Questions We Are Asked Each Week By Clients...

We are often asked questions like how much should the insurance company pay?  How are my weekly benefits calculated?, etc.  So we have put together some of the questions we here the most and the answers to them.  We hope this helps you avoid making a mistake in your Iowa personal injury, car accident, dog bite, work injury or other injury matter.

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  • Why are Motorcycle Crashes on the Rise?

    During the past 10 years, more motorcycle riders have been getting injured or killed on our roadways.  Historically, August is one of the worst months for motorcycle riders.  Yes, overall there are more motorcycle riders on the roads than there were 10 years ago as more women have purchased motorcycles.  A sobering fact is that while motorcycles account for less than 1% of all vehicle miles in Iowa, they make up a much larger percentage of the crashes.  A whopping 14% of the fatalities and 16% of severe injuries are sustained by motorcycle riders each year in Iowa. 

    Motorcyclists are more vulnerable on the roadways as there is very little protection for the rider.  After a motorcycle accident, the injured rider needs good advice about how to deal with medical providers, the insurance companies, etc.  It is a common misconception that if the other driver is at fault, their car insurance will pay for the medical bill and expenses of the injured rider.

    How To Protect My Self And My Claim

    1. Seek treatment immediately and tell them everything that hurts.  If you are hurt, then you need to go immediately to the emergency room or your doctor.  Failing to seek medical treatment can not only result in your injuries being more severe but will also be used against you in your claim.  Also, make sure you tell your medical providers about all the areas that are injured including all pain and limitations you are having caused by the motorcycle accident. 

    2.  Don’t rush to settle your claim.  Often insurance companies will offer you a few thousand dollars to settle your case which may sound tempting.  However, if you sign the release and agree to the settlement you are not only giving up your rights but may have to pay for your medical care and treatment out of your pocket or reimburse your health insurance company. 

    3.  Don’t give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster or sign anything.  Insurance adjusters are trained to ask you questions in such a way that later one can be used against you.  Giving a recorded statement seldom helps your case and often can hurt it.  Signing forms for an insurance company gives them access to information that has nothing to do with the accident and may result in them discovering information that they will use against you when it comes time to try to settle your case.    

    4.  Documentation.  Make sure to keep copies of work excuses, verification of time off work, lost pay, medical bills and records, police reports and also you should document in a journal each day how you are feeling. 

    5.  Never exaggerate your injuries.  Your medical records should provide the information about your injuries so long as you tell your providers everything that hurts.  Please don't try to make your medical condition sound worse than it is.  Exaggerating your injuries can severely damage the value of your case.    

    6.  Talk to an experienced injury attorney before you consider settling your case.  Insurance adjuster settles claims for a living.  You need a professional on your side to defend your rights and to protect you from getting ripped off by an insurance company.  Before you even consider a settlement, you should consult with a qualified injury attorney to find out what your rights are, other potential sources of recovery, issues dealing with medical bills and subrogation, etc. 

  • How do I file claim after motorcycle accident in Iowa?

    To file claim after motorcycle accident, you’ll need to establish injury or property loss, adhere to the statute of limitations, and hire a lawyer.  Consider these tips on how to successfully file a claim from our established motorcycle accident law firm.

    Seek Medical Attention and Save Records

    If you were injured in your motorcycle accident, the first thing that you need to do following the accident is to seek medical attention. Then, you need to gather all the documentation relevant to that medical care. When you file your claim with the insurance company, you’ll need to provide proof of your injuries and expenses.

    Review Your Policy

    All motorcyclists and motorists are required to carry proof of financial responsibility in Iowa, most typically in the form of car or motorcycle insurance. If you carry motorcycle insurance, then you need to review your policy as soon as possible after an accident. Often, default insurance coverage is not enough.

    If you were at fault for the accident and only have the basic coverage amount, then your policy will only pay up to that amount. If you have other types of coverage, though, like medical payments coverage, then you may be entitled to more money, regardless of who caused the accident.

