What Happens if You Can’t Communicate After a Motorcycle Accident Injury
People involved in all types of auto accidents can be injured so severely that they are either knocked unconscious or are put under anesthesia shortly after the accident occurs. There may also be situations where a person isn’t entirely unconscious but they’re also incapable of making informed decisions for themselves due to a head injury.
The risk of those types of injuries is a lot higher for motorcyclists than it is for other motorists due to the nature of riding. People on motorcycles aren’t surrounded by steel and airbags to protect them in an accident, so head and spine injuries are more common and can cause greater damage.
What Happens in Those Scenarios?
Doctors are often legally required to get permission in order to perform certain procedures, but they can’t exactly get an affirmative answer if you can’t hear the question or reply coherently.
Hopefully, this hypothetical never happens to you, but if it does you will want to have someone with power of attorney (POA) nearby. These legal documents give one person (the agent) the authority to act or make decisions on behalf of another person (the principal).
Power of attorney is frequently obtained by children or spouses on behalf of a loved one who is suffering from dementia or for people who have developmental disabilities. In those cases, it’s generally a child or parent who has the power of attorney, but it can also be a close, trusted friend or relative.
Motorcycle riders have more of a reason to set up a POA than most other motorists due to the risks involved with riding.
There are several different types of POA, not all of which puts another person completely in charge of the important things in your life.
- Springing POA: Only goes into effect if the principal is incapacitated (most relevant to riders)
- Special/Limited POA: Only gives the agent powers in certain areas, like making financial decisions or health care decisions
- General POA: Essentially lets the agent do everything on behalf of the principal but it gets terminated in the event the principal is incapacitated or dies (the opposite of a springing POA)
- Durable POA: Like a general POA except the effects continue even after the primary has been incapacitated or dies
General POAs are more of a business tool or for people who may be traveling out of the country for an extended period (or if someone is deemed by the courts to be mentally unfit to manage their own affairs).
For the purposes of riders, the springing POA is really the most relevant. You want someone doctors can go to for permission to perform operations and effectively execute your medical care. POAs cans also be written up as part of an estate plan, which is never a bad idea for anyone – including riders – to set up.
POAs are not permanent. If your wife or husband is named in your springing POA but you get a divorce, you can revoke it (you just need to remember to do so).
Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders (DNR)
If you are a rider with a DNR it’s important to have this either on a card in your wallet or even on a bracelet (like a medical identification bracelet). If doctors don’t know you have a DNR and you are brought to a hospital incapacitated, they will automatically do whatever they can to save you, regardless of whether or not your POA can be identified or reached to act on your behalf.
It should also be noted that a POA legally authorized to make decisions on your behalf can invalidate a DNR on the spot unless your DNR has wording that specifically states it can’t be overruled by your power of attorney.
Are DNR Tattoos Legally Binding?
No – although they’re a clever idea, a DNR tattoo isn’t legally binding as a legal document. It may, however, at least indicate to medical professionals that you have some types of official health care advance directives that they should be looking for before taking some life-saving steps.
If there’s any doubt, health care workers will err on the side of saving someone.
Can a Medical Power of Attorney Override a DNR?
Yes, they can unless the power of attorney document or other health care advance directive specifically states they cannot overrule a DNR. Keep that in mind if you’re looking for a power of attorney but also want a DNR.
Who Should You Choose for Your Power of Attorney?
Riders should look for someone who is close to them, will know their medical care preferences and will likely be available should the worst-case scenario occur. Wives, husbands, brothers, sisters or parents are all good options.
We’ve written some blogs and have resources on our website that list out the preparatory steps you should take and the insurance/legal documents you should keep in your wallet just in case an accident does occur. One of those things should be contact information for your medical POA.
Having a POA is only useful if they can be identified and quickly contacted when you’re being taken in for medical care.
Setting up a Power of Attorney
You can download our prepared rider kit to get a boilerplate power of attorney document that you can fill out and keep somewhere on your bike or in your wallet should the need arise. You can also leave it with your emergency contact.
Make sure you find a notary public to notarize it for your POA to be truly legally binding.
There are some online services, such as notarize.com, that allow you to notarize documents, but you can also call the nearest branch of your bank and ask if they offer free notarization – most do.
Riders who haven’t already set up a will or trust should seriously consider meeting with an estate planning attorney to get a more detailed or customized power of attorney crafted.
When You’re Injured, Call the Motorcycle Law Group
As riders ourselves, every lawyer at the Motorcycle Law Group understands the anxiety many riders have about being incapacitated after an accident and being unable to make decisions. We hope riders and their families have someone to turn to for legal assistance should the worst occur.
Our motorcycle lawyers want to offer that service to your family. If you or your loved one are ever seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, call us at (855) 529-7433 to learn about your legal options.