Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit

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Written By Rocky Horton

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Motorcycle accident lawsuits are on the rise. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 83,000 motorcycle riders were injured in 2020, accounting for 1% of all registered riders. This makes a motorcycle accident lawsuit a real possibility if you drive one.

Though similar to other car accident lawsuits, motorcycle cases have some significant differences that you should understand before filing, including several issues you could face trying to get compensation for your injuries and common defenses that might be used against you.

If you or a loved one was involved in a motorcycle accident, contact an attorney experienced in motorcycle accident cases to learn how to win compensation for your injuries.

Motorcycle Accident Claims vs Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

A motorcycle accident claim and a motorcycle accident lawsuit are distinct since a claim involves filing for compensation with an insurance company while a lawsuit is a personal injury case against the other driver. Accident claims rely on negotiations between legal representatives and insurance adjusters to decide on a settlement based on proven and estimated medical expenses.

An accident lawsuit, however, requires a court decision. In the case of a motorcycle accident, you would file a case against the other driver to prove that they were at fault for your injuries. Unlike a claim, lawsuits always go to court, though you have some control over whether the decision will be by judge or jury.

Motorcycle Accident Insurance Claims

If you plan to make an insurance claim after your accident, you need to notify the insurance company right away. They will begin collecting evidence and will try to settle the case with you before you secure legal representation. Always wait until you speak with an attorney so they can negotiate your settlement on your behalf based on your recorded damages and predicted future medical expenses.

Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

By contrast, a lawsuit against the other driver means that a judge or jury will have to decide the outcome of the case based on the evidence presented, the fault status of the state, and more. Unlike a claim, your settlement in a lawsuit is not relative to your insurance coverage.

When to File a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?

Motorcycle accident lawsuits could be an option if your insurer denies you compensation or the compensation is not satisfactory. If the accident was not your fault, you should always contact your insurance company first to decide whether it’s worth it to file a claim.

In some cases, such as with a policy that has a high deductible, an accident claim may not be financially worth it, or could even hike your premiums for no tangible benefit. However, you may also get a refund for your deductible in some cases or may file the claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer as well.

If none of those routes leads to satisfactory compensation, you should consider a lawsuit against the at-fault driver as your next course of action.

How to Determine Fault in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?

To determine fault in a motorcycle accident lawsuit, your case will have to demonstrate that the other driver was behaving recklessly or illegally. For example, a toxicology report that showed the other driver was intoxicated or drugged while driving would be a clear instance of fault.

Other possibilities include witnesses that saw the other driver speeding, evidence that they did not yield the right-of-way to you, were driving distracted (such as by a phone call), or disobeyed the rules of the road.

Unlike an accident claim, a motorcycle accident lawsuit can only be successful if your case can show that the other driver was negligent or reckless on the road and caused the accident that injured you.

Fault vs No-Fault States

Fault states are those in which insurance claims pay settlements in proportion to each driver’s fault, while in no-fault states, they pay settlements regardless of who caused the accident. Notably, no-fault states make it more difficult to receive a large settlement in an accident claim, making a lawsuit potentially more viable.

Motorcycle Design Defects

If a defect in the motorcycle caused the accident, neither driver would be deemed at fault for the damage. In this scenario, you would sue the manufacturer of the vehicle for the damage with a defective product liability lawsuit.

How Do Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits Work?

If the at-fault driver’s insurance company denies your claim or settles for an inadequate amount, you can sue the driver for damages. Note that your motorcycle accident lawsuit will not be against the insurance company.

Despite this, the at-fault driver’s insurer will provide them with a lawyer and cover the settlement if you win against them. An experienced accident attorney is highly recommended to defend your case against the insurer’s lawyers. However, if you choose to represent yourself, you should focus your research on general civil court procedures.

View your state’s rules of civil procedure and rules of evidence to get some idea of how to present your case, the information you will need, and the process of how these cases are usually settled. Continue reading for a breakdown of the general procedure.

File a Complaint

Filing a complaint begins the lawsuit process, so it’s important to know what should be included in the complaint and where it should be filed.