    File in Time

    It’s extremely important that you notify your insurance company of your motorcycle accident immediately following the accident, and that you file your claim as quickly as possible. If you don’t, you may miss the stipulated time requirements and may see a denied claim. If you need to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages, you have two years under Iowa Code 614.1.

    Contact an Attorney

    Seeking medical attention and saving records, reviewing your policy, and filing your claim on time are all essential aspects of filing a claim after a motorcycle accident. To ensure that you get all the benefits, you also need to contact a motorcycle crash attorney.

    Having an attorney on your side can increase your chances of getting a higher compensation amount. In the event that your claim can’t be settled, an attorney can help you take it to court.

    At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, our attorneys can help you file your claim today. If you need an advocate to guide you through the process, our lawyers are ready to get to work. We have the determination and know-how you need! Call us at 888-435-9986 to get started now.

  • Are novelty motorcycle helmets safe versus DOT-certified helmets?

    All helmets are not equal – if you’re a motorcyclist, the helmet you choose can be key in keeping your head protected. While novelty motorcycle helmets may look attractive, they do not meet federal Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standards.

    What is a novelty helmet?

    A novelty motorcycle helmet is manufactured without meeting DOT safety regulations. DOT helmets meet FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) number 218. Novelty helmets may have a thin padding and may be relatively lightweight. DOT helmets are usually heavier and have more padding than do novelty helmets.

    Novelty Motorcycle Helmet Performance Testing

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted performance testing on novelty helmets. A summary of that testing, published by the NHTSA in April 2007, concludes that “novelty helmets perform significantly worse in terms of their ability to absorb impact energy during a motorcycle crash.”

    In fact, a rider who is wearing a novelty helmet at the time of a crash and head impact has a 100 percent probability of brain injuries and/or skull fracture, per the NHTSA’s computer simulations. Essentially, wearing a novelty helmet at the time of crash, rather than a DOT-certified helmet, greatly increases a motorcyclist’s chance of sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

    How do I find a safe motorcycle helmet?

    Choosing style over safety can lead to catastrophic and fatal injuries. The NHTSA recommends that all motorcyclists, in order to identify a safe helmet, check for thick inner lining, sturdy chin straps and rivets, helmet weight, design of helmet, and the DOT-certified sticker. If a DOT sticker is not visible on a helmet, do not wear it while riding, as there is a strong possibility that the helmet will not adequately protect your head in the event of a crash.

    Don’t Wait Any Longer to Take Action

    If you currently have a novelty helmet and are using it for head protection while riding, take action now to replace the novelty helmet with a DOT-certified one. Doing so may save your life.

    In the event that you are in an accident and do sustain injuries, there are options for recovering money for your injuries, either through an insurance company or through a personal injury lawsuit. At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, our attorneys can help explain the advantages of filing a claim through each avenue. You can reach us now for answers to your legal questions at 888-435-9886.

  • What areas are motorcycle blind spots all Des Moines drivers should know?

    Motorcycle blind spot areas all Des Moines drivers should know include the rear left and rear right of the motorcycle. Most people are aware of blind spots on cars and large trucks, and know to stay clear of them. But motorcycles, despite their small size, have a number of blind spots too. If you’re a motorcyclist or drive a passenger car in Des Moines, here’s some information about motorcycle blind spots you should know.

    Blind Spots are on the Rear-Left and Rear-Right of a Motorcycle

    Motorcyclists are lucky in that there aren’t a lot of obstructions to vision on a motorcycle. However, directly behind and to the right or the left are two blind spots that motorcyclists should be familiar with.

    How to Prevent a Motorcycle Accident

    While checking mirrors is a must, motorcyclists should also do a head check where they turn their head to make sure the blind spot is clear. By checking blind spots in this manner before changing lanes, you may be able to avoid driving into a lane that has an oncoming motorist.

    Also remember to stay out of passenger car blind spots (similar to motorcycle blind spots) and truck blind spots (in front, directly behind, and to the left and right of the truck).

