Typically, the first questions that we hear from prospective clients after they suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident are whether they can get compensation for their injuries and how much money they can get. After that, many people are concerned with how long their case will take. Clients can decide whether they file a claim against the responsible driver's insurance or file a lawsuit in court. One consideration that influences people's thinking about a lawsuit is how long it will take.
It isn’t easy to give you an exact estimate of how long your case will take. There are many factors outside your control. First, you cannot control whether the insurance company or defendant will be reasonable in settlement negotiations or how motivated they will be to settle in the first place.
Second, you also cannot control the court's docket and schedule. A backlogged court may delay your case. Third, a court may place different deadlines on the various phases of your case and may rule on motions at different speeds. Read on to get a better understanding of the overall claim process from our experienced motorcycle accident lawyers. If you have specific questions about your potential case, get answers by contacting an experienced motorcycle accident injury lawyer.
The Lawsuit Process Does Not Move Quickly
We can say with the most certainty that if you file a lawsuit in court for your motorcycle accident case, it will take at least a year if your case goes to trial. Courts have busy dockets. Even if the court could hear your case sooner rather than later, there are numerous steps to go through before you can reach trial that will take time. Therefore, if you decide to file a lawsuit, you should be patient and know that it may be a while until your case ends.
To understand how long your lawsuit may take, you should know the various stages of a lawsuit. When you see what happens in court, you will get a handle on the timing. Of course, lawsuits can take different amounts of time depending on the complexity of your case and the court’s docket. Courts across the country have reported some delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
How a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits Begins
Your lawsuit will begin when your attorney drafts a complaint and serves it on the defendant. Before your attorney can file the case in court, they will need to conduct a full investigation of your accident. While you will still need to prove your claims in court, your complaint will also need to have enough potential facts to survive a motion to dismiss the trial. If you rush to file a complaint, you risk that your case will not go on.
Once you file a complaint, the defendant gets 30 days to file their answer to your complaint. They will respond to your alleged facts, either denying them or giving their side of the story. The defendant may request an extension to file the answer if they need more time.
The Parties Get to File Motions with the Court
Defendants often file a motion with the court to dismiss the case after filing their answer. They may try to find something procedurally wrong (such as missing the statute of limitations or the fact that the court lacks jurisdiction) or argue that your lawsuit fails to state a claim. You will get a chance to file your response to the motion. Then, the court will consider the motion and issue its ruling on it. This part of the litigation process will take months.
Courts do not often grant a motion to dismiss. If the court has jurisdiction over the case, they will err on giving you the ability to have your day in court. Assuming that the judge denies a motion to dismiss your lawsuit, your case will proceed to the discovery phase of the trial.
What Happens in Discovery
Here, the plaintiff and defendant will ask for and exchange information in their possession that they can use as evidence at trial.
You may obtain the following evidence in discovery:
Requests for admission
Interrogatories - you can send a series of questions to which the other party needs to respond.
Requests for documents - you can ask for any records or physical evidence in the hands of the other parties.
Depositions - your attorney will have the ability to question people who may have relevant evidence for up to seven hours, including the driver responsible for the accident. You may also need to sit through a deposition if you are physically able, although this all depends on your health.
Discovery is the most involved and detailed part of your lawsuit. It is not an exaggeration to say that cases are won and lost during the discovery phase. Your motorcycle accident lawyer will take the time to pursue all possible sources of evidence. You can expect that there will be some disputes between the two sides that will require the judge to issue a ruling. Nonetheless, courts will allow a set amount of time for discovery in your case.
After discovery, each side will have time to review the evidence they obtained and prepare for trial. One thing that each side may do after discovery is to file a motion for summary judgment. This motion asks the court to rule on the law based on facts not in dispute between the two parties. It can take a judge months to review the motions and issue a detailed decision on a motion for summary judgment. If the judge grants the motion to either side, it counts as a verdict, and the trial is over.
If you received a large amount of evidence, it might take some time for your attorney to prepare adequately. The court has already set a trial date, and you have a limited amount of time to get ready for your case. This part of the process is always a busy time, as your motorcycle accident lawyer must be thoroughly prepared to go in front of a jury.
