Who Should Be Reading This Book? Who Is Behind This Book And Why Should I Listen To You?

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1 INTRODUCTION Who Should Be Reading This Book? Were you involved in a serious motorcycle wreck? Was a family member killed in a sudden and tragic bike collision? Are you or a loved one looking at a lifetime of medical bills and disability because of a reckless driver? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you have taken an important first step by reading this book. The information we give you here will help. We personally guarantee it. If you read this book and believe you did not learn something important about Iowa motorcycle accident claims, please send a letter to our office and we will make a $25 donation to the Iowa Civil Justice Foundation in your name. You probably opened this book because your mind is swirling with questions like: How do I find out if I have a personal injury case? Who is responsible for what happened to me or my loved one? How long do I have to do something? Who Is Behind This Book And Why Should I Listen To You? We have been answering questions like these for injured Iowans and their families for a combined 45 years. We wrote this book so that you could have good, solid information about Iowa motorcycle accident claims, hiring an attorney and dealing with insurance companies. Regardless of whether or not you choose to file a lawsuit or hire an attorney, this book contains important information that all Iowa bikers should know. Our names are John Riccolo, Tim Semelroth and Pressley Henningsen. We are Iowa attorneys who represent motorcyclists who have suffered serious injury or death due to traffic accidents. If you want a divorce, need a will or have a traffic ticket, we are not the attorneys for you. We only handle serious injury and malpractice cases and we only represent people not big insurance companies. PAGE 1

2 INTRODUCTION John Riccolo is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and is a Past President and member of the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers an invitation-only organization limited to the top 250 trial attorneys in Iowa. Tim Semelroth is also a member of the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers and is an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, which is consistently ranked as one of the top 25 law schools in the country. Pressley Henningsen is a Past President of the Jackson County Bar Association and he speaks around Iowa at educational seminars for fellow attorneys. At the time of this book s publication, John Riccolo, Tim Semelroth and Pressley Henningsen were three of only twenty one Iowans who had been inducted into the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a national organization of attorneys who have verdicts and settlements of a million dollars or more. For more information about who we are, you are welcome to visit our websites at or Why Did We Write This Book? First, we are tired of getting phone calls from seriously injured bikers who have been exploited or otherwise hurt because they did not understand their rights as a motorcycle accident victim in Iowa. We are sick of having to tell Iowa motorcyclists that they made early mistakes that cannot be fixed. We believe the cure to these problems is providing helpful information to injured Iowans and their families before they: Make a significant mistake, like failing to seek immediate medical treatment; Talk to an insurance company before they are educated about their rights; or Miss an important legal deadline that will eliminate any opportunity to get justice. Second, we wrote this book because we believe you deserve to learn about the Iowa accident law in the comfort and privacy of your own home. This book allows you to take your time and review this information at your own pace. PAGE 2

3 INTRODUCTION You can read this book without any lawyers pushing you to file a lawsuit or any insurance companies pressuring you to settle your claim. This book contains helpful information you can use to make your own decisions. It is also a valuable resource you can save in case your family or friends face questions about a serious Iowa motorcycle accident in the future. Third, we wrote this book because giving it to you saves us time. We get phone calls every day from people who want us to represent them in their Iowa motorcycle accident claims. This book contains the same general information that we would give you if you called and spoke to one of the attorneys in our office. Writing this book gives us the chance to talk to you about what you need to know about Iowa motorcycle accident claims so you can make an informed decision about what steps to take in your own situation. We cannot accept every case. In fact, there are many cases we do not accept. However, even if we do not take your case, we believe you still deserve to have access to this important information. This Book Is Not Legal Advice This book, which is based upon Iowa law, is designed to inform and not to advise. We are offering strategies and identifying traps, but please do not construe anything in this book to be legal advice about your individual case. No person should ever apply or interpret any law without the aid of an experienced attorney who knows the facts because the facts may change the application of the law. Reading this book does not make you a client of our law firm or its attorneys. We can only represent you after you have signed a written contract with Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. If you have any questions about your legal rights after reading this book, you can contact us at PAGE 3

