What Type Of Damages Can I Seek After A Motorcycle Crash?
Motorcycle crashes occur much too often in the our area, and they frequently result from the negligence of other drivers. When a motorist behind the wheel of a car or truck follows a motorcyclist too closely or fails to account for blind spots, for example, a motorcyclist can sustain catastrophic injuries in a collision. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), motorcycle crashes have been rising rapidly across the country. Indeed, the overall rate of motorcycle miles traveled has risen by about 23 percent in the last decade, while motorcycle crash fatalities have increased by about 20 percent during that same period.
If another party is liable for injuries in a motorcycle collision — whether the liable party is another driver, a negligent property owner, or even the manufacturer or designer of a defective motorcycle part — what types of damages can the injured motorcyclist seek? In general, both Ohio and West Virginia laws give injured motorcyclists the right to seek compensatory damages, and in some cases punitive damages may be a possibility. Our experienced motorcycle crash attorneys can provide additional clarification.
Compensatory Damages in Ohio and West Virginia
Most plaintiffs in a motorcycle crash lawsuit will seek compensatory damages. In Ohio and West Virginia, there are two types of compensatory damages that you may be eligible to obtain: damages for economic losses and damages for noneconomic losses.
Ohio law defines economic loss as a pecuniary harm that may include lost wages or salaries, medical care and treatment, and the direct cost of any services, products, treatments, or accommodations necessary due to the injury. A noneconomic loss is defined as “nonpecuniary harm that results from an injury or loss to person or property” such as “pain and suffering, loss of society, consortium, companionship, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, or education, disfigurement, mental anguish, and any other intangible loss.” Noneconomic damages can be more complicated since there is no objective dollar figure associated with such nonpecuniary losses, but a lawyer can speak with you about how to prove that you have suffered a noneconomic loss for which you should be compensated.
While no statutory cap or limit exists for economic damages in a motorcycle crash claim, Ohio law does cap noneconomic damages for non-catastrophic injuries at the greater of $250,000 OR three times economic damages, subject to a maximum of $350,000 per plaintiff. Ohio law does not cap non-economic damages if the victim has suffered a catastrophic injury, such as the loss of the use of a limb, a permanent and substantial physical deformity, or an injury that prevents one from caring for themselves and performing life-sustaining activities. West Virginia does not place a statutory limit or cap on the maximum amount of economic or non-economic damages (pain & suffering) that can be awarded in a motorcycle crash claim.
Punitive or Exemplary Damages in Ohio and West Virginia
In limited cases where a motorcycle crash resulted from the intentional harmful act of another party or for particularly reckless conduct, it may be possible to seek punitive or exemplary damages. This type of damages award is intended to punish the defendant for an especially harmful act. In West Virginia, punitive (or exemplary) damages are capped at either 4-times the amount of compensatory damages, or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Determination of Comparative Negligence, or Contributory Fault in Ohio and West Virginia
Calculation of damage awards is further complicated in Ohio and West Virginia due to each state’s use of a comparative negligence test, to assign a proportionality of fault to each party involved in the collision, including the injured party. As a result, the amount of damages that can be recovered by the injured party is reduced by a proportion of his/her fault.
The comparative negligence standard for determining when an injured party can seek damages is slightly different in each state. Ohio restricts recovery by the injured party if their proportion of fault exceeds 50%. In West Virginia, recovery is barred if the injured party is assessed 51% of the fault. In both states, however, so long as the injured party’s proportion of fault is less than each state’s comparative negligence standard, they can seek damages from the other at-fault parties, less their own proportion of fault.
Here is a sample scenario to help clarify how comparative negligence is applied to awarded damages: Assume a jury awards an injured party $100,000 but then also determines the injured party was 30 percent at fault for the collision. That injured party’s damage award would be reduced by their 30 percent fault liability, meaning they would be awarded $70,000 in damages rather than $100,000. Conversely, all other at-fault parties are only liable for their proportion of fault. So, in the same scenario, if the injured party was assigned 30% fault, and the named defendant is assigned 50% fault but it is learned that an unnamed driver contributed 20% of the fault, the injured party would only be able to recover $50,000 (the total amount of the named defendant’s liability). If the other driver had been named in the suit as a co-defendant, then the injured party could recover the other 20% and walk away with a $70,000 award. Our experienced motorcycle crash attorneys can help clarify the differences between these statutory limits and caps, along with the assessment of comparative negligence, and will advise you on the proper steps to take to maximize your damages recovery.
Timetable Requirements for Seeking Damages
You will only be able to seek damages from a motorcycle crash claim if you file suit before the statute of limitations has run out. Under both Ohio and West Virginia law, the statute of limitations for most types of motorcycle crash claims is two years from the date of the crash/injury. As long as your lawsuit is filed within that time window, you should be eligible to seek and obtain damages.
If a loved one was killed in a motorcycle crash, you should know that wrongful death lawsuits in Ohio and West Virginia also have a two-year statute of limitations. However, the clock in each state begins to tick on the date of the death as opposed to the date of the initial injury. If you do not file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out (either a personal injury or wrongful death case), your claim will be time-barred.
Contact an Ohio or West Virginia Motorcycle Crash Attorney Today
If you or somebody you love sustained injuries in a motorcycle crash, you should speak with a motorcycle accident lawyer at the law firm of Brian G. Miller CO., L.P.A. about seeking damages. Our motorcycle crash lawyers are well-versed in the laws governing Motorcycle Crash Liability Claims in Ohio and West Virginia, but we can only help if you contact us before time expires on your potential claim.