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Motorcycle Accident Settlement Guide

If you get into a motorcycle accident, you’re injured, and the other party is at fault, you may be wondering whether you should file a lawsuit or pursue a settlement. Oftentimes, the first and best recourse is to pursue a settlement. By reaching out to your insurance company, you can negotiate a fair amount that reflects the extent of the damages. 

However, a settlement involving a motorcycle accident may be more complex in some ways than your typical car accident settlement. Many factors must be taken into account to establish fault and determine the amount of the settlement. A motorcycle accident may require relatively unique factors to be considered, as the structure of the vehicle and the needs for proper operation differ from a more common car. Let’s break down some of these complexities.

What Is a Motorcycle Accident Settlement?

A motorcycle accident settlement is the payout that a party receives from the at-fault party’s insurance company. The at-fault party’s insurance company agrees to pay for damages and other costs associated with the accident. The settlement amount will depend on the extent of the injuries, property damage, and lost income.

Motorcycle accidents can be high-payout situations because it’s easy for motorcyclists to get injured if a vehicle hits them, and those injuries tend to be more severe, leading to larger medical bills and more time away from work. The motorcycle could also sustain a lot of damage which costs money to fix or replace. It’s also easier for people driving large vehicles to have a hard time seeing motorcyclists because motorcycles are so much smaller than trucks, and even some cars. 

Drivers bear the responsibility of looking out for motorcycles, but they may also claim the motorcyclist was speeding or breaking the law. This could give the claims adjuster reason to try and lessen the payout or deny the claim. 

How Does a Motorcycle Accident Settlement Work?

The typical steps of a motorcycle accident settlement are as follows:

  • Filing a claim: The party seeking damages files a claim with their insurance company.
  • Conducting an investigation: The insurance company investigates the circumstances of the accident.
  • Reviewing the insurance policy: The terms of the insurance policy are reviewed before reaching an estimate of damages.
  • Sending a demand letter: A demand letter is sent to the other party’s insurance company outlining the damages and the total estimate. 
  • Negotiating a settlement: The two parties negotiate the terms of the settlement and try to reach a solution that is agreeable to both parties.
  • Settling or going to trial: The two parties determine whether a settlement can be reached independently or if the case needs to go to trial and become a lawsuit.

The person seeking a settlement will typically be able to receive a higher compensation amount if they’re able to prove the other party was negligent. Gross negligence would mean the other party is entirely at fault. Or, there could be vicarious negligence, such as if the at-fault party was driving for a company when the accident happened.

To prove negligence, you need to gather evidence. Evidence can include the police report, statements from eyewitnesses, and photographs of the scene of the accident. You’ll provide this evidence to the insurance claims adjuster. 

Additionally, you need an accurate tabulation of the damages, which include special damages and general damages. Special damages include the cost of the vehicle damage, out-of-pocket medical expenses, and lost wages. General damages include emotional and physical pain and suffering.

Your demand letter to the insurance company will include your account of the accident, your claim as to why the other party is at fault, detailed information about what you’ve gone through as a result, and an itemized list of the damages. 

Factors That Affect a Motorcycle Accident Settlement

Many factors will need to be reviewed and considered when settling a motorcycle accident case, including:

  • Who is at fault;
  • Whether the at-fault party is determined to be negligent;
  • The amount of liability insurance coverage available;
  • The type of injuries sustained;
  • The nature and severity of injuries sustained;
  • The admissible evidence available;
  • Out-of-pocket expenses caused by the accident;
  • Whether the injured party can return to work, as well as lost wages associated with missed work;
  • The amount of medical expenses;
  • Whether the parties are willing to settle out of court.

The particular laws of your state will also affect the outcome of the settlement.

How Long Does a Motorcycle Accident Settlement Take?

Many sources claim that the typical motorcycle accident settlement takes nine to 18 months, but the time it will take to reach an agreement can vary widely. Some may take as little as days or weeks, but others can take up to several months or even years. Cases with complicated factors such as fault on the part of multiple parties may take longer. It also can lengthen the duration of the case if parties are unwilling to settle. If it turns into a lawsuit, the case will take even longer to resolve.

Motorcycle Accident Settlement vs. Lawsuit 

In rare instances, an insurance company may deny the claim. In this case, the injured party may need to file a motorcycle accident lawsuit, which can be a lengthy and complex process. A lawsuit may also be necessary in cases where there are criminal charges related to the motorcycle accident.

While a settlement can be relatively quick and painless, a lawsuit is more involved due to the court’s intervention. You’d need to take the following steps when filing a lawsuit related to a motorcycle accident:

  • File a complaint with the court. A complaint is a document that outlines the reason for the lawsuit and the compensation that the plaintiff believes they are entitled to. 
  • Serve the defendant with the complaint. A complaint must be served by an individual over the age of 18 other than the defendant. It can be delivered by certified mail or in person.
  • Await the defendant’s response to the complaint. Defendants need to respond to the complaint within a certain time period. If they fail to file a response within that time frame, a default judgment may be made. 
  • Exchange information and materials related to discovery. Examples of evidence that may be brought forward during discovery are police reports, photos, witness testimonies, and medical files. In complex cases that will review a large amount of evidence, discovery can take a significant amount of time—sometimes years. 
  • Wait for the case to move to trial. The case will move to trial once discovery is concluded, the necessary parties are available, and there is room in the court’s schedule. Delays may occur if the court’s docket is overcrowded or there are difficulties in scheduling key witnesses. 

Ultimately, it’s important to have an attorney who will help you settle your case so you don’t have to file an unnecessary lawsuit.

Before filing a lawsuit, it’s important to contact your insurance company to start the claims process. Insurance adjusters will then investigate your claim, and their findings are likely to result in a settlement. A settlement will negate your need to file a lawsuit.

Is There a Bias Against Motorcycle Riders?

Many cultural and personal factors may cause biases against motorcyclists. For example, some people may consider motorcycle riding inherently dangerous or reckless. Or people may have preconceived notions about the type of people who ride motorcycles. These kinds of biases could theoretically impact the outcomes of a settlement or lawsuit involving a motorcycle, as jury members or judges could hold such biases. 

Motorcycle Accident Settlement Outcomes

The outcomes of a motorcycle accident settlement can vary. Factors such as liability and severity of damages may impact the settlement amount, which can fall within a wide range. While it will ultimately be up to the discretion of the court to decide the settlement amount, there are online calculators available that can help provide an estimate. 

Settlement Value vs. Trial Value

Settlement value refers to the amount of damages a party will receive through settlement negotiations estimated through the insurance providers of the respective parties. Meanwhile, trial value is the value of damages as determined by the court following a lawsuit. Typically, trial values will be higher than settlement values. That being said, going to court also costs time and money, and therefore many claimants choose to settle out of court.

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