What to Include in the Complaint

A complaint contains several paragraphs that list basic information about your motorcycle accident lawsuit. This includes:

  1. The parties involved in the lawsuit
  2. The location, date/time, and situation of the accident
  3. A preliminary description of why the other driver is responsible for the accident
  4. The injuries and monetary damages you sustained

Check with your state’s regulations for any fine details pertaining to these sections. For example, some states require a specific monetary amount in the description of damages while others only require an estimate.

Where to File the Complaint

The complaint should be filed in a state court, preferably whichever was nearest to the site of the accident. The court you choose must have the power to hear the case and the power to issue judgment, called the “subject matter jurisdiction” and “personal jurisdiction,” respectively. Look up your state’s records to confirm this.

Serve the Complaint

In addition to filing a complaint with the court, you must also serve the complaint to the at-fault driver, now the defendant in the case. They are not legally obligated to respond to your summons until they’ve been served the complaint, so it’s crucial to deliver a copy of your complaint letter and the summons to the at-fault driver within 30 days of filing your complaint.

Discovery Phase

After responding to your summons, the lawsuit moves into the discovery phase, which is when information is exchanged.

Discovery Information

The discovery information includes anything pertinent to the case, including the location, date, and circumstances of the accident, the information gathered by police, paramedics, witnesses, and healthcare providers, and the claims/defenses proposed by both sides of the case.

Methods of Discovery

The discovery must follow strict rules of the civil process since only certain methods of gathering information will be permissible in court. Written questions may be sent under oath, documents and items may be requested, verbal questioning (or “depositions”) may take place, and medical exams may be ordered.

Civil Trial

Finally, the lawsuit moves to a civil trial where the case is tried either before a jury or a judge. A civil trial includes making opening statements, presenting evidence, presenting a defense, presenting a rebuttal, and making closing arguments on both sides.

After this, either you will win the damages you specified in the complaint letter, or you will be denied any further compensation, barring an appeal.

How Long Do Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits Take?

Motorcycle accident lawsuits typically resolve within 12 months when they go to trial. Note that many accident cases settle out of court as this usually proves easier for everyone concerned.

However, sometimes a case is complex, with evidence that takes a long time to gather and injuries that are so severe that lengthy deliberation is necessary to ensure a fair outcome. In those cases, the lawsuit can last 18-24 months. With the shortest cases resolving in a day or two, this variability is another reason to seek the help of an experienced attorney before filing your case.

Settlement Factors in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit

The settlement factors in a motorcycle accident lawsuit include present and future monetary damages that the plaintiff suffered because of their injuries. These include medical costs, pain and suffering, emotional damage, property damage, and lost wages.

The extent of the injuries and property damage, the limits on the driver’s insurance policy, and the determination of fault or shared responsibility between the drivers are other critical factors in gauging a settlement. Insurers usually try to determine fault quickly and offer a settlement to the other driver so that the case never makes it to court, though this is not always an adequate solution.

Defenses in a Motorcycle Accident Case

Several common defenses can shape the outcome of a motorcycle accident lawsuit. The first is called “last clear chance,” which means that the driver was the one who pulled in front of the motorcycle, which has far less mobility than a four-wheeled car.

“Motorcycle prejudice” constitutes another defense, which refers to how motorcycle riders are often portrayed as reckless, which can damage their case.

A third common defense is called “contributory negligence” and refers to cases where both drivers did something reckless or illegal to contribute to the crash. In these cases, the defendant will argue that the plaintiff’s position relies on an inaccurately one-sided estimation of fault.

Hiring a Lawyer for a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit

A motorcycle accident lawyer can advise you on your evidence collection process, help you file your case on time, and argue your case if it comes to a trial. Representing yourself is possible but could jeopardize your settlement, while an experienced motorcycle accident attorney will have the necessary tools to win the compensation you deserve.

Each state has its own statute of limitations as well, which determines how long after the accident you have to file your case. Check this list to view the statute for your state, but keep in mind that this is one more thing that an accident attorney can manage for you.


A motorcycle accident lawsuit can win compensation for your injuries when a claim with the insurance companies isn’t satisfactory. However, filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver can be a complex and lengthy process. Contact an experienced accident attorney to learn how and when you should file your case to ensure that you have the best chance of winning a settlement.

Rocky Horton

Rocky Horton


Rocky Horton is a health and safety expert from Chapel Hill, NC. He is the founder of AccidentAdvisor and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, and other publications. Learn more.