    Other tips for safe riding include:

    • Always wear a motorcycle helmet
    • Wear the proper motorcycle riding gear
    • Drive sober
    • Plan your route in advance
    • Adhere to all posted traffic laws
    • Make sure your bike is in tip-top shape

    For regular motorists, remembering that motorcyclists have blind spots too and keeping a safe distance can help keep both you and the motorcyclist stay safe.

    What should I do if I am in an accident?

    If are in a car accident in Des Moines, you have a few options for financial recovery. If the accident was your fault, you can file a claim with your own insurance company if you have the appropriate coverage. Or, if the accident was the fault of another driver, you can file a claim with that driver's insurance company or file a lawsuit; you may also file a claim with your own insurer if you have the right coverage.

    Following an accident in Des Moines, the guidance of an attorney can be critical, especially if you’re not sure whether you should file a claim with the insurance company or file a lawsuit against the driver. In Iowa, you only have two years to file a claim for damages, so it’s important that you act quickly. At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, our personal injury attorneys can help you now. To get started, call us today at 888-435-9886 or contact us online.

  • Can I file a motorcycle accident claim if I did not have a valid motorcycle license?

    If you were involved in a motorcycle accident in Des Moines and did not have a valid motorcycle license at the time, you may still file a motorcycle accident claim against the other driver. Not having a valid motorcycle license doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with fault in an accident and does not preclude you from filing a claim if the other driver caused the wreck.

    While you might face penalties for operating a motorcycle without a license, filing a motorcycle accident claim should follow the same procedure as filing any other accident liability claim.

    How do I establish that I’m not at fault?

    Thankfully, Iowa is a modified comparative fault state. According to Iowa’s modified comparative fault law, each driver involved in an accident may recover damages unless he or she is more than 51 percent responsible for the accident. So even if you were unlicensed, if your motorcycle accident claim establishes the other driver was mostly responsible for the accident, you can recover damages.

    Documentation of your motorcycle accident can help you prove fault, at the scene of the accident, you may have:

    • taken photographs;
    • collected witness testimony;
    • jotted down witness contact information;
    • made note of the other driver’s contact information; and/or
    • gotten the name of the driver’s insurance company.

    All of these items will come in handy when you file a claim against the other driver. Afterward, the first thing you must do when you are involved in a motorcycle accident is fill out an Iowa Accident Report if the accident resulted in death, personal injury, or total property damages of at least $1,500. If law enforcement investigated the accident, the report is not required. If you’re filling out the report, return it via mail to the Iowa Department of Transportation in Des Moines. Be sure to return the report within 72 hours.

    Once you have filled out an Iowa Accident Report and mailed the report to the Iowa Department of Transportation, you should file an accident claim. To file the claim, contact the other driver’s insurance company and report the accident. You may then present the evidence mentioned above to establish that the other driver is to blame for the accident.

    Will the insurance company blame me for the accident if I’m unlicensed?

    However, like filing any type of claim, filing a motorcycle accident claim can be a tedious task whether or not you had a valid license at the time of the accident. The insurer may try to argue that you were at fault for the accident and may attempt to convince you that not having a valid motorcycle license is indicative of your fault. Thus, you must present convincing evidence that you are less than 51 percent at fault and that the other driver is actually to blame.

    An attorney at Walker, Billingsley and Bair can provide you with legal counsel about filing a claim against the other driver involved in your motorcycle accident and can help you deal with insurance adjusters. Call us at 888-435-9886 to set up a consultation.

  • Types of special motorcycle insurance coverage in Iowa?

    Iowa's financial responsibility requirement applies to motorcycles as well as motorists. The minimum requirements are $25,000 bodily injury liability insurance per person, $40,000 bodily injury liability per accident, and $15,000 property damage liability. Liability insurance covers damages that other motorists suffer for an accident the policyholder caused.

    Under the law, if a driver is in an accident or stopped by a police officer, they need to show proof of meeting the financial responsibility requirement, or the state may revoke the motorcyclist’s license.

    Also note that the auto insurance purchased for a car does not apply to a motorcycle. Each vehicle must have its own insurance.

    What insurance coverage can motorcyclists purchase?

