How Long Does A Settlement Take For A Car Accident?
Car accident cases with clear liability and moderate injuries often settle within 6 to 9 months after medical treatment is complete. The amount of time it takes to get a car accident settlement can vary depending on the type of injuries, involvement of a commercial vehicle and their insurance company, and the size of the accident.
Generally, a car accident claim that results in a complicated injury, has commercial defendants, or multi-vehicle accidents usually take longer to settle. A car accident lawyer can help estimate the value of your claim, identify legal considerations, and ultimately help to maximize your settlement amount.
Auto Accident Settlement Timeline
No matter the case (car, truck, or motorcycle accident), an auto accident settlement often follows the same timeline or process:
- Claim is filed – An injured party files a claim for compensation with the insurance company for the party or parties who caused or contributed to the accident. Although lay-persons use the term “claim” and “lawsuit” interchangeably, the terms are not synonymous. A claim is filed with an insurance company, while a lawsuit is filed in court. The process is bound by rules of discovery and evidence.
- Investigation – The parties conduct their investigations into liability and damages. Personal injury attorneys and their staff gather evidence in the case. This can include police reports, witness statements, medical records, and medical bills.
- Medical treatment – The heart of any car accident claim is the injury itself. The medical treatment needed because of an accident can take as little as a few weeks or can stretch out for many months.
- Demand and negotiation – After all of the evidence has been gathered, a personal injury lawyer will issue a demand letter to the responsible insurance company. The parties typically engage in negotiations at this point in the hopes of reaching an agreement.
- Settlement agreement – If the parties can agree, the case settles. The attorneys will draw up legal documents and releases which spell out the terms of the settlement. Once the documents are properly witnessed and signed, the funds can be disbursed.
- Disbursement – Funds are distributed to the injured parties, attorneys, and to any lien holders, such as medical providers.
For more legal information, see the car accident settlement process and legal considerations.
Factors That Impact the Timeline of an Auto Accident Settlement
Many issues can affect how long it takes to resolve a personal injury claim. Here are some of the most common:
- Liability – How the accident happened can determine how long it takes to establish who is at fault. Accidents that happen on camera or in a manner where liability is clear from circumstance (i.e., a rear-ender at a stop light) can resolve the liability question rather quickly. On the other hand, collisions without cameras, witnesses, or where more than one party may be at fault can take much longer to resolve.
- Severity of injuries – The longer it takes to complete medical treatment, the longer the case usually takes. Generally, car accidents that result in serious injuries often take longer to settle compared to those that only result in minor or moderate injuries.
- Accident size – The more vehicles that are involved in an accident, the longer a car accident settlement takes on average. The types of vehicles involved can also impact the auto accident timeline. For example, accidents that involve commercial trucks often take longer to settle. A claim against a single driver with a single insurance company tends to resolve sooner than a multi-vehicle accident involving commercial trucks.
- Jurisdiction – Where an accident happens can impact a claim almost as much as how it happens.
- Plaintiff-friendly vs defendant-friendly juries. Counties often have a reputation for being either plaintiff or defendant-friendly, which can impact how long a party is willing to negotiate.
- Federal jurisdiction. Claims involving federal vehicles or defendants in more than one state may wind up in Federal Court.
- Liens – Medical providers and the insurance company often file liens on a car accident claim in order to be compensated or reimbursed for medical services. Negotiating these liens takes time.
- Lawsuit filed – Non-lawyers often use the terms “lawsuit” and “claim” synonymously. However, there is a difference between the terms:
- Car accident claim is not a lawsuit. Rather, it is a potential lawsuit. An injured person makes a claim with the party who bears financial responsibility for the negligent conduct, usually an insurance company. The parties can exchange information, negotiate, and settle the case without ever filing any paperwork in court.
- Car accident lawsuit is a legal filing in court that brings formal accusations against a defendant. Once a lawsuit has been filed in court, the timeline for a case often gets longer.
After an accident, car accident victims and their families are often faced with an overwhelming amount of legal considerations. A car accident attorney can answer any legal questions you have, build a strong car accident claim, and ultimately help you obtain the settlement you deserve.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help With a Car Accident Case
In most cases, it’s in the individuals best interest to hire or at least consult with a car accident lawyer.
- Protecting clients from insurance companies. One of the very first things an experienced personal injury attorney will do is notify the insurance companies that their client has representation. This precludes the insurance company from contacting the injured client directly.
- Investigating the case while the client recovers. Somebody trying to recover from an injury should not also need to chase down medical records, witness statements, and other evidence.
- Revealing the full extent of an injury. Not every injury has a billing statement attached. After a car accident, people may find themselves unable to remain physically active. Relationships can change, including sexual relationships between married partners. Lost wages need to be calculated. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to prove that there is more to an injury than just a stack of medical records.
As lawyers, we want the best possible outcome for each client. If you have any questions, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. They will be able to evaluate your case and offer advice on your options.
Every personal injury client at Brown & Crouppen gets a legal team with lawyers and paralegals who have years of experience. If you have been injured, and you want a free, confidential consultation, call toll free at 1-800-536-4357, or submit your request using our online form.