Motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than cars, trucks, and SUVs. If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident, you’re likely piling up medical bills, losing wages from lost work, and stressing about how you will recover physically, emotionally, and financially.
If you knew how soon you would get compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance company, you could reduce your stress level and concentrate on your physical recovery.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to the question: How soon will I receive compensation for my motorcycle accident injuries?
Multiple issues factor into how soon an insurance claim will resolve regarding your motorcycle accident, ranging from the extent of your injuries to how cooperative the insurance company is to whether the case needs to go to court.
A couple of hard numbers do apply. Minnesota and Wisconsin have differing statutes of limitations, so contact a lawyer as soon as possible. In Minnesota, the deadline is generally six years, and in Wisconsin, it’s generally three. Even though this sounds like a long time, evidence can disappear and stories can change with time, so pursue legal justice as soon as possible.
An experienced motorcycle accident attorney will speed up the process of getting compensation from a motorcycle accident because they understand the workings behind the system, know where they can shave time off, and still get a fair settlement from the insurance company that will pay you for all your losses.
Let’s look at some of the issues that impact the timeline for resolving compensation in a motorcycle accident case.
Assigning Fault for the Motorcycle Accident
Generally, law enforcement called to the scene of the accident will be the first to assign fault in a motorcycle crash. Officers must factor in many issues to determine fault, from roadway and weather conditions to drivers’ actions to whether either driver was distracted at the time of the accident.
If officers suspect one driver may have been impaired by alcohol or other drugs, they may need to conduct blood or toxicology tests that could delay their findings.
Officers also must learn if either driver was distracted, such as looking at their phones or turning away momentarily to look at something outside the vehicle. If they suspect a driver of using their phone, they may need to subpoena phone records to confirm their suspicions.
Conversely, if they suspect the motorcycle rider may have been using headphones or earphones during the crash, that could change their finding. Motorcycle riders in Minnesota are allowed to use only one earphone.
Once police make a determination of fault, the insurance company for the at-fault driver will begin looking for ways to chip away at the perceived fault of their client. Insurance adjusters are adept at shifting blame toward the motorcycle accident victim and reducing their company’s perceived liability.
The Extent of the Motorcycle Rider’s and/or Passenger’s Injuries
A case where a motorcycle rider or passenger has minor injuries might be settled in a few days. If the medical bills are quickly determined, and you know you won’t need to miss work or your work absence can be covered by medical leave, settling on a figure for final compensation would be pretty straightforward.
A wreck that causes greater injuries or even death will become more complicated.
After serious injuries, factors that will go into determining compensation include:
- Cost of ongoing or future medical treatment
- Lost wages or salary from an extended work absence
- The possibility of permanent disability that would affect lifetime income
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish.
In the case of wrongful death, the family of the deceased will look to be compensated for medical bills, funeral expenses, lifetime earnings, and more.
The more complicated these factors are in each case, the more drawn-out the process to get compensation for the motorcycle accident victim will become. At this point, your case may take longer.
How Cooperative is the Insurance Company
Generally, insurance companies like to settle personal injury claims as quickly and for as little money as they can. They are in business to make money, and paying out large claims to settle cases does not help them make money.
Therefore, the costlier the claim looks to become, the more they are likely to draw out the settlement process to protect their bottom line. They will dig deeper into the victim’s statements and history in an effort to shift more blame or fault to the victim, thereby reducing their liability.
Insurance adjusters will roll out their bag of tricks to get motorcycle accident victims to either admit more fault in the crash or minimize their suffering over their injuries.
In the Upper Midwest, where we are raised to be exceedingly polite, insurance adjusters might try to elicit the kind of apologies we are famous for offering in about any situation. If an accident victim apologizes for creating an inconvenience or expresses sympathy for the other driver, an adjuster will twist these words into an admission of guilt regarding the accident.
On the other hand, folks in Minnesota and Wisconsin are often too polite to weigh others down with their burdens. This means we might be more likely to downplay the severity of our injuries and how much we might be suffering, especially when the adjuster contacts you repeatedly and asks similar questions, couched in different words, to draw conflicting information.
An experienced motorcycle accident attorney understands these tricks from insurance companies and deflects these attempts to shift blame or minimize your injuries. If you hire a motorcycle accident attorney soon after the accident, the attorney will be the one dealing with insurance claims adjusters, taking that burden and risk off your shoulders.
