Motorcycle accident victims need compensation for their expenses and impacts as soon as possible. Naturally, the question gets asked—how long does a motorcycle accident lawsuit take? The short answer is, “It depends.”
Motorcycle accidents produce minor to catastrophic or even fatal injuries. The more serious the injuries, the more there is for a defendant and their insurance to lose, incentivizing them to fight harder against your claim. In addition, the facts of each motorcycle accident case are unique, and more complex factual scenarios can delay a case as evidence is collected to determine liability. Thus, the length of a motorcycle accident lawsuit depends on many factors.
Insurance Company Delays in Processing Claims
Insurance companies are in business to make money, which means they will use every tool they can to deny or minimize your claim. The more ways an insurance company can find to fight your motorcycle accident claim, the longer it will take to recover compensation.
This is another reason to hire a motorcycle accident lawyer, who will be familiar with insurance company tactics in fighting motorcycle claims, and who can help you get past them. It is better to let your attorney discuss your case with the insurance company. You can call the insurance company initially to set the process in motion, let it know that you were in an accident, and give it the date and location of the accident. But you shouldn’t go into much more detail than that, and instead should wait until you can retain an attorney to take over discussions with the insurance company.
The quickest way to recover compensation in a motorcycle accident case is typically by settling with the defendant and their insurer. Both sides are typically inclined to settle because it is faster and can easily cost less for both parties than dragging the process on and going through to a final trial in court. However, if an insurance company refuses to offer a fair and reasonable settlement, you may need to proceed with your case in court to get them to pay you what you deserve.
Settlement negotiations, if successful, still often take weeks to months or more, depending on several factors, including:
- How much investigation the attorney must do to prove your claim. When it’s a clear-cut case that the defendant was at fault, that their wrongdoing caused your injuries, and that their insurer may be held liable, the attorney might not need to do as much investigation. However, if the evidence is less clear at first, your attorney will likely need to investigate the accident more thoroughly, as if you were going to litigate the case, so that they can build up leverage they need to negotiate with the insurance company. On the bright side, if you can’t settle and have to proceed with litigation, your attorney will have already done a lot of the work they need to prepare to put on your case in court.
- How long the insurance company takes to respond to your demand letter. As part of your motorcycle accident claim, you will likely file a demand letter with the defendant’s insurance company. A demand letter usually includes a respond-by date, a deadline you give the insurance company by which to respond to your demands. The respond-by date can be any date that you and your attorney agree upon, but is often from 30 to 45 days.
- Whether the insurance company comes back with a counter-offer or ignores the demand letter. It is unlikely that an insurance company will accept the terms of a demand letter. They will instead probably make a counter-offer; or, they will ignore your demand letter altogether, requiring you to go to court to recover compensation.
- How many rounds of negotiation you go through before reaching an agreement. Often, settlement negotiations will involve several rounds of counter-offers before the parties agree. How many rounds of negotiation occur depends on the complexity and value of the case.
If you do accept an insurance company’s offer, you will enter into a settlement agreement, which will usually set the date by which to cut a check and mail it to your attorney. The attorney typically then deposits it in a special trust account called an IOLTA and then writes a check to you reflecting the settlement amount minus your attorney’s fees and costs. In some cases, the settlement amount is calculated to cover attorney’s fees and costs.
If the defendant or insurance company refuse to fairly settle with you, you’ll need to litigate your motorcycle accident case in civil court, starting by filing a complaint. Litigation has many stages, which may end with a final trial, at which each side will present witness testimony, evidence, and arguments. After each side presents their case, the court will issue a final order, either in or against your favor.
The time frame for litigation is harder to predict, with many potential procedural delays, of which the defendant and insurance company will likely take advantage. Additionally, your attorney has more work to do if they need to litigate the case, potentially including collecting more evidence to prove the liability of the defendant and your damages, taking depositions, preparing witnesses to testify, and more.
Note that a case can still settle even after you have filed in court, and an insurance company may become more inclined to settle as the case approaches trial, depending in large part on whether or not the case shapes up favorably for you.