4 6 Dangerous Myths About Motorcycle Accident Claims In 2003, there were over 3 million people injured in traffic accidents in the United States. Another 43,000 Americans died as a result of a car crash. Even with this many injuries and deaths every year, there are a lot of myths about what happens after a biker is involved in a traffic accident. We want to clear up the confusion surrounding the following misconceptions: Myth #1 If You Did Not Cause the Accident, You Are Not Obligated to Do Anything If you are injured in a motorcycle accident caused by another driver s mistake, you have a personal injury claim. Under Iowa law, a motorcycle accident victim who wants to be compensated for a personal injury must be able to prove that: The other driver was negligent The other driver s negligence caused damage to the motorcyclist The amount of the motorcyclist s damages. If the injured biker cannot prove any one of the above three elements in a court of law, he or she is not entitled to compensation. That means the burden of proving everything from identifying the important witnesses at the accident scene to providing documentation of all injury-related losses ultimately falls on you, the motorcycle accident victim. For a more detailed explanation of an Iowa motorcycle accident victim s legal obligations, read further in this book to learn the 8 Simple Steps to Protecting Yourself After a Motorcycle Accident. Myth #2 If the Accident Wasn t Your Fault, Somebody Has to Compensate You for Your Injuries Being able to prove that you have a legitimate personal injury claim after a bike accident does not necessarily mean you will be fairly compensated. There also has to be a responsible party with the ability to pay. PAGE 4

5 6 MYTHS ABOUT IOWA MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT CLAIMS Any one of the following scenarios can frustrate an injured motorcyclist s ability to receive fair compensation: When the negligent driver has no insurance When the negligent driver does not have assets that can be seized to pay for the biker s damages When the negligent driver does not have enough insurance to cover all of the biker s damages That is why it is so important to have sufficient uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage as part of your auto insurance policy. Without it, you and your family may be saddled with a lifetime of medical bills and lost wages after a serious bike accident that was not your fault. Myth #3 The Other Driver s Insurance Company Must Immediately Start Paying Your Medical Bills The other driver s insurance company has no legal obligation to pay your medical bills until it is ordered to by a judge or jury after a trial. Even if the other driver was obviously negligent and his or her insurance company says it will pay your medical bills, most insurance companies will only issue one settlement check for an injury claim. That one settlement check will be intended to cover all of the victim s injury claims (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) and, after that settlement check is issued, the insurance company will never pay any additional money for that accident in the future. That means the other driver s insurance company will not usually start paying your medical bills after a motorcycle accident until you are willing to settle your injury claim with them once and for all. How can you get your medical bills paid until you are ready to settle once and for all? An injured biker should consider making an immediate claim with: The biker s own health insurance policy Medical payment coverage under the biker s own auto insurance policy (If the accident occurred while the biker was on the job) the biker s employer s worker s compensation policy PAGE 5

6 6 MYTHS ABOUT IOWA MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT CLAIMS Myth #4 You Need an Attorney Every Time You Are In a Motorcycle Accident Hiring an attorney is an investment. Serious bike crashes usually warrant that investment. Minor accidents often do not. If a motorcycle wreck results in severe injuries or a need for a significant amount of medical care, hiring an attorney is usually a good move. If a bike accident results only in vehicle damage or only in minor and temporary bodily injury, the cost of the attorney s fee may outweigh any benefit that an attorney s service can provide. The attorneys in our office will tell you if we do not believe hiring an attorney is wise. Myth #5 A Quick Settlement Is Always In Your Best Interest As has already been mentioned, most insurance companies will only issue one settlement check for an injury claim and after that settlement check is issued the insurance company will never pay any additional money for that particular accident in the future even if your injuries get worse. If any of the following applies, you usually should avoid a quick settlement: If you are still receiving medical care for accident-related injuries If your accident-related injuries will likely require additional medical care in the future If you have not yet been able to return to normal activities especially work-related activities If you are still in one of the above situations five months after a motorcycle accident, you should immediately consult with an attorney to see what legal deadlines may apply to your personal injury claim. Myth #6 There is No Danger in Trying to Negotiate a Motorcycle Accident Settlement On Your Own Insurance companies save money by paying as little on personal injury claims as possible. Insurance company representatives are trained to elicit damaging statements from bike accident victims and negotiate low settlements. As you will see on the next page, there are many ways to weaken a legitimate personal injury claim when dealing with an insurance company representative the more severe your accident-related injuries, the more dangerous the consequences. PAGE 6

