While on duty as a Los Angeles Motor Officer I became a motorcycle accident victim. Even with the experience gained investigating thousands of traffic accidents involving cars and motorcycles… I still found the experience to be painful and frustrating.

I did not understand the complex process, and long wait times. My frustration led me to interview some parties involved so I could share the information with fellow riders. Every day, motorcycle riders are involved in motorcycle accidents in California. My hope is this article will help my fellow riders understand that people are not sitting on their hands. They are often waiting for another party involved to fully collect the information they need to process their part. As you read through this article, you can see that there are at least three different opinions and parties involved in the process.

The process is complex, and most of the time it is best to contact and attorney. It is important that you keep a record of everything. Every time you talk to someone, get their name, title, date, and the exact time that you talk to them. Also, write a summary of what you discussed to have it for your records.

This article includes three different interviews with three different experts. Each expert developed their own advice for a rider who has experienced a motorcycle accident.

  1. The Attorney: Chuck Koro, Managing Partner of Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys™ the original motorcycle attorneys and touted as the best motorcycle attorneys nationwide
  2. An active Law Enforcement Officer: Myself, Sheldon Sherman
  3. An insurance claim adjuster from one of the biggest insurance companies in the United States.

The Attorneys Perspective:

I spoke with Chuck Koro, the managing partner of Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys. Chuck has decades of experience in representing people involved in motorcycle traffic accidents. Here are the questions I asked and the responses:

What is the process when someone calls an attorney’s office after a traffic collision?

While in some instances, we file a suit right away, we generally try to resolve the case informally with the insurance company.  Once our firm is retained, we order the traffic collision report and notify the insurance companies.  We also send preservation of evidence letters to the other driver to preserve all vehicle data from recording devices and videos.  Depending on where the accident happened, we may send a private investigator to the site to canvas for witnesses and surveillance footage.  In some circumstances, we send our accident reconstructionist to the site.  We also order the CAD log from the CHP, which may contain witness information.  We follow the client’s medical treatment, and once medical treatment is finished, we request the records and work-related documents if the client misses work.  We then send a demand package with all pertinent documents to the insurance company to start the negotiations.  If we cannot resolve it with the insurance company, we file a lawsuit, which begins the “discovery” process- depositions and written discovery.  Most of the time, after this process, the case goes to mediation which generally gets the case settled.  If not, we proceed to trial.

How long does the process take from start to finish? 

It varies widely for various reasons such as fault issues, the extent of the injuries and recovery, the number of parties involved, the time it takes to get the traffic collision report and whether a lawsuit is filed.

Can someone collect from the violent victim’s fund if they were involved in a hit-and-run?

I have never seen this apply to accident victims. However, The California Victim’s Compensation Fund provides up to $7,500 to the family of someone who was fatally injured for funeral and burial expenses.  If there is a recovery from the at-fault driver, it is usually reimbursable.  They may reduce depending on the circumstances.

If you are injured in a traffic collision at work where you are dealing with lots of different lawyers and workers’ compensation, can that cause the process to take longer?

Yes.  If you are injured on duty, it complicates the process and takes longer.  If you are injured on duty, contact an attorney.  If the injured party was injured by someone other than a co-worker, the party can make both a Worker’s Compensation claim and a claim against the other party, but there are several considerations in deciding whether to make only a WC claim , only a civil claim against the other party or both claims.

When should someone call a lawyer for a traffic collision?

Make the first call to us immediately. (After 911)

Should a motorcycle rider or car driver give dash cam footage to the police officer?

Yes, it’s evidence.

What kind of insurance should riders have?

The most common mistake that riders make is not having any, or enough, uninsured/underinsured motorists.  Too often, we cannot get a full recovery for our client because the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance or none-at-all, and the rider doesn’t have proper uninsured coverage or none at all.  I recommend $250,000 or at least $100,000.  The other mistake is not getting GAP insurance when the rider has taken out a large loan on the bike.  If the bike is totaled, you will only get the market value. If it is less than the loan, you still have to pay off the loan even though you don’t have the bike. GAP insurance pays off the loan under those circumstances.

