Reports | February 8, 2023 | Motorcycle accident
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident, chances are that you need the money you will get in a personal injury settlement or jury award. Costs may pile up fast because of your medical treatment, and you may not have money coming in from a job. The only way to obtain compensation is by filing an insurance claim or lawsuit against the party responsible for causing your accident.
However, obtaining motorcycle accident compensation does not happen overnight. It will take some time to get the money that you may deserve. If the process wraps up quickly, it usually means that the claimant received less than they should have.
You should be patient during the claim process and let an experienced motorcycle accident attorney work hard on your behalf. You can focus on your physical recovery and treatment while your motorcycle lawyer fights for maximum compensation.
The Legal Process After a Motorcycle Accident Can Be Lengthy
There is an entire claim or litigation process that you must go through before you can get your money. An attorney can never give you a definitive answer about how long your case may take from start to finish. They can review how complex your case is and give you an estimate, such as whether the case might take less or more than a year. The best answer that your lawyer can give you is that your case will take as long as necessary to get all the money you deserve. Until that point, you should continue the case.
To understand the timing of a motorcycle accident case, you need to know more about the various steps that happen along the way. Many things must go right for you to end up with a check in hand. Most of these things are outside your control.
You Begin the Process by Hiring an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
The thing that you do control is whether and when to hire a motorcycle accident lawyer. You should not let money worries stop you from contacting a lawyer. Your attorney will work for you on a contingency basis, meaning that they will not collect money from you upfront, nor will they expect any money from you while the case is pending. If you do not receive money for your injuries, the attorney will not bill for your time at all.
You should contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident so that they can get to work. If you delay contacting the lawyer, it can make your case harder. It will be challenging for an attorney to begin a claim from scratch months after the accident because they will lose access to evidence that has already disappeared.
Your Medical Care Is Part of the Timing of the Legal Process
You should not begin the legal process until you have addressed your medical issues. The key is that you receive both a diagnosis and a prognosis. To claim financial compensation, you need to know the full extent of your injuries. Otherwise, you will not know how much to seek in a settlement, nor will you carry your burden of proof to demonstrate your damages.
You may also need to go through some rehabilitation first to know whether and how much you may recover from your accident injuries. In legal terms, this is the point of maximum medical improvement. You will not necessarily recover any further after additional treatment and rehabilitation. You can only fully quantify your damages for a claim when you reach this point.
Your Attorney Must Investigate Your Accident Before You Can File a Claim
At the same time, your attorney will work to gather evidence to prove your claim. Before you can get a settlement offer, you have the burden of proof to show that someone else was responsible for your injuries. In a motorcycle accident case, someone else will have been negligent. They will have acted unreasonably under the circumstances.
In some motorcycle accident cases, liability may be apparent quickly, and the driver may be very clearly at fault. In other cases, it may be a close call. Even if you know something happened, it did happen for the purposes of your case unless you have proof of it. The driver may be telling a completely different story. The insurance company may be trying to blame you for the accident, taking advantage of perceptions that motorcyclists are riskier than the average person.
Your motorcycle accident attorney may gather the following evidence to help prove your claim:
- Eyewitness testimony from people who saw the accident and can testify about what happened
- Pictures from the scene of the accident
- Traffic camera footage
- The wreckage of the motorcycle and car involved in the crash
- The police report (used for an insurance claim)
- Testimony from an accident reconstruction expert
Your attorney cannot file a claim or seek compensation unless you thoroughly document your case. Proper claim documentation includes evidence of liability and a persuasive accounting of your damages.
How to Seek Compensation After a Motorcycle Accident Injury
Then, you and your attorney will decide on the best way to seek compensation.
You will have two choices:
- You can file a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company
- You can file a lawsuit against the driver in court
Either way, you will be dealing with the insurance company. Since motorcycle accident injuries are usually more severe on average, you are likely dealing with a claim worth more money. Therefore, the legal process may take even longer. The insurance company prefers not to write large checks and will try to make the claims process take more time to wear you down.
