Car accident settlements can take months, or even years, so having resources on your side is essential to expedite the process and make it as painless as possible.
Cases that go to trial often require an extended litigation process. However, several other factors can affect the time it takes to settle. Having an experienced car accident attorney on your side will help you avoid the mistakes that cause settlement delays.
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What Factors Increase the Time It Takes a Car Accident Case to Reach a Settlement?
1. Duration of Medical Care and the Last Treatment Date
In most cases, it’s wise to wait to file a suit until you understand the full extent of your medical bills and lost wages. Insurance companies often won’t offer a full settlement if the extent of your injuries and medical expenses are still unknown.
If the insurance company offers a settlement when you don’t understand the full extent of your injuries, it will likely be incomplete. If you accept a settlement before fully understanding your damages, you might leave settlement money on the table.
2. The Amount of Available Car Insurance
Insurance companies will take longer to settle if you have more coverage available than your damages require. For example, you might have a severe injury that costs $50,000 in damages and an insurance limit of $100,000. In such cases, insurance companies understand the jury will likely issue a judgment higher than the policy limit.
The insurance company will issue a quick settlement offer to avoid paying the larger verdict issued by the jury.
3. The Insurance Company or Defense Attorney
Some insurance companies have negative reputations, fighting virtually every claim filed against them. Defense attorneys can also carry this reputation.
Insurance companies and defense attorneys can delay the process, bogging the settlement process down with laborious negotiations.
Insurance companies might also have lawyers on retainer, meaning they don’t have to hire outside counsel. This motivates them to take their time with negotiations since it doesn’t financially hinder them.
4. Cases Against the Local, State, or Federal Government
If a government agency was at fault in your case, you must file specific notices before the agency has to pay your claim. You will also need to adhere to strict requirements, and your claim might be denied or dismissed. As with most government agencies, there can also be bureaucratic delays.
5. Cases Involving Medicare or Medicaid
If Medicaid or Medicare paid your bills, you would likely have to reimburse some or all of those payments. In these cases, you might need to dedicate a portion of your settlement to pay the lien. Most liens are negotiable, but having them will increase the time of your case settlement.
6. Questions of Fault
Depending on the state, at-fault drivers must pay the full compensation to all injured parties. In some accidents, the at-fault driver is more apparent than others.
In others, there is a genuine dispute as to liability. When this is the case, insurers need more time to investigate claims. This process can delay the settlement process by several weeks or even longer in some cases.
When to Negotiate and When to File a Lawsuit
After the insurance company issues an offer, either accepting your terms or denying your claim, you have to decide how to proceed. You can choose from one of the following options:
- Accept a claim offer
- Issue a claim denial
- Reject the offer and negotiate for a higher settlement amount
- Reject the settlement offer and file a civil lawsuit for compensation
Because you most likely won’t be familiar with all of the legal details, you should consult a car accident attorney to help determine the best course of action.
5 Phases of a Car Accident Lawsuit
Progressing your case to civil court requires ample preparation. You can separate the lawsuit process into five stages:
These stages can take months or years to complete. A car accident attorney by your side throughout the process will put you in the best position to get the most out of your case.
Determining Compensation for Your Injuries from the Car Accident
Various factors determine how much compensation you receive in your claim. One of the factors determining your compensation is the extent of your injuries. Calculating the full damages might take months or years if you have lingering injuries.
What Causes Car Accidents to Settle Faster?
Quick Evidence Presentation
Following a car accident, adhering to the correct protocol can help expedite your settlement process.
Collect the police report, photographs of the damage done to the vehicles, injuries, and eyewitness statements. These can make the settlement process much less painful.
The insurance adjuster will review all the evidence and determine whether it’s worth fighting your case in court. They will be less likely to drag the settlement process out if they expect to lose.
The sooner you present evidence to the court, the faster the insurance company decides whether they want to fight your case, and the less time they have to prepare a defense. Speedy evidence presentation puts the defense on the spot.
Most insurance adjusters won’t issue a settlement until they have all the necessary documentation. That’s why you need to send them the documentation. This includes medical records and proof of lost wages. Insurance adjusters use these documents to determine the worth of their settlement offer.
Then they have to get their offer approved by their superiors. The larger the case, the longer it takes for the insurance adjuster to approve their settlement offer.
The Insurance Company Having Enough Information to Set a Reserve
A case reserve is the amount of money an insurance company sets aside to pay your claim. If the adjuster sets the reserve too low, it takes time and effort to get the case re-reserved to a level that the insurance company can afford.
Because this process can take a long time, you should notify the adjuster of the extent of your injuries as soon as possible. It’s worth noting that the amount on the insurance policy may limit reserves.
Responsive Insurance Company
Reputable, responsive insurance companies are more likely to try and reach a fair settlement. However, even the best companies will wait for you to issue your medical bills and make a full physical recovery. Still, low-budget insurance companies make settlement offers for much lower than fair value. These companies hinder the settlement process.
Bottom Line: How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?
Determining how long your car accident settlement takes doesn’t have a fixed answer. Car accident settlements can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Because there are so many factors to consider in the settlement process, you should always consult a car accident attorney to help determine your best options throughout. If your case turns into a lawsuit and goes to trial, this can either expedite or delay the process.
Car accident attorneys have valuable experience in the legal process. They also understand which insurance companies and defense attorneys are more difficult to deal with and guide you through arduous negotiations.
Contact Paul Wilkinson Law Firm
Paul Wilkinson is a car accident attorney that understands how to get the most out of your car accident settlement. With over 20 years of experience fighting a wide range of personal injury cases, he knows the ins and outs of car accident law and how to hold at-fault parties responsible if you suffer injuries. For more information, or to get a free case consultation, call us today at (303) 333-7285 or contact us via the website.