If you face injuries and other losses after a crash, you likely need funds sooner rather than later. You want to get your money as soon as possible and likely feel eager to put the crash in your rearview. How long a car accident settlement takes depends on a few factors, however—and every case is different.
You could arrive at a fair settlement in a few weeks. Then again, it’s also possible that you could continue working through the financial recovery process for a year, especially if your case goes to trial. A national survey by Nolo-Martindale reported that the average time it took for respondents to receive a car accident settlement was 11.4 months.
Understandably, you want to know how long it takes to settle your car accident claim. You can get a better estimate of your case’s unique timeline by working with a car accident lawyer. It also helps to understand what goes into filing a claim and any other requirements or deadlines. Read on to learn more about what to expect during the claims process. For more information, reach out to a car accident attorney.
How a Car Accident Claim Works
The claims process involves multiple steps. It often begins with contacting a qualified law firm to assist. A lawyer has experience working with insurance companies and the knowledge necessary to maximize the value of your case.
The attorney can learn the details of your car accident and set to work looking into applicable insurance coverage, investigating the circumstances of the crash, and compiling pertinent documentation to prove your injuries and losses.
Making a Demand for Compensation
Equipped with the facts of your case, medical records, medical bills, and documentation of your damages, your car accident lawyer can contact the insurance company to demand proper compensation and protect your rights. Then, based on the information in your settlement brochure, the insurance adjuster will make an initial offer.
Negotiation and Settlement (Or Litigation)
Your attorney can negotiate with the adjuster to arrive at a fair settlement amount that ideally accounts for your financial and non-financial losses. If negotiations prove successful, the parties in the case reach an agreement, and you receive compensation. If negotiations deteriorate or stall, a lawsuit might offer an ideal course of action to get the money you deserve.
In other situations, your lawyer may immediately file a lawsuit before attempting settlement negotiations. During the litigation process, you may still receive settlement offers from the insurance company; in many situations, the other party wants to avoid a trial if possible. So, even if your lawyer files suit, you may not actually go into a courtroom.
Factors That Affect the Speed of Your Car Accident Case
As simple as the process may seem, you may face unwanted, unexpected, or unnecessary delays at any given point. A dedicated attorney can work to keep the process moving, but some forces may prove unavoidable.
Several factors can affect your case’s timeline that may or may not be within your control. Read more about some primary influencing factors in your car accident claim below.
The Pace of Your Medical Treatment
Many car accident victims do not realize that if they suffer injuries, they must wait before demanding compensation. In other words, you should conclude your treatment, come close to completing it, or progress far enough so that doctors have a reasonable idea of your prognosis. From there, doctors can determine your ongoing medical care, pain management plan, or future surgeries you may need.
To get all the compensation you need to cover your bills, you need to estimate your future and ongoing costs related to your accident. It’s impossible to obtain an accurate settlement amount without knowing how much your injuries will cost you in medical expenses or how those injuries may affect your life. Your lawyer would need to know your treatment costs before filing a claim.
The length of time your treatment takes will vary based on the severity of your injuries. The more serious your physical trauma, the longer treatment may take—and the longer it may take before your lawyer can accurately gauge a fair demand amount. However, the severity of your injuries may also correlate to increased compensation. Therefore, claims that involve less serious injuries may resolve sooner simply because the treatment may not prove as extensive.
Obtaining Medical Records, Bills, and Documentation of Loss
As you complete your treatment or begin to gain a better sense of your prognosis, your car accident attorney can gather the medical records and bills that reflect the bulk of your physical and financial losses.
They’ll also need to gather other documentation that proves your losses, such as:
- Vehicle damage estimates
- Rental car costs or other transportation and travel costs
- Lost income documentation
- Service bills and receipts (such as for hiring others to perform tasks you can no longer undertake)
- Records of your income, past and present
- Expert witness testimony
Retrieving these items may take time, depending on the documentation required to prove your injuries and losses. Your lawyer may need to work with experts such as other health professionals to show the severity of your injuries.
The Extent of Your Damages
If you have greater damages, the insurance company may take longer to process your claim. After all, the insurance company will likely conduct its own in-depth investigation of your accident and injuries. Additionally, the adjuster may only want to offer you a certain amount of money. A payout exceeding that amount may require special approval within the company, which could take longer to process.
Investigating Your Car Crash
While your attorney most likely believes your story occurred the way you say it did, they need to corroborate it and gather evidence of negligence to prove liability. They may need to investigate the car accident by tracking down eyewitnesses, retrieving the crash report, reviewing available recorded footage, and possibly enlisting crash reconstruction specialists.
