How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?

attorney for car accident settlement

Life can change in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re cruising down the road, and the next, you’re a crumpled mass. Someone else collided with your car, but what do you do next?

You’ve got to seek out medical care, but how are you going to pay for it? When you’ve been in a wreck and need a check, it’s important to know how long you’ll have to wait for compensation.

Accidents happen when you least expect them, and when you can least afford additional expenses. It is safe to say there is never a good time to be an accident victim.

So, the answer to the question “How long does a car accident settlement take?” is, it depends. An automobile accident can be a simple fender bender, something as minor as the car behind you following too closely and breaking your tail light. No injuries, no traffic violations, possibly even no police report, but damage nonetheless.

Unless you are willing to foot the entire cost of even these insignificant repairs, always get a police report. Not all injuries or vehicle damage appear immediately following an accident. Protect your legal rights and stay on the right side of the law.

Once you have an official document detailing the incident, the at-fault driver can submit a claim to their insurance company. In this case scenario, the time-lapse between the crash, and you’re receiving a check in a relatively short time possibly four to six weeks. Insurance companies should acknowledge a claim request in 10 days and then approve or deny it in the next two weeks. Once approved, a claimant should have a check-in hand shortly thereafter.

However, if, in the blink of an eye, one minute you are cruising down the road, and the next minute you find yourself injured and in a crumpled mess, the estimated timeline changes drastically.

Read on to learn the general timeline of the average car accident personal injury claim.

Immediately Following the Crash

Make sure you have yourself checked out physically. Car accidents are traumatic events, and the immediate rush of adrenaline is likely to mask any pain. Accident victims can easily become disoriented. It can sometimes take days for symptoms to present themselves. If needed, get emergency treatment at the closest hospital, then schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.

Keep all scheduled appointments and undergo any recommended tests. You may not know the cost of medical care or the length of time you cannot work until you reach total recovery.

The time frame will vary depending on:

  • The severity of the injuries
  • The possibility of surgery
  • The need for rehabilitative services
  • The actual costs of any time missed from work
  • The extent of the property damage

Initiating a claim for reimbursement too early is counterproductive. The sooner you have an experienced auto accident personal injury attorney working on your behalf, the better the chances are for a fair and timely settlement.

For example, accident scene evidence can easily be destroyed once law enforcement officials have completed their investigation. The roadway debris may hold valuable clues a lawyer will need to show negligence. You need a court order to preserve evidence as soon as possible.

Car accidents are traumatic. The immediate rush of adrenaline and other chemicals may mask your injuries at first.

Regardless of how severe the crash was, it’s important to seek out medical treatment. It’s possible that emergency medical staff appear on scene and treat you there.

You may get taken to the nearest hospital, or you may walk away from the crash. If you do, make an appointment with your doctor to check for late-appearing injuries.

Document All Out-Of-Pocket Expenses

Medical treatment is expensive. Hopefully, private health policies can cover some of these costs initially (though you will pay it back when the at-fault party’s insurance issues funds), and keep track of any out-of-pocket costs.

On top of that, start calculating your other losses like:

  • Lost income
  • Property damage
  • Prescription costs

Start collecting evidence that proves these losses, and keep them in a file.

Proving Liability

A car accident lawyer will have the resources and professional connections to properly investigate the particulars of the accident to determine and prove liability.

There is no hard and fast formula for determining the timeline of an automobile accident. Every crash is different, and each client’s experience is unique. Our legal system works, but it works slowly. There are no guarantees, but it is safe to say that investigating an accident and determining liability is a time-consuming process.

Realistically, it can take months (many months) to even gather and review police and accident reports, secure and review any photographs and surveillance footage of the accident scene, and locate and interview witnesses.

Medical records are a pivotal part of a personal injury claim. A legal team may need to:

  • Request and evaluate a report from an accident reconstructionist
  • Review your health and vehicle insurance policies

Investigations and Negotiations

Once a claim is submitted, the insurance company will have about thirty days to respond, but it will take a fair amount of time for everything to fall into place before a law firm is sufficiently prepared to file an intent.

Financial obligations do not stop following an auto accident. You must pay mortgages and rent, put food on the table, and the electric bill is due every month. Insurance claims adjusters know this, and in fact, they count on and capitalize on it. Often, they stall just long enough for accident victims to accept a settlement out of necessity.

The first offer is historically a low-ball attempt to save as many dollars as possible for the company. This is the time to rely on an experienced lawyer for advice and direction. Every client’s situation is different. If this is the point where everything stops, a family can usually receive a settlement payment within a few weeks. If, however, you and your lawyer believe it is worth going all-in, the time clock continues quite possibly for the long haul. The risk may be well worth the reward.

Now, you should have a clear idea of how much your accident cost you based on your file.

Your insurance provider, the police, and your lawyer can contribute to investigating. The point of this is to determine who was at fault for the crash. This is significant because the at-fault party will need to pay the expenses.

