How Long Does a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit Take?
The answer to the common question among motorcycle accident victims, “how long does a motorcycle accident lawsuit take?” is “it depends.” Motorcycle accident cases typically settle at least two years after the accident date, with some cases moving to trial before they are resolved.
A range of factors, such as the strength of your case, the willingness of the liable party’s insurance company to negotiate, the severity of your injuries, when and if your doctor releases you from treatment, and how soon you start working with a motorcycle accident lawyer, can impact how long motorcycle accident lawsuits take.
How Long Does a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit Take?
Accident settlements typically begin with an insurance claim rather than a lawsuit. When you are involved in a motorcycle accident that is not your fault, you have a right to file a claim with the liable party’s insurer. You should receive compensation for the damages suffered. How long it takes for a claim to settle depends on a number of factors.
The Timeline for Motorcycle Accident Claims
Here are the steps that take place during motorcycle accident claims, along with the impact that each step has on the time taken to settle a case.
Gathering the Necessary Evidence
You will need to have evidence of the at-fault party’s negligence and the damages suffered from the negligence for you to have a valid motorcycle claim. Photographs of the accident scene, traffic surveillance or security camera footage, medical bills, prescription medication receipts, eyewitness statements, police reports, and vehicle repair quotes or receipts are some pieces of evidence that will help you support your claim.
Motorcycle accident attorneys help victims collect the necessary evidence to include in their claims. Evidence fades over time. The longer you wait before gathering the evidence, the harder it will be to track down and collect. Therefore, the time taken before having your crash investigated, and the necessary evidence collected, can affect the length of the timeline for your case.
Another factor that impacts the period it takes to settle your claim is the type of injuries you sustained and the treatment needed. Common accidents and injuries involving motorcycles can be severe and require intensive treatment because bikes do not offer the same protections as passenger vehicles. For example, a mere fall to the pavement can lead to a rider suffering broken bones, concussions, spinal cord injuries, or traumatic brain injuries.
Because injuries are often severe, your claim should demand your full medical care costs. You will need to get a comprehensive diagnosis and as close to a full recovery as possible before filing your claim to determine your total medical costs and establish your future medical care expenses. That will provide a solid foundation to demand adequate compensation.
Determining the Value of Motorcycle Accidents
You can receive compensation for the monetary, physical, and emotional losses you suffered from the accident. Motorcycle crashes can cause both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages for which you may be entitled to compensation include past and future medical expenses, present and future lost wages, and property damage. You can pursue compensation for non-economic damages like:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Sending the Demand Letter
Once your attorney has gathered sufficient evidence, known the full extent of your damages, and calculated them, he or she will draft a demand letter and submit it to the at-fault party’s insurer. The demand letter helps assert your right to compensation by outlining the facts of your accident, the extent of your injuries and your future prognosis, and breaking down the financial losses resulting from your crash and how much payment you are demanding.
The demand letter may also include a respond-by date, which is a deadline for when the insurance company must respond. You and your attorney can agree on any respond-by date, but it is often 30 to 45 days.
Receiving the Insurance Company’s Response
The insurance company will respond after receiving and reviewing your claim. How the insurer responds affects how long it takes to settle your claim. It may take around one month for you to receive the first settlement offer from the company. The company may accept the terms of your demand letter and pay you the amount you requested if you had strong and valid evidence. However, insurance companies do not usually accept injury claims the first time. They commonly use stalling tactics to minimize or deny claims.
Insurers know that accident victims have medical bills piling up and may be running out of income. They may take advantage of that desperation by taking long to respond to your claim, to frustrate you to the point of wanting to accept whatever settlement check they offer. They may also intimidate you, encourage you to settle your claim quickly, or make a lowball offer.
Other tactics that insurance companies use to fight injury claims are questioning the injuries and other damages suffered and blaming motorcycle riders for a part or all of the accidents involving their insured drivers, especially if the riders do not have clear evidence. When the evidence is not clearly defined, insurance companies have leeway to argue against their drivers being responsible or claim you are partially at fault. Countering such arguments requires extensive investigations, which may prolong your case.
Indiana operates under a modified comparative fault system. The insurance company can, therefore, reduce your compensation if they assign a percentage of fault for the accident to you. They may even deny your claim by shifting the blame entirely to you.
An insurance company blaming you for a motorcycle accident is not always based on facts. They have several ways of trying to shift the blame to you. For example, they may get you to admit to being negligent unknowingly during a recorded conversation or make you apologize for the crash and later use the statement as an admission. That is one of the main reasons why it is crucial to avoid speaking to any insurance company without consulting a motorcycle accident attorney.
Motorcycle accident attorneys communicate with insurance companies on behalf of victims and ensure the insurers do not take advantage of them. An attorney will challenge any effort to assign any degree of fault to you without supporting evidence and prove the other driver’s liability. Your attorney will be familiar with the dirty tactics that insurance companies commonly use and know how to overcome them. As a result, an attorney can make things move more efficiently, which may help settle your case faster.
The first settlement offer that an insurance company gives is usually lower than the amount requested in the demand letter. It usually does not fully cover all the motorcycle accident damages you suffered. Settlement offers come with the stipulation that you cannot recover additional compensation later on after accepting them. That makes it crucial to get the fairest compensation possible that will cover your injuries and losses. You will need to engage in settlement negotiations to receive increased settlement offers, a process that could further extend the time taken to settle your claim.
Rather than offer a lowball settlement, the insurance company may deny your claim or use tactics that drag out the process. All these scenarios would require your motorcycle accident lawyer to attempt to negotiate with the company for compensation that covers your losses.
The back-and-forth process with the insurance company can take weeks or months, depending on factors like the value and complexity of your case. The process will likely go faster if fault is clear and you sustained relatively minor injuries. Negotiation typically takes four to six weeks. However, complex cases like those involving multiple vehicles and catastrophic injuries may take a year or more to settle.
If your attorney manages to negotiate a favorable settlement amount, which you formally accept, that will close your case with the insurance company. Most cases settle after negotiations. If you work with an experienced attorney, you will likely reach an appropriate settlement that reflects your physical, financial, and emotional losses. However, you may have to take further steps if negotiations fail to lead to a reasonable settlement agreement.
Your total damages may exceed the negligent driver’s insurance coverage limits. The at-fault driver may also not carry any insurance. The laws governing such cases in Indiana are highly technical. A motorcycle accident attorney can help you with these uninsured and underinsured motorist claims in Indiana.
Filing a Lawsuit if a Fair Settlement Cannot Be Reached
Settlements from insurance companies are safer and quicker. However, sometimes the companies fail to give reasonable and fair settlement offers. In such cases, you may need to go to court as a last resort to get the liable party’s insurance company to pay you the rightful amount of money to which you are entitled. Filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party and his or her insurance company will prolong the timeline for recovering compensation for your injuries and losses.
You must file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. In Indiana, the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit is two years from the date of the motorcycle accident and, in the case of a fatal accident, two years from the date of a victim’s death to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.
Two years may appear to be a long time. However, it takes time for a motorcycle accident lawyer to gather evidence, prepare a case, negotiate a fair settlement, and, if need be, take your case to trial, affecting the answer to “how long does a motorcycle accident lawsuit take?” Therefore, it is best to act quickly after being involved in a motorcycle accident to give yourself the best chance of getting full compensation for your damages.
Even after filing the lawsuit, it is possible for the insurance company to fairly settle with you. Insurers typically become more inclined to settle as cases approach trial to avoid incurring the trial costs.