The Law Enforcement Officer Perspective:

Once a police officer gets to the scene, they will take your statement.  Tell the police officer everything that you remember.  Which direction you were going, how fast, lane position, and what you saw.  People often remember things later in the day or the next day after having time to think about it.  People get themselves in trouble when they lie to a police officer.  I have a lot of experience in traffic collision investigations, and it does not take an engineer to figure out that what you told me and what I see at the traffic collision scene are not making sense.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell the officer I don’t know, or I don’t remember.  Most people can give me an estimate on most of the questions, and I feel comfortable with their statements if it matches the evidence at the scene.

You do not have to admit guilt to a traffic accident and should not admit guilt to a traffic accident.  Law enforcement, lawyers, and insurance companies will figure that out later.  If a law enforcement agency puts you at fault, that does not mean that the insurance company and lawyers will agree, and the outcome could be changed on the civil side.

If you must move your vehicles out of the road, try to take some photos before you move anything.  Also, take a video of everything if possible.  One of my biggest concerns when pulling up to a traffic collision scene is everyone’s safety.  Please do not walk around in the middle of the street.  If your motorcycle or car gets hit again, “oh well.”  Better property damage vs. you getting hit by a car.

Anytime you are involved in a motorcycle or car accident, get a traffic collision report done by law enforcement.  Most insurance companies want the traffic collision report because it makes tracking other parties and witnesses easier.  When you have a traffic collision report done while at the scene, it makes it easier for the police officer to get statements from everyone and look at the evidence at the scene.

“After you give your statement to the police officer and the police officer has completed the investigation, you will get a report number for the traffic collision report.  Then call our expert Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at 1800-4-BIKERS to get free legal advice before you call your insurance company. “

Do I need to get a copy of the police report?

No.  The insurance company and attorneys will get a copy of the police report.  You can get a copy of the police report if you would like but it’s not necessary.

What if I disagree with the police report? 

You can go to the police station, talk to a traffic investigator, and explain why the report is wrong.  A traffic investigator can write a supplemental report if something needs to change.  You can also call an attorney to help make things right.

How long does a law enforcement agency take to finish the report so I can get a copy?

It depends on the law enforcement agency.  Ask the police officer on the scene to get a better idea.

How do I know how much training the police officer investigating my accident has?

You can ask a police officer about their training, but to be honest, many times, police officers get thrown into a traffic car and have no idea how to handle a traffic accident.  This is one of the many reasons an attorney could be a good idea.

I was cited as the cause of the traffic accident.  What can I do?

If a police officer cited you for the cause of the traffic accident, you have many options.  The first thing you can do is call an attorney and get help from an attorney on what to do.  You can also fight the ticket in traffic court.  The attorney will go to traffic court for you if you have an attorney.

Can I get my own tow truck to get my vehicle at the traffic collision scene?

This one can be hard to answer because it depends on many things.  If your motorcycle is in the middle of the street, you call a towing company, or your insurance company calls a tow for you, and they give you an hour plus estimated time of arrival; it will be up to the police officer to decide if they want to wait an hour for the tow.  Most law enforcement agencies contract with a towing company, if not several towing companies.  The law enforcement towing companies will usually be there in 15-20 minutes.  If the police officer cannot wait an hour or more for a private towing company, they will get a tow for you.

Do I have to pay for the tow?

If you allow the towing company to take it to their company or a body shop that the insurance company agrees on, you will not have to pay for the tow.  The insurance company will pay for the tow.  If you want the towing company to take it home, you will probably have to pay for it upfront and possibly get reimbursed by the towing company.

What if I was transported to the hospital?

If you were transported to the hospital before the police officer could get your statement, the police officer would call you or go to the hospital to get your statement.

Do I have to give a statement to a police officer?

Giving a statement to the police officer helps the police officer investigate the traffic collision.  Can we write the report without your statement?  Yes, but we prefer to get both sides of the story.  If you don’t give your account, then we must depend on the other party’s statement and evidence at the traffic collision scene.

Insurance Companies Perspective:

I interviewed a person who works at a large insurance company but to avoid any issues with this person’s company, I have left the company and the person’s name out of the article.  Here are the questions I asked and the responses:

When I call an insurance company, what are the steps once an insurance company gets all the information?

