30 Jan, 2024

How Long Do I Have to File a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?

Author Todd A. Strong
Motorcycle parked on a high way.
Motorcycle parked on a high way.

Statute of Limitations in Illinois

A statute of limitations is a legal rule that sets a time limit for initiating legal action against a party involved in a dispute. The duration of the limitation period may differ depending on the nature of the offense and the location of the jurisdiction.

Statutes of limitations serve primarily to protect the accused party from facing legal claims for an indefinite amount of time. They also exist due to issues concerning evidence. As time passes, relevant evidence may become lost, obscured, or not retrievable, and the memories of witnesses may become less reliable. It would be unfair to try a case when evidence is no longer relevant. Finally, statutes of limitations are put into place to prevent further back-up of the legal system.

Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

In the state of Illinois, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims, including motorcycle accidents, is two years from the date of the injury. Therefore, if you fail to file a lawsuit within two years of the accident, you will be unable to take legal action and seek compensation for any injuries or damages resulting from the accident.

Factors That Impact the Statute of Limitations

In certain situations, the statute of limitations may be temporarily suspended. Known as tolling the statute of limitations, this suspension delays the start of or pauses the time limit for taking legal action.

Some of the common situations that may delay or suspend the statute of limitations in motorcycle accident cases include:

The Discovery Rule

The motorcycle accident statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit typically begins on the date of the accident. However, there are situations where you may not be aware of the injuries you sustained. In such cases, you may have more time to bring your case to court under the discovery rule.

Under the discovery rule, you cannot initiate a lawsuit until you have discovered the cause of your injuries. Sometimes, symptoms may appear weeks after an accident, and you may not realize that they are connected to your crash.

However, in Illinois, a plaintiff is only allowed to begin a lawsuit within four years of the incident, regardless of when the injuries were discovered.

Minors

If the victim of a motorcycle crash is under 18-years-old, the victim is considered a minor and is not allowed to take legal action for himself or herself. Once the injured party turns 18-years-old, he or she will be allowed two years to file a motorcycle accident case. If a lawsuit is brought to court while the victim is still a child, an adult with legal authority must file on the child’s behalf.

Disability

If you have been disabled due to a motorcycle accident and are unable to take legal action, the time limit for filing a lawsuit may be paused. In case of a temporary disability, you will have two years after your recovery to file a lawsuit.

If you are deemed mentally incompetent following an injury, your time limit may be extended. However, once you regain competence, you will have only two years to file a claim in court.

Fraudulence

If someone stages a motorcycle accident to make it look like you caused it, the statute of limitations can be extended. For example, this applies when a driver suddenly brakes or a pedestrian purposely runs in front of your bike. The legal time limit starts from the date you learn about the fraud.

Wrongful Death

When a person’s death is caused by another party’s negligence in a motorcycle accident, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the deceased person’s death.

What Are the Consequences of Missing the Statute of Limitations?

Adhering to the statute of limitations is essential when pursuing a personal injury case. If you do not file your personal injury claim within the specified time limit, you may forfeit your right to seek compensation for your injuries. The court is likely to dismiss your case, leaving you with no legal recourse.

Further, it's essential to file your claim within the statute of limitations to avoid financial strain. If you delay your claim, medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses can quickly add up, leaving you struggling to cover the costs. Filing your claim on time allows you to pursue fair compensation and alleviate these financial burdens.

Importance of Seeking Legal Assistance

If you have missed the statute of limitations for your personal injury case, don't lose hope. Instead, seek legal guidance from a personal injury attorney. They can review the specifics of your case and determine if there are any exceptions or extensions that may apply in your situation.

The most effective way to safeguard your rights after a motorcycle accident is to secure the services of an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer. You can count on them to protect your rights in numerous ways after an accident. For instance, car accident lawyers can:

Communicate With Insurance Companies

Your lawyer will handle communications with the insurance company if you are making a claim. This helps to prevent you from accidentally saying something that can hurt your claim or reduce its value. However, if you need to speak to the insurance company or their adjuster, your lawyer can represent you and make sure that your interests are protected.

Collect and Preserve Evidence

It is important to have strong evidence to support your motorcycle accident claim to receive proper compensation. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney knows how to collect and preserve the necessary evidence to strengthen your case.

