When a motorcyclist is injured in an accident, lawsuits and insurance claims must be brought before the statute of limitations expires. Failure to do so means the injury victim can’t recover damages resulting from the injury, including medical bills, lost wages and other economic and non-economic damages arising from such motorcycle accident claims.
A statute of limitations is a deadline for filing lawsuits or claims set by state law. The statute of limitations differs for different kinds of lawsuits and claims. In the case of motorcycle accidents, we are concerned primarily with two kinds of claims/lawsuits, each of which has different statute of limitations:
First-party personal injury claims against a person’s own insurance company
Third-party negligence lawsuits/torts against the party at fault for the injuries
First-party claims are claims an insured person makes against their own insurance for the injuries they suffer. They are also referred to as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims. In the case of motorcycle accidents involving cars or trucks, because of Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance laws, an injured motorcyclist can make a first-party claim against the no-fault insurance of a car or truck driver. This is true even if the motorcyclist was at fault for the injury. In the case of a motorcycle accident that does not involve a car, truck or other vehicle classified as a motor vehicle (in Michigan motorcycles are not classified as motor vehicles), then the motorcyclist must file a claim against his or her own Personal Injury Protection insurance policy. Unfortunately, because Michigan doesn’t require motorcyclists to purchase PIP insurance, many injured motorcyclists don’t have insurance on which to file a PIP claim. Regardless of whether the motorcyclist’s first-party or PIP claim is against their own insurance or against the insurance of a motor vehicle driver, in Michigan an injured motorcyclist has up to one year from the date of the accident to file the claim.
Third-party claims are also referred to as tort claims, or sometimes as negligence claims. A third-party claim is a lawsuit filed against the negligent party of a lawsuit and seeks to recover any damages not recovered through a first-party insurance claim, such as pain and suffering or compensation for a permanent disability. In the case of a motorcycle accident in Michigan, a third-party lawsuit can also include damages for personal injury if someone other than the injury victim is at fault and a first-party insurance claim is not made. The statute of limitations on third-party claims in Michigan is three years from the date of the accident.
It is important to note that if a Michigan motorcycle accident involved a motor vehicle (a car or truck) and an injured motorcyclist makes a first-party claim against the motor-vehicle driver's no-fault insurance, then personal injury costs can’t be included in a third-party claim. In this situation, Michigan no-fault insurance law also restricts an injured motorcyclist from any third-party lawsuits unless the injuries are catastrophic. (Please see our previous articles on Catastrophic Injuries and Threshold Injuries.)
In Michigan, when motorcyclists are injured in an accident with an uninsured motorist or a motorist who flees the scene before being identified, the motorcyclists must make first-party motorcycle accident claims on their uninsured motorist (UM) insurance policies. However, like PIP policies, UM policies are not required by state law, so many motorcyclists don’t purchase it and end up with insufficient coverage for their injuries if the the party at fault has no insurance or can’t be identified.
In the case of a hit-and-run driver operating a car or truck, if it can be verified that a motor vehicle was involved, an injured motorcyclist may still be able to file a Michigan no-fault claim for specific injury-related damages. However, third-party damages still need to be claimed against the motorcyclist’s UM policy.
When an injured motorcyclist is covered by a UM policy, the amount of time he or she has to file a claim depends on the specific terms of the policy. Most policies allow 1 to 3 years to file a claim. However, many policies have notification requirements that may be less than a year. Every motorcyclist should make a point of knowing when they need to notify their insurance company after an accident with an uninsured or unidentified motorist so that they don’t forfeit any benefits.
Get help with your first- or third-party injury claim for your motorcycle accident
Ensuring that you get the compensation for damages that you need and deserve after a motorcycle accident requires extensive familiarity with the legal process and the way insurance companies work. In Michigan, the personal injury attorneys at Sachs Waldman, P.C., have extensive experience and skill in representing victims of motorcycle accidents. If you’re a motorcyclist who was injured in a crash with another automobile, we can help you fight for the injury compensation you need. Call our Detroit personal injury attorneys’ office at 1-800-638-6722 to schedule a free consultation.