    While required to carry liability insurance, there are other insurance policies motorcyclists may carry to protect themselves in the event of an accident. Check with the insurer if it offers a particular type of coverage for motorcycles.

    Some possible coverage options include:

    • Collision: This insurance covers damages for the policyholder in accidents with vehicles, objects or for rollovers/falls. Regardless of fault, policyholders will have money to repair or replace the bike after the accident.
    • Comprehensive: Comprehensive covers damage from fire, weather events, vandalism, floods, theft and animal damage to the bike.
    • Medical expense: This covers medical expenses for the policyholder regardless of fault in the accident, up to the policy limits.
    • Uninsured/underinsured motorists insurance (UM/UIM): This insurance covers you in the event you're in an accident with someone without insurance, if you exceed the at-fault driver's liability limits, or if the at-fault driver flees the scene.

    Some motorcyclists customize their bikes, so they may wish to purchase additional coverage for these accessories. Accessory or optional equipment coverage is for modifications and enhancements to the appearance or performance of a motorcycle. In the event of an accident, the coverage will allow the policyholder to recover the expenses he or she incurred customizing the bike.

    How do I file a motorcycle insurance claim?

    After any accident, you should save the:

    • accident report;
    • witness contact information;
    • other motorist's contact and insurance information;
    • photographs of the accident scene; and
    • photos of the bike.

    Let your insurance company know about the accident. Tell them who was involved and the basics of what happened. If another motorist is at fault and you’ll be filing a liability claim with his or her liability coverage, let that motorist’s insurance company know about the accident too.

    If you’re unable to recover fair compensation from the other driver’s insurance, you may have to file a lawsuit. Keep in mind you may be able to recover damages via your own insurance policy, provided you have applicable coverage like collision coverage or medical expense coverage.

    If you have more questions about motorcycle accident insurance claims and lawsuits, read Walker, Billingsley & Bair's guide to motorcycle accidents. We have years of experience dealing with these cases and can answer your questions and provide legal representation.

  • If I was not wearing a helmet and suffered severe head injuries in a motorcycle accident, can I still file a claim?

    While many motorcyclists in Des Moines like to ride without a helmet – which is their legal right – it can contribute to devastating injuries in the event of an accident. According to a 2012 factsheet provided by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, over the past five years, 83 percent of all individuals killed while riding motorcycles in the state were not wearing helmets.

    For those who survive a motorcycle crash in Iowa while not wearing helmets, there may be large monetary costs associated with the physical rehabilitation and medical treatments for head and spine injuries. In that case, the injured should speak with an attorney who is familiar with how helmet laws and helmet use might affect a claim for compensation.

    Iowa Motorcycle Helmet Laws

    Iowa does not have any law in place that requires motorcyclists to ride with helmets. Although this has led to debates over whether or not more lives could be saved if a law was in place, it does mean that riders who were not wearing a helmet at the time of an accident were not breaking the law. That said, because of the comparative negligence laws in the state, failure to use a motorcycle helmet may affect an injured biker's recovery of damages in some cases.

    Comparative Negligence in Iowa

    The state also uses a system of comparative negligence when examining liability in a car accident. This ultimately means that a party injured in a motorcycle or car accident may be awarded a percentage of damages minus the share of the blame they are assessed. If the rider is more than 50 percent at fault for an accident and injuries, however, the injured rider will not be eligible to recover any compensation at all.

    In the case of a motorcycle accident claim, if the injured party suffered head and/or spine injuries in a wreck but was not wearing a helmet at the time, the rider may be deemed partially at fault for neglecting to wear a helmet to protect his or her head and neck. Thus, the injured motorcyclist may not recover the full amount of damages.

    Of course, if the rider broke his or her leg and suffered no head injuries, then helmet use would not be a factor in the case and would not affect recovery of damages.

    Contact an Attorney for Help after a Des Moines Wreck

    Because the laws regarding motorcycle helmets and fault in motorcycle accidents can be difficult to navigate, it is important to speak to an accident attorney if you have suffered head injuries and were not wearing a motorcycle helmet. The attorneys at Walker, Billingsley & Bair can help you understand the laws that pertain to your case and compile the evidence you need for your accident claim. Feel free to contact us today at 888-435-9886 to set up an initial consultation. You also can contact us online.