7 8 MISTAKES NO INJURED BIKER CAN AFFORD TO MAKE 8 Mistakes No Injured Biker Can Afford to Make 1. Waiting for someone else to take action Iowa law makes it the responsibility of the victim or the family of the victim to show that the injuries sustained were the result of a motorcycle accident. It is also your responsibility to show that the other driver was at fault. No one else, especially not the insurance company, is going to help you begin the process. Even if you think it is clear that the accident was not your fault and that your injuries were caused by the accident, the insurance company will probably not see it that way. The bottom line is that it is you that must take the first step, not the insurance company. 2. Trying to negotiate with the insurance company yourself Insurance companies spend a lot of time and money trying to convince people they do not need an attorney to represent them after they have been in a traffic accident. In some cases they are right, but in other cases you may want to consult an attorney. If you were involved in a motorcycle accident where the only damage was to your bike, you may not need an attorney. If your only damage is property damage (the damage to your car or bike), we will not handle your case. Our firm focuses on cases involving serious injury or death. If you need an attorney who specializes in property damage cases, call our office and we can put you in touch with an experienced attorney in your area. Anytime a motorcycle accident results in an injury, you should contact an attorney. Where insurance companies can sometimes be dealt with on an individual basis for property damage claims, when a serious injury or death is involved, you need the experience of an attorney. An attorney can keep you from making the common mistakes which ruin motorcycle accident claims. 3. Not seeking immediate medical attention If you were involved in a motorcycle accident that caused injuries to you or a family member, you should see a doctor right away. It may PAGE 7

8 8 MISTAKES NO INJURED BIKER CAN AFFORD TO MAKE not immediately seem like you are injured, but many conditions do not appear until weeks or even months after an accident. This is especially true in motorcycle accidents, where you often have to use your entire body to try to avoid an accident or to swerve your bike when a car pulls out in front of you. Untreated injuries can grow worse, and you do not want what was once just a sore neck or shoulder to develop into a permanent, disabling condition. Secondly, if you want an insurance company to pay for your medical care, it is very important that you document the injuries you suffered. If you wait until weeks or months after the accident, when your injuries have grown even worse, the insurance company (and a jury) will likely believe the injury was caused by something other than the motorcycle accident. That could ruin your ability to recover any money for the medical care of your injuries. 4. Speaking to the other driver s insurance company Insurance companies are not out for your best interests. They are not concerned with making sure you are compensated for your injuries. The insurance company representatives have a wealth of experience in dealing with motorcycle accident claims. They have tricks they will use against you to try to limit the amount of money they have to pay, like asking you to sign waivers or recording statements regarding your accident. The easiest way to not fall prey to their tricks is to never speak to them in the first place. If the insurance company tries to call you, tell them to send all their correspondence by mail. If you are not sure about what they are asking you to sign, have it reviewed by an attorney. 5. Not riding a street-legal bike One thing many drivers claim after they hit a motorcycle is that they couldn t see the motorcycle coming. In these cases, the insurance company may try to claim that your headlight was not on, or that some other defect on the motorcycle actually caused the accident, instead of their driver. The easiest way to prevent these types of claims from the insurance company is to perform routine maintenance on your bike, to make sure you have all of the safety features the law requires and that they are in working condition. Also, be sure to keep good records of all tune-ups and repairs. Do not let a small mechanical problem ruin your ability to collect for your injuries. PAGE 8

9 8 MISTAKES NO INJURED BIKER CAN AFFORD TO MAKE 6. Not hiring a qualified motorcycle accident expert Motorcycles and the techniques used to ride them are very different from cars or trucks. Understanding how motorcycles work requires specialized expertise. In most cases, it is very important to hire an expert who understands motorcycles to review your case. Motorcycle experts can study the following factors that may have caused your crash: Measure skid marks to determine the speed you and other vehicles were traveling at the time of the accident. Study damage patterns on your motorcycle or on the other vehicles to determine the exact manner the collision occurred in. Study the weather conditions on the day of the accident to determine what, if any, factor that would have played in your accident. All of this analysis can help prove who was really at fault in an accident and can help you be compensated for the injuries you sustained. An attorney who specialized in motorcycle accidents knows the importance of performing an extensive investigation of your claim, one that includes expert review. The attorney will collect medical and police records, and interview you and other witnesses to determine whether or not your case can be proven in front of a jury. They will have your case reviewed by experts who can provide opinions on either the cause of the crash or the cause of your injuries. 7. Waiting too long to talk to an attorney It is important, if you have suffered a serious injury, that you speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Iowa s statute of limitations for personal injury is very strict. If you have not filed your case by two years from the date the death or injury occurred, then you cannot recover any damages for your injury ever. However, it is not as simple as walking into an attorney s office one day and having your lawsuit the next. Especially with motorcycle accident cases, an attorney needs time to properly investigate the injury in order to determine if it is worth pursuing a case. Our firm generally spends six months looking into a case before we make the decision to file a lawsuit. Without that time to conduct an investigation, it may not be possible to file your case in time. PAGE 9

