How Long Does a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit Take?
Individuals who get hurt in a motorcycle accident face significant expenses, not to mention physical and emotional difficulties. It’s understandable to want to know how long it will take to pursue a lawsuit and secure compensation for their losses.
Without knowing the specifics of a case, however, motorcycle accident lawyers can only give broad estimates of how long a case might last. Achieving a negotiated settlement in a motorcycle accident case can take as little as a few weeks to as long as a year or more. Winning a case at trial can take up to several years.
Here is a look at some factors determining how long a motorcycle accident lawsuit can take.
A Brief Look at the Motorcycle Accident Claims Process
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 5,000 bikers die and roughly 82,000 get injured in U.S. motorcycle accidents annually.
Many of these crashes happen when motorists engage in negligent or reckless actions while sharing the road with motorcyclists, such as:
- Distracted driving
- Speeding, tailgating, unsafe passing, and other aggressive driving
- Alcohol or drug impairment
- Driver fatigue
- Failing to yield the right-of-way or obey other traffic rules
- Ignoring traffic signs, signals, or lane markings
Injured bikers can often seek compensation for their losses by pursuing a claim under the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance policy. An adjuster working for the insurer will typically review the claim to confirm its validity and determine how much compensation the motorcyclist should receive. The adjuster will also hunt for a basis the insurance company might use to justify denying or limiting the size of the claim.
If the insurance provider refuses to pay all or part of the claim, or if the injured biker’s lawyer recommends not submitting a claim to the insurer, the biker might also pursue compensation through a lawsuit filed in court. If the lawsuit makes it all the way to a courtroom trial, a judge or jury decides if and how much the biker should receive, after hearing evidence and arguments from lawyers representing both parties.
Most motorcycle accident claims and lawsuits get resolved through a negotiated, out-of-court settlement. A settlement is a binding contractual agreement to resolve a legal dispute. In the typical motorcycle accident settlement, the at-fault driver’s insurance provider pays an agreed sum to the injured biker. In exchange, the biker agrees to release the insurer and its policyholder—the at-fault driver — from further liability.
A settlement can occur at any time in a motorcycle accident case. It might happen within weeks or months of the biker’s lawyer submitting a claim to an insurance company. Or it might only happen after a year or more of litigation. It could even happen just before or during a courtroom trial.
Deadline for Filing a Motorcycle Accident Claim
Every motorcycle accident claim faces a critical deadline called the statute of limitations. In Arizona, injured riders who want to seek compensation from a party at fault for causing a wreck must generally file a lawsuit in court within two years of the date of their injury.
This two-year statute of limitation also applies to wrongful death lawsuits filed on behalf of the family members of a person who died in a motorcycle crash. If you fail to file a lawsuit before the two-year statute of limitations deadline expires, you generally will lose your right to claim compensation for your losses.
The most reliable way to protect yourself against a costly missed deadline is to seek the help of an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as possible after your crash.
A lawyer knows how to take the necessary steps to meet deadlines and safeguard your rights. In most motorcycle accident cases, a lawyer will usually want to take action on your behalf far sooner than the two-year deadline to maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.
Factors Affecting the Timeline of a Motorcycle Crash Case
Now that we’ve covered the basic claim process and the statute of limitations, let’s take a look at some specific factors that could affect the timeline of your case.
How Long It Takes for Your Condition to Stabilize
Your motorcycle accident lawyer may want to wait for your medical condition to stabilize before initiating a claim on your behalf. The length of that delay can add to the timeline of your case.
The reason a lawyer might want to wait is that the amount of your damages can often depend on your expected future medical challenges and costs. An accurate estimate of those challenges and costs might only be possible once your medical team can give a firm prognosis for your recovery. So, a lawyer might delay taking legal action until your doctors feel more confident in their assessment.
Investigating and Preparing the Claim
An attorney will typically need time to gather evidence, interview witnesses, perform a legal analysis, and prepare the documents detailing your claim.
Many hurdles can delay these tasks:
- Waiting for issuance of a police accident report, which can take up to 14 days in Arizona.
- Collecting relevant documentation or electronic evidence from multiple sources, including you, your medical team, your employer, your repair shop, and others.
- Obtaining and analyzing the text of insurance policies that may cover your losses.
- Tracking down and speaking with witnesses to your motorcycle accident.
- Identifying, hiring, and collaborating with expert witnesses whose opinions might bolster your claim.
Experienced lawyers know how to work through these delays as efficiently as possible. But some hold-ups are out of their control.
Once your lawyer has submitted your demand for compensation, either in the form of a third-party insurance claim or a lawsuit, you can expect a reasonably prompt response (usually within a few weeks) from the insurer or the at-fault party’s attorney.
