How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?
Perhaps you were driving to work as you do every weekday morning when a texting driver suddenly hit you. Maybe you were going to grandma’s house for the long weekend or making a quick trip to the store not two miles from your house.
However, your accident happened, and it left you with damages. You have medical bills to contend with, lost wages from attending medical appointments and staying home per your doctor’s orders, not to mention the pain and suffering you face while missing out on your everyday life and activities. There’s no doubt you deserve monetary compensation, and you deserve it now. It can’t come soon enough.
It’s no wonder why so many personal injury victims want to know how long their settlement will take. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to know, but unfortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all or clear answers. Every case is unique. Factors and details in your case don’t apply to others and vice versa.
Unfortunately, there is no way to determine how long your car accident settlement will take. Even the best, most-experienced car accident attorneys can’t say for sure.
However, certain factors in your claim can delay or even speed up the settlement process. For example, examining these factors and applying them can help you anticipate when your case might settle.
Beware of Near-Immediate Settlement Offers
Receiving a settlement offer within days or a couple of weeks of a car accident can come as a welcome relief. After all, it doesn’t appear that you will have to fight with the insurance company about your settlement. You won’t have to stress about waiting to get the money you need to pay your medical bills and make up for your lost wages. However, don’t be too quick to breathe that sigh of relief.
Insurance claims adjusters often contact injured parties as soon as possible after they file an accident claim. They intend to catch them before they can talk to a knowledgeable car accident attorney who will tell them what their claim is really worth. They are likely offering them much less than what they deserve for their injuries.
If you accept this settlement now, you are probably missing out on thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars more than if you hire an attorney and let them negotiate a fair settlement for you. At least consult with a car accident attorney to determine what your claim might be worth before accepting a fast settlement offer from the insurance claims adjuster.
Insurance Company Delays
On the other hand, the insurance company might delay processing your claim and thereby settlement negotiations with your car accident lawyer. However, they often delay claims hoping that claimants will forget about the claim or become distracted. The longer they can keep your money in their pockets, the more money they can make on it.
When you do contact them to check on the status of your claim, they might ask for more information or documentation that you either don’t need to provide or have already given them.
However, by hiring a competent attorney, you tell the insurance company that you are serious about being paid for your claim— and not just being paid but being paid fully, fairly, and promptly. Your attorney will hold the insurance company accountable for any delays that might occur.
If your car accident involves multiple victims, it will likely take longer to settle. The insurance company needs to determine how many claimants there are and how much each is claiming. There are coverage limits to their policies. Sometimes with multiple victims, the coverage limits are quickly met. This is another reason for having an attorney on your side. They can negotiate for you to get a fair portion of the available compensation coverage.
Multiple At-Fault Parties
With multiple at-fault parties, more insurance coverage is usually available. However, it can also cause a lot of finger-pointing and delay or stall settlement negotiations. None of the at-fault parties’ insurance companies will be excited to have to settle a claim.
If they can blame the entire thing on another driver and absolve themselves of any responsibility for payment, you better believe they will try it.
With multiple parties, a court must sort out their liability for payments to go through. Although, it is possible to settle with one or numerous at-fault parties and continue your claim in court with other parties.
Complex Car Accidents
If your car accident was complex, expect a longer claim and settlement timeline than in simple car accidents. Your attorney must perform a thorough investigation to pinpoint the at-fault parties involved and hold them accountable.
For example, a thorough investigation might involve the use of a private investigator or motor vehicle accident reconstructionist. While these investigations take some time, they are crucial in this process. They help determine how the accident occurred and who is to blame. If the proper parties aren’t held accountable, you won’t receive fair compensation for your damages.
Your car accident lawyer and their team will need sufficient time to gather evidence before they can begin performing their investigation, including:
- The police report from the accident
- Medical records
- Pictures or videos of the accident scene, the damage to the vehicles involved, and your injuries
- A recovery prognosis provided by a licensed medical professional
- The at-fault driver’s previous driving records
- Information from your employer about your loss of wages and if and when you can go back to work at the job you held before the accident
- Medical bills and receipts for out-of-pocket expenses
- Repair bills or estimates concerning the damage to your car
- Eyewitness statements
In some motor vehicle accident cases, who is at fault is quite clear. For example, a drunk driver who T-bones a family at an intersection, a truck driver who failed to perform routine maintenance on their big rig and had a tire blowout while speeding down the highway, or a construction worker who failed to set up temporary lane adjustments correctly and caused a head-on collision are all reasonably clear cases of fault.
