Motorcycle Litigation Basics

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may have many questions about your legal options. Can I recover money for my medical expenses? Can I still bring a lawsuit if I partially caused the accident? You may have never been involved in a lawsuit before and not know where to start. The following information provides a general overview about motorcycle accident cases. An experienced personal injury attorney at Christopher J. Zachar in Phoenix, Arizona can answer your specific questions and provide guidance about how to proceed.

Pleadings and Causes of Action

A case arising out of a motorcycle accident is a personal injury action and it will begin with the filing of the complaint. A complaint sets forth the claims that the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) has against the defendant (the person or company being sued). Generally, a motorcycle accident case will be based on negligence. To establish negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty; that the defendant breached this duty; that the breach caused the plaintiff injury; and that the plaintiff was in fact injured. If there was more than one person responsible for the accident in which the plaintiff was injured, it may be advisable to name all potentially liable parties as defendants.

The defendant has to answer the complaint within a certain time (usually 20 days). The answer sets forth the portions of the complaint that the defendant admits to, if any; the allegations that the defendant contests; any defenses the defendant may have; and any claims the defendant is asserting against the plaintiff, another co-defendant or any other entity that is not already a party to the litigation. These claims are known as counterclaims (against the plaintiff), cross claims (against a co-defendant) and third-party claims (against a third party not yet part of the litigation). If the defendant does not respond to the complaint within the allotted period, the court may enter a default judgment against the defendant.

Instead of filing an answer, a defendant may choose to file a motion to dismiss in which it raises all its defenses. This motion will ask the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s case and it can raise the following defenses: lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, lack of jurisdiction over the person, insufficiency of process, insufficiency of service of process, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and failure to join a party.


Discovery is the process of obtaining facts and evidence to support your case. Each party can request that the other party produce certain categories of documents, answer written questions (called interrogatories) and give testimony at depositions. In motorcycle accident cases, there are a number of relevant items of evidence. First, there is data about the vehicle, such as VIN number, mechanical issues, any defects or maintenance issues and the speeds the vehicles were traveling. Statements from eyewitnesses, as well as road conditions, traffic, weather conditions and any road obstructions are also important. Evidence about the motorcycle rider and driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash, such as training, licensing, experience and alcohol or drug use, should be collected. Finally, information about your medical expenses and documentation about your injuries are relevant to the determination of damages.

Comparative Negligence

If you were partly to blame for the motorcycle accident, can you still recover for your injuries? In most states, the answer is yes, you can still recover from any other party who is at least partially responsible for your injuries. The defendant’s liability for the accident is determined by comparing his or her carelessness with your own. This rule of comparing fault is known as “comparative negligence.”

In most states, you cannot recover anything if your own carelessness was 50% or more responsible for the accident. Some states allow you to recover compensation for your injuries no matter how great your own fault. Finally, a few states do not allow you to recover any compensation if your fault is any more than “slight” compared to the fault of the others involved, or if your own carelessness contributed in any way to the accident.

Resolution of the Case

It may be possible for the parties to resolve the dispute through settlement or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation or arbitration. If the parties agree to binding arbitration, they are bound by the decision of a neutral arbitrator(s). Some states require litigants to go through alternative dispute resolution in some form.

In the absence of a settlement or ADR, the case will go to trial. At trial, the attorneys for each side present evidence and arguments, and the judge or jury decides the unresolved issues. Once the judge or jury has reached a decision, the judge will enter a judgment for the winning party. Either or both parties can appeal a judge’s decision to a higher court. Settlements usually cannot be appealed if both parties agree to their terms.

Talk to an Attorney

A personal injury attorney who has handled motorcycle and automobile accident cases can explain the stages of litigation to you and answer any questions you have. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident and are thinking about bringing a lawsuit, talk to an experienced lawyer at Christopher J. Zachar in Phoenix, Arizona about your options.

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