10 8 MISTAKES NO INJURED BIKER CAN AFFORD TO MAKE 8. Not finding an experienced motorcycle accident attorney As we mentioned earlier, there are many specialized factors that affect motorcycle accidents in the United States. In order to represent you properly, an attorney must have knowledge of the dangers bikers face on the road, the special injuries bikers face and how those factors affect your ability to recover damages. Not every attorney has the experience you need. Even those attorneys who advertise their expertise in Personal Injury or even Motorcycle Accident law do not all have the same level of experience with motorcycle accident cases. For instance, one injury that is common in motorcycle accidents, but which is not widely understood is a Closed Head Injury. This condition is caused by the sudden trauma that can occur to the brain during a motorcycle accident. It can also be very difficult to diagnose because in a closed head injury, there is no fracture to the skull and the damage often does not appear on medical tests like a CT scan or MRI. A closed head injury often times severely impacts a person s ability to live or work normally and such an injury caused by another person entitles the victim to damages. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney understands closed brain injuries and knows what steps to take to help a victim receive compensation for this debilitating condition. Insurance companies know which attorneys have experience with motorcycle accident claims and know that if you have one of these attorneys they will not be able to use their unfair tactics against you. Unfortunately, it is not easy to tell which attorneys have the experience you need. We will provide some guidelines later in this book, in our chapter A Step-By-Step System For Finding The Right Attorney For You. The Biggest mistake bikers make immediately after they have been involved in a crash is that they think their claim is just like any other ordinary traffic accident claim. IT S NOT. PAGE 10

11 6 UNFAIR TACTICS INSURANCE COMPANIES USE 6 Unfair Tactics Insurance Companies Use to Exploit Injured Bikers After a motorcycle accident, you will usually be contacted by a representative of the other driver s insurance company. This insurance company representative will try to establish a rapport with you and convince you to do things. You must always remember that this person is a professional trained to use a number of tactics to make sure that his or her insurance company pays you as little as possible. 1. You Don t Need an Attorney to Settle This Claim Insurance company representatives will often suggest that you do not need an attorney because we can just work this out together. You need to realize that there is no we in this situation the insurance company representative is not really your friend and is not motivated to make sure you receive fair compensation. The insurance company representative is discouraging you from hiring a lawyer because insurance industry statistics demonstrate that it costs an insurance company an average of $9,000 more per claim when an attorney is advocating for the injured person. Courts and regulators in a number of states, including New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, have ordered insurance companies to stop the unfair tactic of discouraging injured bikers from going to attorneys and learning about their rights. 2. My Company Won t Pay if You Don t Sign Our Medical Release Form The first thing to remember is that the other driver s insurance company is not likely to pay anything anyway unless and until you are willing to settle your case once and for all. Signing a medical release or any other insurance company document is not likely to change that. An insurance company is eventually entitled to review records of any medical treatment for which you ask to be reimbursed. In our experience, however, most medical release forms are written in such a way that they give the insurance company access to all of your medical records even records that are unrelated to your accident injuries. PAGE 11