  • Does Iowa have any motorcycle helmet laws?

    Iowa does not have any motorcycle helmet laws requiring motorcyclists wear head protection. There are no fines for not wearing a helmet. Motorcyclists can decide on their own whether to wear protective gear.

    While motorcyclists in other states lawfully may be allowed not to wear a helmet, most states have certain criteria they must meet first. And many states have laws requiring riders of a certain age wear a helmet. So Iowa is somewhat unique in having no laws requiring motorcycle helmets – or eye protection for that matter.

    Doesn't Iowa have to enforce motorcycle helmet laws?

    No. In 1967, the federal government enacted a law stating all states must enact a universal motorcycle helmet law or it would retract certain state highway funds. But in 1976, Congress retracted this mandate and simply stated that states should implement helmet laws. Iowa once had a universal motorcycle helmet law but retracted it in 1986.

    There are three states that do not have motorcycle helmet laws: Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire. The 47 other states have some motorcycle helmet laws, and 19 states have instituted laws requiring all riders to wear a helmet.

    Should I wear a helmet?

    Legally, that's up to you. Of course, motorcyclists should be aware that wearing a helmet could prevent or reduce the severity of a head injury. It could even save your life. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that in 2008, motorcycle helmets saved 1,829 lives. And helmets could have saved another 822 lives had the riders been wearing one.

    But aside from the health and safety reasons to wear a helmet, choosing not to wear one could affect you in another way. If you're in an accident, whether you were wearing a helmet may be relevant if you file a claim against a driver who caused your crash.

    How might motorcycle helmet use affect my accident claim?

    Even though Iowa does not have a motorcycle helmet law, if you choose not to wear one, it might affect your comparative negligence if you suffer head injuries in an accident – even if you didn't cause the accident. For example, if another driver merges into your lane and runs you off the road, causing you to suffer a head injury, not wearing a helmet could mean you're partially liable for the injury.

    As such, it could reduce your settlement proportional to the percentage of fault assigned to you. If you're assigned 15 percent of the fault, for example, and you suffered $20,000 in damages, you'd collect $17,000 instead of the full $20,000.

    Your attorney might argue that wearing a helmet would not have prevented or reduced severity of the injury, but this is a challenge you could face. On the other hand, if you suffered leg injuries, helmet use would not have affected your injuries, so it would not be relevant to your case.

    If you're ever in an accident, discuss helmet use with an attorney and how it might affect your particular case. You also can check out our free guide, Iowa Consumer's Guide to Motorcycle Crashes. Call us at 888-435-9886.

  • What’s the value of my motorcycle accident claim if I suffered permanent injuries?

    It’s not easy to give an exact value for a motorcycle accident claim, even if that motorcycle wreck results in a permanent, disabling injury. That’s because no two cases are alike. The injuries differ in severity and the effects may not be exactly the same from one injured rider to the next.

    Permanent Injuries and Economic Damages

    One of the most important aspects of any injury claim – and one of the easiest to calculate – is the economic damages you’ve suffered. This entails adding up the wages you’ve missed while you’re recovering, the medical bills you’ve incurred as you sought treatment, and any other expenses related to the accident.

    But permanent injuries cause lasting and sometimes lifelong damages that create additional expenses. In extreme cases, if you require long-term care such as an in-home nurse, you must account for those expenses.

    The same goes for wages. You may have to work with your attorney and an expert witness may provide testimony regarding the effects of your permanent injuries on your ability to work. An expert may also estimate your lost wages related to the accident and your injuries.

    The Health Council published a study in 2010 on the incidence and total lifetime costs of motor vehicle-related fatal and nonfatal injury by road user type and they determined that the medical care and lost productivity cost roughly $99 billion. Of that amount, motorcycle fatal and non-fatal injuries made up $12 billion.

    Permanent Injuries and Non-economic Damages

    Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate because they don’t come with receipts. An insurance company may calculate the value of your noneconomic damages based on the value of your economic damages by using a multiplier based on the severity of your injuries.

