages. If not, we’ll search for other options, which may include:

  • A lawsuit against the at-fault driver. It may not always be advisable to sue the other driver if their assets are limited, but in some situations, it could be worthwhile if there’s potential to recover damages.
  • Exploring third-party lawsuit options. Pursuing a claim against a third party could be viable in certain circumstances. For example, holding the manufacturer accountable might be feasible if a defective auto part played a role in the accident. Similarly, New Mexico’s dram shop laws provide a potential avenue for legal action against establishments that overserve alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons who then cause accidents.
  • Making a claim on your Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UI) policy. Opting out of this coverage might seem tempting, but it’s a risky move. Remember that UM/UI could be your sole recourse in the event of an accident with an uninsured motorist. If the other driver has no significant assets and a third-party lawsuit isn’t an option, UM/UI is usually the only possibility. We recommend maintaining UM/UI with higher coverage limits to safeguard against significant losses.

What if You Are the Victim of a Hit-and-Run Accident?

If another vehicle hits your motorcycle and speeds off, do your best to get the license plate number and/or a vehicle description. The police will search for the driver, and if they locate this person, secure their insurance policy information for you.

Unfortunately, many hit-and-run accidents go unsolved. Sometimes, the victim is badly injured and simply unable to get a good look at the vehicle or its license plate.

Your attorney might investigate to find the driver, but if we don’t have any luck either, this is another situation where UM/UI is your only option. The insurance company will assume the missing driver is uninsured and pay for your damages up to the policy limit.

Can You Seek Compensation for a No-Contact Motorcycle Accident?

These accidents often appear to the responding officer and the insurance adjuster as single-vehicle crashes, which could lead the adjuster to assume you’re at fault.

However, some single-vehicle motorcycle crashes result from another motorist’s driving choices. The motorcyclist could run off the road trying to avoid a reckless or aggressive driver.

Unfortunately, this can be difficult to prove later, and as with hit-and-run accidents, identifying the driver is sometimes an issue. If you believe another motorist caused your accident even though they didn’t hit your motorcycle, please speak with an attorney right away.

We’ll evaluate your situation and determine if there is any way to identify the driver and prove they were at fault. If so, we may be able to recover compensation from their liability insurance.

Unfortunately, in some of these situations, it simply isn’t possible to track down the other driver or prove they’re at fault. When this occurs, we’ll look at your own insurance policy to see what type of coverage you have.

If you’ve invested in MedPay or Collision coverage (which are optional), these will pay for your medical bills and bike repair or replacement costs, regardless of fault. MedPay and Collision are also useful for any accident where it’s difficult to prove fault or where you are at fault.

How Can You Get Help From a New Mexico Motorcycle Accident Law Firm?

Recovering from a motorcycle accident can be a slow, complicated process, but an insurance company shouldn’t be making it more difficult. If you or a loved one have experienced a motorcycle collision, please contact Olson Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation to learn more about your options.

You can ask us anything, and we’ll do our best to explain the possibilities for recovering compensation. If there’s a way to recover some or all of your damages, we’ll find it, and you won’t owe us anything until we win or settle your case.

Olson Personal Injury Lawyers was founded by attorney Sean Olson, a passionate advocate for those who have suffered severe injuries due to the negligence of others. His philosophy is to build others up, and he always makes himself available to talk with clients and update them on their cases.

Since graduating from the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, he’s been fighting for the rights of injured people and their families. When he’s not working on a case, he enjoys mountain biking, fly fishing, and enjoying the great outdoors with his family.

Work with Sean and his team of experts when you call (505) 391-4149.