12 6 UNFAIR TACTICS INSURANCE COMPANIES USE Often insurance companies will then turn around and use your preaccident health history as justification for making a low settlement offer. Our firm protects our clients from this tactic in a number of ways: We advise our clients to avoid giving an insurance company a medical release until we have reviewed your medical records first. If our review uncovers items in your medical history that may impact your claim, we make sure that you know about it before the insurance company does. When we do provide the insurance company with a medical release, we make sure the release only applies to relevant medical treatment. 3. My Company Won t Pay if You Don t Give Me a Recorded Statement See above giving a recorded statement is not likely to make the other driver s insurance company pay your medical bills any sooner. Not only is there usually no benefit to giving a recorded statement to an insurance company on your own but there is also a serious risk. Insurance company representatives are professionals trained to take recorded statements that can be used against you in court. They ask specific questions designed to get damaging admissions from you that will reduce the value of your personal injury claim. If the other driver s insurance company calls you after a motorcycle accident, we recommend that you politely tell them you will be happy to speak to them after you speak to your attorney. Our firm protects our clients from the danger of recorded statements by only allowing them to be taken when one of our attorneys is present. 4. My Company Won t Pay if You Don t (Fill in the Blank) Right Now Insurance company representatives will often try to pressure you to do things for them right away. They often suggest that you will not receive fair compensation if you don t act right now. This suggestion is wrong. Injured Iowa bikers generally have 2 years from the accident date to seek compensation for their injuries either by settling their claims or filing a lawsuit. While there are some situations where the law requires you to provide notice within 6 months, you only have to act when the law requires it not the insurance company. PAGE 12

13 6 UNFAIR TACTICS INSURANCE COMPANIES USE 5. My Company Won t Pay for That Kind of Treatment Sometimes an insurance company representative will learn about the type of medical treatment a motorcycle accident victim is receiving and suggest that his or her insurance company will not reimburse for that type of treatment (often treatment from a specialist or a chiropractor). That is simply not true. Under Iowa law, the at-fault driver (or his or her insurance company) is responsible for paying all reasonable and necessary medical expenses caused by the bike wreck. What constitutes reasonable and necessary medical treatment should be decided by your doctors and other medical providers not by an insurance adjuster. In most situations, injured bikers should seek medical treatment until they are healed or a doctor tells them that their condition is as good as it is going to get (this is often referred to as the patient achieving maximum medical improvement ). 6. My Company Will Write You a Check for $$$ Insurance company representatives will often try to convince an injured biker to quickly settle his or her personal injury claim by throwing out a settlement figure that at first glance seems fair. What they often do not mention is that the motorcycle accident victim may not be entitled to keep all of that money. Often an injured biker has had medical bills or lost wages paid by his or her: Health insurance company Auto insurance company ( medical payment coverage ) Short-term disability insurance company Employer s workers compensation company Almost all of the insurance policies described above require an injured biker to pay back any amounts received if the injured biker receives a settlement with the negligent driver or his or her insurance company. This legal obligation which is known as subrogation can leave an injured biker with little or nothing after a settlement. We protect our clients from the shock of subrogation by always advising our client about how much of any settlement offer they will actually be able to put in their pockets. We also work to reduce our client s subrogation obligations whenever possible before a settlement is reached. PAGE 13

14 8 STEPS TO PROTECTING YOURSELF 8 Simple Steps to Protecting Yourself After a Bike Wreck Some of the most important times for action take place in the first few hours and days immediately following the motorcycle accident. During that time there is a lot of evidence available that can be preserved to protect your legal interests. It is also during this time that major mistakes can be made which can limit or destroy your ability to receive compensation for your injuries. Here are 8 steps to take: 1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention At the accident scene, if anyone is injured, call 911. If you are offered an ambulance ride to the hospital, take it. In all cases, the safe thing to do is seek immediate medical attention regardless of whether you think you are injured or not. Symptoms of an injury may not show up immediately after a crash. Some physical problems may not show up until hours or even days after a crash. In our legal system, the victim is always responsible for proving that he or she was injured in a particular accident. The best way to prove you were injured in a bike accident is to have records from a medical examination that occurred immediately after the crash. After a person is discharged from initial medical treatment after an Iowa bike accident, we advise them to read our guide, 10 Mistakes People Make When Going to A Doctor After An Injury. 2. Call Your Motorcycle or Auto Insurance Company As soon as possible, report the crash to your insurance company even if you are far from home. Ask your insurance agent about how to proceed and what forms or documents you will need to fill out to support your claim. If you fail to immediately report the accident to your insurance company, you may lose whatever protection your insurance company is contractually obligated to provide you. 3. Make Detailed Notes of the Motorcycle Accident Write down everything you remember about the crash as soon as you get home. Draw a diagram of the scene and the vehicles involved. PAGE 14