The response can generally go one of three ways:
- Acknowledgement of liability and agreement to pay all or part of the claim
- Denial of liability and refusal to pay any part of the claim
- Neither acknowledgement nor denial, but a request for more information
Unless the insurer agrees to pay you immediately and in-full, you can expect the response to lead to discussions between the lawyers and insurance adjuster about a potential settlement of your claim. These discussions can take many forms, from trading emails and phone calls to meeting in person.
They can begin immediately after the insurer or at-fault party responds to your lawyer’s demand, or months later, depending on factors like the availability of evidence, the size of the claim, and the limits of the applicable insurance policy.
Whatever the format and timing, however, settlement negotiations usually involve the parties exchanging information and advocating for their respective interests. The aim of these talks is to find a middle ground and resolve the claim by agreement, rather than leaving the outcome to a judge and jury.
But experienced lawyers know that you often have to be flexible in the timing of settlement negotiations to get the most favorable result—which can sometimes mean waiting for the right moment, even if that means delaying resolution.
Filing a lawsuit against an at-fault party or their insurer can also affect the timeline of your case. Sometimes, it accelerates settlement negotiations, because it forces the parties who owe you compensation to decide whether they really want to spend money fighting with you in court, when they could instead use those funds to settle your claim and move on.
But suing can also slow things down. The parties to a lawsuit must follow a standardized set of procedures established by the courts. The procedures have built-in timelines and milestones that limit either party’s ability to dictate how fast or slow the case moves. Of course, the parties always have the option of resolving the lawsuit through settlement, but if they don’t, they must abide by the procedural timeline the court sets.
Here are some of the milestones in a motorcycle accident lawsuit and how they affect timing.
The discovery phase of a lawsuit is a period of time in which lawyers for the parties gather and exchange evidence about their claims and defenses.
Discovery typically involves:
- Depositions, or out-of-court interviews of witnesses under oath.
- Interrogatories, which are written questions that an opposing party must answer under oath.
- Document requests, which seek disclosure of documents and other materials relevant to the case.
Discovery in a motorcycle accident injury case can last several months or more. In general, the larger and more complex the claim, the longer the timeline for completing discovery.
At the conclusion of the discovery phase, one or both parties will typically file written requests for the court to decide the case in their favor without holding a trial. These filings are known as summary judgment motions. They argue that, based on the undisputed facts in the case, their side should win.
A party has the opportunity to respond in writing to a summary judgment motion filed by their opponent. And the opponent may then reply in writing. Once the parties have completed their written submissions, the court takes the matter under advisement and, eventually, issues a decision.
It can take months or more for a court to resolve summary judgment motions. The decision can hand an outright win or loss to either party, or amount to a split-decision that allows part or all of the case to proceed to trial.
Personal injury trials can vary in length, but on average range between 3-10 days depending on the amount of evidence the parties need to present and the number of witnesses called to testify.
The witnesses in a motorcycle accident lawsuit can include, for example:
- The injured biker
- The at-fault party
- Witnesses to the accident
- An accident reconstruction expert
- The injured biker’s doctor or medical expert
- Financial experts
In addition to examining witnesses, the attorneys for both sides deliver opening and closing arguments to the jury, and make legal arguments to the judge. Upon conclusion of a motorcycle accident trial, the jury decides whether the injured rider will receive compensation and, if so, how much.
Post-Settlement or Post-Trial Procedures
If a motorcycle accident claim achieves a successful outcome through a settlement, the timing of payment will depend on the terms of your settlement agreement with the at-fault party or insurer. Typically, the funds will be sent to your attorney’s trust bank account.
From that amount, the attorney usually deducts a fee and reimburses expenses. Then the attorney disburses the remainder of the funds to you or to third-parties who you’ve agreed to pay out of your settlement process, such as medical providers.
If, instead, your lawyer wins your case on summary judgment or at trial, the timing can be a little more complicated. Upon announcement of a decision in your favor, your opponent has several weeks in which to decide whether to appeal. An appeal, if taken, can further delay payment of your award by a year or more (assuming you do not agree to a settlement in the meantime). Your opponent must otherwise pay your claim promptly or risk facing additional financial and legal consequences.
Contact a Skilled Motorcycle Accident Injury Lawyer Today
The timeline for a motorcycle accident injury case depends on numerous factors, most of which lie beyond your ability to control. You do, however, have complete control over one critical aspect of the timing of your case: how quickly you hire an experienced motorcycle accident injury lawyer to handle your claim.
The sooner you take that essential first step, the faster the other steps in the process of seeking compensation can happen.
So don’t wait to get the legal help you need. You have no time to lose if you want to maximize your chances of securing full compensation for your losses. Contact an experienced personal accident injury lawyer today for a free case consultation.