A proper investigation takes time. Your attorney can give you a better sense of how long the process may take once they begin working on your case.
Awaiting a Response to Your Demand Letter
After you or your lawyer sends a demand letter (or demand package) with the relevant medical records, proof of damages, and supporting evidence, you will have to wait for the insurance company’s response. Response times vary widely depending on the insurer and the complexity of your car accident claim. The insurance company has to evaluate the claim, including investigating your car accident. This process may prolong a settlement offer.
Generally, insurance companies must abide by certain deadlines when responding to car accident claims. These deadlines vary by state law. Your auto accident lawyer can stay on top of the insurance company to ensure your claim remains at the forefront. They can also file a lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to cooperate and participate in the claims resolution process.
Insurance Company Internal Affairs and Caseload
The internal processes of the insurance company also affect how long it takes to settle your car accident claim. However, you may not know the factors within the insurance company that influence their response time and settlement decisions. The claims adjuster’s caseload can also influence their ability to work on your claim.
Again, your lawyer can work to ensure that the insurer remains motivated to settle your claim as promptly as possible.
Insurance Policy Limits
Lower policy limits and lower damages generally involve a shorter claims processing timeline. The insurance company might not sneeze at paying out lower-value policies. They may view a few thousand dollars as an acceptable loss. Higher policy limits and greater damages can pose more of a problem for the insurer. It means the insurer has more risk, and if you have a serious car accident, the company might need to pay you hundreds of thousands of dollars—or more.
As a result, the insurance company may try to pay you as little as possible. Unfortunately, this might mean harshly scrutinizing your damages, finding ways to mitigate its liability, and ultimately devaluing your claim. Under these circumstances, your attorney likely needs to fight to get what you deserve.
Suppose multiple parties bear fault for the crash that injured you, and the complexity of your case increases. Multiple parties equal multiple people or entities who could prove liable for your damages. Unfortunately, sorting out liability in these cases rarely proves simple or quick.
In addition, if the insurance company doesn’t agree that their client bears fault for your harm, expect some resistance and delays in hearing back about your demand letter. Disagreement over liability could also mean difficulty in negotiations.
Negotiations with the insurance company can take weeks or even months as both parties may go back and forth with counter offers. If you and the insurance company don’t agree on key details of the case, such as your injuries’ severity, the settlement offers and counter offers will likely displease both sides. This could lead to the negotiations stalling or breaking down altogether. If the parties aren’t talking, the case isn’t progressing, which may mean it’s time to file a lawsuit.
To get your case moving in the right direction, your collision attorney may have to file a lawsuit for compensation.
A civil suit may prove necessary if the insurance company:
- Perpetuates unreasonable delays or hasn’t responded in a reasonable amount of time
- Rejects your claim outright
- Won’t offer a fair settlement in alignment with your substantiated damages
- Acts in bad faith (or in an unethical or dishonest way)
As mentioned earlier, however, your lawyer may also recommend filing a lawsuit immediately for other reasons.
A lawsuit may drag out your car accident case. The litigation process can prove lengthy as attorneys must draft court documents, wait on the judge at various stages, and prepare witnesses and arguments for trial.
On the other hand, a lawsuit could also initiate an end to the claims process as many insurance companies want to avoid litigating in court and the costs associated with it. The threat of a lawsuit may incentivize a faster claim adjustment and better settlement offer. In fact, at this point, your car accident case may settle any day before the trial starts.
Remember the Georgia Statute of Limitations as You Work Toward a Settlement
If someone else caused your accident and injuries or the insurance company treats you unfairly during the claims process, you may have the option to file a lawsuit. However, you have limited time to file your action in court. Georgia law provides two years for personal injury victims to file their cases in court.
If you miss the statute of limitations, you no longer have a right to seek compensation. Therefore, you will also lose any leverage over the insurance company to force them to pay you what they owe. So, we advise that you get started on your case as promptly as possible. By taking action sooner rather than later, you can work to ensure a smoother resolution to your case.
A Lawyer Can Work to Get You a Fair Car Accident Settlement Promptly
If your case takes too long, a car accident attorney can help. A law firm that operates under the tenets of integrity and commitment to each client should have no issues keeping you in the loop. Of course, some delays may prove outside of your personal injury lawyer’s control. Still, a dedicated lawyer can stay on top of your case and actively monitor the opposing parties’ responses—or lack thereof.
Your lawyer can constantly work to move your case forward, from negotiating with the opposing party to filing a lawsuit when necessary. A car accident attorney who puts your interests first understands that you need your money immediately and can work diligently to recover every dollar you deserve as quickly as possible.