Understanding the Settlement Process
Now that you better understand the factors that can draw out your case and affect how quickly you receive compensation, we will discuss how the settlement process normally proceeds in a motorcycle accident case.
The quickest way to get the money you deserve for your injuries is through settlement negotiations with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. While this is a process that a victim can handle on their own, they are more likely to be cheated out of the money they deserve because the insurance company has more experience and resources to convince the victim to accept a lower settlement.
And the insurance company will play the time card as a big factor in convincing you to represent yourself. The adjuster will try to convince you the best way to get this case behind you and get on with the rest of your life is to accept their lowball settlement offer.
A motorcycle accident attorney will protect your interest through the settlement process.
Settlement negotiations may take time, but you still could get money in your pockets more quickly than if you have to go to court.
If you hire a motorcycle accident attorney to represent you in negotiations with the insurance company, this is how the process will go:
- Your attorney will investigate the accident to determine how strong your case is against the insurance company. They will determine how likely they will win if the case must proceed to litigation, giving them the strongest hand possible as they head into negotiations with the insurance company. Once they are locked in on your case, they will send a demand letter to the insurance company outlining your claim. The demand letter includes a respond-by date to get an answer from the insurance company, typically between 30 and 45 days.
- The insurance company is not likely to agree to the terms of your demand letter, in which case they will adopt one of two actions: They will send a counter-offer, or they will ignore the demand letter. If they do the latter, your only recourse is to take your case to civil court. If they choose the first option, they are likely to set off several rounds of negotiations.
- Your lawyer and the insurance company will likely bounce back and forth with counter-offers several times before the two sides agree on a negotiated settlement. A completed settlement agreement will state that the insurance company has a specified period, like a week or 30 days, to send a check to your attorney. The attorney will deposit the check into a special trust fund called an IOLTA, then write you a check for the final settlement amount minus the attorney’s agreed-upon percentage and costs. This percentage and costs normally are part of the settlement, so you still get just compensation to pay for your losses.
If Your Case Must Go To Court
If the guilty driver or their insurance company refuses to fairly settle your case, your final option is to take your claim to civil court. This likely will delay your final compensation as the legal process continues.
Your attorney will file a summons and a complaint with the civil court against the defendant and the insurance company. They will be notified about the lawsuit and have a certain number of days to file a response. Many procedural delays are likely between filing the complaint and a trial. Civil cases in Minnesota and Wisconsin can go before a jury or a judge.
Both sides also must gather evidence to prove liability, take depositions from potential witnesses, prepare witnesses, and more.
Cases can still settle during preparation for a trial. If an insurance company realizes its case may appear weak before a judge or jury, they have more incentive to settle before being whacked with a big judgment by the court.
During the trial, both sides will present witnesses, evidence, and arguments to persuade the judge or jury to rule in their favor. Many civil cases will last for two or three days, but complicated cases can drag on for several days or even weeks if the sides call many witnesses.
The judge or jury will then issue a final verdict on liability and determine the compensation. The plaintiff in a civil case is responsible for collecting from the defendant or insurance company, but courts usually offer some recourse if the defendant does not pay.
Contact a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
As the victim of a motorcycle accident injury or a family member of someone killed in a motorcycle accident, you have a strong incentive to bring an experienced motorcycle accident attorney onto your team. Insurance companies and adjusters are out to protect the bottom line for their company, not your best interests.
You may feel you can get compensated for your injuries more quickly by handling the case yourself or taking the first offer from the insurance company. Still, you would be cheating yourself and leaving yourself with unpaid medical bills and uncompensated time off from work.
If the cost is a concern, understand that a personal injury lawyer offers a free initial consultation and takes your case on a contingency fee, meaning they don’t collect any money until you reach a settlement or get a court judgment. Their contingency fee and costs are often baked into the final settlement, meaning you’ll receive just compensation for your bills and suffering.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will be well-equipped to deal with the insurance company’s tricks and ensure you get just compensation. They will have gone through this procedure hundreds of times, whereas you likely are caught up in the process for the first, and hopefully only, time.
The sooner after the accident you hire a motorcycle accident attorney, the better. If you are still hospitalized with your injuries, your family or friends can contact the attorney.
This allows the attorney to interview witnesses while their memories are fresh and to keep abreast of the police investigation into the motorcycle accident. Armed with this evidence, the lawyer will know how to move your case forward in the best manner to ensure you get both a timely and fair payment for your pain and suffering.