If you were seriously injured in a Michigan motorcycle accident, you’re probably wondering how you’ll pay for the medical bills and other losses that you incurred. Depending on the nature of the crash and who was at fault, you could have grounds for one or several types of personal injury claims.
Whether you seek no-fault insurance benefits or compensation for your pain and suffering from at-fault driver’s insurance company, there are time limits that could affect your ability to recover compensation for your motorcycle accident injuries. This deadline is called the statute of limitations.
Keep reading to learn how the statute of limitations could impact your case if you’ve been in a Michigan motorcycle crash. You can also contact the motorcycle accident attorneys at Christensen Law for a free consultation.
What Does Statute of Limitations Mean?
Like all states, Michigan has laws limiting how long a person has to file a civil lawsuit against another party. These legal timeframes are known as statutes of limitations. The statutes of limitations may vary depending on the type of case that is being filed. For example, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case may differ from the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim.
Why Is There a Statute of Limitations?
Statute of limitations laws are critical components of a just legal system. A statute of limitations is important because:
- It keeps the system moving. If you could file a lawsuit against someone at any time after an accident occurred, the legal system would become bloated and unable to keep pace. Placing limits on the amount of time injured parties have to take legal action encourages people with valid claims to file them promptly.
- It ensures relevant evidence does not deteriorate. Some types of evidence degrade over time. The memory of an eyewitness doesn’t last forever, either. When legal cases are tried in a timely manner, there is less risk that crucial evidence will be erased or forgotten.
- It protects the legal rights of the accused. When memories become foggy and physical evidence expires over time, people or entities falsely accused of negligence may not be able to defend themselves. The deadlines imposed by a statute of limitations reduce the risk of innocent people being unjustly punished.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Michigan for Motorcycle Accidents?
If you were involved in a Michigan motorcycle accident, you might have grounds to file one or more of the three following types of claims:
- First-party no-fault claims: Michigan is a no-fault auto insurance state, which means motor vehicle owners must carry no-fault insurance. When a Michigan motorcycle operator suffers accident-related losses in a crash that involves a motor vehicle (car or truck), the insurance of the motor vehicle provides the rider with no-fault benefits that pays medical bills and lost wages. If there is no insurance on the motor vehicle, then the rider looks to the insurance of the operator of the involved motor vehicle. If the operator has no coverage, then the rider turns to his or her own no-fault insurance on an automobile they may own. When injured motorcyclists file first-party no-fault claims with their providers, they may have access to benefits like medical coverage and wage loss replacement. You have one year from the date of a motorcycle accident to file a first-party claim with the proper insurance carrier.
- Third-party negligence claims: If the negligence of another person or entity was a contributing factor in your motorcycle accident, you might be able to make a third-party claim for compensation. This type of claim is filed against negligent drivers, vehicle owners, or their insurance companies. With a successful third-party claim, you could receive compensation for things like pain and suffering, excess lost wages, as well as additional benefits. You have three years from the motorcycle accident date to file a lawsuit for bodily injury or property damage.
Family members who lost loved ones in motorcycle accidents due to negligence may also be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of death in Michigan.
How Do Michigan’s No-Fault Laws Affect My Motorcycle Accident Claim?
In most other states, motorcycle accident victims file claims with other at-fault parties’ insurance companies to recover the medical bills and lost wages they incurred.
Unfortunately, no-fault insurance coverage has several limitations. No-fault benefits do not pay for vehicle repairs or replacements if your motorcycle was damaged in the crash. No-fault policies also don’t provide compensation for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, or permanent disability. These are provided for in the liability claim against the at-fault driver and the owner of the motor vehicle involved in the crash.
Additionally, Michigan no longer requires vehicle owners to carry unlimited no-fault benefits. This means your policy may have limits that prevent you from accessing the full compensation you need to recover.
If this happens, you may consider filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party to seek additional money for your losses. However, you should know that Michigan’s no-fault laws prohibit you from suing negligent third parties for compensation unless you suffered a “serious impairment.”
A serious impairment is an observable impairment of some significant bodily function that affects your ability to lead a normal life. If you can demonstrate that another driver’s negligence caused a motorcycle accident that caused a serious impairment, you may be able to sue them for compensation. An experienced Michigan motorcycle accident lawyer can explain your legal rights and help you determine your best options.
What Can I Do If I Miss the Deadline?
If you miss the one-year deadline for a first-party claim with your no-fault insurance carrier, the company will have no legal obligation to pay you.
You will likely run into similar difficulties if you fail to file a third-party claim against a negligent driver before the three-year statute of limitations is up. If you try to file a lawsuit after the legal deadline, the person you’re trying to sue can file a motion to have the case dismissed, and the court will usually grant it.
However, certain exceptions can extend the deadline defined in the statute of limitations:
- Legal disability due to insanity: If the person injured in a motorcycle accident is considered legally insane at the time of the accident, they have one year after they regain competency to file a lawsuit. In this instance, insane refers to the condition of being unable to comprehend your own rights.
- Injury to a minor: If a minor is injured in a motorcycle accident, they have one year from the date of their 18th birthday to file a personal injury claim.
- Absence of the defendant: If the person you intend to sue is absent from the state where the lawsuit will be filed for more than two months, this period of absence will not count against the statute of limitations. The state does not expect you to notify the defendant of your intent to sue if they are not in the same state.
It can be challenging to prove that a defendant is out of state or that some other exception should apply to your deadline for legal action. A knowledgeable Michigan motorcycle accident attorney can help you understand how the statute of limitations applies to your case and whether any exceptions could affect your time limit.
How Can a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Help Me?
Motorcycle accidents often involve catastrophic injuries that require costly medical attention, which can prevent injured motorcyclists from accessing the care they need. A motorcycle accident lawyer can support you through this trying time by:
- Explaining your legal rights and providing professional advice
- Helping you identify the medical specialists who can best treat your injuries
- Investigating the causes and effects of the motorcycle crash
- Identifying evidence of the other driver’s negligence or recklessness
- Working with expert witnesses to build a robust claim that supports your right to compensation
- Managing important documents and statute of limitations deadlines
- Communicating with insurance companies and others on your behalf
- Negotiating for the full and fair compensation you deserve
- Taking your claim to court, if necessary, to fight for a favorable verdict or judgment
Contact the Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at Christensen Law Today
At Christensen Law, we devote our full resources and experience toward delivering favorable results to our clients. When you hire our firm, you get a legal team that will take the time to get to know you and the unique circumstances of your motorcycle accident case.
Our mission is to provide highly skilled, customized legal services that meet your individual needs and goals. Take comfort knowing that we are on your side and fighting for the maximum compensation you are owed. We spare no expense in pursuit of full and fair results.