    For instance, a permanent and serious head injury may warrant more non-economic damages than a permanent knee injury.

    Talk to your attorney about how best to estimate your non-economic damages, these may address:

    • pain and suffering;
    • mental anguish;
    • disfigurement; and
    • disability.

    Should I hire a lawyer for my motorcycle wreck case?

    In addition to establishing your damages, you must also provide evidence of the other motorist’s fault if you’re pursuing a liability claim. If the other motorist tries to place some of the blame on you, you may have to present evidence that you were not to blame for the accident, or at least not as responsible as the other motorist is claiming.

    Because of Iowa’s negligence laws, if you’re 51 percent or more at fault, you cannot recover damages; even if you’re less than 51 percent at fault, it will proportionally reduce the damages you can recover.

    A lawyer at Walker, Billingsley & Bair can help you recover damages for permanent disability if you’ve been in a motorcycle accident in Des Moines. If you are in need of help with your motorcycle wreck case, contact Walker, Billingsley & Bair to schedule a free consultation. Call us at 888-435-9886 or use our online contact form.

  • Are there age restrictions for operating a motorcycle in Iowa?

    The legal age to operate a motorcycle in Iowa is 14, though these riders face certain restrictions. Riders 14 to 17 must obtain a motorcycle instruction permit; operators with only a permit face restrictions regarding with whom they may drive.

    Riders may obtain an intermediate motorcycle license at 16, but still face restrictions. Riders may obtain a full license at 17 provided they meet other requirements. Further, riders under 18 years old must take a rider's education course before they can legally operate a motorcycle.

    Motorcycle Instruction Permits

    Riders who obtain a motorcycle instruction permit and are between 14 and 17 years old can drive with a licensed parent or guardian, provided the parent or guardian has a motorcycle endorsement.

    Juvenile motorcyclists may also operate the bike with an immediate family member licensed with endorsement who is 21 years old or over. Riders need a parent’s permission to operate a bike with another licensed adult with motorcycle endorsement and the adult must be at least 25 years old.

    The requirements are the same for permit holders who are 18, but they do not require parental permission to ride with a non-family member who is 25 years or older and holds a license and motorcycle endorsement.

    Further, Iowa’s motorcycle law states, “the accompanying person must be within audible and visual communications distance from the permittee and be accompanying the permittee on or in a different motor vehicle." The accompanying person must supervise only one permittee at a time.

    Intermediate Motorcycle License

    Individuals who have a motorcycle instruction permit for six months may, with parental permission, obtain an intermediate motorcycle license. The individual must have at least 20 hours of street and highway driving, of which two hours must have occurred after sunset or before sunrise.

    Intermediate license holders may not operate a motorcycle between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. without accompaniment by an individual that meets the criteria mentioned above under the ‘Motorcycle Instruction Permits’ section. They may operate the motorcycle between these hours if they are riding to or from a school-related extracurricular activity.

    Full Motorcycle License

    Riders who are 17 and older may obtain a full motorcycle driver’s license if they had an intermediate license for at least a year. They must have completed at least 10 hours of street or highway driving, two hours of which occurred after sunset or before sunrise.

    Motorcycle Safety Course is Required for Riders Under 18

    The motorcycle safety courses that young riders must take before they receive their instruction permit include 15 hours of training: five hours of in-class instruction and 10 hours of range activities.

    Some of the skills taught in motorcycle safety courses include:

    • riding in a straight line;
    • turning;
    • shifting;
    • stopping; and
    • other riding skills.

    The classes are Motorcycle Safety Foundation-approved and held at certified facilities across the state.

    What if a motorcyclist is not licensed and is in an accident?

    Operators who do not possess the proper license or who violate the requirements for the license or permit may face legal consequences, not to mention civil consequences if they cause an accident. Failing to possess the proper license or violating the terms of the license may contribute to the rider’s comparative negligence in the event of a motorcycle accident.

    Talk to an attorney at Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines by setting up an appointment for a consultation. Call 888-435-9886.