How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?
Many injured car accident victims want to know,” How long does a car accident settlement take?” The answer to this question is complicated because car accident settlements are dependent on many factors.
Depending on the complexity of the incident, the number of parties involved, and the extent of the injuries requiring medical treatment, every car accident lawsuit is different. Some auto accident claims may take a few months to resolve, others can take years.
It’s important to be familiar with the process of auto accident lawsuits in order to have realistic expectations and to be able to track the progress of your case once you file.
After a serious car accident, you want the compensation from your settlement in your hands as soon as possible. You have a vehicle to repair, bills to pay, and medical treatment to manage. Obviously, you want the case over now.
In reality, however, claims may not reach a car accident settlement as quickly as you might have hoped. Several factors may influence how long it takes to recover compensation after your accident. If you suffered serious injuries in the accident, it could take several months for you to recover the compensation you need for your injuries.
Process of an Auto Accident Lawsuit:
Step 1: File – File a claim and put the involved parties on notice of the accident and interest in obtaining a recovery. Filing a claim for sustained personal injuries gives notice to the at-fault party’s insurance. You will get treatment for your injuries until you reach your Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). Your personal injury attorney will gather your medical records and bills and present a demand package to the insurance company.
Step 2: Negotiate – Negotiate if possible, to reach a compromised car accident settlement. Once the insurance company establishes fault for the accident and reviews your attorney’s demand package, they will present an initial offer to compensate you for your damages and injuries. Insurance companies and your attorney will often negotiate to try to reach a reasonable settlement.
Step 3: Lawsuit – File a lawsuit with the court if negotiations outside of court are unsuccessful. Negotiating a settlement does not always resolve outstanding medical expenses. Your car accident lawyer is in the best position to advise you whether to pursue litigation for your injury claim or not.
Step 4: Litigation – Litigate the case. Litigation is initiated by filing a formal complaint to the court and serving the at-fault party who will then follow by filing an answer. Discovery will then proceed (formal investigation of the facts of the lawsuit) between Plaintiff and Defendant. Discovery can commonly include interrogatories, request to produce, request for admissions, and depositions. Once Discovery is concluded, the parties will then be able to mediate the case. Usually, this is one of the last chances to come to an agreeable car accident settlement prior to taking the case to trial.
Step 5: Trial – If no settlement can be reached, your auto accident attorney will counsel you on whether you should proceed to trial, weighing the risks and rewards. At trial, your attorneys will provide the evidence to a court and a jury to prove that your injuries and damages were caused by the negligent driving of another person and that you are entitled to compensation for those injuries.
How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?
How long can you expect to wait for your money after agreeing to a settlement or getting a court order? After a pre-trial settlement, you can typically expect to get a payment within 20 to 30 days. The amount of time the insurance company has to pay you will be a part of your car accident settlement agreement. If you go to trial and the court awards you compensation, you can expect to receive that payment within 60 days of the final judgment. There are exceptions to these deadlines, however. As such, it is important to discuss the details of your car accident settlement with an experienced injury attorney.
What Can Delay Your Car Accident Settlement and Claim?
You filed your auto accident claim. Now what? Just how long does it take, and what factors can influence it? Take a look at these challenges that can extend the time needed to settle your claim.
1. You may need time to recover from your injuries before you will know what your eventual medical costs will look like.
Your medical costs serve as a vital foundation for your car accident claim. Until you know what your eventual medical costs will look like, you cannot reliably put together a personal injury claim that includes the medical expenses you will face. Your doctors might provide you with an estimate of your medical costs and what they will look like over time; however, you may quickly find that your expenses look very different from those estimates.
Suppose, for example, that you suffered a partial spinal cord injury in your accident. Immediately after the accident, your doctors may have no idea what your recovery will look like: how much mobility you will regain, what long-term limitations you will face due to your accident, and what procedures you will need.
You may need more or fewer physical therapy sessions as you determine how well you can complete those exercises on your own versus with someone overseeing you. If you discover that you will have severe long-term mobility limitations, you may need to spend more time working with an occupational therapist, need more durable medical equipment, or need to make more modifications to make your home wheelchair-accessible.
