Damages to Claim After a Car-Motorcycle Collision | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Getting hit by a car or forced off the road while riding a motorcycle is practically guaranteed to produce injuries or end a life. During 2018, for instance, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recorded 1,495 injuries to riders and 88 deaths in 1,792 crashes involving motorcycles.

Since motorcyclists enjoy little physical protection, they rely on both their own skills and the attention and respect of car, truck and SUV drivers to travel safely. A moment’s negligence or any degree of reckless behavior behind the wheel can easily leave a motorcycle rider dead or facing a lifetime of pain and disability.



This is why Virginia law gives victims of motorcycle crashes the undeniable right to file insurance claims or lawsuits against at-fault drivers. The outcomes from such legal actions can never be predicted with absolute accuracy, but a number of state statutes and long-standing rules specify what types of compensation can be claimed.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages fall into the two categories of economic damages and noneconomic damages.

Compensation for economic damages covers past and future medical bills for the treatment of injuries incurred in the crash, wages lost while recovering from the crash, loss of future earnings due to a disability that makes returning to one’s old job impossible, and property damage. Calculating economic damages is fairly easy because the victim’s personal injury lawyer can simply refer to pay stubs, hospital bills and projections of career earnings.

Compensation for noneconomic damages covers physical and emotional pain and suffering. The amount of these damages is based on the severity of the discomfort and anguish the victim experiences.

Punitive Damages

A civil trial jury awards punitive damages to an injury or wrongful death victim in order to punish an at-fault driver for their reckless behavior. Generally, punitive damages can only be claimed in a motorcycle crash case when the at-fault driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the collision.

Damages in Wrongful Death Cases

Section 8.01-52 of the Code of Virginia lists the damages that can be claimed in a wrongful death case. To quote the statute:

The verdict or judgment of the court trying the case without a jury shall include, but may not be limited to, damages for the following:

  1. Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent;
  2. Compensation for reasonably expected loss of (i) income of the decedent and (ii) services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent;
  3. Expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in death;
  4. Reasonable funeral expenses; and
  5. Punitive damages may be recovered for willful or wanton conduct, or such recklessness as evinces a conscious disregard for the safety of others.

Recovering punitive damages in a personal injury or wrongful death case requires going to trial. All other types of compensation can be received via a settlement with the driver who caused a motorcycle crash and that driver’s insurance company.