15 8 STEPS TO PROTECTING YOURSELF Make note of the following information about the accident: The time of day The weather The road conditions What you saw What you heard Put the notes in a safe place so they are available if you have to speak with an attorney or go to trial. 4. Arrange for Photos to Be Taken Even if you believe the investigating officer or an insurance company representative took photographs, you should still get photographs taken on your own. Have all photos taken both up close and from a distance. Have three times as many photographs taken as you think you will need. In particular, get the following types of photos taken: Photos of the accident location: Take photos of the scene both from the direction you approached and from the direction of the other driver s approach. Take photos of all skid marks and measure them. Take photos of any debris left by the crash before moving it. Photos of your motorcycle: Do not have your bike repaired before it is photographed. Take photos from all angles. Photos of your injury: Take photos of all visible injuries. Take photos of all bruises, scrapes, cuts, etc. while they are fresh. Photos of your medical treatment: Have photos taken of you in the hospital. Have photos taken of all casts, slings, and bandages. If you are prescribed the use of a wheelchair, walker or crutches, get photos of those as well. When in doubt, take the photograph. If your case has to go to trial, you want to have all of the visual evidence that you can to show to the jury. PAGE 15

16 8 STEPS TO PROTECTING YOURSELF 5. Get Permission Before Having Your Bike Repaired In addition to having photographs taken of any damage to your vehicle, you should find out what procedures your insurance company requires before arranging for motorcycle repairs. If you fail to take this important step, your company may refuse to pay your repair bills. If anyone was seriously injured or killed in the accident, you should also talk to an attorney before having your vehicle repaired. 6. Avoid Contact With The Other Driver s Insurance Company It is probably not in your best interest to speak to anyone from the other driver s insurance company. Insurance company representatives are trained to take statements that can be used against you. Tell them to contact you only in writing and do not sign any paperwork from an insurance company other than your own. If you have questions about a document you are being asked to sign, talk to an attorney first. 7. Talk To An Attorney Before You Pay A Traffic Fine Or Go To Court For A Traffic Ticket Paying a fine for a traffic offense can be used against you as an admission of guilt. Any testimony at a legal hearing can be recorded and used against your interests. Before taking either action, you should talk to an attorney either one you have hired yourself or one provided to you by your insurance company. 8. If You Suffer Motorcycle-Accident-Related Injuries, Settle Your Claim Or File a Lawsuit Within 2 Years of the Date of the Motorcycle Accident Iowa law requires a bike accident victim or the victim s family to settle a claim, start a lawsuit or give notice of an intent to make a claim within a short period after the accident. Generally, the Iowa statute of limitations for an injured person is two years from the date of the injury. In certain situations, however, injured parties must provide notice before filing suit. That notice may be required within six months of the accident. There are also some limited exceptions to the usual statutes of limitations. Whether an exception applies in a particular case is a question that must be answered on a case-by-case basis by an attorney. PAGE 16

17 WARNING ABOUT YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANY WARNING: If You Are Not Careful, Your Health Insurance Company May Seize Money You Receive in a Motorcycle Accident Settlement or Verdict That was not a typo. It is possible for a health insurance company to take your money after a motorcycle accident settlement or verdict. It is the result of a federal law called The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ( ERISA for short). ERISA, in some instances, can allow a health insurance company to collect the money they spent providing for your medical care if you are ever paid money by the person who caused your injury. What can happen is that an injured biker can get a settlement or a jury verdict and then later get a letter from his or her insurance company stating that the victim is legally obligated to reimburse the insurance company for the amount of the medical benefits paid. The letter usually threatens a lawsuit against the victim unless the ERISA reimbursement which can sometimes be as large as the whole settlement or verdict - occurs within a limited amount of time. It does not seem fair, but it can happen. Do not get caught off guard by an insurance company s ERISA claim. Before attempting to settle a motorcycle accident claim or deciding whether or not to file suit, it is important to review with an attorney whether or not you face a potential ERISA claim. An experienced attorney can often take steps to reduce or eliminate your reimbursement obligations under ERISA. PAGE 17

