How to Find the Best Motorcycle Accident Lawyer For Your Case

This video features Claude Wyle, a Personal Injury attorney based in California.

Lifelong Motorcycle Rider Claude Wyle | San Francisco, CA

Video Transcript:

Claude Wyle:

These are things we've learned through being motorcyclists our whole lives, and also through being motorcycle attorneys our whole careers.

Rob Rosenthal:
If you're injured in a motorcycle wreck, how do you make sure you pick the right personal injury lawyer to help you? Well, that's what we're going to find out today, because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer.

Hi again, everybody, I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest today is San Francisco attorney Claude Wyle. Remember, if you want to ask questions about your specific case, head over to askthelawyers.com, click the button that says “Ask a Lawyer” and you can do it right there.

Claude, good to see you again. Thank you for helping us out today.

Claude Wyle:

Good to see you too, Rob. Thanks for having me.

Rob Rosenthal:

So let's just start at the beginning. We'll make the assumption that a motorcycle rider is injured in a collision, and obviously the first thing they need to do is get medical help, but then what? What’s your advice from there?

Claude Wyle:

Well, the next thing they need to do is to realize that a motorcycle crash is very, very different from an automobile or a bus crash, or any other kind of four-wheel vehicle. A motorcycle crash involves two wheels and the dynamics are incredibly different. It's important as soon as your health has been assured, as soon as you're in the hospital or being taken care of, that you have somebody or you contact yourself, a motorcycle lawyer. And by motorcycle lawyer, I mean somebody who is familiar with the dynamics of a motorcycle crash as opposed to your average run-of-the-mill car crash.

Rob Rosenthal:

Is it important to get somebody right away? Or can you wait until you’re out of the hospital and everything's okay?

Claude Wyle:

Well, it depends how long you're going to be in the hospital. I'm communicating right now, and I have been all weekend previously, with a gentleman who was in the hospital and was being transferred last night to a more serious hospital. So, he's asking me for advice as we go along by text; and we're available at our firm 24/7 every day of the week. If you need to get a hold of us, we are there to answer your questions. Because he is being taken hundreds of miles away from where the accident happened, we have asked his best friend to go to the scene and to document the evidence there so that it's not lost forever. That's the first thing you want to do.

The reason you want to get a lawyer right away is, of course, to explain what you can expect, what you should expect. The most important thing you can do as a client is to concentrate on your health and to improve your health, following doctor's orders, and doing everything that you can to get better. After that, leave the nasty stuff, the claim, to me or my partner or our paralegals; we can take care of the other stuff. You concentrate on getting better because that's the most important. So you need another part of the recovery team. We are the financial recovery team, and we work very, very closely with every one of our motorcycling clients.

We like to think we work closely with everybody, but because my partner and I are lifelong bikers, we have a special place in our hearts for motorcyclists. And because we have almost 40 years each in experience in handling motorcycle cases, we know how to handle them better than the guy down the street, it's just a fact. I get told this time in time out by the lawyers for the insurance companies; they understand that they're being outclassed; they know what's going on; they often have to defer to us before we even hire an expert.

Rob Rosenthal:

So you may have just answered my question, Claude. When someone's looking for the right motorcycle lawyer, the right personal injury attorney to help them with this kind of situation, what do they look for? Is it somebody that has experience and rides a bike themselves? What else?

Claude Wyle:

You look for somebody that has experience; that has been riding maybe their whole lives, like my partner and myself—and my paralegal is a motorcycle safety instructor, by the way. You look for somebody who understands not only the dynamics of a crash, but what choices were available to the motorcyclist as the collision was unfolding. Because oftentimes insurance companies like to blame the bike; police officers like to blame the biker; and you have to really look at what was available for the biker to do before the actual impact. Oftentimes we understand what choices the motorcyclist had much better than the insurance company, much better than the reporting police officer.