When liability is clear and straightforward, there isn’t as much for the insurance adjuster to argue about, and they know it. Therefore, settlement negotiations usually go much quicker if the other party’s fault is apparent.
Severe or Catastrophic Injuries
If you suffered severe or catastrophic injuries, your lawyer may advise you to wait to settle your claim. While you might desperately need the money right away for medical bills or to replace lost wages, you won’t know what your claim is worth. You need to understand the full extent of your injuries, understand what your medical bills are worth to date and what medical bills you might still incur in the future due to your severe injuries.
With catastrophic injuries, your attorney may need to hire experts such as life planners or actuarial accountants to help determine the value of your lifetime of lost income but also the lifetime of medical care and assistance you will require because of your injuries. Settling this type of claim too soon can result in serious financial problems for the rest of your life.
Once your attorney consults with their experts and knows what your injuries are worth, they can begin negotiating a full and fair settlement on your behalf. Even though this will take quite some time, it will be worth the wait.
Be Aware of the Statute of Limitations
Every state has a statute of limitations for filing lawsuits. New York is no different, and its statute of limitations is three years from the date of the injury. A statute of limitations is a legal deadline. For example, if you suffered an injury in a motor vehicle accident in New York, the law allows you to file a formal lawsuit for three years beginning on the day of your injuries.
Suppose you fail to file a lawsuit within that time frame. In that case, you forfeit your legal right to use the legal system to pursue compensation and no longer have a viable claim. While nothing is stopping you from filing a lawsuit, you can be confident that the at-fault party’s attorneys will file a motion to have the court dismiss the case based on the expired statute of limitations. Since it has expired, the court will have no choice but to comply.
When you hire a motor vehicle accident attorney, they are acutely aware of the statute of limitations that applies to your case. They keep this date in mind with every move they make to ensure that if a lawsuit needs to be filed on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve, they will do it within the necessary timeframe.
What if Your Case Doesn’t Settle?
Most personal injury cases settle out of court long before they reach trials. Settlements are ideal compared to letting the court decide the case’s fate.
- Allow those involved with the case to determine the outcome, giving them more control.
- Resolve the case quicker than going to court.
- Help preserve insurance companies’ and defendants’ reputations.
- Prevent injured parties from testifying or discussing their business in court.
- Cost less for all involved parties compared to going to court.
- Don’t involve the risk of the other side appealing a court decision.
However, even with all of their benefits, not every case will settle. If your case doesn’t, rest assured that your attorney will prepare it for trial so that it has every chance of being successful.
You have the legal right to receive total and fair compensation for your injuries; if that means refusing to settle for less than you and your attorney believe your case is worth, then so be it.
Your Desires and Your Patience
How much money are you willing to settle for? If you are holding out for an unrealistic amount, your case likely won’t settle at all, or it may drag out for some time before you understand its realities.
Speak to your attorney and make your expectations realistic. Based on factors like their own experience, and recent cases in your area, if juries in your jurisdiction are quite sympathetic to victims and your physical injuries, your car accident attorney can help you set realistic expectations for a settlement.
How patient are you? Are you in too much of a hurry to conclude your case? Will you be willing to settle for much less than your claim is worth if you can settle in less time? The more patience you have, the greater the chances you will receive what you deserve.
The Skills of Your Car Accident Attorney
Choosing the right car accident attorney to represent your claim is crucial in how long it takes to settle your claim. Settling it too quickly can be detrimental, but so can waiting too long to accept a settlement offer.
You need an experienced attorney with sharp negotiation skills and who is confident in the value of your case. While your attorney should want to settle your claim out of court, they also shouldn’t be afraid to litigate it if the need arises. The right attorney will help guide you but also allow you to make the final decision.
The first step to getting the settlement you deserve for your injuries is to reach out to a skilled car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Delaying legal help can be detrimental to your claim in many ways including delaying your settlement and even decreasing the value of your claim.
Don’t wait; contact a reputable attorney today for help.