The Insurance Company Takes its Time Responding to Your Claim
The insurance company may not even respond to your claim at first. Although state law requires that they respond to claims within a reasonable amount of time (at the risk of being found to have acted in bad faith), insurance companies often take as much time as possible. They think that time is on their side because they have the money in their account. Their strategy is to wear you down because they believe financial desperation may cause you to accept less money.
The insurance company will:
- Deny your claim in its entirety (which is what they will do if they believe that you have failed to prove liability or they believe that the accident was your fault)
- Offer you an initial settlement after accepting liability for the accident
A Settlement Offer Is Just the Beginning of a Long Process
Even if the insurance company makes you a settlement offer, it is far from the end of your claim. They do not intend to settle your claim with the first settlement offer. Instead, they are merely throwing a number out to see what you may accept and to begin settlement negotiations.
Once settlement negotiations have begun, it will still take considerable time to agree. First, you must exchange multiple offers and counteroffers with the insurance company. Each time you reject their offer and counter with your own, they may take their time responding to you.
Progress in settlement negotiations happens over months or even more. The insurance company knows, going into the negotiation, how much it can offer you because it knows the exact value of your case. However, they will not open with that number because they negotiate as any business will.
The insurance company knows that you have a statute of limitations that places a time deadline on you to file a case. They may get more serious about settling the case as time moves past. In many cases, the insurance company knows it has time before it needs to try to bridge gaps.
Filing a Lawsuit Will Add Even More Time to the Process
If you take your case to court, the insurance company must pay an attorney to represent them. Insurance defense attorneys do not work on contingency, and the insurance company must pay them no matter the result. Therefore, the threat of litigation is the leverage that you have. When the insurance company sees that you have an aggressive attorney, they may not take as many liberties with you in settlement negotiations.
All bets are off if you have to take your case to court. You have little control over the litigation schedule, and much depends on the court’s docket and the cases the individual judge must hear. The judge will set the schedule for the case, but most motorcycle accident trials will not happen in less than one year.
At each point, both parties have their chance to speak, and the defense gets to respond to each of your motions. Still, you may have no choice but to take your case to court, depending on how the insurance company is approaching your case.
Many court cases will settle before you reach the hearing, but the insurance company is not motivated to get serious early in the case. They will often wait and see how the case goes before they raise their settlement offers. The major milestone in your case is the conclusion of discovery.
Once that happens, the insurance company may realize that you have a strong case, and they will not want to take the risk of a hearing because a jury can order them to pay far more than they will have in a settlement agreement. Still, discovery is usually not concluded until shortly before trial, so you should still not expect a speedy settlement.
How You Control the Timing of Your Case
You control the timing of the legal process in three ways:
- You decide when to call a lawyer and hire them to represent you.
- You get the medical help necessary and follow the doctor’s recommendations to reach the point of maximum medical improvement.
- You decide whether to accept the settlement offer that the insurance company makes.
To the third point, you should not take a settlement offer merely to have a check in hand. When you settle a claim worth $500,000 for $250,000, the insurance company is figuratively congratulating themselves, knowing that they saved money at your expense.
Meanwhile, you may lack money when you need it because you have signed your legal rights away to the insurance company in a release agreement. While getting a settlement check is typically considered a good thing, a below-value settlement is one of the worst possible outcomes.
Stand Up for What You Deserve in a Motorcycle Accident Case
If your case takes extra months because you need to hold out for more money, the time is an investment in your financial future. The insurance company sizes up the claimant and their attorney (if they have one) during settlement negotiations. If they know they can get away with less, they may be more reasonable. If they sense weakness, you can bet that they will take full advantage of it in any way they can.
Your attorney will help you make the strongest showing in the claims process. If the insurance company sees you trying to represent yourself, they will show you no mercy. In the end, trying to save money on a lawyer will cost you far more than the percentage of your settlement that you will pay an attorney.
Your lawyer will know the value of your case, so you will understand how much to seek in a settlement. They are here to protect you from the insurance company and what they may try to do to you in the claims process. Otherwise, you will be vulnerable and can even end up with nothing in compensation for your injuries.
You got the medical help you needed for your injuries, and you should never wait to get the legal help you need with your motorcycle accident claim. Seek a free case evaluation from a trusted attorney today.