Will My Motorcycle Accident Case Go to Trial?
If you intend to bring a motorcycle accident claim, it’s only natural to be curious about the proceedings. Although the vast majority of these cases are resolved without even having to file a lawsuit, there are some circumstances when proceeding to litigation is the best option. If a dispute arises that cannot be resolved through correspondence between the attorneys on both sides, discovery, or alternative dispute resolution, your case might go all the way to trial.
It is important that the attorney you hire has extensive trial experience. If your lawyer is not an accomplished litigator, they might encourage you to settle even if filing a lawsuit would be the best course of action. Although litigation can draw out the proceedings, it may be the only way to obtain the full compensation you deserve. And sometimes, just having a seasoned litigator by your side will give the insurance company more incentive to pay a fair settlement.
Factors That Could Influence Whether Your Case Goes to Trial
There are all sorts of reasons why a dispute might arise that leads to litigation. The best personal injury attorneys know how to mitigate and avoid disputes, but at the end of the day, there’s no way to guarantee that the opposing party will cooperate.
Below we’ve listed a few factors that could impact the likelihood that your case will end up in trial:
1. A Lack of Evidence to Prove Liability
Unless you bring the claim against your own no-fault insurance policy—i.e. personal injury protection—you will need to prove that the defendant was liable for the accident. In other words, you must show how the defendant was legally responsible for the crash.
If you don’t have strong evidence of liability, there’s a chance the defense will dispute fault. Evidence of liability may include:
- The Police Report: Insurance companies tend to give a lot of credence to the content of police reports. But if no officer attended the scene, such a report might not exist. Without this report, the insurer might be reluctant to approve your claim.
- Photos of the Scene: Pictures of debris on the road, property damage, and the positions of vehicles can be analyzed to determine what led to the crash.
- Video Footage of the Collision: If your accident was recorded by a surveillance system or dashcam, that footage could serve as valuable evidence of liability. Your lawyer can visit the crash scene to look for nearby surveillance systems. If the footage is withheld by its owner, your attorney can try to obtain it by filing a subpoena.
- Eyewitness Deposition: The deposition of people who witnessed the crash may corroborate your version of events.
- Expert Witness Deposition: If a dispute arises regarding how the collision happened, your lawyer might bring in an accident reconstruction expert to help with the investigation and provide deposition.
- Black Box Data: Many modern vehicles are equipped with electronic data logging devices, or “black boxes.” If the vehicle that hit you had such a device, its data might be used to prove that the at-fault driver was speeding or engaging in other negligent behavior.
Much of the evidence listed above may only be accessible for a few weeks after the wreck. It is therefore important that you speak with a motorcycle accident attorney right away so the investigation can begin immediately.
2. Liability Is Shared by Multiple Parties
Sometimes more than one party is liable for a single motorcycle accident. In this scenario, each defendant would only be liable for the percentage of your damages that corresponds to their percentage of fault. This system is called “pure several liability.”
Below we’ve provided an overview of the parties who are most commonly liable for motorcycle collisions:
- One or More of the Drivers Involved: Most auto accidents are caused by driver negligence, which is one party’s breach of the duty of care owed to another. All drivers owe one another a duty to follow all traffic laws and behave responsibly. Speeding, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and failing to yield the right of way are just a few examples of negligence that can lead to motorcycle wrecks.
- An Auto Part Manufacturer: Defective auto parts contribute to devastating collisions every year. The liable party in this scenario might be the part designer, manufacturer, distributor, or retailer.
- A Government Entity: If poor road maintenance or negligent road design was a contributing factor, you might have grounds for a claim against a government entity.
As you might suspect, each defendant will want to minimize the percentage of your damages they have to pay. It’s not uncommon for a dispute to arise regarding how liability is apportioned.
If it turns out that your own negligence contributed to the wreck, the defense might try to shift all or part of the blame to you. Here again, a dispute could arise if the opposing party refuses to accept liability for a fair percentage of the damages. If you face a liability dispute that cannot be resolved through negotiations between your lawyer and the legal team for the defense, your case might proceed to litigation and possibly all the way to trial.
3. The Motorcycle Accident Exacerbated an Existing Injury
We’ve already discussed one of the elements to prove in a motorcycle accident case: liability. Another element is “causation.” Your legal team will have to prove that the damages you are pursuing would not have been incurred but for the crash. In other words, you cannot claim medical bills and other damages for an injury that you had before the collision.
That being said, you can pursue damages resulting from the exacerbation of a preexisting condition, but in this scenario, the insurance company might dispute causation. The best evidence to counter this defense would include your medical records and the deposition of your treating physician and other medical experts.
4. You Delayed Seeking Medical Care
If you did not visit a doctor right away, the insurance company will want to know why. Perhaps your symptoms were latent, but if you chose not to undergo a medical assessment for some other reason, the insurer might argue that your injuries are not as serious as you are claiming. You could also face a dispute over a failure to mitigate damages, meaning a failure to take the necessary steps to minimize your damages such as healthcare costs and income lost during recovery. Alternatively, the insurer might contend that the injuries were caused by something else.
5. You Made Other Mistakes
Besides putting off your medical consultation, there are other errors you could make that might lead to a dispute. For instance, if you gave a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster, your very own words might be used to challenge your claim. If you posted about your injuries or the wreck on social media, those posts could be used as evidence to challenge the severity of your injuries or other elements of your case. And if you ignored the instructions of your healthcare providers, the insurer might argue that you have failed to mitigate the damages.
6. The Defense Disagrees with the Settlement Calculations
Even if your attorney approximates a fair settlement amount based on the facts of your case and the relevant statutes and case law, there’s no guarantee that the insurance company will agree with the proposed figure. Damages disputes are especially common in cases that involve catastrophic injuries, which occur frequently in motorcycle accidents.
If you were diagnosed with brain trauma or a spinal cord injury, for instance, you may be entitled to compensation for loss of future income and anticipated medical costs. Estimating the value of these damages involves complex formulas, and proving them often requires the deposition of medical and financial experts. If the opposing party refuses to pay a fair settlement, your case might end up in litigation and possibly go all the way to trial.
7. You Are Pursuing Significant Damages
The greater the compensation you are pursuing, the more incentive the insurer will have to invest considerable time and resources into disputing your claim. It would also be easier for them to justify entering litigation.
Discuss Your Case with a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in Stuart
At Donaldson & Weston, we have many decades of experience helping accident victims and their loved ones navigate the legal system. We have seen firsthand the profound and devastating impact that a sudden injury or death in the family can have. Our team will provide you with aggressive, compassionate, and knowledgeable representation through every stage of the proceedings.
We offer free consultations, so you don’t have to pay anything to get the advice you need to make strategic decisions. If you hire our law firm for representation, you won’t have to pay any attorneys’ fees unless we win.