If you are involved in a car accident and sustain injuries, insurance companies and legal procedures should be the last things on your mind.
You should focus on making a full recovery and getting back to leading the life you love. If another driver was at fault for the accident, you might need a car accident settlement to receive full compensation for medical bills, lost wages, or property damages. However, car accident settlements can take months and even years, so having resources on your side is essential to expedite the process and make it as painless as possible.
This blog discusses the most important variables determining the length of your car accident settlement. Cases that go to trial often require an extended litigation process. However, several other factors can affect the time it takes to reach a settlement. Having an experienced car accident attorney on your side will help you avoid the mistakes that cause settlement delays.
Table of Contents
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 while the extent of your injuries and medical expenses are still up in the air.
If the insurance company offers a settlement during the period when you don’t understand the full extent of your injuries, it will most likely be incomplete. Accepting a settlement before fully understanding your damages leaves you vulnerable to leaving settlement money on the table.
2. The Amount of Available Car Insurance
When you have a substantial coverage amount, your case can take longer to settle. 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.
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.
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. Having 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. For example, 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. Collecting the police report, photographs of the damage done to the vehicles, injuries, and eyewitness statements can all 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.
Because most insurance adjusters won’t issue a settlement until they have all the necessary documentation, you need to send them the documentation, including 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.
Conclusion: 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.
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.