All those costs can add up, and you may have no idea what they will look like until you reach that point.
Burn victims may also face a high risk of complications. When you have severe burns from an accident, you may find yourself at risk for infection. You may need to go through multiple skin grafts, not just one, or you may need to spend more or less time in a burn unit than anticipated. Knowing what your recovery will look like ahead of time can prove extremely difficult, especially since burns can prove very unpredictable as you move through your recovery.
Even predicting your costs related to broken bones can prove difficult. Suppose, for example, that you break your leg in a car accident. You may originally assume that you can avoid surgery. After several weeks, however, the doctor realizes that your leg has not healed correctly, due to no fault of your own, and you may require additional medical treatment.
When the cast comes off, you may discover that you need physical therapy to help you regain strength. Sometimes, you may require more physical therapy sessions than initially anticipated before you can make a full recovery.
Until you know what your medical costs will ultimately look like, your lawyer may recommend waiting to file your claim.
2. A complex investigation can extend the time needed to settle a car accident claim.
Sometimes, it can take more time and effort to investigate your car accident claim than you initially thought. At the scene of the accident, you may have found it relatively straightforward. You know that the other driver caused the accident, the police report states that the other driver caused the accident, and you have no reason to assume that you will have to fight for compensation from the other driver’s insurance company.
Then, the investigation begins.
Questions of Shared Liability or Disputed Liability
The other driver might change his story. Suddenly, instead of admitting that he caused the accident by speeding, leaving him without enough time to avoid a crash, he may mention that he thinks you may have used a cell phone at the time of the accident. The driver wants to claim that you caused the accident, which would leave you liable, or partially liable, for the accident.
The insurance company may need to conduct a more thorough investigation into the claim in disputed liability cases, as may your lawyer. As more evidence emerges, it can make it easier to show exactly what led to the car accident, including who bears liability. However, that investigation may take considerable time, especially if you do not have ready evidence available to share.
Accidents Involving Commercial Drivers
Commercial driver investigations often involve a much more complex investigation process than a typical car accident —though the payout can also increase for those claims since commercial drivers often carry higher-value insurance policies than private drivers.
Commercial drivers may also share liability with their employers – further increasing your car accident settlement payout.
For example, a trucking company might share liability with its driver for:
- Pushing, or even routinely allowing, the driver to exceed the federally-mandated number of hours he can spend behind the wheel each shift
- Pushing the driver to drive in unsafe conditions
- Failing to take care of routine maintenance on the truck
- Enforcing unsafe policies, including tight deadlines, that can increase the danger faced by other drivers who have to share the road with a commercial driver
To fully investigate a commercial driver, your lawyer may need to look over more evidence than he would need to examine in a claim against a private driver.
For example, the lawyer may want to look at the driver’s logbook, his driving record, and the company’s overall history, including what other drivers may have said about them, to determine whether you have grounds for a claim against the company, too.
Accidents With More Than One Liable Party
Sometimes, a car accident may involve more than one liable party: not just multi-vehicle accidents, but cases in which more than one party may share liability for the accident. For example, sometimes, you might uncover evidence that shows that a mechanical malfunction in one of the vehicles contributed to the accident.
In that case, you might have grounds for a claim against the manufacturer of that vehicle or a mechanic that recently worked on the vehicle.
In accidents where more than one party bears liability for the incident, you may discover that you can recover more compensation than you could if the accident involved only the liable driver directly. However, you may need to wait longer to get that compensation in your hands than you would if you simply filed a claim against the driver directly.
3. If the insurance company tries to dispute the extent of your injuries in any way, it can extend the time needed to process your claim.
Sometimes, the insurance company may try to dispute the extent of your injuries, decreasing the insurance company’s financial burden. The insurance adjuster may utilize several tactics to slow the process, delay your claim, and decrease the compensation you can recover for those injuries.
Disputing the Time Your Injuries Occurred
You know that you can trace your injuries back to the car accident, whether you received immediate medical attention after the accident or you discovered your injuries sometime after the accident itself. However, the insurance company may try to dispute your right to compensation by claiming that your injuries occurred at another time.
