Michigan Motorcycle Accidents and Your Rights

Most motorcyclists use every possible safety precaution. However, a mistake by another driver may be the cause of a motorcycle accident. In that situation, even the most careful and skilled motorcyclist is at risk of life-threatening injury.

In the United States, about 4,000 motorcyclists die on the highways every year. Traffic accidents injure another 67,000 motorcyclists annually in this country. Many survivors of motorcycle crashes suffer serious injuries that require hospitalization, surgery, and long-term medical treatment. Victims often, never fully regain their ability to return to work or resume family responsibilities.

Even if a motorcycle accident victim fully recovers, the accident can take its toll. An individual may lose time and income from work, need help with household chores, and have to cope with the pain of injuries and necessary medical treatments. In short, a serious motorcycle accident can significantly change the victim’s life — temporarily or even permanently. That is why, if you or a family member is involved in a motorcycle accident, you need to protect your rights.

Motorcycle Accidents in Michigan

The facts about Michigan motorcycle accidents are clear. In 2005, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning reported 120 motorcyclists died in crashes. Another 2,660 motorcyclists were injured in accidents in that year alone. Compared with other travelers, motorcyclists are at greater risk. A Michigan motorcyclist was the victim in 1 out of every 7 crashes causing death, and 1 out of 28 crashes causing injury. Statistics show that the danger is increasing. In the last 10 years, the number of Michigan motorcycle accidents rose by 45%. At the same time, the number of Michigan motorcycle accidents that resulted in death rose by 98%. These facts just begin to show the seriousness of these crashes. Statistics certainly cannot describe the lasting impact on the victims or their families.

What to do After a Michigan Motorcycle Accident to Protect your Rights

If you or other accident victims need emergency medical assistance, ask someone to call an ambulance. If you can, while you are still at the accident scene, collect the following information:

  • Get the name, address, and telephone number of the other driver(s).
  • Get the drivers license number(s) of the other driver(s).
  • Get the insurance information of the other driver(s).
  • Get the make, model and year of the other vehicles(s) and check the vehicle registration.
  • Take down the vehicle owner’s name and address, if the driver does not own that vehicle.
  • If it is a business vehicle, write down the name, address, and telephone number of that business.
  • If it is leased or rented, write down the name, address, and telephone number of the rental company.
  • Give the other driver(s) your name, address, driver’s license number and insurance information.
  • Look around the accident scene to locate all possible witnesses to the accident. Ask for their names, addresses, and telephone numbers (home, cell, and work). If the witnesses do not want to get involved, write down their automobile license plate numbers and the states where the license plates were issued.
  • Listen carefully to comments that the other driver(s) make about events leading up to the accident, such as “I didn’t see you,” and write down their comments.

Call the police, or have someone else call them immediately. Generally, the police officer will interview all the drivers and any witnesses at the accident scene. The police may also collect vital physical evidence and record the location of skid marks, highway signs and markings, and debris from the accident. All this information is critical to “reconstruction” of the accident, to determine the speed of each vehicle, the point of impact, and the person responsible for the accident.

Ask the police officer to find out where the other driver was going. If the driver was traveling on a work assignment, you may have legal claims against both the careless driver and his or her employer. If you did not go to the emergency room right after the accident, see a doctor as soon as possible. It is very important to get a check-up, because you may not be able to tell how badly you are hurt right after an accident. Be sure to follow all the doctor’s instructions about further medical care, tests, treatment, or restrictions on your activity.

After a serious accident, the at-fault driver or his/her insurance company may try to take advantage of an injured victim. To avoid this, follow these guidelines:

  • Do NOT get into an argument with the other driver(s) about what happened.
  • Do NOT sign any statements or documents about the facts of the accident.
  • Do NOT have your bike repaired. Wait until you have an attorney who will get your bike photographed and inspected, notify the other driver’s insurance company, and show it the damage to your motorcycle.
  • Do NOT answer questions from an insurance company or from an attorney representing the other driver.
  • If your own insurance policy requires you to report your accident within a certain time, get an attorney to help you with this as well.

After an accident, it is essential to consult a Michigan motorcycle accident lawyer immediately. In important ways, the legal claims of a Michigan motorcyclist are different — and more complicated — than the claims of an automobile driver, because Michigan law does not consider a motorcycle to be a “motor vehicle.”

Michigan Third Party Claims

The most important legal claim that may be available to an individual who is seriously injured in a Michigan motorcycle accident is a Third Party lawsuit against the driver whose negligence caused the collision. Under Michigan law, you must file this legal action within 3 years of the date of the accident. Your claim would include damages for non-economic loss, including your pain and suffering.

Michigan First Party Claims

The victim of a Michigan motorcycle accident also may have a First Party claim, for No-Fault benefits that cover economic damages, including medical costs, wage loss, attendant care, and replacement services. However, an individual who held legal title to the motorcycle on which he or she was injured, and did not carry the basic liability insurance required by Michigan law, cannot get First Party Benefits. These No-Fault First-Party benefits may be crucial to the economic survival of the injured motorcyclist. Michigan law requires the victim to claim these benefits within one year. To make a proper claim, you first must determine which insurance company is responsible for paying your No-Fault benefits. An attorney can help you through this process, which based on the following legal guidelines:

Michigan Motorcycle Order of Priority for No-Fault Benefits

  • 1st priority is to the insurer of the owner of the motor vehicle involved in the accident, if none then…
  • 2nd priority is to the insurer of the operator of the motor vehicle involved in the accident, if none then…
  • 3rd priority is to the motor vehicle insurer of the operator of the motorcycle involved in the accident, if none then…
  • 4th priority is to the motor vehicle insurer of the owner of the motorcycle involved in the accident, if none then…
  • 5th priority is to the Assigned Claims Facility.

The Michigan Assigned Claims Facility

The Assigned Claims Facility is the State Agency with the power to assign an insurance company to provide benefits to an injured victim who is not eligible for other No-Fault insurance coverage. To get an application for these Benefits, you can contact the Assigned Claim Facility directly at 517-322-1875.

Road Defect Claims

Some motorcycle accidents are not caused by negligent motorists, but instead result from a roadway defect, due to faulty repair of the pavement. In some cases, an injured motorcyclist can make a claim against the state, county, or local government agency responsible for repairing the roadway. These cases involve complicated legal and factual issues. In addition, the time to file these claims is much less than the time for pursing other legal actions. You need an experienced attorney to handle these complex requirements properly. If you believe that you may have a road defect claim, or if you or a loved one was injured in a Michigan motorcycle accident, talk with an experienced Michigan motorcycle accident lawyer.

Attorney Marya Sieminski joined the Law Offices of Sam Bernstein in 2003. She is admitted to practice law in Michigan state courts and in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated magna cum laude from Wayne State University Law School. Marya has worked as a trial lawyer for 10 years and exclusively represented victims in personal injury litigation and in workers compensation claims. She also was appointed by the Governor to serve on the State of Michigan Workers Compensation Qualifications Advisory Committee.