“If the person reporting the loss was one of the drivers involved in the traffic collision, then we take their statement of what happened.  This includes the date, time, location, who was involved, and the specifics of what happened.  If photos were taken, we would request copies.  If witnesses were involved, we get their information to follow up.  If a police report was filed, we take that information to request a copy.  If the person filing the claim was not a driver, we get whatever information they have so we can follow up with the involved parties.”

Should people involved in traffic collisions take pictures of the traffic collision scene?  Does it help?

“Absolutely, if it is safe to do so.  Ideally, the drivers would not move their vehicles from their points of rest so they could be photographed.  Photos of the scene would also help, especially if anything unusual happens in the area, such as construction.  If there are skid marks on the road or debris on the ground, that should also be photographed.  Photos of each vehicle should be taken, not just close-ups of the damage, but the whole vehicle.  Again, this is only if it is safe to do so.  People should not stop or block traffic to do this as it could create a hazard that could ultimately cause another loss.  If cars must be moved to the side immediately, that is also fine.  Photos can be taken then.  If the impact was minor, photos of the cars could help us verify the damage caused once a car leaves the scene that becomes harder to do.”

Why can the process take so long to investigate and payout for an accident?

The length of the investigation depends on the complexity of the loss.  Multiple vehicle losses typically take longer as there are more people to contact.  If there are witnesses, they also need to be reached.  If there is a dispute about what occurred, and a police report was filed, it takes time to get a copy of the report.  Depending on the police department, getting the report can take anywhere from three to four months.  Sometimes, it takes time to reach the involved drivers as they have other things going on in their life that takes precedence.  If all the needed information for the involved parties is in the police report, then we are limited in what can be done until the report is received.

What is something that you wish every person did after a collision?

Stay calm, don’t argue over who is at fault, make sure everyone is ok, exchange information fully, take photos, and get to your destination or other safe location.

Is there a time limit to reporting the traffic collision to the insurance company?

That depends on your policy.  Some have set time frames, and others are more lenient.  If you believe someone else is liable, it is best to file the claim immediately. Hence, your carrier has the time needed to address the claim and initiate the subrogation process within the statute. (Contact Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys for free legal advice about any time limits)

Does someone involved in the traffic collision need to get a copy of the traffic collision report?

Not typically.  So long as you have the report information, you can provide it to your carrier, and they will order it.  In some cases, an involved party can get a copy of the cover page of the traffic collision report.  While that will not have details on what happened or who is believed to be liable, it will have the information on the involved parties so the carrier can begin their investigation.  An insurance company cannot get this, but an involved party can reach out to the officer or department writing the report and request it.

Does an insurance company need a police report to file a claim?

In most cases, no, but that depends on your carrier and policy.  In general, if it’s a hit-and-run loss, you should file one, especially if injuries are involved.  If the department will not take a report, then document whom you called, when, and whom you spoke to.  Some policies have specific requirements for a report, but it depends on the type of loss and policy. (Contact Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys for free legal advice about any time limits)

Should parties involved in a traffic collision exchange information at the scene?  Does it help speed up the process?

Absolutely if it is safe to do so, sometimes parties cannot exchange information and must wait on the police to take a report.  While that is ok, it does mean that the investigation cannot proceed until the report is received.  Getting photos of the vehicle license plates will help if information cannot be exchanged.

If someone is injured, can someone not named on the policy make a claim for the injured person?

They can file the claim but what information is released and what can be done varies.  An attorney can file a claim for their injured client, but little information can be provided until a representation letter with the signed designation is received.  If there is a power of attorney provided by a relative, that will enable the insurance company to deal with the designated family member or representative.

As you can see, there are a lot of working parts when someone is involved in an accident, whether there are injuries or not.  If there are injuries, the entire process can take much longer.  It’s often best to call us at 1800-4-BIKERS for free legal advice before you call your insurance company.

“If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, don’t let it steal your freedom! Call 1-800-4-BIKERS to learn how an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can get your bike fixed, money for your medical bills, and compensation for your pain and suffering.”