After an accident, the reporting police office will normally give you a small card. On the card is your Report Number and Address of the Police Station who prepared the Traffic Collision Report (TCR). Normally, the report will take 7-10 Business Days BUT you can normally get the FACE PAGE the next day. The importance is that Party No. 1 is normally the party at fault! It will also tell you the name of the other driver's insurance company so you can open a claim. Finally, you can learn a lot about the other driver from the Face Page, their address for an asset search, their employer and the vehicle owner's name for "ownership liability". Get the TCR early so you can contact the witnesses, open a claim to get your bike fixed and see if you need an attorney.
Get Witness Information
Even in left turn (Failure to Yield) crashes where you were no way at fault, the insurance company will allege inattention, excess speed or over reaction. They hate motorcyclists. After the accident look around and get the names and phone numbers of witnesses, we can worry about what they saw later. Get the TCR and your attorney will want to get formal witness statements under oath- lock them in to what they saw, speeds, distances and statements.
"A picture speaks a thousand words". Get photos of everything- the accident scene, the other driver's car, your bike, and most importantly your injuries. Email them to yourself. Cases can be won or lost on the facts, and a photo at the accident scene can help to win your case.
Go to the ER
If you don't go the the hospital or see a doctor - you were not injured. You can't come back and say you were hurt. You need to document your injuries, pain and get the proper care. Don't try to be tough guy- Don't worry about the medical bills- Go to the ER.
Follow up with your Doctor.
If you don't follow-up with your primary care doctor you have what the insurance companies call a "gap in treatment". Again, if you didn't go, you were not injured. If you do not have health insurance and after your attorney has established liability, your attorney can refer you to a treating doctor or physical therapy.
Get Your Bike Out of Storage
You will say- "they are at fault, they should pay" or "I don't have the money" to get my bike out. Tow yards don't care who is at fault. You are still personally responsible for your bike- towing and storage. If you leave it there too long, it will go to "Lien Sale". You are required to get notice with the date. If it is sold at a Lien Sale, the tow truck driver's brother will buy your bike and YOU will still be responsible for the towing and storage balance. Bottom line, get your bike out ASAP. Once your attorney has established liability and coverages, they will work to get full reimbursement to you.
File and SR-1 Report of Accident
If your damage is over $500.00 OR you were injured, you are required by law to file an SR-1 Report of Accident with the DMV. If you don't you will get a nasty letter from the DMV requesting proof of insurance and your license may be suspended. The SR-1 form may be found at www.dmv.ca.gov/sr1 for California residents.
Call your Own Insurance and Open a Claim.
Even though you believe you may not be at fault, you still have a contractual obligation to inform your own insurance company of your accident. If you have Property Damage Coverage- ALWAYS go through your own insurance company to repair or replace your bike. "Oh, but I have to pay a deductible!" Pay it and your attorney will work to get you reimbursed later. The beauty of going through your own insurance- repairs are guaranteed or they have a statutory duty to be fair and prompt in paying for your total loss of your bike. If you don't, and go through the party at fault's I guarantee you will be met with delays.
NO RECORDED STATEMENT!
I repeat- NO RECORDED STATEMENTS! Nothing sinks a good case faster than giving a recorded statement to the other side. No matter what you say or how nice the insurance adjuster is- they will use it against you, months down the road, alleging comparative negligence. You do have an obligation to cooperate with your own insurance company which may entail giving a statement (I prefer written) but if there is one thing you can learn form reading this it is NEVER give any statement to the other side.
Call a Motorcycle Accident Attorney if You Need Help
Finally, if you are getting the run around from the insurance company. I recommend that you hire a good motorcycle accident attorney to represent you.
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