When fault is clear, negotiations are easier. The responsible party may agree to pay you what you deserve.

Filing a Claim in Court: The Waiting Game

Statistics reveal an overwhelming 96% of personal injury claims never reach trial. That’s because they usually get settled outside of court through negotiation.

If your case does proceed to trial, then you need to be ready to wow the judge with your evidence. Never go in unprepared. Instead, you want to be ready to prove every claim and loss you have.

The length of your trial will depend on:

  • The severity of your injury
  • The need for ongoing medical care
  • The complexity of your claim
  • The strength of both party’s legal teams

This process will be time-consuming. Even after court, there will be an opportunity for the defendant to appeal. Complex cases can take years to finally settle.

The Risks And The Rewards Of Pursuing Litigation

Statistics reveal an overwhelming 96 percent of civil claims never reach trial. That’s because they usually settle outside of court through negotiation.

Whether a claim for a car accident goes to trial, or both parties reach a pre-trial settlement the length of either procedure, and the amount of final compensation will depend on:

  • The severity of your injury
  • The need for ongoing medical care
  • The complexity of your claim
  • The strength of both party’s legal teams

There is no standard or boilerplate answer to the question “Should I settle or go to trial?” What is right for one family may be wrong for another. This dilemma resolves on a case-by-case basis.

Of course, a seasoned personal injury attorney has a frame of reference based on the merits and outcomes of previous cases. They can offer sage advice, but ultimately, the choice to take a pre-trial settlement is entirely up to the client.

Opting for a trial, whatever the reason, is not without some risks, the first of which is time. The road to the courtroom is a long one. That said, juries are very unpredictable. In a perfect world, all jurors are chosen based on their ability to fairly evaluate conflicting evidence. At the end of the day, the judge and jury are the decision-makers.

Although unlikely, there is always the possibility a plaintiff will not recover any compensation. Success in being on the right side of the jury’s verdict depends on the presentation of evidence proving negligence on the defendant’s part.

This means:

  • Establishing the person who caused the accident had a responsibility or a duty of care, to do no harm. As an example, motor vehicle drivers must follow posted speed limits to keep all motorists on the roadways safe
  • Showing evidence that proves the driver who hit you was speeding
  • Proving the lack of responsible behavior caused the accident in question
  • Substantiating the injuries are a direct result of the accident

If police cited the driver who caused the accident for a safety violation, that may prove negligence. This demonstrates the importance of a police or accident report. They are legal documents containing valuable information.

Holding the defendant accountable, publicly, can bring some much-needed closure for a family severely impacted by someone else’s negligence. On the reverse side, trials are extremely public affairs. If privacy is important if you prefer to keep the details of the accident out of the public’s eye litigation may not be for you.

Case Assessment

Not only does an attorney need to know the details of the accident, but they must also have a full picture of all the facts and circumstances about the persons involved in the incident. During discovery, each attorney will try to learn as much as possible about the other side’s clients. They will use any facts they uncover to either strengthen and justify the claim for financial compensation or to limit or deny payment.

Both sides will take depositions. This process happens out of court but under oath and in the presence of a court reporter. Answers to these questions can serve as evidence should the case come to trial. A deposition can sometimes feel a bit invasive.

As the plaintiff, the defendant’s lawyer may ask questions about:

  • Your background
  • Your family history
  • Your formal education
  • Your work history
  • Your medical history

Don’t be surprised if they ask you:

  • Where you have lived before your current address – going back possible ten years
  • To detail all your formal education or specialized training
  • Your current marital status, the names of all people who live in your house, and your relationship with them
  • Any health issues that existed before this accident and the names of the physicians who treated you
  • Details about your previous jobs
  • Your current job responsibilities
  • How much time you have missed from work in the past several years
  • Do you have a criminal record
  • Have you ever filed a lawsuit
  • Have you ever had a worker’s compensation claim

Your lawyer’s main focus is to preserve, protect, and defend your interests and your legal rights. One of the most important aspects of the lawyer-client relationship is transparency. During your initial meetings and conversations with your attorney don’t conceal or hold back any information. If the attorney is aware of any information that could affect the case, they may get ahead of it and prepare better.

Realistically, it can take time for a victim to recover financial compensation for any physical or emotional damages from an automobile accident. The one certainty in any accident case is that the injured party has a legal right to pursue just and fair compensation for property damage and bodily injury.

In a Wreck and Need a Check? What to Expect

Have you been in a wreck and need a check? You’re far from alone. Over 2.35 million Americans get injured in car accidents every year. Each of these individuals need medical care, rest, and treatment to get better.

Most individuals recover within a short time. They’re also able to negotiate a settlement with insurance companies within weeks.

If your injuries are serious, though, your case could take a lot longer. You may have to fight for your rightful compensation. Fill out our online contact form, and the Bruning Law Firm will help you determine your next moves.