Subrogation: What It Is and Why It Matters

A Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Definition and Explanation

As a big-time Pennsylvania motorcycle accident lawyer and wildly popular legal blogger, I believe it’s my responsibility to help my clients and readers understand what they are hearing or reading when legal professionals communicate.


Today’s vocabulary is one of the more obscure legal terms that gets tossed around when a claim is filed with a motorcycle accident attorney (and in other personal injury cases as well). “Subrogation,” is a term that – while common in my profession and in law-adjacent fields such as insurance – is virtually unheard of outside of courtrooms and law firms.

The most common definition is the one used in the insurance profession:

“Subrogation is the right for an insurer to pursue a responsible party whom caused a loss to their insured. This is done as a means of recovering at least part of the claim paid to you for the loss.”

Why It Matters to You

To break that down a bit for easier consumption, subrogation means that one person or party stands in for another. For example, if you have been injured in a motorcycle accident that wasn’t your fault, and that involved another vehicle, your insurance company will generally take 2 steps:

  1. Pay the claim in order to cover your damages and injuries?
  2. Seek to recover at least some of the the money they paid from the at-fault parties in order to defray their costs?

There is usually an investigation at this point to determine who is at fault. Subrogation allows the insured biker who files the claim to receive a payout from their insurance company, without waiting for the results of the often long and drawn out investigation. The insurer will generally seek to recover those costs from the at-fault party later. The issue is that this can eat into your award, an idea I’ll come back to momentarily.

Subrogation and Settlements

If you’re still with me, at this point you’re probably wondering why you should care. Here it is: as one of the most experienced Pennsylvania motorcycle attorneys handling settlements, I can tell you that subrogation can have a significant effect on the amount of your recovery.

Even after we are successful in securing you a favorable award, your insurer is still allowed to attempt to recover some of their costs from these proceeds. This is why many analysts believe that subrogation is essentially a windfall for the insurance industry.

My job as your attorney is to either head this off before it becomes an issue, or to negotiate on your behalf to make sure the amount of these payments are reasonable, and have a minimal impact on how much of the recovery ends up in your pocket.

Waiving subrogation rights

As I always tell my clients, friends, and anyone else who will listen, don’t sign a settlement with the other driver’s insurance provider until you call and speak with a qualified lawyer. They will slip all sorts of fine print into the settlement, including a “waiver of subrogation,” clause that is intended to prevent your insurance company from seeking reimbursement from your award.

That means that if you sign, your insurance company can refuse to pay your claim because they are now prevented by your own signature from seeking reimbursement from the other driver’s provider. To make a long story short (I know – too late for that), you’ll have to wait until the investigation to see any money for medical expenses, property damage, etc., if you see any recovery at all. In the meantime, every cent of your expenses will have to be covered out of your own pocket, even if you were not in any way at fault.

Get a free evaluation of your legal claim

Obviously subrogation issues can become complex, with a big potential for unforeseen consequences, even in the case of a successful claim. That’s why it’s so important to hire a competent and tenacious motorcycle accident claim attorney to fight for your interests.

Have more questions or concerns about how subrogation might affect your case? Give Pennsylvania motorcycle accident lawyer Lee Gaber, Esquire a call at 1-888-292-5352, to set up your free consultation.

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