18 WRONG WAY TO PICK A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT ATTORNEY The Absolute to Pick a Motorcycle Accident Attorney Make no mistake hiring your Iowa motorcycle accident attorney is an important decision with real consequences. Your choice of an attorney can mean the difference between receiving fair compensation or being stuck with a lifetime of unpaid medical bills and lost wages. The absolute wrong way to pick a motorcycle accident attorney is to make a hasty decision based upon convenience or guesswork. Here are just a few examples of the misguided ideas that lead people to choosing the wrong lawyer for their case: I ll just go to the lawyer who handled my divorce. A common mistake is taking a serious motorcycle accident case to the only lawyer you know. Just because a lawyer did a good job on your cousin s drunk driving charge or your neighbor s will does not mean that he or she is qualified to handle a serious bike accident case. In fact, some of the best Iowa bike accident attorneys have highly focused practices you are not likely to find one who also handles family law, criminal law and probate matters. A lawyer who you already know and trust can be a useful resource in finding a qualified motorcycle accident attorney (see #1 of A Step-By-Step System for Finding the Right Iowa Motorcycle Accident Attorney for You) but your search should not necessarily end there. I ll just go to the lawyer with the office down the street. What are the odds that you just happen to live minutes away from one of the relatively few Iowa lawyers who have handled a serious motorcycle accident case? The sad truth is that most people are willing to drive several hours for a good deal on a new car but they do not look beyond their hometown for a lawyer. Don t get us wrong if you were injured in Iowa, you will likely need a lawyer with a license to practice in Iowa. But what many people don t realize is that a motorcycle accident attorney who is licensed to practice law in Iowa can file a lawsuit in any Iowa county. You should not focus on picking the nearest attorney you should focus on picking the best and most qualified one for your case. That kind of choice can and should involve a statewide search. PAGE 18

19 WRONG WAY TO PICK A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT ATTORNEY I ll just open my phonebook and see the first lawyer who takes my call. The Yellow Pages can be a useful resource in finding a qualified motorcycle accident attorney (see #1 of A Step- By-Step System for Finding the Right Iowa Motorcycle Accident Attorney for You). The costly mistake some people make is calling only one law office or only talking to the first lawyer who returns their call. Any lawyer can seem qualified or knowledgeable if you do not have anything to compare him or her to. A smart consumer will use the phonebook to come up with an initial list of names that can then be carefully investigated. One more warning about the phonebook beware of phonebook ads for lawyers who list 6 or more different types of cases that they handle. The more specialties they list, the less time they actually spend in each area. I ll just let an attorney referral service or website direct me to a lawyer in my area. What we are talking about here is the type of service either over the phone or on the internet where you are directed to describe your situation and give your city and state. In exchange, you are then provided with the name of an attorney to contact. A lawyer is listed by an attorney referral service or website not because they are good at the specific area of law, but because they have usually paid a fee to be listed. You won t get a guarantee of the recommended lawyer s expertise or experience. You need to have more information available to you to make an informed decision. Without more information, it is dangerous to rely solely on an attorney referral service or website s recommendation. PAGE 19

20 STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO FINDING THE RIGHT ATTORNEY The Step-By-Step Guide for Finding the Right Iowa Motorcycle Accident Attorney For You So what can you do to make sure that the attorney you hire is qualified to handle your case? We have put together a step-by-step system that will greatly increase the odds of finding an attorney who is qualified and will represent you well. 1. Create a List of Names of Iowa Attorneys Who Handle Serious Motorcycle Accident Cases This sounds fairly simple, but it is a very important first step. In many cases people do not stop to check what their options are before hiring an attorney. Think of it like this when you combine the amount of time and money invested into a serious motorcycle accident case, it could be as big an investment as a new house. You would not buy the first house that you saw without stopping to look at others in the market and exploring other options. You should not do that with an attorney either. Here are a few places to start your search: Do an Internet search. The internet can be a great tool for doing an initial search for names of Iowa motorcycle accident attorneys, but be careful. We already outlined some of the dangers of relying too heavily on online directories or referral services. The key to searching the internet is not to do a general search like Motorcycle Accident Attorney. You will get thousands of results from all over the country. Make sure to include Iowa as one of your search terms. Also, do not rely too heavily on the information contained on a particular lawyer s website. The purpose of searching the internet is not to hire an attorney on the spot, but to build an initial list of names that you will investigate more closely. Check the Yellow Pages. Again, here you need to be careful. Focus on what the phone book ad is telling you about the attorney. Because Iowa motorcycle accident law can be complex, limit your search to attorneys who list one or two closely-related specialties (for instance, Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice are closely-related specialties). PAGE 20

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