How Long Does a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit Take?
It can take about one to three years for a motorcycle accident lawsuit to work its way through the court system and reach a settlement or verdict, according to research by the National Center for State Courts and the United States Department of Justice. The legal process for personal injury lawsuits may include gathering evidence, witness testimony, settlement negotiations, and litigation if your case goes to trial. But several factors affect how long this process takes.
If your loved one suffered serious or catastrophic injuries in a motorcycle accident, a motorcycle accident lawyer can advise you on your legal options and support you through the legal process should your case go to court.
Why Do Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits Take so Long?
Motorcycle accidents can cause serious and catastrophic injuries resulting in extensive medical treatments and costly bills. If your loved one suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident, they may face a long road to recovery and cannot work and earn an income.
The insurance company may offer you a financial settlement that might seem like it will cover your medical bills, lost income, and property damage. The offer may even include a small amount of compensation for your pain and suffering.
As enticing as it may seem in this great time of need, never accept an offer from the insurance company without first speaking with a personal injury lawyer. Even if a lawsuit delays how soon you receive money from the insurance company, you’re likely entitled to much more compensation than you realize—money that can help you and your family manage your loved one’s injuries now and in the future.
Most motorcycle accident claims handled by attorneys settle without having to go to court. But in some cases, your lawyer may need to file a motorcycle accident lawsuit on your behalf to recover all the damages in your case.
What Is the Process for Motorcycle Accident Claims?
It takes time to build a strong motorcycle accident case. But the stronger the case, the better your chances of recovering the maximum compensation. Here’s a general overview of how the claims process works.
Retaining a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
After the accident, contact a lawyer to evaluate your case. Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations during which they will ask questions about your accident and your resulting injuries. They may ask to review your medical records and the accident report. Afterward, your attorney will advise you on how to proceed.
You do not need to retain the lawyer you speak with or follow their advice. But if you choose to, they will likely begin by investigating your accident.
Settlement Prior to Litigation
Your lawyer will gather evidence, such as copies of your medical records, bills related to your medical treatment, evidence of lost income, and other documents to determine the full extent of your damages.
They will also ask you how your loved one’s accident injuries affected their life and yours and whether your home or vehicle needed any modifications to accommodate any permanent or debilitating injuries.
Your lawyer will use this information to create a settlement demand to present the insurance company. This document will better reflect the value of the damages you and your loved one have suffered.
The insurance company will probably make a counteroffer that falls short of your needs, and your lawyer will likely counter back. These negotiations between your lawyer and the insurance company usually take time to complete.
Your attorney will keep you involved in the process and may advise you on whether to take an offer. The decision is entirely yours. If you and the insurance company cannot reach a fair settlement, your lawyer may file a motorcycle accident lawsuit in civil court. However, most cases settle before this point.
Filing a Personal Injury Complaint
Once your lawyer files your case in civil court and serves the defendant with a copy of the complaint, your lawsuit officially begins. The complaint can take as little as one week to as much as a year to resolve, depending on the complexity of the case, negotiations prior to the filing, and how difficult defendants are to serve.
Each state also has a specific deadline for filing personal injury lawsuits. California’s statute of limitations gives you two years from the injury to file a lawsuit. If you didn’t discover your injury immediately, the statute of limitations changes to one year from the date you discovered the injury. Other exceptions can shorten or lengthen this deadline. Your lawyer will file your motorcycle accident case on time.
Your case enters the discovery phase once your lawyer files the complaint and serves the defendants. During this phase, both parties share initial research ahead of the trial. This shared information may include the accident report, medical records, and depositions. Depositions transcribe witnesses’ sworn, oral testimonies taken in the presence of a court reporter. The discovery process usually wraps up about a month before the trial.
After both parties receive the initial discovery, your lawyer will probably initiate settlement discussions with the opposing party. These negotiations may take place informally over the phone in formal mediation proceedings. Most of the time, both parties reach an agreement before the trial. Those that don’t settle may go to court.
Your case will move to the courtroom for the trial. During the trial, both sides give opening statements, offer evidence and witness testimony, cross-examine witnesses, and give closing arguments. Then the jury will deliberate and deliver a verdict. Settlement negotiations may continue during the trial, and you may settle anytime before the jury delivers its verdict.
Verdict & Award
If the jury finds in your favor, they will announce a monetary award the defendants must pay you. If either party disagrees with the verdict, they may appeal. Typically, the parties to a lawsuit must appeal within 30 days of the verdict. If the appellate court agrees to hear the case, it will set a new trial date. Meanwhile, settlement negotiations may continue.
What Factors Affect How Long a Motorcycle Accident Trial Takes?
Various factors can affect the length of a trial, such as:
- Complexity of the case
- Number of defendants
- Severity of injuries and amount of damages
- Strength of your case
- Strength of the defendant’s case
- Caseload in your jurisdiction
- Number of witnesses testifying
- Each party’s percentage of fault
Proving Negligence in Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits
To succeed in a motorcycle accident lawsuit, your lawyer must prove the other party’s negligence. Negligence refers to a person’s failure to exercise reasonable care, which harms another person. To do this, your lawyer must establish four elements of negligence duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Here’s a closer look at each element:
Duty of Care
Duty of care means the person at fault had a legal obligation to take reasonable care to avoid harming you. In a motorcycle accident, for example, the other driver had a duty of care to drive safely and obey traffic laws.
Breach of Duty
In a motorcycle accident, the at-fault driver breaches their duty of care by running a red light or not checking their blind spot before changing lanes, among other careless acts.
In a motorcycle accident, if the other driver’s negligence caused you to crash into them and sustain injuries, you can establish causation.
Damages are losses sustained due to your accident injuries. In a motorcycle accident, for example, if you suffered physical injuries that resulted in medical bills, property damage, or lost income, you have damages.
What Damages Can You Recover in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?
You may recover economic and non-economic damages in a motorcycle accident lawsuit.
Economic damages are easily quantified in monetary terms. These include medical expenses, lost income, and property damage. Medical expenses include the cost of hospitalization, medication, and rehabilitation. Lost income refers to the earnings that the plaintiff lost because of the injury, and includes vacation days, bonuses, retirement contributions, and other fringe benefits in addition to take-home pay.
Non-economic damages are harder to quantify in monetary terms. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Motorcycle Accident Case?
If your loved one suffered serious or catastrophic injuries, they may require long-term and possibly life-long medical care. Their ability to earn money and make a living could decline, which may strain the entire family emotionally and financially.
You may not fully grasp all the ways your lives will change. Your family deserves full and fair compensation for all your losses. And, chances are, the settlement your insurance company offers will barely skim the surface of the money you deserve.
When you hire a personal injury attorney, they will investigate your accident and review your medical bills to determine the full extent of your damages. They will also negotiate with insurers for you so you can focus on your recovery. Having an experienced motorcycle accident attorney on your side gives you peace of mind that a professional will handle the legal aspects of your case so you can focus on caring for those who need you the most.
Contact a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today
A motorcycle attorney can help motorcycle accident victims recover the compensation they need and deserve. Look for a firm with the experience and resources to win difficult or complex cases and a track record that proves they can recover the maximum amount of compensation for their clients.
Lawyers are here to help you. Contact one today for your free consultation at our personal injury law firm in Orange County and case evaluation.