Often, the insurance company will use this tactic if you failed to seek medical attention right away, but later discovered the extent of your injuries. For example, you might have known you hit your head against the steering wheel during the accident, but assumed that, since you did not lose consciousness, you did not need medical attention.
Later, you might have noticed that you suffered from symptoms of traumatic brain injury. You know that the injury occurred during your car accident, but the insurance company might try to claim that you had suffered those injuries earlier, especially if you had an earlier accident report.
Disputing the Extent of Your Injuries
Your injuries can cause an immense impact on every area of your life, especially if you suffered severe, life-altering injuries. The insurance company, however, may not want to pay out for the full damages you claimed. As a result, the insurance company may claim that your injuries do not limit you as much as you claimed.
The insurance company may, for example, attempt to claim that you suffered only a minor, not moderate, traumatic brain injury, or that your back and neck injuries do not stop you from enjoying most of the activities you engaged in before the accident. If your accident limits you less than you initially claimed, the insurance company can get away with offering you less in compensation.
Disputing Necessary Treatments
You may have carefully followed a care plan laid out by your doctor, including the specific treatments you needed for your injuries. As you put together your lawsuit, you included the cost of those medical treatments, since those treatments led to considerable out-of-pocket expenses.
The insurance company, however, may claim that you did not need those specific treatments: that, for example, you opted for a more expensive, optional treatment option instead of choosing a less-expensive treatment that might have had the same results, or that you sought treatments for primarily cosmetic purposes, rather than for treating the injuries you sustained in the accident.
As a result, the insurance company may try to avoid paying out for those particular treatments. While your settlement will not contain a breakdown of the costs, any factor of your claim that the insurance company can dispute may decrease the compensation it has to offer for your injuries.
4. Negotiation may take longer than anticipated.
Sometimes, the insurance company may deliberately delay negotiations, issuing low settlement offer after low settlement offer. Other times, it may simply prove difficult to come to an agreement that fits your needs and still holds to the policies issued by the insurance company.
Often, if you decide to stick to your guns and push for the full compensation you deserve for your injuries, it can extend the time needed to reach a settlement agreement in your claim. However, by sticking with it, you can also maximize the compensation for your car accident.
5. Going to court may further extend the time needed to resolve your car accident claim.
If you secure a car accident settlement, you may reach a faster resolution than if you have to go to court to manage your claim. If you do have to go to court, you may have to wait for a court date, present your case to the court, and wait for a resolution, all of which may take a considerable amount of time, depending on how long you have to wait for a date in the local court system.
You may also need to schedule a chance to chat with a mediator to attempt a final resolution before your claim goes to court.
Settlement vs. Lawsuit
Settlement negotiations in a car accident lawsuit consist of letters between your attorney and the insurance company, phone calls, and an investigation of medical records. Filing a lawsuit is a formal legal process with rules that must be followed. This is one of the reasons why lawsuits without a settlement can take years to resolve.
You do need to be careful, however, with your choice of law firm. Some high-profile law firms are little more than settlement mills. Insurance companies love settlement mills. A settlement mill is a personal injury law firm that rarely takes cases to trial because it can make more money by settling high-volume cases quickly.
Having a law firm that regularly takes cases to trial is always in your best interests versus a settlement mill. You are more likely to get a better settlement with a firm that tries cases because the insurance companies cannot low-ball you.
The Law Offices of Lucas & Magazine is not a settlement mill. We meticulously investigate your accident and injuries so you can focus on recovering. Our legal team is comprised of several attorneys who are Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyers and National Board of Trial Advocacy Civil Trial Lawyers. This Double Board Certification is a distinction of experience in specialized skills, knowledge, and proficiency within the field of personal injury. A Board Certified Specialist can make a huge difference when you need to retain a Car Accident Attorney.
Our experienced Car Accident Attorneys at The Law Offices of Lucas & Magazine put the personal back in injury law.
With locations in New Port Richey, Spring Hill, Wesley Chapel, and Inverness, Florida, our team will fight for the best financial recovery possible for your case. Contact us today for a free case evaluation!