Motorcycle accidents have the potential to leave victims with extremely serious injuries. Those who survive might have catastrophic and disabling conditions for life.
Clearly, the potential for injury is higher on a bike, and many victims suffer life-changing injuries that prevent them from working or living independently. It should come as no surprise that many motorcycle accident victims and their families wonder how long it will take to get compensation.
People often have a million questions about the litigation process, including whether their case will go to trial or settle. While there is no timeline for how long settling a motorcycle accident claim with a motorcycle accident attorney will take or how long it will take to go to trial, consider the following factors to get an idea about the court process and what goes into resolving a motorcycle accident case.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that motorcyclist fatalities occur 28 times as often per mile traveled than passenger vehicle fatalities.
After those crashes, most motorcycle accidents begin their legal claims with negotiations with the insurance company. As for-profit businesses, insurance companies want to settle quickly and for cheap. It can be tempting to take the first offer in hopes of resolving your case quickly, but the first offer usually will not cover all your damages.
An accident attorney can help you avoid the mean tactics that insurance companies use to avoid paying settlements.
Common tactics include:
Accepting a settlement offer ends your case. That is why getting money for your current damages and any future anticipated losses is critical. When you accept a settlement, you must sign a liability release. Generally, signing a release will prevent accident victims from filing another lawsuit against the defendant about the same accident.
A settlement release typically includes the dollar amount, other terms and conditions, and boilerplate language. You should always speak to an attorney before agreeing to settle your case and signing a liability release.
Settling your case is the fastest way to resolve it. However, you should always consider what full financial compensation looks like for you before ending your case.
Your claim will continue to the trial if you and the insurance company cannot reach an agreement during settlement negotiations. The beginning of all civil trials is filing a complaint with the correct court. After this process begins, many steps are involved. Properly completing each of these procedural steps can affect how long it takes to resolve your motorcycle accident lawsuit.
Many procedural rules affect the validity of a motorcycle accident lawsuit. Perhaps the most important is the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a deadline law imposes for filing a lawsuit or settling an accident claim. The time you have for filing a lawsuit depends on your case type and the state where the accident happened. Your motorcycle accident attorney will be familiar with rules, including the statute of limitations and other procedural rules to ensure that you will not lose your case on technical grounds.
A complaint is a legal document that states all your allegations plainly for the court. In your complaint, your attorney will plead for the damages you believe you are legally entitled to and ask that the court require the defendant or defendants to pay for the damages you allege.
The time a defendant has to answer your complaint depends on your state. Generally, a defendant has thirty to sixty days to file an answer to the complaint or risk having a default judgment entered.
The law allows a defendant time to respond to a plaintiff’s complaint. Typically, a defendant will file a response called an answer. In their answer, the defendant will admit or deny each allegation in the complaint.
The rules of civil procedure also allow the defendant to file motions to resolve the case before filing an answer. For example, a defendant may file a motion for summary judgment before filing an answer. In a motion for summary judgment, a defendant will argue that there is no dispute of pertinent facts, and the court must dismiss the case.
The rules permit filing several other motions to resolve the case before the defendant submits an answer. The plaintiff must respond to these motions, and the court must set them for argument. These procedural matters often extend the time the case remains active.
Each side must participate in a process called discovery. Discovery is the investigation phase of a trial. During discovery, each side will send and respond to a set of questions called interrogatories as well as requests for the production of documents. The discovery process can take a significant amount of time. The more defendants named in a lawsuit, the longer the discovery process will take to complete.
Your attorney may find it appropriate to file motions during the pendency of your trial. As your team investigates the case, facts may present themselves that can get your case resolved with a motion. Getting a court date for your motion may take time, depending on the court’s calendar.
It can take years to actually get a case to the trial phase. Unfortunately, the longer it takes to get before a jury or judge, the longer it takes to resolve your accident lawsuit.
Reasons for court delays can include:
Unfortunately, scheduling can be unpredictable. For example, a court may grant the opposing counsel’s motion to continue. You may be looking at a trial date that moves, and it is beyond your control.
Winning a motorcycle accident lawsuit is the first step to receiving the compensation you deserve after a crash. Sometimes, defendants do not or cannot pay a judgment. In those circumstances, a motorcycle accident plaintiff may find themselves needing to enforce a judgment.
There are several ways to collect a judgment award, but if legal action is necessary, you will spend more time waiting for compensation. An attorney with experience in debt collection can help you understand the legal options in your area to collect a judgment award from a motorcycle accident lawsuit.
The time it takes to heal from your injuries affects the time it takes to resolve your case. It may not be a good idea to quickly resolve your claim before understanding the extent of your injuries. Some injuries do not present themselves for weeks or months after the accident.
Your attorney will help you understand a reasonable offer and the damages you can recover. Examples of common injuries that motorcyclists often sustain in traffic crashes include:
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is common in crashes involving motorcyclists. A sudden impact on the head can cause a severe brain injury, especially if the biker is not wearing a helmet at the time of the impact.
The symptoms of a TBI, or other brain injuries, can take time to manifest. The symptoms may progressively get worse. If that happens, you may develop a disability that keeps you from working. The overall value of your case will increase, and you may be entitled to greater compensation.
Road rash happens in motorcycle accidents more than in crashes involving other passenger vehicles. Road rash often occurs when a motorcyclist’s body comes into contact with the road and skids across the surface.
A spinal cord injury can leave a patient incapacitated and hospitalized for months. After a lengthy hospitalization, the patient may suffer from permanent disability. However, there is no way to predict the length of their disability without a doctor’s input. Motorcycle accident victims should carefully consider their doctor’s opinion about the long-term effects of their injuries.
You will not know if you have suffered an internal injury unless you get a physical examination. If left untreated, internal injuries can lead to disability. Accident victims should prioritize getting a physical examination after an accident.
Because motorcycles do not have a vehicle body like cars or trucks, motorcyclists are vulnerable to sustaining broken bones in a traffic crash. Broken bones may take a significant amount of time to heal. You may not know how these injuries will affect you until they heal fully. The time it takes for broken bones to heal can affect the length of settlement negotiations or a lawsuit.
A motorcycle accident plaintiff can recover three major categories of damages. You may have losses that fall into either the economic or non-economic categories. In addition, in some cases, you might even recover punitive damages.
Economic damages are physical and tangible. A specific dollar amount is usually attached to these losses; assigning them a monetary value is a relatively simple task.
Examples of economic damages include:
Non-economic damages are difficult to prove because they are non-physical and intangible. It can be challenging for a motorcycle accident victim to identify these losses and recover financially for them.
Despite being hard to show, non-economic damages are just as valid as economic damages. Accident victims deserve to recover tangible and intangible losses after a motorcycle accident.
Examples of non-economic damages include:
Punitive damages punish defendants and deter them from similar activities. The availability and amount of punitive damages depend on the court.
Suppose you have a motorcycle accident claim but are concerned about the cost of legal representation. In that case, you can take advantage of a contingency fee payment arrangement to pursue your legal claim.
A contingency fee payment arrangement allows the client to defer payment of legal services until the end of a case. Generally, attorneys do not require payment unless there is a financial settlement. Attorneys usually receive a percentage of the settlement. The terms of the agreement must be in writing.
Contact an attorney today if you have suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident. The duration of a motorcycle accident lawsuit varies greatly depending on the complexity of the case, the parties involved, and the legal processes that unfold.
You should always work with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Tampa who can effectively navigate the legal system, advocate for your rights, and strive to expedite the process while pursuing maximum compensation.
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