Most Cases Settle Before They Go to Trial
Many motorcycle accident lawsuits will not go to a jury trial. The insurance company knows that motorcycle accident cases are worth more than many other personal injury cases due to the damages. If the defendant is found liable, it can result in a significant jury award. An insurance company often does not want to face the jury unless it knows that it has a powerful case. Otherwise, they may pay out far more in a jury award than if the case had settled.
There are two phases of the case where an insurance company may be more likely to try to settle:
If they file a motion to dismiss the case and the judge rules against them
After the close of discovery, when they realize that you have a strong case in proving liability
The Insurance Company May Get More Motivated to Settle
Many defendants do not get very serious about a settlement until after discovery closes. Before then, they may not have as much motivation to settle the case. Even if they make a settlement offer before this point, it is likely to be for less than they can ultimately pay. The settlement process is a negotiation, and they may still try to wait you out to see whether you will take a smaller offer. Settlement offers may get progressively better as the legal process advances and you get closer to trial.
After discovery, the two parties may opt for some alternative dispute resolution if they think that they can settle. Many cases will involve mediation, where a third-party neutral can help the two parties talk through the issues and narrow the gaps in their position.
If you do not reach a settlement agreement with the other side, your case will eventually go to trial. Ironically, the hearing will probably be the quickest part of your case. If you have opted for a jury trial, your attorney and the defense will select a jury. Then, each side will receive a certain amount of time to make their case to the jury. Once each side has made a closing argument, the jury will deliberate. If you requested a bench trial, the judge will issue a decision.
Even Winning Your Case May Not Be the End of It
Even if you win your case, it may still not be the end. The defendant may appeal a jury verdict if they lose their case. The judge can reconsider the jury verdict and decide whether to leave it undisturbed or reduce it. Then, the defendant can appeal the verdict to a higher court.
While lawsuits take time from start to finish, you should still keep all your options open when trying to negotiate a settlement of your claim. If the insurance company does not make a reasonable offer that fairly pays you for your damages, you may have to file a lawsuit. You should not rush a lousy settlement because a lawsuit will take too much time. Your motorcycle accident lawyer will advise you of all your legal options, and one of them may be to take your case to a jury when the insurance company either denies your claim or will not pay you what you legally deserve.
Take Enough Time to Maximize Your Compensation
Take the time to get the highest possible compensation in your motorcycle accident lawsuit. You only have one chance to obtain financial compensation for your injuries, as you cannot have two trials. If you do not get enough money, you may face financial difficulties in the future when your money runs out.
We understand that it is difficult to be patient when you are behind the financial eight-ball, but it is a must in a truck accident lawsuit. It does not seem that time is on your side, but if your motorcycle injury lawyer can develop your case, it will be the defendant who is scrambling to settle when the full scope of their liability becomes apparent to them.
Why You Need to Get a Lawyer and Get Started
The key is to begin the legal process as soon as you can. While your attorney should not rush filing the lawsuit, they can at least get started faster when you hire them soon after your accident. The one part of the timing that you can control is when you retain an attorney. You may not want to deal with the legal process after your accident, and maybe you cannot even do so. If you cannot speak with a lawyer, your family should hire one.
Hire a lawyer right after the accident because:
A motorcycle accident lawyer will get right to work gathering the evidence and obtaining it before it is lost.
The insurance company may be trying to pressure you after the accident, get a statement from you, or coerce you into signing a quick settlement that shortchanges you.
Your lawyer can do the legwork on your case early, so you can file the claim in plenty of time before worrying about the statute of limitations.
Having an experienced lawyer on your side gives you some peace of mind, knowing that you have someone in your corner when the process seems skewed against you.
You do not need to write a check to hire an attorney and only need to pay the lawyer if you win your case
There is little risk to you in getting the legal help you need. The main risk is that an insurance company will take advantage of you during the legal process and cost you the money that you need.
While the injury process is not always fast, starting your case and getting the ball rolling is only beneficial to you and your family. The longer you wait to get started, the longer you will wait to deposit your settlement or award funds into your account and begin paying unpaid bills. Starting a case can ease some of your financial stress after a motorcycle accident.
David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.