I think it's a little bit sad that a lot of the time, the reporting police officer tends to blame the motorcyclist, and more often than not that's just not true. More often than not, the motorcyclist was doing nothing wrong, but maybe they were unconscious or unable to give a coherent statement or just didn't know what to say. And so the police officer lays the blame in the report on the motorcyclist. It's up to us as lawyers to gather the facts and gather the evidence to see if we can find an accountable party, meaning the offending driver, the defending driver's employer, the roadway, whoever maintained the roadway, whoever was doing construction on a roadway, the motorcycle itself; there might be a product defect in the motorcycle. There's all sorts of things that we have to explore so that you, the injured motorcyclist can concentrate on getting better.

Rob Rosenthal:

That made me think of something; if the police report after the accident says, “Oh, it's the motorcyclist’s fault.” They shouldn't just assume then that they don't need to call someone like you, right? That doesn't necessarily mean they don't have a case, correct?

Claude Wyle:

It's often the opposite. I think our biggest settlements and some of our biggest verdicts have been cases where the police officer has laid the blame squarely on the motorcyclist. Let me say one thing that's probably a surprise; the police officer puts who they think is the primary collision factor of the person at fault, but that opinion in California is not admissible evidence. The police officer's opinions and conclusions do not come in at trial and are not usable for proving fault.

So we start from scratch. We look at the facts, and by the time we're done really digging up the truth, the police officer usually changes their mind. They don't change the report, but they change their mind, so by the time they show up for trial, they're going to be a little bit more favorably inclined toward our clients. We're not manipulating anybody; we just bring out the evidence and we bring out the truth.

Rob Rosenthal:

So you talked about the difference between a collision, say, automobile versus automobile as opposed to motorcycle versus automobile. Is it as simple as the injuries are just way more serious for motorcycle accidents?

Claude Wyle:

Well, of course, the injuries are generally more serious for a motorcycle collision because the motorcyclist is not protected by a bunch of steel like a car driver. So that's a given, but that means you also need to hire an attorney who is familiar with the kind of injuries that motorcyclists generally get. We're not usually working on whiplash cases. We're usually working on head injuries, leg injuries; there are so many tibia, fibula fractures—meaning around the ankle—that we have in this office right now, and we can help get the right doctors to help you out later, after you get out of the hospital.

But the dynamics of a motorcycle collision are so different. Motorcycles lean when they turn, motorcycles countersteer when they turn; they have front brakes and back brakes; they are completely different. Motorcyclists wear safety gear—some more, some less. The dynamics of injury are also different. The human bio-mechanical dynamics are different; motorcycles often fly off the bike or they often go down with the bike. You need to look at a specific kind of collision for a motorcycle, not just like a car where it'll skid and bang into something, and you can use the skid marks to kind of reconstruct what happened. Motorcycle skid marks or tire friction marks, as we call them, aren't always the only symbol of the truth. Motorcycle skid marks can mean nothing, because when a motorcyclist grabs a handful of front brake, the back tire is often un-weighted and that can lead to a much longer tire friction mark than say with a car that's sitting squarely on four tires.

I have a lot to say about this, Rob. I don't want to go on and on with you, but these are things we've learned through being motorcyclists our whole lives, and also through being motorcycle attorneys our whole careers. Frankly, I've been a lawyer more than two-thirds of my life and I've handled motorcycle cases since day one.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of great information as always, Claude. Thank you so much for making some time and answering our questions. I do appreciate it.

Claude Wyle:

Rob, it was great to see you. Stay safe and come out to California and we will take a ride. We have guest bikes for our friends. We have guest helmets for our friends. You're going to need to bring your own leather though.

Rob Rosenthal:

You may need guest training wheels for me, but that will work.

Claude Wyle:

We don't have those, but we'll work on something to make it safer for you.

Rob Rosenthal:

Awesome. I love it. That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been San Francisco attorney Claude Wyle. Remember, if you want to ask questions about your specific case, go to askthelawyers.com, click the little button up at the top of the home page that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can do it right there. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.

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