Adhere to the Statute of Limitations

If you are unable to settle your motorcycle accident claim out of court, you must file a lawsuit within the specific timeframe mentioned in the Illinois statute of limitations. If you fail to file your case before the deadline, you will likely lose your right to seek compensation in the court system. However, sometimes the deadlines may vary depending on your case's specific details, such as the involvement of a government entity.

Your motorcycle accident attorney will be familiar with the statute of limitations applicable to your situation and ensure that your case remains within the deadlines. If you miss the statute of limitations, your attorney will determine if any exceptions apply and use them to improve your chances of making a claim for compensation.

Negotiate a Settlement or Litigate

Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company to get a fair settlement for you. He or she will fight for your rights to ensure that you are compensated fairly. If a settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer may take your case to court and represent you in litigation. Your lawyer will help you navigate the legal system, improving your chances of a successful outcome.

Steps to Take After a Motorcycle Accident

The moments following a motorcycle accident are critical and can affect your future legal actions and rights. It's important to know what steps to take after the accident.

Contact Law Enforcement

If you are involved in an accident, it is important to call the police as soon as possible. The police will come to the scene, ensure that everyone is safe, and call for emergency medical assistance if needed. They will also create a police report.

The police report can be crucial in your efforts to recover damages for your bike, clothing, or physical injuries, which may not become apparent until later. Reporting the accident to the police is important for building a case. The officers will keep their own records of the event, which can be referenced later.

Make sure to take note of the responding officers' names and badge numbers. Your attorney may know how to get a police report, but this will help your attorney follow up with them to collect any necessary information for your claim.

Seek Medical Treatment

After a motorcycle accident in Illinois, it's important to seek medical treatment immediately for any injuries or symptoms you may have experienced, regardless of how minor they may seem. Some injuries that appear insignificant at first can cause chronic pain, long-term damage, and even disable you from living your normal life. These injuries are known as delayed injuries. They must be documented immediately to prove they were caused by the accident and not something else. An attorney can help you understand how to file a lawsuit for chronic pain syndrome after a motorcycle accident.

The clock is ticking after a motorcycle crash, so the sooner you get the proper diagnostic tests and necessary medical care, the sooner you can begin the recovery process and get back to good health. It's also important to follow up with your doctor if you experience any new symptoms that weren't apparent during initial treatment.

Collect Evidence

It's important to gather as much evidence as possible about what happened for insurance and legal purposes. If you are able, ask someone to use your phone to take videos and photos of the scene. Include everything from your bike to the car or motorcycle that collided with you, as well as roadway features - even if you experienced a single-vehicle accident. Insurance companies and legal teams will consider evidence like roadway skid marks, gravel, road signs, sun position, field of view obstructions, and more.

Look for video recordings from nearby vehicles that may have caught the accident on camera, or install a camera system on your motorcycle to proactively document every ride. Eyewitnesses can also provide valuable evidence by giving a statement. If possible, interview everyone who witnessed the accident and record their observations via an audio recorder on your phone or by writing them down on a piece of paper.

Collect as much information as you can while the incident is fresh in the minds of any witnesses immediately following the motorcycle accident. Get their contact information in case you or your lawyer needs to interview them at a later date.

Keep records

Your claim needs to be proved, but the amount of damages that you claim also need to be substantiated. Documentation during your recovery can therefore substantiate and quantify your claim. You should know how to document injuries during your recovery, and be sure to do the following:

  • Record all visits to the doctor, including prescribed medications, over-the-counter treatments, laboratory tests, physical therapy, hospital stays, medical documents, and X-rays
  • Note the date of each service and the amount charged for it
  • Keep a journal of your daily experiences with pain, discomfort, emotional distress, fatigue, tenderness, and inconvenience
  • Describe how your injuries have affected your daily life and relationships
  • Take photos of all injuries sustained in the motorcycle accident as soon as possible
  • Keep copies of all medical bills, records, and other relevant documents

Seek Legal Assistance

If you have suffered a serious injury due to the fault of another road user or a hazardous road feature, seek legal advice. It is crucial to preserve your full recollection of the incident and any evidence you may have until you have spoken with your attorney, especially if you believe you have a viable personal injury case. In most cases, your legal representative will investigate your claim, organize the evidence, and handle all communications with your insurance company and the other party involved to settle the case. If a settlement cannot be reached, your attorney may file a motorcycle accident lawsuit to pursue the compensation you need.

About The Author

Photo of Todd A. Strong
Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.